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Bat Week Roundup!

8 May

The Bat Week just ended and we aren’t ready to leave batty. We bat-ified both the FB Page and the blog for it. Now it’s time for a quick overview of what we did the whole week. Below is the blog archive for the week.

May 1, Sunday: Batman vs. Superman: The Battle for Ideals by Amanda White
May 2, Monday: From Bruce Wayne to Batman! by Vinay Pawaskar
May 3, Tuesday: Nish’s Notepad: Batman #500 by Nishkarsh Chugh
May 4, Wednesay: A Bat for Ages by Akshay Dhar
May 5, Thursday: M views: Why do we read Superhero comic books by Mayank Khurana
May 6, Friday: Stewart (and Lee)’s Slate: Batman and Robin Vol.1-2, Batman/ Punisher and Batman/ Judge Dredd Books by Stewart Loud and Lee Roberts
May 7, Saturday: Aalok deciphers DC – The Demon’s Head by Aalok Joshi

Next big thing is the MAIN EVENT QUIZ. 3 questions, many answers, no winner. Yes, nobody was able to answer all the questions correctly.. Here are the questions:

Q. Under which title and issue, Batman gained a mature appearance, according to his creator Bob Kane?
A. Detective Comics #33
W. Shashank Avvaru

Q. Gotham : Robin: Jason Todd :=: England : ? : ?
A. Squire : Beryl Hutchinson
W. Lee Roberts

Q. Why is May 1-7 celebrated as Batman Week?
A. The anniversary of Bat’s first appearance.
W. Lee Roberts

Another thing is that some freelance artists also drew for the Bat-Week.. Here are the artworks.

by Avishek Sarkar

by Anshul Chaurasia

Leaving you with all the fun we had on FB with bat here.. and an exciting news here! (via Akshay Dhar)

Stewart’s Slate: Review of Elephantmen

23 Mar

Review of ELEPHANTMEN Volumes 1-3
Collecting #1-23

Writer: Richard Starkings
Art: Moritat
Publisher: Image comics

Review by Stewart Loud

Lets be honest. Elephantmen is a slightly comedic title for a comic book. And a bunch of 10 feet tall humanoid wilder beast in roles as investigators, crime lords and policemen in L.A. doesn’t sound like a plot with much potential for greatness. So when I started reading the series I was a little confused as to what all the fuss was about, with the back of each graphic novel being emblazoned with five star review scores and quotes from reviews singing it’s praises. Having now read volumes 1-3, I’m definitely a fan of this startlingly original sci-fi epic.

I know I don’t normally do this, but this exceptionally well written story is so impressive in the scope of the characters, locations and time lines that it weaves together during the course of each graphic novel, that I don’t think it would be very easy or fair to review and score each book as a stand alone publication. So I’ve decided to review the series as a whole and then give you an idea of what you can expect from each book.
I don’t think I’ve ever read anything quite like it. Probably not a comic for fans of ZAP! and POW! Style action but anyone who likes an immersive story with great characters and often breath taking art to get their teeth into should definitely give this a go.

To begin with, like the movie Pulp Fiction, parts of the story are thrown at you out of sequence like pieces of a puzzle. Each one telling very different tales involving different characters and locations, some years apart, some days and weeks apart, that slowly begin to knit together into an incredibly rich world with an intriguing history. At the start this can be a little frustrating as you find yourself wanting to know more about story arcs that aren’t explained in great detail to begin with but you soon get into the flow as each separate yarn is gradually fleshed out and you get drawn into all of them as you realise how they are all linked together.
The year the story uses as the present tense is 2259. Nearly 20 years after the war between China and the Central African Alliance for control of Europe after its population was devastated by the FCN virus. During the war, Africa employed the use of the Elephantmen. A race of towering Genetically engineered human/animal hybrids, created by the North African company Mappo, to be the ultimate soldiers. Incredibly resilient to physical hardship, immune to all forms of chemical and biological attack and mentally programmed to be completely remorseless in the carrying out of their orders, they were the perfect weapon to use in the now sparsely populated and plague ridden Europe.

When the war ended and Mappo was shut down for their terrible crimes against humanity committed during the research and creation of the Elephantmen, the remaining 15,000 Elephantmen were rehabilitated through years of therapy and then spread across the globe to integrate as  constructive members of a society that still largely hates and fears them because of their bestial appearance and the stories that emerged of the terrible things they did during the war.

Some are cops, restaurant owners, gangsters even celebrities. Some are good guys and some are bad guys and if you imagine Blade Runner but with Harrison Ford’s part played by a hippopotamus,  you’ll go a long way to imagining what you can expect from a large part of what this comic is like.
Apart from the animal appearance of the Elephantmen, the concept of their creation is almost identical to the Genetic Infantrymen of 2000ads Rogue Trooper comic strip. They too were created in a lab to be emotionless super soldiers hardened to anything physical or biological that might be thrown at them on the battle field, who would follow any order without question so they could be put into service in the toxic environments of Nu Earth. Anyone who liked Elephantmen: War Toys or likes the war flash backs in this series should check out Rogue Trooper: War Machine if they can find it. It was originaly printed in Heavy Metal, not 2000ad so some parts of the story may vary but it’s a great book.

