Sunday, 9 August 2020

MI666

I'm back to the regular posting slot that I'd planned after the previous mid-week post about Rebecca: Tales from Resonant. Of course, while I had planned to fit my thoughts on that comic into this post, I just had so many thoughts in my head that I just needed to get them out as soon as possible.

Since then, I've reached the weekend and, with it, my wedding anniversary which, along with regular life activities, almost forced me to miss out on reading another comic. It also didn't help that my youngest decided to stop sleeping at night, forcing me to live the entire weekend as so tired that information just wasn't entering my head.

Fortunately, despite this rather crowded and sleep-deprived lifestyle, I did manage to find time to read one comic, which also managed to bring a lot of thoughts to my head.

And that comic was MI666 by Vince Hunt and Andy Bloor. MI666 tells the story of three supernatural investigators working for the Governmental department responsible for defending her majesty's commonwealth (or at least London) from occultist and demonic attacks. However, when the MI666 team are called into assist with a raid on a possible terrorist cell, what they all find is on has them all concerned that some darker and deadlier power is amassing for an attack. Now, with little to go on, the three must threat this attack, which may only be the beginning of something much bigger.


Now, I've always been a fan of both Vince and Andy's work. Andy Bloor's art is some of the most gloriously striking that I've seen, while Vince's scripts, particularly the recent Murder Road, have been some of the most captivating and enjoyable stories. Therefore, seeing something by the two of them had me convinced that this had to be a sure fire winner.

And, for the most part, it is. Andy Bloor's art, as it was in Wolfmen, Andythology and Midnight Man, is stunning in just how gorgeous it is. His style makes me think of the old Universal horror movies, with their black and white look perfectly mirrored by Bloor's work and pretty much confirming himself (at least in my eyes) as the person any comic adaptation of those movies should be drawn by. In fact, looking over every panel of this comic once again made me realise that Andy Bloor is an artist who does not get nearly as much praise as he deserves. Of course, there was one question I had and that was 'whatever was going on with Barlow's glasses and it's alternating dark lens?'

As for the writing, well, I've enjoyed everything I've read of Vince Hunt's (as I previously mentioned), but with MI666 there feels like a serious growth from when I first read his Red Mask from Mars series. Hunt's script felt tighter and sharper and far more suited to the horror genre, just like Murder Road previously said to me. In fact, Hunt's dialogue, like Bloor's art, really feels at home were someone to make Universal monsters comics as it really gave me the sense that this was a more cerebral and thriller-esque story. I also have to say that the entire set up of this story had me thinking it was influenced by the opening scene of the original Hellboy movie, with very English sounding occultists being escorted by a military unit with no understanding of what's going on, but maybe that's just me connecting dots that don't exist.

Of course, Hunt's input doesn't stop there, as his lettering was also phenomenal, specifically with regards to Barlow's 'lesser' half which was equal parts creepy and chilling in my book and really reminded me (in some small way) to the lead character's dynamic from Ken Reynolds and Sam Bentley's Cognition (incidentally, another Beth English horror themed comic). Of course, there is one query from the lettering in that what is Wyvern's surname; Cross or Collins?

So, all in all, I really enjoyed this comic and thought it was very good.

But ...

There it is, the dreaded 'but'. Of course, it isn't a terrible thing this time and and it doesn't undo what I've just said 'but' MI666, for as get, engrossing read as it was just felt like it was missing something. After reading through it twice (admittedly, the first time in an exhausted state), it's niggled at me about what is missing in this issue and, I have to admit, I believe it is the notion of 'playing safe'. Tjis comes from the scene of Wyvern's 'interrogation' where the scene occurs with Bridgett and Barlow outside the room instead of treating us to what is happening indoors. Indeed, I thought this is a consistent trope throughout as we are only ever hinted at the trio's 'badassery' rather than seeing it in full view.

Which is a shame because so much is hinted at throughout this issue that really makes the team of MI666 feel like immensely compelling characters. These include:
What's going on with Barlow? Is he possessed/inhabited? How did that happen?
Cross has a unique look, makes me think there is a story behind him ( probably something tragic)
Is that jar going to be a thing later?
The reference to Blood magic, is that going to be a problem later set up for later?
And likely more besides which I probably missed.

This does sound a little too negative in truth (and something I swore I wasnt going to do anymore). However, while I guess it is, it comes from a good place because I really liked the concept and execution of MI666 and really want to know what happens next. I guess I'm just hoping that, with this first issue out of the way, they 'unleash the beast' so to speak and show this series and its characters as the powerhouses they undoubtedly are.

Because with a charm and look that this comic has, I'll gladly be back to read each and every issue.

