the script PANEL 3

It's al wel and god to have an idea of your story and to get it al down in a pitch, but when it­comes to ac­tu­aly writ­ing the comic, what does it lok like? Antony John­ston shows us with apage of script from isue 24 of his se­ries Waste­land, with art by Chris

Comic Heroes - - Feature - DOG TRIBE MEM­BER 2 *Kof* *Kof* SFX Smak! MICHAEL Just like that. Shut up and stay still. SFX Blam! MICHAEL Yeah. Let’s go.

As the guard drops to his knees, clutch­ing his throat and try­ing to get his breath back, Michael picks up the ri­fle from where it fell… …Then SMACKS the guard in the head with the ri­fle butt. The guard is out cold. Michael turns to Abi and Gerr. Gerr is gob­s­macked. GERR You… you broke your chains? Just like that? CLOSE ON Abi and Gerr’s chained wrists, as Michael holds the ri­fle bar­rel against Abi’s chains and SHOOTS to break them. Abi and Gerr stand up, rub­bing their sore wrists. Abi looks off, in the di­rec­tion Kil­ian went. But Michael knows there’s no time to waste. ABI That kid with all the scars…

The Marvel Uni­verse gains more fans with each passing year, largely due to the ex­pan­sion of the TV and film projects that fea­ture the brand name. How­ever, when this all be­gan we lived in a time where the films and TV shows were based off of some of our all-time favourite story arcs – but with these new runs, it seems very much the case that the films and TV shows now dic­tate the style of the comics. For ex­am­ple, when you read the lines of Star-Lord in Guardians of the Galaxy, it is very hard to sep­a­rate him from his film coun­ter­part, Chris Pratt, and like­wise with some of the other ti­tles in this round-up.

Guardians of the Galaxy: Mis­sion Break­out does ex­actly what it says on the tin, and serves as good a start­ing point as any for fans of the Marvel Uni­verse that are new to the comic world. The di­a­logue be­tween the char­ac­ters is easy to digest, with the same style of com­edy from the films em­u­lated through the pages of the first is­sue. It is a throw­away story with noth­ing that we didn’t al­ready know, and so serves per­fectly as a stand­alone sto­ry­line. We see the Guardians fol­low­ing a generic sto­ry­line (es­cap­ing from a rather hu­mor­ous predica­ment with their bod­ies and wits in check), but it’s the price that you pay for an ac­ces­si­ble story with well-es­tab­lished char­ac­ter de­meanours. Even the vil­lain (The Col­lec­tor) is known to any­one that has watched the films and doesn’t re­ally serve any pur­pose, ex­cept to al­low for a clas­sic Guardians re­ac­tion to in­car­cer­a­tion. If the writ­ers moved away from the typ­i­cal and ar­guably safe dy­namic, we might see these much-loved he­roes in more com­pro­mis­ing and per­ilous sit­u­a­tions.

The cross­over from comic to TV/film uni­verse is a prob­lem once again in the new run of Luke Cage. Far from his days in

Alias with his wife Jes­sica Jones, we find Luke in what seems to be the first episode of the Net­flix TV se­ries. The di­a­logue is pre­dictable and cheesy, with even Luke’s nar­ra­tions des­per­ately try­ing to build sus­pense – even though you can see from the be­gin­ning ex­actly where the story is go­ing. It is an easy page-flicker due to the se­ri­ous lack of in­ter­est­ing sub­stance, but one could only hope that with time, the story might even­tu­ally take a turn for the bet­ter and cross some bound­aries, not just stick with those of the past.

De­spite its generic sto­ry­line through­out the first is­sue – similarly to Luke Cage – Ca­ble is quite sim­ply much more in­ter­est­ing. The fact that his char­ac­ter can travel through time al­ready adds a cou­ple of points to his Top Trumps card. This fact

“It seems that The films now dic­tate the style of the comics”

also means that there is good op­por­tu­nity for Ca­ble’s past, present and fu­ture worlds to col­lide. You can for­give the cheesy lines in this first is­sue, sim­ply be­cause if this story is to fol­low the style of pre­vi­ous runs, things are about to get a whole lot more in­ter­est­ing. Ca­ble is a char­ac­ter that many never want to see fall, and with fights and foes al­ready strewn across the pages, we’re cer­tainly in for a ride.

