Exit, Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles #1 – Review

Snagglepuss coverThe Hanna-Barbera comics continue to bemuse, frustrate and entertain in more or less equal measure. By now, you’ll be familiar with the concept. DC takes a fondly remembered franchise from your childhood, and reimagines it in a hopefully entertaining ‘edgy’ way in an effort to breathe some new creative life into it. Whether the concept actually needed new creative life is neither here nor there. This is the 21st century. The past is simply a resource for a never-ending parade of pastiche, nostalgia or subversion. I rather liked Snagglepuss as a kid. A minor character, to be sure, but he had an instantly recognizable look and demeanour and, voiced by the incomparable Daws Butler, a warmth and vulnerability that was all rather appealing. What does Mark (The Flintstones) Russell do with all that? There’s only one way to find out…

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Over In A Flash – The Wild Storm: Michael Cray #4 Review

Michael Cray 4 coverThe Michael Cray series is proving to be an interesting experiment, but perhaps not quite the one its creators had in mind when they first conceived it. As the first spin-off series from Warren Ellis and Jon Davis-Hunt’s The Wild Storm, it represented an opportunity to expand the Wild Storm universe significantly, perhaps tying into the larger ongoing narrative of the main series in interesting ways. This isn’t quite how things have turned out. Instead, the focus has been on Michael Cray assassinating damaged alternate versions of DC characters and, only a few issues in, the formula already has a distinct whiff of staleness about it. The series does rather pose the question of precisely how long a very good idea can be mined before it’s outlived its usefulness. The answer appears to be… not very long at all. But, I may be wrong. Perhaps things will start looking up with this issue. Let’s find out, eh?

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A Moment of Reflection – The Wild Storm #11 Review

The Wild Storm 10 - coverWarren Ellis might just be the biggest tease in comics right now. With the delicacy and lightness of touch of the most exotic of dancers, he has unpeeled the various layers of the Wild Storm universe, each revelation accompanied by narrative moves of pulse-quickening, breath-taking skill, enabled by the extraordinary art of Jon Davis-Hunt. There is, of course, a fine line between teasing and frustrating. It’s a subjective judgment and individuals’ mileage varies considerably with this sort of thing. Some readers are undoubtedly frustrated with this series’ apparent reluctance to bring the building tension between IO and Skywatch to a climax and, if they were expecting things to start here, they’ll be disappointed. For, yes, this is another issue that, despite its somewhat misleading cover, is concerned principally with set-up and background.

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The Unexpected #1 – Review

The Unexpected 1The Unexpected? Hmmm… It’s difficult not to allow one’s prior experiences with a writer or artist to affect your expectations when their name appears on the front of a new book. Steve Orlando has some strengths (his imagination appears to be appropriately large and insane for a comic book writer, for a start), but it’s safe to say that I’ve tended to feel his weaknesses outweigh them. So what should I expect from The Unexpected? A plot driven by melodramatically delivered infodumps and glaring non-sequiturs? Cack-handed dialogue that would make Edward (“It was a dark and stormy night…”) Bulwer-Lytton blush all the way down to his bushy sideburns? Or will the unexpected really happen and Orlando deliver a ‘new age of heroes’ book that thrills, intrigues and hooks the reader just like comic books should? You know, there really is only one way to find out…

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Back In A Flash – The Wild Storm: Michael Cray #3 Review

Michael Cray 3 coverThe Michael Cray series has been an interesting one so far, but one for which my initial enthusiasm has waned. After a very promising first issue, the second disappointed on a number of levels, not least in its double deus (‘dei’) ex machina resolution to Cray’s confrontation with the Wild Storm universe’s Oliver Queen. The announcement of Barry Allen as the focus for this month’s issue raises the possibility that this 12 issue series will simply become a magical mystery tour of a dark ‘gritty’ version of the DC Universe, in which our favourite heroes are presented as twisted alternative characters that are simply grist for Michael Cray’s increasingly super-powered mill. I hope there’s something more going on myself, but we’ll have to see. In the meantime, here’s issue 3…
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Lifting The Veil – American Gods: Shadows #6 Review

American Gods 6 alternative coverIt’s been a while since I last reviewed an issue of American Gods, so I thought I’d better catch up. Dark Horse’s adaptation of Gaiman’s magnum opus has been slow-moving and just a little laborious up to now, but the ending of last issue promised a little more detail and clarity. Mr. Wednesday has called together a meeting of fellow gods in the frankly bizarre environs of Wisconsin’s The House On The Rock, a real-life architectural curiosity built in the late 1950s. Having climbed aboard the carousel, our viewpoint character Shadow is transported to Mr. Wednesday’s feast hall which, the garrulous Mr. Nancy tells him, is in Mr. Wednesday’s head. More or less.

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Riding The Carousel – American Gods: Shadows #5 Review

American Gods 5 coverDark Horse’s American Gods has, after an initially underwhelming start, become a comic to which I rather look forward each month. This adaptation has been very much a slow burn up to now, but there are deepening mysteries beginning to unfold and characters being introduced who are quirky and distinctive enough to hold the attention even while the questions swirl around the reader’s head. In this issue, Shadow’s journey down the rabbit hole continues apace and shows no sign of letting up. Step into the madness…

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Quicker Than The Human Eye? – Black Lightning and Hong Kong Phooey Special #1

Black Lightning and Hong Kong PhooeyVoiced by jazzman and prolific voice actor Scatman Crothers (he voiced The Transformers’ Jazz and the cartoon Harlem Globetrotters’ Meadowlark Lemon among many others), Hong Kong Phooey was one of my all-time favourite Hanna-Barbera characters as a kid. (Right up there, in fact, with Scooby Doo and Captain Caveman.) There was a glorious blend of patently stupid authority, hapless heroism and sly fourth-wall-breaking humour in just the title sequence alone and, although I preferred my superheroes to be just a bit more serious when I was growing up (Bat-Mite? What the hell was that all about?), Hong Kong Phooey had a charm that was utterly irresistible. So, when the latest round of H-B titles was announced and the feeding frenzy that regularly accompanies such news broke out at Weird Science Towers, I had no hesitation in diving in for this title – particularly on finding out that Bryan (The Wild Storm: Michael Cray and soon to be Detective Comics) Hill was on writing chores and that Black Lightning would be pairing up with our mystery martial artist. How does it all pan out? Let’s have a look…

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The Silence of The Bat – Batman #48 Considered

Batman 48 coverWith no less an organ than The New York Times spoiling the outcome of Batman 50’s wedding issue, I thought it might be an idea to look at one of the preceding issues in an attempt to work out what writer Tom King is doing with the character and what, precisely, is making it so difficult to connect with his stories. In the interests of transparency, I should point out that I’ve not been that much of a regular Batman reader lately. I’ve read and thoroughly enjoyed the first few arcs of Scott Snyder’s New 52 run and King’s initial I Am Gotham story, which is excellent. The last time I actually bought the comic regularly was back in the 80s with the Moench/Colan/Newton run for which I still harbour considerable affection. Whether this makes me more or less qualified to comment on King’s work here I’ll leave it to you to judge. It’s also worth mentioning that I’m a contributor to the Weird Science DC Comics website and I think it’s fair to say that the site has found King’s run unsatisfactory for some time now. The following is an attempt to understand more clearly what’s going wrong with this series.

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