Wednesday, 5 August 2020

Rebecca: Tales of Resonant

This week so far feels incredibly long, despite it currently being early Thursday morning as I write this, I could have sworn we had already reached the weekend.

So far I've found my job has consumed my life for three days running, to the detriment of planning for my upcoming wedding anniversary, and random new thoughts popped into my head for an old story idea, making me inspired. All adding to a very long week so far

Likewise, while I'd planned to talk about two or three comics on this post for Monday, I actually felt inspired to talk about the first to the extent that I'm up at nearly 3am (while trying to settling an unruly 1 year old) writing this.

So yesterday (as of when I wrote this) I read Rebecca: Tales of Resonant, a fan-fiction tale by Joe Donahue and J. Schiek set within the fantastic Vault Comics series, Resonant (a review of the first issue I did previously for Pipedream comics if you go check my Pipedream page). The story followed Rebecca as she attempts to escape what is, apparently, a very scary and seemingly dangerous man. However, as she makes her escape into the Chirper infested wilderness, Rebecca's thoughts seem to turn from escape to vengeance as the game of cat and mouse she is playing seems to change when their respective positions of predator and prey take a drastic change that.
Being a fan of this series proper (well, the first issue anyway. I've yet to pick up the rest), I have to confess that this homage to DB Andry and company's original series piqued my interest from the moment that I heard about it. Not least thanks to the similarly designed cover. However, I've got to admit that even I was surprised by how good this story actually is.

While the world that it is set in is one which I consider to be full of some serious intrigue, this tale actually adds additional layers without seemingly planning to. With the story itself, I'm not sure it's connection to Resonant improves it any. Donohue really produces a tightly paced, chillingly addictive plot in it's own right, one that is simple but highly effective. In fact, I feel that Rebecca is like the is the Cloverfield Lane of comics, a magnificent comic which takes another's name when it maybe doesn't need to. That said, I'm glad that it does for it deepens the Resonant world and leaves me with questions about Rebecca sudden change and if the Waves from the main series are a factor or if it's something more societal.

As for the art, while it took me a moment, I do absolutely love J. Schiek's style as its gorgeous gives it a nice subtle connection to Resonant while still making it look unique. What I really adore is the colouring, especially the use of red and blue tones as the story unfolds. As I read this, I did wonder if Donahue and Schiek were trying to subtly imply some change of position within the characters dynamic. This is because as her pursuer's panels got cooler, Rebecca's panels looked redder, which went well with her more aggressive monologuing. I also really loved the panel where Rebecca hides under a truck (a truly awesome page in my opinion).

I wont lie when I say that this story is still missing something, such as a better explanation as to the relationship between characters (are they 'together'? Is she his hostage? Either of these add a different context), but those is merely icing on a very tasty cake. I absolutely adored this story and not only hope it makes it into the second volume as a special backup (DB Andry already said he considers it canon) but I would love to see further installments like this from these creators.

Anyway, the youngest seems to have settled and I have no thoughts left so I'm gonna call it a night. Hopefully normal service (or what was planned) will resume on Monday.

But if I get inspiration and time like this again, I sure hope not.

Monday, 3 August 2020

What's next?

(Feel free to now the West Wing intro music before reading on, given that's what the title is in reference to).

It's been a little over three months since I wrote anything and, truth be told, I've missed it terribly. That said, it's been difficult to commit to writing anything new and that's not because of the limits on comics the current pandemic and lockdown have brought us. In fact, thanks in part to these things, I have been lucky enough to have a large number of issue 1's provided for free from a number of publishers within the industry.

Sadly, the reason for my absence from blogging and reviewing has been down to simple thing; a loss of time. This is because, while many seem to have gained time due to furloughs and the like (though I suspect they would gladly trade back in some respects), this lockdown appears to have chewed up more of my time, given me little opportunity to jot down my thoughts.

Of course, it hasn't been all bad as my 'downtime' has been used to go through all of those previously mentioned free comics. It's not been the easiest thing to do as I've attempted to etch out precious time here and there through my days (predominantly at 2am when I'm settling my youngest) and so writing about them has been even more difficult. That said, it was good to read with a more relaxed frame of mind, as it even found me some seemingly hidden gems of which the trades have been added to my wishlist.

However, with life becoming a little more consistent lately (if no less busy), I thought I'd try and return to old habits, although with some rather impactful changes (which I thought I'd ramble about so I can remember better in future). These changes pretty much revolve around my reading habits as my pull list has (again) been hit due to COVID induced financial issues and even Comichaus will have to go once my current subscription is done.