Jean Grey is a char­ac­ter that we are all more than fa­mil­iar with, and if any­thing, a new run of comics ti­tled af­ter the famed mu­tant might not have been what we needed. How­ever, this run from the out­set prom­ises to be any­thing but what we are ac­cus­tomed to. We fol­low a young Jean bat­tling the other known ver­sions of her­self to be­come a more re­served con­trib­u­tor to the mu­tant uni­verse. But we all know how long those hopes and dreams for our favourite char­ac­ters last. Be­fore long, dan­ger and en­e­mies (some that are in fact very fa­mil­iar) find Jean and she is once again bat­tling pretty much ev­ery­thing and every­one. What at first seemed to be an­other generic go at one of the most fa­mous Marvel char­ac­ters of all time, turns into an en­tic­ing run filled with a beau­ti­ful art style that has you chomp­ing at the bit for the next is­sue.

Se­cret Em­pire is with­out a doubt the dark­est story arc of this round-up. It fol­lows on from when Cap­tain Amer­ica was con­vinced (or brain­washed, de­pend­ing on your pref­er­ence) to bend the knee to his long­time and in­fa­mous en­emy Hy­dra. We are pulled straight into an al­ready bleak time in the Marvel uni­verse, only to have it delve deeper and deeper into the dark­ness – and that is just in the first is­sue. This huge event prob­a­bly in­cludes the most char­ac­ters out of these new runs, and so there will be no short­age of per­spec­tive. The bril­liant thing about this run so far, is that it com­mu­ni­cates a har­row­ing re­al­ity that can only be brought to life through the pages of a comic, and not the typ­i­cal PG/12 films we see on the big screen. This is cer­tainly not one for be­gin­ners, but does prom­ise a lot for veter­ans. We can now only wait and see how much darker it could get…

Old char­ac­ters, new runs, cheesy lines and per­haps too much of a nod to their TV and film coun­ter­parts. Let’s hope that more than just what we ex­pect lies in store. Amy Best

If you’ve craving a Won­der

Woman fix af­ter catch­ing Di­ana Prince’s awe­some an­tics on the big screen in her first ever movie, then pick up her ti­tle book (though maybe wait un­til is­sue 24 hits shelves, as is­sue 23 is the – dis­ap­point­ing – end of a fairly long arc). Once you’ve done that, you should to­tally grab a copy of Trin­ity 9, which is the start of a new (po­ten­tially very promis­ing) story fea­tur­ing your new favourite hero­ine. It opens with Bat­man, Su­per­man and Won­der Woman rem­i­nisc­ing over a re­cent ad­ven­ture, be­fore they’re boomed into deep space by Cy­borg, who’s in a fairly se­ri­ous predica­ment. To say any more would stray into spoiler ter­ri­tory, but this is a huge science-fic­tion con­cept, de­liv­ered via cool art, fea­tur­ing The Flash be­ing funny. If this lat­est arc main­tains this level of qual­ity, we’ll be launch­ing a pe­ti­tion for a big screen adap­ta­tion as soon as the con­clu­sion lands on shelves. Bat­fans will also en­joy Trin­ity, but they have to pick up their hero’s cur­rent ti­tle book.

