Thursday, 17 August 2017

James Bond Vol.1: Vargr

Ok then, for the third day of my recent holiday I decided to read the first volume of the Dynamite reimagining of 007 James Bond, entitled Vargr.

Day three's read of James Bond's first volume; Vargr, as told by the great Warren Ellis and Jason Masters, follows Britain greatest super spy who, after getting revenge for the murder of a colleague, inherits said colleagues active cases. However, the first case on this list turns out to be a lot more complex than the simple drug smuggling ring that it first appeared, with Bond coming up against a maniacal doctor and his artificially enhanced, bloodthirsty henchpersons.

Now, I had high hopes for this trade because, as fortune would have it, I got the opportunity to review the initial first issue for Pipedream Comics. Because of this, and the good impression that issue left with me, I decided to put this on my wish list to pick up, which I did a few months back when Dynamite had a sale on Comixology.

Fortunately, these high hopes were not in vain as I found this first trade to be absolutely fantastic and the highlight of my week so far (in regards to comic reading). Everyone knows how great Warren Ellis is, but I think he really pulls the cat out of the bag and really nails both the world and character of Bond. I have to admit I did find it odd how obnoxious the entire cast is when compared to some of Bond's movies but, then again, these are personality traits originally seen in Flemings novels and it fit the story and the idea of Bond to the letter.

But, what was truly fantastic was Masters' artwork. I love his style on this book, with his pencils looking so clean and sterile that it just imbues Bond's character. I'd also have to say that Coupling that with Guy Major's colours really made the whole book look 60's esque and more in line with the classic Bond films. I should also point out that I think Bond looks exactly like Bond should look, not like any one actor and more like Sterling Archer, with a little bit of Timothy Dalton and Daniel Craig maybe.

This trade was a perfect contained story and I could happily have left it there. However, I really loved this James Bond series and kind of wish I'd picked it up as single issues. Therefore, I'm totally going to pick up the next trade and maybe even the Hammerhead mini which came out another time (once I can find the money).

In the meantime though, book four, which I'm thinking maybe the classic Gotham a Central (volume 1 of it anyway).

Star Wars: Vader Down

So, for day two of my recent holiday, I decided to follow through with my choice at the end of day one.

Day two saw me read Star Wars: Vader Down.

A crossover between Star Wars and Darth Vader, this event saw Vader, having tracked Luke Skywalker to a remote planet, forced to crash on that very same planet by that very same farm boy. Now, with no way to escape and no way to call for help, the Dark Lord of the Sith must go toe to toe with a Battalion of Rebels, including the regular Star Wars cast and the son he came looking for.

Going into this, I was in two minds about where it would go. The Darth Vader series had been great thus far, but it's arcs also seemed to be on a sliding scale, enjoyment wise, while the Star Wars series, which was also good, just didn't do it for me. For me, it could go either way.

Thankfully, I really loved this event. Once again, Vader was shown off as an incredibly bad ass character, both highly intelligent and physically imposing, who you could believe deserved the reputation he no doubt had. These comic series really sell me Vader far better than the film's did and once again he came off strong here.

Of course, he wasn't alone in this, as Aphra was also pretty cool after she felt underplayed in volume two, with her back and forth with Han Solo keeping me entertained. I again also loved the evil droids and their interactions not only with each other but also their more heroic counterparts.

Meanwhile, the Star Wars cast were written pretty well too but didn't quite appeal to me as much as the Vader cast did. This would certainly seem to confirm that the Dark Side is definitely better when it comes to Marvel's Star Wars books.

The art, on the other hand, was no where near as one sided. I absolutely adored both Deodata and Larocca's art on this arc, with displaying some truly gorgeous stuff throughout. What I loved most was Deodata's space fight splash pages which were just gorgeous (with the afterbattle splash looking so tragically beautiful, while Larroca, whose Vader depiction I already love, has to, hands down, draw the most beautiful and accurate faces of the Star Wars cast of characters bar none.

I really enjoyed Vader Down as it was full on Star Wars action at its best. I'm kind of wishing I could afford the next Vader volume now as I'm eager to get back onto that story, but I'm also a little curious about the Star Wars side (particularly the hints about Kenobi's diary) and how it had gotten here (and where it goes next).

However, both of these ill table until I can maybe afford their comics in future.

For now, I have other trades to read, of which the first volume of Dynamite's James Bond will be for holiday day three.

Friday, 11 August 2017

Darth Vader vol. 2: Secrets and Shadows

For this last week I've been on holiday, a nice little trip to North Wales (it's surprisingly quite nice, if rather wet) with my wife and son.

It's also a trip which has allowed me to take an iPad full of trades which I have yet to read through, with the sole intention of burning through them at the rate of one a night. I also decided that I would write about my thoughts for each one of these trades and then post them at a rate of once a week (unless something else got in the way).

So night one was Darth Vader volume 2: Secrets and Shadows

Volume two picked up from where volume one left off, with Vader having learned of the existence of his son as well as new Jedi-like weapons created by the emperor, continuing with his plans to capture the former and return to the right hand slot of the former. However, all doesn't seem that easy with his every move monitored by Grand General Tagge, the Emperor's current right hand man, while relying on the dnagerous support of Dr. Aphra and her droids.

Now I've got to admit that, despite my real love of the first volume, this second arc didn't really grab me in the same way. That's not to say that this volume was particularly different, because it wasn't, it's just that the plot felt a lot slower, with a lot more intricate parts. I think the problem with it was that now the objectives had been fully explained, these issues were kind of the planning phase of the entire, series long story arc, which I assume meant they'd be naturally slower.