Ebony Hide and Hip Flask, an elephant and a hippo who work as crime scene investigators for the Information Agency. Obidia Horn, a rhinoceros and owner of a casino and hotel chain with a criminal reputation. Trench, a hard boiled, leather rain coat wearing, zebra cop. All the Elephantmen characters themselves begin as a novelty, because of their appearance, but fast become every bit as deep and interesting in character as well. Some you’ll grow to like others you’ll grow to like a great deal more.

The Elephantmen are usually accompanied by incredibly attractive, young (in some cases teenage)  female groupies who all seem to be obsessed with the idea of having a physical relationship with the gargantuan beings. Horn is even engaged to a woman called Sahara, who helped with his rehabilitation when she worked with the UN. Apart from the fact that they look like hippos and rhinos and the sheer scale of the creatures would mean they’d have to have cocks like lamp posts, it is mentioned a few times that they were all castrated in the labs at puberty anyway so they couldn’t ruin any of these young girls even if they wanted to. This sub theme of bestiality running through each book is a little odd and it puts me in mind of some questionable Japanese material I’ve seen but it is a comic book I suppose so what the hell.

Even characters that don’t seem important to begin with soon become integral parts of the Elephantmens world who you care for and want to learn more about. It’s them and not just the plot that makes this comic so interesting to read. In volume 3, when more details of the hardships Sahara, endured during her childhood are revealed, I actually felt a physical reaction to how sickening and sad it was as well as a swelling hatred for her father Serengeti. This should give you a good idea of how well written it is.

A lot of effort has gone into making these books. The majority of the wonderful artwork is done by Morirat but there’s a lot of sections done by an almost countless list of guest artists in a variety of different styles. From pencils to paints and even one section that looks like it was done using soft water colours, Each different story has a different atmosphere all of its own. The front covers scattered throughout the book and at the back in the gallery sections truly are works of art. With many of them having been drawn in a way that makes them appear old and weathered giving them even more character.

Each one of the three volumes has its own specific art theme for the backgrounds and borders for the covers and quotes between each issue and credits and columns at the beginning and end of each book. This may seem like a small thing but it all adds to the overall richness of the experience.

Each issue is preceded by a quote or out take from a poet, intellectual, historian, important document or historical figure that may bare some relevance to the story at that point. Some of these are welcome and interesting bits of information about current laws regarding genetic experimentation or pearls of wisdom from Albert Einstein or Napoleon. Some on the other hand are meaningless, asinine little bits of nonsense that represent some of the worst examples of what happens when you give idiots who think to much of themselves a platform.

“Any one who tries to make a distinction between education and entertainment doesn’t know the first thing about either.” Marshal McLuhan.

I get that he’s trying to say that education can be fun and entertainment can be educational but the way he’s said it is arrogant and doesn’t make any sense if you think about it for 10 seconds.
Here you go then, jackass. If you call something entertaining it’s because you enjoy it. Anything that entertains you does so because it is interesting and/or fun. Education can sometimes be interesting and fun but not always. Like learning how to bleed a radiator or mix cement. Is that entertaining? No it isn’t but those two things put two massive ticks in the education box.
I honestly don’t know who Marshal McLuhan is. Or was. Or whatever but if he said this then I’m not interested.
Another one:

“The worst sin towards our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent: That’s the essence of humanity.” George Bernard Shaw.

Again, I see what he’s getting at. It’s a shame when people don’t give a shit about the suffering they see. But seriously? Were the Nazis indifferent to the Jews during the second world war? If you could choose between a crowd of people being indifferent to you or punching you in the mouth as hard as they could, which would you choose?

I think the reason it makes me so angry is that some people, hopefully not many, but some people will read these things and think that they’re incredibly clever without questioning them, just because they were printed on a page. I’m as open minded as the next guy, and I swear to god I’ll punch anyone who says otherwise, but I know bullshit when I see it and some of these steamers should really have been left out.

A slightly weird thing I wanted to point out is that, as each volume is about as thick as your average telephone directory, you may think you’re in for a mammoth read but appearances can be deceptive. The pages are so high quality that they’re three times as thick as that of a normal comic and at least 20% of each volume is devoted to sketch galleries, front covers, short comic strips about robotic frogs and French monkeys, essays written about how great Elephantmen is or miscellaneous quotes and out takes. So each book wont take you any longer to read than an average graphic novel. Make of this what you will.
Still. Very nice looking, high quality books. A feast for the eyes!

Now I’ll attempt to give a brief description of each volume without giving too much away.


Introduces all the main heroes and villains and the roles they play in human society as well as outlining the history of the Elephantmen, how and why they were created and tells the story of their liberation from Mappo by the UN through a series of flashbacks.
Interesting and intriguing throughout, as the story begins to take shape in the well written, wonderfully drawn series of scenes shown out of sequence, apart from the large section at the end devoted to a story about some pirates and a fairy that Hip, tells to a small girl. Although this section is beautifully illustrated, it has a lot in common with the pirate story in Alan Moore’s, The Watchmen. It’s crap, boring and it should have been left out. I read through this entire section in case it mentioned something important, but it really doesn’t, so feel free to skip this bit, if it bores you.


