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
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