There’s a strong chance you’ve al­ready heard about the big­gest mo­ment of Bat­man 24, mainly be­cause it’s sig­nif­i­cant enough to break out of the comics fo­rums and hit the main­stream press, but if you’ve man­aged to avoid it, don’t worry – we’re not go­ing to ruin it here. Es­pe­cially as there’s so much more to dis­cuss in this mag­nif­i­cent is­sue. The nar­ra­tive’s es­sen­tially con­structed of two con­ver­sa­tions, the one you prob­a­bly know about, and one you prob­a­bly don’t. The lat­ter is be­tween Claire Clover (aka Gotham Girl) and Bat­man, dis­cussing the con­cept of hero­ism, and what it means to be a su­per­hero. Here we get sig­nif­i­cant in­sight into Bat­man’s cur­rent mind­set, dis­cov­er­ing both why he does what he does, and how he feels when he’s do­ing it. It’s pow­er­ful, mov­ing, and sur­pris­ing, with David Finch’s flow­ing art al­low­ing us to en­joy the sheer qual­ity of Tom King’s writ­ing. Be­cause of the na­ture of the is­sue, and es­pe­cially that last­page re­veal, this is a per­fect jump­ing on point for new fans and lapsed read­ers alike; it’ll catch you up on what Bat­man’s been up to re­cently, as well as get­ting you ex­cited about his fu­ture ad­ven­tures. Don’t ex­pect epic ac­tion, or even a proper vil­lain in this is­sue – but what’s here on the page is as sat­is­fy­ing as Bat­man’s best bat­tles – fea­tur­ing his tough­est foe: the strug­gles within him­self.

Mean­while, if you want some­thing a bit goofier, seek out Bane: Con­quest 1-2. It’s ba­si­cally

“this is a huge sci­encefic­tion con­cept de­liv­ered via cool art, fea­tur­ing the flash be­ing funny”

a big, dumb ac­tion film in comic book form, com­plete with guns, ex­plo­sions and odd idio­syn­cra­sies (Bane keeps a teddy bear in a glass case be­cause rea­sons), which ini­tially fol­lows our an­ti­hero as he at­tempts to pro­tect his city from a ma­jor ter­ror-threat, be­fore mov­ing on to a larger mis­sion. So far, so Bat­man, but Bane’s ap­proach to vig­i­lan­tism cribs more from Frank Cas­tle than Bruce Wayne, and this fre­quently feels like a Pu­n­isher book (es­pe­cially in the John Romita Jr style art). Part of what makes it feel so solid is the fact Bane’s fi­nally back in the hands of his orig­i­nal cre­ators, Chuck Dixon and Gra­ham Nolan, who aren’t afraid to push their cre­ation to his ab­so­lute lim­its. It’s not ex­actly high-art, but it is su­per-fun.

Speak­ing of fun, Scooby Apoc­a­lypse 13 is a bet­ter book than you’ve prob­a­bly been led to be­lieve by the out­cry caused by the (very) modern re­designs of the main char­ac­ters. Yes, Shaggy looks reaaaally stupid (he’s ba­si­cally a buff hip­ster), Scrappy Doo’s ridicu­lous (he’s even buf­fer than Shaggy!) and the less said about Velma the bet­ter, but dig be­neath the sur­face and there’s plenty to en­joy here. Based on an idea by Jim Lee, writ­ten by Keith Gif­fen, this book has se­ri­ous pedi­gree (sorry) and it re­ally does show (once you get past the art). Plot-wise, it’s es­sen­tially the orig­i­nal Scooby Doo car­toon meets The Real Ghost­busters. You might ex­pect it to be grim and gritty thanks to those new de­signs, but it’s ab­so­lutely not - it’s as silly as it ever was, but in­stead of run­ning around haunted theme parks, our he­roes are fac­ing larger scale threats. It’s def­i­nitely not per­fect, but worth a try if you can see be­yond your nos­tal­gia for the orig­i­nal.