Introduces Trench, the uncompromising, one eyed tough guy of the piece before descending into a  couple of issues worth of fictitious comic strips, written within the Elephantmen universe, telling wild and fanciful stories of the comics main characters having science fiction and action orientated adventures that have absolutely no bearing on the main story whatsoever. You could skip these bits too and you wouldn’t be missing anything. At this point I was begging to question whether or not this comic was in fact the literary masterpiece it had been billed as. But then…..Shit gets real!
As more and more of the story is revealed and fleshed out, I began to see just how expertly all the different characters and arcs link together. I found myself not being able to get enough of character story lines that previously I didn’t much care about. At this point the pace seems to change quite dramatically too, becoming far more exciting as meteors crash to Earth, hit squads attack hospitals and it starts to look like certain characters might get killed off.
Even the flash backs get more intriguing as more of the unpleasant, gritty details of the stories history get revealed. After I finished this one, I couldn’t wait to start the next.


The series hits its stride in this volume! With a  couple of gut wrenching stories about Tusk and Sahara, Hip becomes closer with some of the female characters who all want to sleep with him for some reason. He’s a hippo for gods sake! And the reader is walloped in the face with yet more intrigue and unanswered questions as it transpires that the North African company Mappo may not be as out of the picture as first thought.
This volume really does end on a cliff hangar and there’s a brilliant epilogue which just raises more questions !

This is a great series. I honestly don’t think things really get going until about half way through volume 2 and there’s definitely a few bits they didn’t need to put in there (although I’m sure there’s a few people who’ll disagree with me) so it’s a bit of an investment to get there, but it’s well worth it. Once you’ve finished all 3 volumes, and events in the flashbacks have been more thoroughly explained, you’ll want to re-read the early stories armed with the knowledge you’ve gained.
Another thing I liked about this series, is it’s nice to know people are still coming up with really original ideas to write comic books about. I will definitely be getting the next one!


Stewart’s Slate : Review of Chronicles of Wormwood

21 Feb

The Chronicles Of Wormwood graphic novel (Collects Chronicles Of Wormwood #1-6)

Writer: Garth Ennis
Art: Jacen Burrows

Garth Ennis roasts the hell out of religion again in a story about cable TV excec’, Danny Wormwood: The Antichrist.

As serious a subject as this sounds it doesn’t stop this being one of the funniest books Garth has ever written. He may be gifted with supernatural powers and his father is in deed Satan (he took the form of a dog and raped his mother to conceive him) but Danny Wormwood isn’t a bad guy at all. Once he learned the dark truth of his origin he renounced his father and all his plans for armageddon, moved from London to New York and set up his own company producing shows for cable TV. He lives with his girlfriend and pet rabbit Jimmy, who he has gifted with human intelligence and the ability to speak, turning him into the greatest comic book side kick the world has ever known, his best friend is the permanently brain damaged, black reincarnation of Jesus Christ and for the unholy adversary to all that’s good and Christian in the world, Danny Wormwood is a very likeable protagonist even if he is having an affair with Joan of Arc.

This is a bizarre premise for a story by anyone’s standards and the level of sheer, depraved, laugh out loud weirdness in some parts of it surprised even a seasoned Garth Ennis fan like me. Not just what happens but what Jacen Burrows has been allowed to illustrate. As usual I don’t want to give anything away but I don’t care what comics you normally read, you won’t believe what Wormwood does to a barman with his magical powers after he insults his friend!

During the story the status quo of Wormwoods life is interrupted by his father and the Catholic church (headed by a monumentally perverted Australian Pope) trying to kick start armageddon in a last ditch attempt to make the increasingly agnostic world pay attention to them again.

Yes you can draw a lot of comparisons between this and Garth Ennis’ Preacher series. Its a sideways look at religion and popular culture where neither God, the Devil or the Church are portrayed as being all they’re supposed to be in the eyes of the faithful. I did however enjoy this book a lot more than any one of the Preacher graphic novels alone. Although there is another smaller Chronicles Of Wormwood graphic novel available (The Last Enemy) and another one (Last Battle) set for release in July, Wormwood isn’t an ongoing monthly series so this book has a definite beginning middle and end and there seems to be a lot more going on and definitely a lot more to laugh at in this one graphic novel than in any single part to the Preacher storyline. I said it at the beginning of the review and i’ll say it again. Funniest story of Garth’s that I’ve ever read. I lost count of the amount of times I burst out laughing in total disbelief of some of the outrageous gags they’ve thrown in here. I’m almost surprised they were allowed to publish the book with the way it portrays parts of the Catholic church.

Great artwork, engaging storyline, brilliant humour and as with all Garth Ennis’ work, outstanding dialogue and characters. Essential reading for fans of Garth Ennis and definitely worth a read for anybody who enjoys a good black comedy. A fabulous example of how good adult comics can be.

SCORE 8/10


The Chronicles Of Wormwood: The Last Enemy

Writer: Garth Ennis
Art: Rob Steen

A short follow up story to the original Chronicles of Wormwood 6 part mini series, this is more of the same really. Outrageously funny and probably very offensive Roman Catholics.

