California Burning – American Carnage #1 Review

American Carnage - 1 coverWhen the new wave of Vertigo titles was announced to great fanfare earlier this year, there was only one that really caught my eye. Since first encountering his writing in The Wild Storm: Michael Cray, I’ve come to appreciate Bryan Hill as a thoughtful writer of action comics and a refreshingly calm and personable presence on Twitter. And here he was being announced as the writer of a six-part mini-series dealing with themes of racial tension and violence in the age of Trump, increasingly vocal pushback against the perceived excesses of political correctness and the social justice movement, and the reemergence of white supremacy exemplified by the tragic events of Charlottesville. I was intrigued and a little worried. The potential for American Carnage to be a simplistic anti-Trump spleen-venting (the title is lifted from arguably the most controversial section of Trump’s inauguration speech) or a jeremiad on the dangers of white (gun) violence was certainly there, but Hill is a writer I’ve begun to trust, so I approached this first issue with more hope than trepidation. Let’s find out if I was right, eh?

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The Wild Storm: Michael Cray #10 – Review

Michael Cray 10Over the last few issues, this title has become a lot more of a character study of its titular character than anything else and it is all the better for it. Writer Bryan Hill has, with no little skill, put Michael Cray through a wringer that, I suspect, still has one or two turns before it’s done. A few weeks ago on Twitter, Hill expressed his belief that heroism is in large part about suffering and endurance, in which case Cray might just be about to become the biggest and baddest hero of them all. With a psychotic John Constantine showing up at his love interest’s door at the end of last issue and an uppity sentient tumour in his head, Cray’s got his work cut out. And that’s not including a boss who doesn’t trust him and an insane version of Wonder Woman intent on bringing back some extra-dimensional entities and destroying half the world in the process. Let’s see how he gets on, eh?

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The Wild Storm: Michael Cray #9 – Review

Michael Cray 9Michael Cray is playing a dangerous game. Pretending to give his allegiance to the Wild Storm universe’s mad Diana Prince, while secretly working with a psychotic John Constantine to foil her plan to bring back the old Greek gods so that Constantine will help him deal with the sentient tumour in his head, which is a course of action that places him directly at odds with his boss Christine Trelane, Cray’s got not only a game within a game to consider but also an opponent embedded within his own mind. To say that he’s got his work cut out is an understatement. The fact that the stakes include not only Cray’s personal well-being but the fate of the entire world only makes the game that more intriguing. Throw in the enigmatic Dr Shahi and Cray’s erstwhile ‘team’ and there’s enough going on here to make your head spin. It’s a good job that writer Bryan Hill knows what he’s doing, then, isn’t it?

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Blood and Magic – The Wild Storm: Michael Cray #8 Review

Michael Cray 8 coverThis title’s ongoing plunge into a world of dark, twisted versions of the DC Universe’s most iconic characters continues and, unlike some of the earlier installments of this 12-issue series, last month’s issue ended with me wanting more – and as soon as possible! Well, a month is a long time to wait, but issue 8 is finally here with not one but two DC heroes turned bad guys to deal with. How will Cray manage to handle both John Constantine and Diana Prince? There’s only one way to find out!

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Wonderful! – The Wild Storm: Michael Cray #7 – Review

Michael Cray 7 - coverIt’s Michael Cray time! A combination of work stress and having to read Hanna-Barbera comics for a while has, quite honestly, made me more than a little desperate for this book. Which is kind of ironic, because a couple of months ago I’d more or less given up on it. What a difference a single issue can make! Bryan Hill’s decision last time to bring to the foreground the mystery of our titular hero’s tumour did enough to hook me back into this series that had been threatening to sink under the weight of a story structure that was formulaic and predictable. Now, though, with the introduction of the Wild Storm universe’s John Constantine and a sense of things spinning out of Cray’s (and Christine Trelane’s) control, all bets are off. Who knows what might happen this issue? There is, as they say, only one way to find out…

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Something Fishy Going On… – The Wild Storm: Michael Cray #6 Review

Michael Cray 6 coverMichael Cray. A character I quite like trapped in a book I really haven’t. Or at least not as much as I wanted to. Up to now, Cray’s Skywatch-sanctioned missions to hunt down dark psychopathic versions of some of the DC universe’s best-loved heroes have been rushed, formulaic and consequently somewhat predictable. And dull. Will this issue – the conclusion to a two-parter featuring a genetically-altered, psychotically deluded Arthur Curry – break the mould?

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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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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Killer Queen – The Wild Storm: Michael Cray #2

Michael Cray 2 coverThe notion of the Wild Storm universe featuring twisted versions of the regular DC universe’s heroic characters is an interesting one and last issue’s introduction to a psychopathic Oliver Queen was elegantly and engagingly executed. With Michael Cray taking it upon himself to enter Queen’s dome of death and face being hunted by Queen in a lovingly rendered replica of the island on which Queen honed his skills – and presumably lost his mind in the process – the stage is set for a mouth-watering showdown. Let’s see how it all pans out…

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Shoot That Poisoned Arrow! – The Wild Storm: Michael Cray #1

Michael Cray 1 coverWarren Ellis and Jon Davis-Hunt’s The Wild Storm has been one of the most impressive comics to come out of DC in the last twelve months. While I know the plan was always to expand the Wild Storm line – and universe – in an incremental way, I must admit that I’d been viewing the arrival of a non-Ellis scripted title with a mixture of anticipation and trepidation. The former because more Wild Storm is undoubtedly a good thing; the latter because any dilution of quality (which seemed a possibility if Ellis wasn’t writing everything) was inevitably going to be disappointing. Well, I’m an idiot for feeling that way. Let me explain why…

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