Fi­nally, a rec­om­mend for a ridicu­lously un­der­rated ti­tle. The Fall And Rise Of Cap­tain Atom 1-6 de­serves to sell as many copies as DC’s big three; it’s clever, cool and con­stantly com­pelling. The open­ing high con­cept is rel­a­tively sim­ple - Cap­tain Atom is about to ex­plode, and not even the Jus­tice League can save him. With the soul of the ’80s in­car­na­tion of Atom, the com­plex­ity of the Post- Cri­sis ver­sion, with a vivid spirit of its own, Cap­tain Atom starts fast and con­tin­ues at a break-neck pace. Will Con­rad’s art feels both clas­si­cal and beau­ti­ful - though some die-hard fans might raise a quizzi­cal eye­brow at how much their hero now looks like Watch­men’s Dr Man­hat­tan (what was once sil­ver is now blue), but if that mir­ror­ing was de­lib­er­ate, it proves how much con­fi­dence DC has in this great ti­tle. We’d rec­om­mend pick­ing up ev­ery back is­sue you can get your hands on – open­ing arc Blow­back is great, and fol­low-up Mis­sion Creep is even bet­ter (with sig­nif­i­cant and emo­tion­ally res­o­nant events that will have a last­ing im­pact on the DC uni­verse), this is def­i­nitely the best run­ning comic you’re not cur­rently col­lect­ing.

Gary Gianni’s en­grav­ing-like art­work is per­fectly suited to this creepy ocean­go­ing yarn that takes place aboard a nine­teenth-cen­tury sail­ing ship. Set dur­ing the two years Hellboy was lost at sea and slot­ting into con­ti­nu­ity di­rectly af­ter the events of The Is­land, Into The Silent Sea finds Big Red chained and held cap­tive by the crew of the afore­men­tioned ship, the Re­becca. The cap­tain spies a mon­ey­mak­ing op­por­tu­nity and plans to dis­play his de­monic-look­ing prize to crowds, but the crew, more sus­pi­cious and su­per­sti­tious, start grum­bling muti­nously.

It turns out that the cap­tain is not the true com­man­der of the Re­becca. That role falls to a civil­ian pas­sen­ger, a strange, in­tense pale lady in black who is a mem­ber of the He­liopic Broth­er­hood of Ra. Her re­searches lead the ship into deep wa­ters, both lit­er­ally and metaphor­i­cally, and things cli­max in a hor­rific Love­craftian fi­nale – with, of course, quite a bit of mon­ster-punch­ing.

Throw in ghosts, zom­bies and sea beasts, add some dark melan­cholic flour­ishes and a dash of pathos, and you have… Well, a typ­i­cal Hellboy tale. Ref­er­ences to Co­leridge’s The Rime Of The An­cient Mariner and the some­what more ob­scure poem ‘The Pi­lot’ by Thomas Haynes Bayly en­hance the eerie mar­itime mood, but it’s Gianni’s sump­tu­ous il­lus­tra­tion that is the real draw here. Ev­ery panel is a thing of beauty in it­self, echo­ing the flu­id­ity and line-laced de­tail of Gus­tave Doré and in­deed the late lamented Bernie Wright­son (es­pe­cially the lat­ter’s Franken­stein work). The story it­self may be slight but the art gives it a mem­o­rable heft.

Fa­bien Nury and Thierry Robin’s crit­i­cally ac­claimed graphic novel is fi­nally be­ing trans­lated from its na­tive French for English read­ers. In­spired by true events, Nury and Robin ex­plore the events that un­folded in the wake of the in­fa­mous dic­ta­tor’s stroke, cov­er­ing his death and the power strug­gle that en­sued.

Leader of the Soviet Union, Joseph Stalin’s rule lasted from the mid 1920s un­til his death. He was found in his room on 1 March 1953 in his py­ja­mas, soaked in his own urine. Stalin had suf­fered a stroke and in the days that fol­lowed it was very touch and go un­til his even­tual death on 5 March 1953.

The story be­gins with a dis­claimer that some artis­tic li­cence may have been used to con­vey the story but the real-life events were so ridicu­lous that lit­tle has been changed. The power strug­gle, ac­cu­sa­tions of as­sas­si­na­tion and chaos that fol­lowed Stalin’s death make for an in­ter­est­ing tale and that draws par­al­lels with the bonkers na­ture of modern day pol­i­tics.

Robin’s art­work is su­perb, his dark pal­ette re­flect­ing Min­is­ter of Home Af­fairs’ Lavren­tiy Be­ria’s sin­is­ter na­ture and clan­des­tine deal­ings, cap­tur­ing the grand per­spec­tive of Stalin’s fu­neral and the tragic scenes of crowd con­trol.