Ok then you may have thought the last one sounded pretty shocking but check this out: The Pope sends a massive eunuch monk hit man to kidnap Danny Wormwoood’s best friend Jesus and bring him to the Vatican so he can use his God given healing powers to cure his aids which he contracted after having lots of unprotected sex with lots of different people and wackiness ensues. This is made all the more complicated for Danny as he is in the process of rekindling his relationship with Maggie.
Not quite as cerebral as the first one and Rob Steens artwork is a little disappointing compared to Burrows but it carries on with the same great characters as the first book and the off the wall adult humour is still there so if, like me, you loved the first one then you’ll definitely like this one too. Jimmy the talking rabbit plays an even bigger part in this one too which can only be a good thing. Seriously, he should get his own mini series!

SCORE 7/10

Stewart’s Slate: Review of Shadowland

21 Jan

Shadowland #1-5 from Marvel Comics. Also available in trade paperback.

Writer: Andy Diggle
Pencils: Billy Tan
Inks: Batt
Colours:Christina Strain/Laura Martin
After taking over the shadowy Hand organisation believing he could use their massive manpower and resources for good, Matt Murdock AKA Daredevil has instead himself been turned towards darkness by their corrupting influence. Looks like it’s time for a big Marvel Event!
Yes, that’s right. Old horn head or “The crimson wimp” as The Punisher has been known to call him has finally gone off down the deep end. Constructing a huge Japanese castle in the middle of Hells Kitchen on the site of a city block destroyed by Bullseye and declaring marshal law throughout the area with his army of Hand ninjas evicting or abducting all gang members, criminals and even the police. It soon becomes clear to the large group of super heroes who assemble to deal with the problem that Matt is no longer completely himself and has become the the victim of demonic interference which has begun to spread outwards from Daredevils stronghold and affect the rest of the city causing riots and civil unrest on a massive scale.

As per usual with all Marvels big events there’s a lot of other parts of the story told in more detail in other ongoing Marvel character titles that bear the Shadowland banner, Shadowland: Moon Knight, Shadowland: Spiderman etcetera, but the main meat of the story takes place in these 5 comics and even though Daredevil isn’t a character I read much and I never found any of it difficult to follow.

If you’re a Daredevil fan then this is pretty much required reading if you want to keep up with what’s going on in his life and in fact the same can be said for any Marvel fans who like to collect all the big stories so they can stay up on all the latest events. Sadly though, this is no Civil War and frankly isn’t up to the standard of any of the main Marvel events over the past few years.

The first issue is quite a lot of fun as the rest of the super hero community realise how much Matt has changed when they witness his showdown with Bullseye but after that it becomes fairly predictable and formulaic as the good guys first attempt to confront him, have to run away, then regroup with a few extra characters and return to save the day just as everything seems at its worst.
It obviously wasn’t even a threat that the Marvel Characters themselves took all that seriously as none of the more major players from The Avengers, Thor, Captain America, Miss Marvel, get involved. Instead leaving it to the more street level heroes like Luke Cage, Moon Knight, Iron Fist and even The Punisher gets involved in all the battles.

I can’t believe just how useless the Hand ninjas are! I’ve been reading Marvel comics for over 20 years and I’ve never once seen them win a fight. They’re like the Battle Droids in Star Wars Episode 1. It would have provided more of a challenge to the heroes if they’d had to climb a big ladder or swim across a moat to get to Daredevil than it did for them to wade through the 300 or so red clad pansies they beat senseless during the course of the story. As big a deal as they all kept making it out to be it still felt like something Iron Man could have sorted out on his own if he’d just had the time.

Having said all that it’s not terrible. There’s plenty of characters in there mixing it up Spiderman, Wolverine, Ghost Rider, Kingpin, Typhoid Mary, Shang-Chi, Misty Knight and Colleen Wing as well as all the other characters I mentioned earlier and most of them get their fair share of good one liners. The art work’s good with all the battles being drawn in an exciting fast paced looking way even if you know they might as well be fighting 8 year olds for all the trouble the Hand ninjas give them. And finally although it’s not a story that “Changes the Marvel Universe forever!” like the other events prior to this one, things do change around a little by the end creating some good possibilities for stories in the future.
Not bad but not great either. 
SCORE 6/10

Shadowland:After The Fall one-shot from Marvel Comics
Writer: Antony Johnston
Art: Roberto De La Torre/Marco checchetto
Colours: Morry Hollowell
A short epilogue to Shadowland where two people, Reporter Ben Urich and Detective Alex Kurtz, both attempt to track down Matt Murdock but for completely different reasons. Ben, for a story and Alex to arrest him.