That's not to say that this isn't still a good book as Gillen really writes some incredible characters which more than make up the slower story for me. Chief among them has to be, naturally, Darth Vader himself who I find to be vastly more dangerous thanks to this book than how he is portrayed over six films. I think this series shows Vader as more just a saber wielding monster but as a highly intelligent, incredibly cerebral man/machine who could, quite possibly match anyone in the galaxy in terms planning. Also, I love the two droids in this series, as both provide some great levity thanks to some incredibly gruesome and twisted humour.

But, for me, what I really love about this book is the art. I previously said how the CGS geeks keep praising Salvatore Larocca's art and after twelve issue, I'm glad to say I totally get it and am on board with those views. Larocca's art is amazing from start to finish, but I really go nuts over his depiction of Vader who he manages to draw with such menace in a face that is nothing but a mask. This alone makes me think the book was worth buying.

Like I said at the start, volume two isn't as good as volume one, but it still has enough good in it to keep me onboard. I can only hope that Vader Down doesn't cause its quality to drop further due to it being a crossover.

Well, I'll find out tomorrow as I think I'll read that for day two.

Friday, 4 August 2017

The decimation of my pull list

It's been a while since I've written here (a little over a month) and this wasn't an intentional absence, but more a case of being WAY too busy in real life.

However, I've got some time now and I figured I'd write about something, although the topic which is holding pride of place in my mind right now is not what I really wanted to end a break with. That said, this topic IS on my mind and I kinda wanted to write it down so that I'm clear in both my thought process and intentions.

So, let me begin.

Basically, it's come to my attention recently that my comics budget, despite it's rather small size and/or value, is now too much of an extravagance. This is down to a number of things which have affected how I spend my hard earned. Amongst them are that real life costs have risen (as bills tend to do for us all) and I've recently had to spend a large amount of savings money on a new car to better accommodate my ever growing family. Then there are comic books themselves which, while not exactly a very recent thing, have also seen their prices increase as a result of both publisher discretion and exchange rate fluctuations between the States and the UK, mainly as a result of Brexit.

Anyway, all of these things have had a negative effect on my month payslip as more an more of it has to pay the important stuff. Therefore, despite my best attempt to weather that particular storm, it looks like the time has come to make a really tough decision and pretty much end my pull list. This is not an easy decision, as the withdrawal symptoms are going to be murder, but it is one which has to be made in order to stay solvent.

Of course, while it might be somewhat counter-productive, I can't find it in myself to go 'cold-turkey' on all my comics as of right now and so have put together a rudimentary plan in order to 'ease' myself (for want of a better description) out of new comics.
  • Firstly, the Small Press Comics (Chunks, Afterlife Inc and Cognition and beyond), due to their more haphazard release schedule, will be cut immediately and their future instalments will be considered on an as and when basis (should funds be available). I feel bad for this as these books are created by talented people and deserve the same respect as any mainstream comic/ However, while they aren't as regular in their release, I may find it easier to pick their future issues in the future, considering them as 'one-offs'.
  • Comixology bought trades and single issues (consisting of Huck and Autumnlands, Titans and Black Science) will also be cut immediately with their titles re-installed later should my budget recover. The reason for this is that, due to all these book being digital, I can easily catch up with little difficulty in locating those missing issues. Therefore, dropping them first is a quick money saver, if not slightly annoying as they are great series (Black Science especially).
  • Printed comic mini series Star Trek: The Next Generation: Mirror Broken and Lazarus X+66 will be kept on until they complete, unless their quality dips. The reason for this is that, as they are only six issues a piece, they should be completed by November/December at the latest. Therefore, it seems silly to miss out on issues for so small a run and if I struggle to afford issues, my LCS can hold them for an additional month without me falling too far behind.
  • Printed comic ongoings Daredevil and Black Magick will continue to be picked up until the ends of the arcs ending in October/November time. This is for two reasons. 1. I don't want to screw over my LCS seeing as October solicits are out and they will no doubt have ordered. And 2. Both have been great series so far and, given they are picked up in print, I want to give them time to either drop the ball or my finances to pick up to accommodate. That said, should neither happen, the hard choice will have to be implemented.
  • Printed comic ongoing Lazarus will continue unaffected. This is because this is my most enjoyable series which is picked up in print and, given it's long term storytelling, I don't want to risk missing issues which I struggle to find in the future should I be able to come back. Of course, if it comes to the point that I can no longer afford a single comic book every month then this series will also have to go (and I'll probably have to seek medical help).
So, there it is! My plan towards the decimation of my pull list. I'll be honest, I'm not entirely happy with the fact I've had to do this as I was at a point where every book on my list was fantastic. However, sometimes (and I stress 'sometimes') comics are not the be all and end all and this, sadly, is one of those times.

Of course, I'm not counting myself out of the race yet as I do have quite a number of old series and back issues which I will happily re-read. Also, during the course of this mass re-read, I may find that some of these comics do not appeal to me as they once did when I had first bought them. In that case, a simply case of selling on ebay (or equivalent selling platform) can mean a temporary boost of comic buying funds.

But that's not going to be immediate so, for now, I'll be focusing on all those great comics for review, the plethora of back issues under my desk and the careful planning of rebuilding my pull list back to it's former self.

Or, hopefully, something bigger!!