The graphic novel has al­ready in­spired a film, spear­headed by satirist and direc­tor Ar­mando Ian­nucci (Veep), a dab hand when it comes to writ­ing about the lu­di­crous na­ture of pol­i­tics – the per­fect man for the job.

The Death of Stalin is a story about power, ego and the ab­sur­dity of pol­i­tics, a tale that feels rel­e­vant now more than ever.

A new work from ac­claimed au­thor Phillip Pull­man is al­ways worth cel­e­brat­ing – but his first orig­i­nal graphic novel? Well, that’s cer­tainly worth your at­ten­tion.

Col­lab­o­rat­ing with il­lus­tra­tor Fred Ford­ham, TheAd­ven­ture­sof John Blake: Mys­tery of the Ghost Ship man­ages to strad­dle the line be­tween nos­tal­gic and fan­tas­ti­cal, fa­mil­iar but ul­ti­mately fresh; an ac­tion-ad­ven­ture that com­bines a sim­plis­tic sto­ry­telling style with an un­de­ni­able thrust. Of course, that will leave many of us want­ing more. Mys­teryOfThe GhostShip is a quick read, although that speaks to its qual­i­ties more so than any per­ceived lack of depth. Given that this first vol­ume is pub­lished through Dave Fick­ling Books – aimed at the eight-to-12-year old crowd – it could be as­sumed that the con­tin­u­ing ad­ven­tures of John Blake wouldn’t of­fer enough sub­stance to en­gage an older au­di­ence. Thank­fully, that isn’t the case here as Pull­man weaves a suit­ably won­drous tale, a smart and sub­tle con­ver­gence of science-fic­tion and fan­tasy. A ghost ship caught out of time, an eclec­tic crew search­ing for a way to find their when, and John Blake en­sur­ing the ad­ven­ture is as pre­pos­ter­ous as it is en­dur­ing. Pull­man and Ford­ham is a wicked pair­ing, and we hope to see more from them in the fu­ture.

When The Bru­ta­nia Chronicles kicked off it was the per­fect jump­ing-on point for those who had seen blood-splat­tered pan­els of Slaine in 2000AD, but weren’t fa­mil­iar with his 30-year back­story. Three books on, the over­ar­ch­ing plot of The Chronicles is no longer quite as ac­ces­si­ble. How­ever, Psy­chopomp is a sur­pris­ingly in­tro­spec­tive in­stal­ment, which any­one can en­joy as a char­ac­ter-rich one-shot.

Psy­chopomp picks up straight from where Book Two left off, with Slaine trapped by Lord Weird and go­ing headto-head with su­per­nat­u­ral war­rior The Pri­mor­dial. Af­ter a ful­fill­ing fight, the lat­ter half of the vol­ume sees Lord Weird in­vade Slaine’s thoughts to con­front the source of his rage: the love of his mother, who was killed by his abu­sive fa­ther.

While long-time fans will have heard the story of Macha’s death be­fore, writer Pat Mills makes her more than a plot de­vice. Through a se­ries of sepia-toned flash­backs, Macha is re­vealed to be a kick-ass huntress that taught Slaine to fight, but is shown to have had her own hu­man flaws. These rev­e­la­tions have a dra­matic ef­fect, lead­ing our hero to doubt him­self in the midst of bat­tle.

Rather than turn­ing Slaine into a soap opera, this fam­ily drama el­e­vates the story to the mytho­log­i­cal lev­els Mills has al­ways been in­spired by. Artist Si­mon Davis’ mix of smudged wa­ter­colours and scratched pen and ink also has a mythic qual­ity that matches both the hack-and-slash of bat­tle scenes and the dream-like qual­ity of the flash­backs.

De­tec­tive Jack McBane (yes, re­ally) is a oneeyed po­lice de­tec­tive op­er­at­ing out of 1970s New York. Un­com­pro­mis­ing, bru­tal, prin­ci­pled and an­gry, he’s the cop the city de­serves and needs.