There’s no action in this comic whatsoever as the two set about questioning Daredevils friends and associates  in an effort to track him down but honestly it’s far better than the Shadowland story itself. They talk to various characters some super powered, some not, some just plain cops who police Hells Kitchen. Some in favour of tracking him down, some not, some who seem to forgive him for his apparent failure and some who don’t. Emotionally there’s far more going on in this one comic than went on in all 5 issues of the main Shadowland story and the artwork is fantastic! Full of character with brilliant lighting affect and shadows. Hells Kitchen really comes to life in the pages of this comic.
As the epilogue to a forgettable story I was fully prepared for this to suck balls but it turned out to be the best part to the story I read.
SCORE 8/10

Stewart’s Slate: Review of Ultimate Avengers 2 : Crime and Punishment

13 Jan

Ultimate Avengers 2: Crime and Punishment
Collects Ultimate Comics: Avengers 2 #1-#6
Writer: Mark Millar
Art: Lenil Francis Yu

Review by Stewart Loud

I’m a big Mark Millar fan and I’m a huge Punisher fan so when I spotted this on a shelf in a comic shop in Leeds I had to own it!
Mark Millar writing a Punisher story is a bit of a dream come true for me and the opening section of the book is mainly Punisher related criminal murdering shenanigans, with the Punishers trademark cold,dry dialogue and inner monologue expertly written by Miller so I wasn’t disappointed. Also the Ultimate version of Frank Castle is an ex cop so it’s nice to have a fresh version of the Punisher to get in to. However, the book isn’t solely about him so here’s what else you can expect.
The basic premise of the story is that Ghost Rider has been setting fire to the wrong people so the U.S. government has commissioned Nick Fury to do something about it. Nick puts together a covert team of super powered individuals including War Machine, Hawkeye, a crazy black English version of The Hulk and none other than the Punisher himself wearing a costume just like the one he wore in his brief fill in for Captain America in Punisher War Journal vol 2. Obviously someone thought that suit was too cool not to get another outing. Unsurprisingly there are frictions in the team as the group of misfits and criminals  try to work together for the first time and take down this new supernatural foe they know nothing about.
This is another good fun book. To be honest the first half is much better than the second and ultimately it doesn’t seem to deliver as much action and excitement as the beginning seems to make you think you’re in for but it’s not a bad story at all. If you’re a fan of the Ultimate universe (this is the first Ultimate story I’ve read apart from some of the Marvel Zombies stuff) then I’m sure you’ll enjoy this and as a newcomer to the Ultimate universe I found it easy to pick up and enjoyable to read so it’s probably a good place for anyone else to start.
Sharp artwork, good dialogue and surprisingly violent in places. Fantastic “Little joke” from the Punisher too.
SCORE 7/10

Stewart’s Slate : Review of Punisher – In the Blood

5 Jan

Punisher: In The Blood
5 part mini series (currently ongoing. issues 1 and 2 available now)

Writer: Rick Remender
Art: Roland Boschi/Dan Brown

Review of First two Issues by Stewart Loud

Punisher: In The Blood picks up right where Franken-Castle left  (check review of frankencastle here !)  off with The Punisher returning to the streets of New York 100% human to once again take on the criminal underworld and in particular track down his old partner Microchip who after being resurrected by The Hood during the Dark Reign had worked with The Hood against The Punisher and played a part in the attempted resurrection of Franks family.

Frank’s still paired up with his most recent sidekick the young, talented computer hacker Henry, who uses information technology to track down leads and bad guys and point Frank in the direction the bullets need to be sprayed. This is a tried and tested formula and it’s one that works well. I don’t believe that Frank couldn’t find shit out without the help of a computer savvy assistant but it saves a lot of time for good story development and action if he’s just told where he needs to be next.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Rick Remender writes great Punisher! Even though this story takes place within the main Marvel universe and features the Batman style Punisher cycle motorbike with a great big skull on the front (I love it! And why shouldn’t he have one? It’s just too cool not to!) and it does occasionally feature some of Marvels more colourful characters, it’s so dark and gritty and the Punisher’s dry inner monologue is so good that it almost feels like one of the MAX story lines from back before Garth Ennis left. The opening scene in the prison could be a scene straight from the acclaimed Punisher: The Cell, one shot. Without all the bad language of course.

Remender’s writing is backed up by some great artwork from Roland Boschi. The shadowy visuals often illustrated from interesting perspectives really make every scene look like something from a well directed movie and every page oozes atmosphere.

I don’t want to give to much away but there’s also a brilliant bit where one of the characters attempts to explain why the people who’ve worked with Frank over the years were compelled to do so even when they new it could cost them so dearly.

If you’re a fan of The Punisher then this is essential reading and if you’re not but you like good crime/vengeance stories then it’s still definitely worth a look. Weather the rest of the series is as good as the first 2 issues remains to be seen but I can’t fault what they’ve done so far.

SCORE (for #1 and #2) 9/10

Stewart’s Slate : Review of Authority vol 4

3 Jan

The Authority Book 4: Transfer Of Power

Writers: Mark Millar, Tom Peyer
Art: Frank Quitely, Arthur Adams, Gary Erskine, Dustin Nguyen

The fourth and final Authority book that Mark Millar had a hand in writing is undoubtedly the best so far!

After the Authority spent the previous 3 books saving the world in the manner they thought best for the Earths population, whether they liked it or not, the worlds most powerful corporate elite strike back at them for endangering their interests. In keeping with the traditions of the series so far the resulting story is gripping, gritty, ultra violent and occasionally very, very funny. I’ve come to like the characters of The Authority a lot and I’ve never been more shocked and upset by things going badly for a team of super heroes than I was when I read this. And believe me it gets bad! Some of it really has to be seen to be believed. The twists and turns in the plot kept me on the edge of my seat from start to finish, and the second story of the book written by Tom Peyer is every bit as fantastic as Mark Miller and Warren Ellis’ work on the series.