But all is not lost as I have come out of lockdown with nearly 70 new trades on Comixology which, when added to what I already have, makes for a substantial bit of new reading (more so when you think i still have 5 months of comichaus left). But also, I still have a rather large collection which could do with re-reading (if for no other reason than to determine what of all I already own I dont want and could maybe sell).

So, what's next (see, and that's why the title!!)? Well, my new plan is to just ramble once a week about what I read, no more, no less and eventually, when time allows, return to my other projects such as reviewing for Pipedream comics. That said, I'm now more away of my limitations and if I cant maintain a post a week, or two then so be it. The most important thing is that I dont stretch myself (which I'm prone to doing) and still enjoy the comics that I read.


So now that the new status quo is revealed (almost like a Marvel reboot. I just hope mine lasts a little longer), I should give a few minutes to the comic (yes, only one) I read this past week.

So, about a month after there successful (and that's a major understatement in my eyes) kickstarter, I've finally read Our Final Halloween #3 by the trifecta of Mikes that is Mike Garley, Mike Lee-Graham and Mike Stock. This issue saw the surviving characters continue to prepare for the upcoming halloween and their 'final' battle with the deadworlders (one way or another) as, in typical end act tradition, Claire and the forces of evil work to take any advantage to impede her former friends.
Now, based on their own merits, I'm not the greatest fan of mid-arc issues. In fairness, this isnt through any fault of the creative team but simply a case of how it serves the overall story. The first issue is the setup, the last issue is the resolution, but the middle issue/s is simply the journey from one to the other and while some may offer additional twists or obstacles, they are still entries dependant on what came before.

That said, Our Final Halloween #3 was still a comic I absolutely loved reading and couldn't drag myself away from. Of course, being a middle issue, this one does suffer from all that I've just said but that doesn't change the fact that this felt incredibly tense as I went from beginning to end. In fact, it's a reminder why I love Mike Garley's work so much. Our Final Halloween does feels very similar to Stranger Things in its tone(which I recently watched), but OFH has such a unique feel, vibe and atmosphere that it draws me in and it's not until the end and once you think back that you see any (and if there are they are fleeting) similarities. In fact, of them all, this is the strongest work of Garley's that over read to date.

Of course, the strongest part of the issue for me was definitely Mike Lee-Graham's artwork, which I cant believe I'd never seen before this series as I read each additional issue. The art is glorious, reminding me of a cross between Babs Tarr's work from Motor Crush (or what I've seen of it) and Caspar Wijngaard's on Limbo. That said, that comparison still doesn't do justice as I am blown away by the style and especially the colours as each scene changes to scheme ever so slightly. It has made me wonder if the colours are meant to be how to show readers the time of day and/or the comfort of the locale. This is because, with the time, the colours at the church start very bright but I thought toned down as the story progresses like the sun was setting as the scene unfolded. These same colours also seemed to give an idea of the feel of each scene, such as the sterile blue for the hospital or the warm orange for the library. All in all, the writing for this story is good but it feels like a real fight with this art to see which is the better.

Finally, there's the lettering. Now, I can never say much about the lettering because, like streetlights or the bins being emptied, I always feel it is something you dont notice unless it is broken and that is the joy of Mike Stock's work. I thought the lettering was perfectly unnoticeable and, in that sense, an absolutely solid job (although I expect nothing less from someone as prolific as Mr Stock). That said, I'm not sure what he does but I felt he gives the lettering for Claire's dialogue such a subtle change to imbue a greater sense of demonic possession or something of that nature. Another perfect addition  to an already perfect series.

Of course, it's not really perfect because, for instance, I continue to struggle with both recollecting the story thus far (although that's a problem I always have with small press comics) and remembering the characters different names (because, thus far, I feel they just operate as a collective, like the Borg or something). I also have the question in my head of 'how is Claire wandering around and doing things when she supposedly had a funeral? Has no one noticed this doppelganger? (On that note, did they even have a body for the funeral?)

In the end though, all of this is small potatoes for me. I absolutely love this series and I am (in all honesty) counting down the days until Halloween and the final installment is released, along with (hopefully) a trade. In truth, the trade is now what I'm waiting on because I've set myself a rule to collect the truly great titles in printed collections and this series as a whole is a truly great title (if I can say so as unbiasedly as possible).

So, that's my thoughts on that one comic. Maybe a little long-winded but i figured I'd get out all my thoughts on the subject.

Hopefully, i can get a few more things read next week because i already have MI666 planned bit I'd also like to check out Rebecca: Tales from the Resonant (which the creators allowed for viewing) as well as Mount a Rescue on Comichaus.

So, what's next? Trying to find the time to read all three, I guess.