Orig­i­nally pub­lished in 1971 as part of the comic Valiant, Jack McBane is an im­por­tant part of Bri­tish comic his­tory. John Wag­ner would of course go on to co-cre­ate Judge Dredd, but the style of the ti­tle is just as im­por­tant as what would grow from it. Un­flinch­ing, nasty and French Con­nec­tionesque, this was one of the first modern in­stances of a comic aimed pretty solidly at an older au­di­ence. Valiant may not have worked but Bat­tle Pic­ture Weekly, where Jack trans­ferred, did, and the two ti­tles paved the way not just for Judge Dredd but for 2000AD and ev­ery­thing that’s sprung from it.

The sto­ries have, in­evitably, aged, but Wag­ner could write a rock­solid ac­tion beat even then. An early story sees Jack hos­pi­talised and given a week’s va­ca­tion be­cause the de­part­ment doesn’t need a man with a vendetta. He’s checked him­self out by the next panel, of course.

Later sto­ries fea­ture him clash­ing with cor­rupt cops and go­ing un­der­cover as the most vi­o­lent taxi driver on the planet to solve a case. As the se­ries goes on, Jack’s ac­tions get even larger and more ex­treme, cul­mi­nat­ing in a story that sees him dis­graced and liv­ing as a nor­mal cit­i­zen. Al­beit grumpily and for all the right, and very manly, rea­sons.

The se­ries is clas­sic meat and two veg-style ac­tion, but Wag­ner is still one of the best writ­ers for that and Cooper’s brawny art is a per­fect fit for this cheer­fully vi­o­lent world. Alas­dair Stu­art

Hope Ni­chol­son’s en­ter­tain­ing sur­vey of fe­male comics char­ac­ters is, as she says in her in­tro­duc­tion, “not a de­fin­i­tive one” but finds value in the ob­jects of its study “not only be­cause they’re eas­ily lost to the sands of time, but also be­cause they’re usu­ally much more in­ter­est­ing than their male coun­ter­parts.”

Tak­ing a decade-by-decade ap­proach from the 1930s to to­day, Ni­chol­son in­cludes every­one you might ex­pect – Won­der Woman, Su­per­girl, Ms. Tree, Vam­pirella, Maggie Chas­car­illo, Amanda Waller, Jes­sica Jones, both Ms Mar­vels – but leav­ens her choices with some left­field in­clu­sions. For in­stance, she of­fers stout de­fences of frothy lightweights like Daz­zler and Squir­rel Girl. She also un­earths some vin­tage ob­scu­ri­ties – Gail Porter: Girl Pho­tog­ra­pher, any­one? – and finds re­deem­ing qual­i­ties in even the trashiest of cre­ations, such as 1970s sex­ad­ven­turess Su­per­bitch (who can knock out op­po­nents with her mighty ex­pand­ing breasts). In­die ti­tles get a good look-in, and you’ll find plenty of rec­om­men­da­tions here to in­ves­ti­gate.

The book’s eclec­tic ap­proach means you won’t al­ways agree with Ni­chol­son’s ar­gu­ments. Her dis­like of Scott Pil­grim’s Ra­mona Flow­ers is sur­pris­ing, and she has lit­tle love for Watch­men’s Silk Spec­tre. There’s a dis­tinct, dis­pro­por­tion­ate bias to­wards comics from her na­tive Canada too.

What comes across, above all, is a full-spec­trum pas­sion for comics, de­liv­ered knowl­edge­ably and with an imp­ish wit. If noth­ing else, the book demon­strates, in the era of Pretty Deadly, Bitch Planet and Saga, how far the medium has come in its rep­re­sen­ta­tion of women from its be­gin­nings. James Love­grove

Chances are you’ve al­ready heard about the big­gest mo­ment from Bat­man 24...

Buff Hip­sters and buf­fer pup­pies, the new Scooby Doo is a bit crazy, but worth­while

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