Despite so many different artists being involved, the artwork remains at a high standard throughout the book with crisp, clear characters and environments and fast, brutal looking action scenes.

although I’ve not read any further than this I understand that after this book the standard of the stories slips a bit as Mark Miller and Warren Ellis left the title but I’ve enjoyed the series and characters so much that I still intend to continue collecting the graphic novels so you can be sure of seeing more Authority reviews on the site if anybody wonders what their like.
If you like super hero comics but get frustrated when the heroes refuse to kill their opponents no matter how much they deserve it or how many horrible things they’ve done and just send the bad guys to jail without dishing out any kind of serious punishment then this series is for you. The first 4 books have it all. Incredible stories, dark humour, apocalyptic battles, great artwork as well as some blindingly original and unforgettable characters.

What I would say though, is start at the beginning with book 1. As trouser tremblingly good as book 4 is, it won’t mean much to you if you haven’t been following the series and getting to know the characters.

SCORE 10/10

Stewart’s Slate : Review of Complete Frankencastle

25 Dec


Collects: Dark Reign: The List – Punisher, Punisher #11-#16, Franken-Castle #17-21,
              Dark Wolverine #88-#89

Writers: Rick Remender, Daniel Way, Marjourie Liu

Art: John Romita JR       Jefte Palo
      Tony Moore            Stephen Segovia
      Mike Hawthorne      Paco Diaz
      Dan Brereton          John Lucas
      Roland Boschi         Andrea Mutti
      Luca Malisan

Review by : Stewart Loud

I already did a review of Punisher #11-#16 a couple of months ago (which can be found here) so I’ll leave out any details of those issues and focus instead on the rest of the impressive amount of comics that this graphic novel collects.

This book brings together every part of the Franken-Castle storyline, from the untimely carving up Frank receives from Daken in The List to him seeking Daken out for some retribution or “punishment” in the pages of Dark Wolverine and his return to normality in Franken-Castle #21.

This isn’t the first time The Punisher has been killed and brought back to life and despite what a lot of other Punisher fans say I think it’s necessary to keep him as a believable character in the Marvel Universe. I don’t mean that having him as a half man half machine monster makes him more believable, because that would be ridiculous. I’m saying this: anyone who fought during the Vietnam war like Frank Castle did would have to be well into his 60’s by now and while the grizzled old veteran with aching joints and a bad attitude thing works very well in the MAX series, when he’s usually murdering simple street thugs using his cunning and military experience, it’s very difficult to accept that a 65 year old man who’s been shot, stabbed, blown up and set on fire more times than any other comic character I can think of (except perhaps Judge Dredd) would be able to take part in the high paced and often acrobatic battles he has with the bizarre range of villains that populate the Marvel Universe. SO.  The way I rationalise it is that, every time he dies and is mystically resurrected, he comes back revitalised, younger and at the peak of his athletic, crime fighting condition.

The second half of the book sees Frank, having finished helping the Legion Of Monsters with their own little war, setting about taking some revenge on the most recent people to have stumbled onto his shit list. Mainly Daken! I don’t think I can put in to words just how crap I think Daken is and how much bullshit it was that he could ever kill Frank, even on his worst day. The Punisher has gone up against Wolverine himself on more than a few occasions and not only survived but once left Wolverine minus his face and tentacles underneath a steam roller (The second Marvel Knights Punisher run Garth Ennis wrote) and once he just flat out killed him! (Punisher Kills The Marvel Universe) But none the less here we have him getting chopped in to about 15 different pieces by a “son of” character. Dakens character worked well in the brilliant Dark Avengers series as part of a team but as a stand alone character he’s just pointless. Ooh, he’s like wolverine but younger and more mean and he’s got a big tattoo. We’ve already had Son Of Hulk so what’s next? Son of Thor? Son of Iron Man? TRY HARDER MARVEL! Or don’t try at all. There’s already about a million characters in the Marvel Universe (at least 30% of them crap) and none of the writers seem to have the balls to kill any of them off permanently so why keep introducing new characters anyway? Frank said it best himself “Reputation coattail rider, dressed up like someone else… I built my reputation. Ground up. You? Snuck into the show on another mans back. You’re just a poser.”

Anyway. The second half of the book is more of what was in the first half really. Big over the top silly, fun, fighting action with the Punisher being able to take (and deal out) loads more punishment than usual due to his monstrous form. And to be fair he does give Daken the kicking of his life. He even gives Wolverine himself what’s coming to him when he tries to get involved so I was satisfied with the story. Lots of different artists keeps the visuals constantly changing and interesting. Ranging from the amazing detailed pencil work of Tony Moore (he’s becoming one of my favourite artists) to the lush painted sections by Dan Brereton.

If you’re a serious Punisher fan then you’ll enjoy it. It’s a really good fun read. And a big one at 13 comics! There’s an almost record breaking amount of different artists work in it too. I got my hardback copy for a bargain £17 from and it was worth every penny. Plus as much as I’ve enjoyed the change of direction for the Punisher it’s ace to see him returning to normality at the end with a brief bit of grass roots criminal killing!

SCORE 7/10

Snap Reviews : Bad Company

7 Dec
Bad Company: Goodbye Krool World
Rebellion Publishing
Originally published in 2000ad progs 500-519, 548-557, 576-585 and 601
Available in the UK now. 
Due for release in the USA January 2011
Review by Stewart Loud
This graphic novel collects together one of my all time favourite comic story lines. Originally published in the UK comic 2000ad in the mid 80’s I first read it when it was re-printed in classic 2000ad monthly in the early nineties (comics which I read twice and then lost). Then again a few years ago when i spotted this graphic novel in my local comic shop. When I discovered Rebellion were planning to release the book across the Atlantic in the US, I thought it was as good an excuse as any to read it again and give it a review. Having read it 3 times before and knowing how it all ends in the mind blowing climax of the story I wasn’t sure how much I would enjoy reading through it all again but I was every bit as engrossed in this dark, nightmarish tale of future war and horror as I was the first time I read it over 16 years ago.
This is an absolutely fantastic example of old school science fiction, packed with atmosphere, great characters and an incredible amount of original ideas baring in mind it was written almost 25 years ago! Throughout the book you’ll see zombies being used as a weapon, Organic and sentient spacecraft, vast alien races being controlled by a collective hive mind and you’ll see humankind go from a battle for a single planet to the very brink of extinction. If they made a film of this now (something I’d love to see but very unlikely) everyone would say how unoriginal it was when in fact it was way ahead of its time.

The story is told from the perspective of Danny Franks, a “Raw” new recruit in the Earth army 1st colony division stationed on the planet Ararat fighting against the horrific Krool empire. The Krool are a race of vicious, utterly evil, hideous aliens. They cannot be bargained or reasoned with. There’s nothing they even seem to want from mankind other than victims for their cruel experiments and torture fetishes.
Never let the Krool take you alive is the advice from anyone who’d fought against them long enough to know what they do with prisoners. In other words they are the “bad guys”. Absolutely no moral ambiguity about that. They torture and mutilate any other beings they come into contact with for no other reason than they enjoy it and are every bit as monstrous in appearance as they are in spirit and you’ll learn to hate them just as much as the books characters do.
Danny is forcibly recruited into the ranks of Bad Company (an unofficial group of soldiers who operate independently behind enemy lines) after they save his unit from an enemy attack at the stories beginning and has to learn fast to survive in the harshest of combat conditions as Bad Company take him behind enemy lines on their continuing and very personal mission to hurt the enemy. A mission which ends up taking him all across Ararat and eventually the galaxy as the epic scale of the Krool threat is slowly revealed.

The way in which Danny’s character changes and grows, not just mentally, but physically is astonishingly well done as he slowly changes from a fresh faced rookie into a hardened, brutal fighter end eventually into an almost burnt out shell, struggling to keep hold of his humanity in the midst of all the horror he experiences. By the books end you’ll want to flick back to the beginning to remind yourself what he used to look like. The best modern comparison I can make to the process of change he goes through I can think of is how Rick changes in the excellent Walking Dead series. His hair and beard get longer and he becomes less and less affected by the death he sees. Every injury he and all the other characters suffer permanently alters their appearance making them more and more like monsters themselves.

One of the things that makes Bad Company themselves incredibly original is that I’ve never been so interested to read about a group of characters I didn’t like. And I don’t mean I didn’t like them because they were crap characters. I didn’t like them because most of them are horrible people! Many of them are untrustworthy, selfish, filthy murderers who don’t care at all about the lives of their fellow soldiers to the point that some of them even kill their own men as casually as killing an insect. Some of comicbooks most popular characters are liked because they’re “Badasses” this lot however are just bad people who you probably wouldn’t want on your side in an actual war in case they used you as a shield or pushed you onto an unexploded grenade.
Also, something that sets this comic apart from a lot of other ongoing comic series is that like The Walking Dead, apart from the main character who narrates a lot of the story with out takes from his diary, any of the other characters could be killed at any time. This adds a kind of tension that you don’t get reading mainstream Marvel or DC titles where, even if they did kill off someone from the X-men or the Justice League, you know they’ll just bring them back somehow in a few issues time.

The only word I can think of to describe the artwork in this book is wonderful. Detailed characters, brilliant facial expressions and emotion,stark landscapes and terrible depictions of violence, torture and it’s victims, many of whom look like victims of the nazi concentration camps of the second world war, emaciated and thin from the awful conditions. If it wasn’t in black and white this would be an incredibly gory comic in deed with all the blood being white instead of red. Being in black and white the artwork does show its age a little but overall it really adds to the desolate hopelessness of the comics feel.

What begins as a fairly straight forward human/alien war story quickly turns into a deep saga about conflict, friendship, revenge, humanity and ends as a galaxy spanning adventure to save the human race from total annihilation. Some of the worlds most successful comic writers spent a lot of their early careers writing for the British comic 2000ad. Mark Millar, Garth Ennis, Alan Moore and Pat Mills to name a few and 2000ad, although not widely read in the rest of the world, remains and always has been one of the greatest examples of creative story telling available and this, in my opinion, is one of the best examples of how good their stories are. The ONLY thing I can possibly think of to fault this book is that some of the dialogue shows it’s age a bit but that doesn’t stop it from being a superb work of fiction.
Read it. And if any of it doesn’t impress you, try to think back 25 years to what other mainstream comics were being published at the time and compare it to them.
Just awesome.

SCORE 9/10

Quick Draw : A Short Reviews column

29 Nov

– by Stewart Loud

The Authority Book 3: Earth Inferno And Other Stories.(Collects #17-20, 2000 annual and Summer Special)

Writers: Mark Miller , Joe Casey ,Paul Jenkins ,Warren Ellis
Art: Chris Weston, Frank Quietely, Cully Hamme, Georges Jeanty

I only recently started reading this outstanding series after a friend recommended it to me and I can’t believe I’d overlooked such a gem for so long.This book continues its trend of the refreshingly original group of heroes that make up the Authority facing truly world shattering threats that always end up resulting in vast amounts of innocent civilians being wiped out in densely populated areas. The dialogue is witty and interesting, the fights are tense, the characters are engaging and the detailed artwork continues to do an effective job of illustrating the impressive scale of the disasters.
Only misses out on a higher score due to the last third of the book being taken up by an annual and a summer special containing a few simple filler stories that while being worth a read, don’t compare to the overall standard of the series so far.

SCORE 8/10


The Incredible Hercules: Assault On New Olympus.(Collects Incredible Hercules #138-141)

Writers: Greg Pak , Fred Van Lente
 Art: Rodney Buchemi

Hercules, Amadeus Cho, Zues (who has been reverted to a small child) and Herc’s sister Athena team up with The Avengers to take on the evil Hera and her army of Amazons, Titans and Gods at their New York headquarters to stop her from destroying the universe with her new secret weapon, Continuum! If this sounds stupid to you then you should probably avoid it. If not then give it a go. Lots of fun to read, plenty of humour, plenty of smiting and it gets surprisingly serious at the end.
Features Spiderman, Wolverine, Quick Silver, US Agent, Wasp (Hank Pym) and Spider Woman.

SCORE 7/10


Punisher Max: Tiny Ugly World(One Shot)

Writer: David Lapham
Art: Dalibor Talajic

Hot on the heels of the breathtakingly pointless Happy Ending and Hot Rods Of Death Punisher Max one shots comes a short story about a man who keeps his pickled penis in a jar after his mother cut it off as penance for the sexual relationship they had together when he was an adolescent. Frank himself only makes 2 brief appearances in this dreadful story that feels like it was written by a 14 year old who’d just read his first Garth Ennis comic. Seriously, sometimes it shames me to be a Punisher fan. I spend a great deal of time trying to convince people that comics are an intelligent and interesting form of story telling media, every bit as valid as books and films. This comic is not one of the examples I would use to convince them.


SCORE 3/10


Judge Dredd: Total War(Collects stories originally printed in 2000ad progs 1392-1399 and 1408-1422)

Writer: John Wagner
Art: Colin Macnei, Henry Flint,  Jason Bashill

Been a long time since I read Judge Dredd and after reading this book I’m gonna be reading a lot more! In this story the judges of Mega City One (a vast sprawling city of the future that occupies a large part of the east coast of America) face an ultimatum from the terrorist group Total War: either all the Judges leave the city and restore democracy and trial by jury or they nuke the city one block at a time until their demands are met. You won’t believe some of the things the Judges do as part of their standard operating procedure when trying to bring the terrorists to justice and and all the art is laid out in such a cinematic way you can imagine a lot of the scenes as something from a really well directed movie (the bit where the judges are looking through loads of CCTV footage to track a suspect especially).

The infringement of peoples civil liberties has never looked so cool.

SCORE 8/10


Halo graphic novel(collection of 4 short stories)

Writers: Lee Hammock, Jay Faerber, Brett Lewis

Art: Simon Bisley,Ed LeeAndrew Robinson,Tsutomi Nihiei,Moebius

4 short stories that attempt to add a bit more depth and history to the Halo franchise. Worth a read if you’re into the games but there’s not much here for you if you’re not. While the artwork is very good throughout, a lot of it’s confusing to look at making it difficult to tell what’s going on (I’m a big Simon Bisley fan but this isn’t his best work) and although the stories are interesting they’re not all told that well so after I bought this book hoping to answer a few questions about the Halo universe it just raised a bunch more.
Nice art gallery in the back though.

SCORE 6/10


Gears Of War graphic novel(Collects Hollow parts 1-6 and One Day)

Writer: Joshua Ortega
Art: Liam Sharp, Federico Dallocchio

Again, If like me you loved the Gears of war games then this is worth a look. The Character art and dialogue is true to the source material and it always feels like these are the games characters that you’re reading about. I was hoping that this book would explain a bit about the history of the conflict and E-day but that barely gets a mention. The story is set between the first and second game and follows Delta squad on a mission to investigate some “strange seismic activity”. Every bit as violent as the game with plenty of gun fights but I got the feeling that the writer had wanted to add a tactical edge to the action that the artist couldn’t be bothered to illustrate.
“Flank ’em Dom!” commands Marcus.
“On it!” shouts Dom as they both run at the enemy side by side, shooting from exactly the same direction.
I’m no military tactician but even I can tell you that’s not how you flank someone you pair of douche bags.

SCORE 6/10