“We are running from the void,straight into the void” Nihalism straight from the mouths of Aiden GD Moore’s darkly laconic lagomorphs

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bunniesEvents such as Thought Bubble are by far perfect occasion to discover new art,comics and creators in person and break out of the twitter and online gallery bubble, so once again this year I was again scouting around the numerous marquees for interesting and new books and comics, admittedly with maybe an eye extra open for something anthropomorphic! This year was another spectacular convention and it didn’t disappoint in terms of discovering talent that was new, to me at least. One that stood out and fit the bill very neatly thank you, was a book entitled Nihilistic Bunnies and it’s creator Aiden G Moore who in a flash of cross marketing/cosplay genius was dressed head to toe in a sparkly, queer rabbit getup.

As I said, it’s new to my eyes at least with Aiden actually releasing the book sometime last year and I’m surprised I’d not heard of it before. He presents a beautifully produced gallery of cutely sketched rabbits all being suitably adorable, each one oddly juxtaposed with some dark and well, Nihilistic phrases that tickled that skewered, pitch black part of my brain. They all illicit a wry, sadistic chuckle from the downbeat world view they espouse, with the most optimistic being “but carrots still taste good” in reply to another bunny declaring “life is meaningless”.

bunny2   Moore has also used anthropomorphic characters in his comics work with the completely wordless Occult Trash Raccoons, a short comic in which Raccoons turn to the dark arts and proficiency in arcane magical rituals in order to get their paws on trash that in a dozen or so pages crosses from cutesy animal shenanigans to full on occult nightmare fuel. Aiden also returns to rabbits, representing himself as a bunny again in two slice of life comics, Ode to Customer Service, which collects his account and others of working in the treacherous and often thankless world of retail, detailing the funny, saddening and rude customers that come along with the territory. Bunny Book, an autobiographical work previously published in Boston Comics Roundtable ‘Being True this year and also exhibited at the ‘Inside Job’ exhibition at the Tate Modern delves into gender presentation and recounts his experiences of expressing himself as a feminine trans male. a4-page2a4-page1 Working across a slew of other mediums as well as comics I’d recommend their work for anyone with a penchant for anything spooky, cute or occult!

You can find more of Aiden’s work over at aidengdmoore.com or support him on Patreon.

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Wednesday Adventures 14th November

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A brief weekly rundown of recommendations of new releases I’m intrigued by, excited for and will be grabbing off the shelves to curl up with every new comics day before delving into them later in the week!

Have you hugged your local comic store owner today?

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Time is an illusion that helps things make sense
So we are always living in the present tense
It seems unforgiving when a good thing ends
But you and I will always be back then”

Adventure Time: Season 11- Kaboom

I never knew how much I’d miss this show until the last notes of come along with me played out, leaving an Adventure time shaped hole in my life. It’s a show that I’d watched and shared with countless friends over the last eight years, growing alongside it as it morphed into something surreal on a much bigger scale, adding a continuing story and deeper mythos. While you could’t wish for a more perfect and melancholic ending to such  weird and wonderfully surreal series than this years conclusion it’s great to see Kaboom picking up where “Come along with me” left of as Finn and Jake carry on their lives and the cycle begins again.

Continuations are always tricky but Adventure time always set a particularly high benchmark for spin off media that it managed across a quite frankly crazy amount of comic titles and has seen some of the best writers and artists in the business, both established and up and coming lend their talents to the beloved series. Season 11 has Sonny Liew on writing duties and art by Marina Julia (who has worked on Lumber Janes and Adventure time already) who both hit the right note with issue one, already keeping up with the whimsical yet bittersweet status quo setup by the shows ending.

 

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Cosmic Ghost Rider- Marvel Comics

Come for the wacky and ridiculous premise, stay for the genuinely touching tale of fatherhood and redemption? Donny Cates is all over Marvel at the moment and it’s not hard to see why he’s hot stuff right now. From the Inhumans to Doctor Strange or kicking of a new revamped series of Marvel Knights he’s one of the best and most prolific writers taking characters in some fascinating new directions.

Spinning out of the pages of the Thanos solo series, Cates took a concept that could have descended into an overpowered one note joke and crafted what is easily one of the best Punisher stories in years. Having kidnapped a baby Thanos from his crib, Frank Castle has a change of heart, deciding to teach the tiny future tyrant the error of his ways and give them both a second chance. Perhaps not the best place to jump on, being the end of the series and all,but a strong recommendation for a series to catch up on or to pick up in trade when it drops in January.

 

 

Wednesday Adventures 7th November

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A brief weekly rundown of recommendations of new releases I’m intrigued by, excited for and will be grabbing off the shelves to curl up with every new comics day before delving into them later in the week!

Have you hugged your local comic store owner today?

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Green Lantern 1- DC Comics

After a groundbreaking run breaking down and rebuilding the Batman mythos and then making a grand statement about about DC’s universal structure in the Multiversity, Morrison announced that he was stepping away from DC and superheros in general for the time being. Even with a Heavy Metal relaunch and a retelling of the Santa Claus story he didn’t stray far from the capes penning both Wonder Woman: Earth One and then a Batman one shot this year. However it seems that incanting the oath of the fearless Green Lantern Corp that has brought him back into the superhero fold properly as this week he sends intergalactic lawman Hal Jordan back onto his cosmic beat with art from Liam sharp. Pairing Morrison with such an out there cosmic concept seems like it should have been done a lot sooner and the only way this could be more perfect for me is if Larfleeze shows up.

Green Lantern along with Darkest night was what brought me back into comics after a long time away, and while I’d fallen out of love with the title along with most of DC’s line after the New 52 Shake up. Even with such a low key and subdued pitch, one that sounds ludicrously down to Earth for a Morrison idea, the master of reinvention has definitely got me back on board with an old favourite.

 

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Auntie Agatha’s Home for Wayward Rabbits- Image Comics

From the comic book veteran who has worked his way across both the DC and Marvel Universes and back again multiple times in his forty year career, creating the likes of Lobo and Ambush Bug along the way returns to Image for a story of…dysfunctional bunnies?

A dark comedy featuring a colourful and varied cast of weird and wonderful lapins living in a home set up by Auntie Agatha that is in danger of being torn down in true movie villain style, by non other than a shady profiteering businessman. Agatha’s niece Julie takes on the day care of the ill adjusted residents, guarded by a rabbit mask wearing, species confused watchdog with a blend of dark and whimsical. For a creator who has fully immersed himself in the fictional worlds of the big two, this is both an unexpected return to both Image comics and creator owned work with an adorable idea that already feels like a lot more charming and personal project.

 

 

“History never really repeats itself, but it sure does rhyme a lot” Looking back with Mark Russell on his Hannah Barbera books and the Green Lantern Huckleberry Hound Special

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If you had to think of comics that are political Green Lantern, with it’s Intergalactic Space cops who diligently patrol a whole sector of space as their “beat” with the aid of magic rings, might not be one that instantly springs to mind as somewhere to discuss the issues of the day. Yet Denny O’Neil did exactly that with his famous run in the 1970’s which paired DC’s two green themed heroes, Lantern and Arrow. A politically charged road trip across America in which the usually confident and head strong lantern has to face harsh realities of his countries social climate.

This week however writer Mark Russel returning to a 70’s setting and the books socially conscious leanings, teams up the Green and the Blue this time around, when veteran Solider and rookie Lantern John Stewart is drawn into a partnership with down on his luck canine comedian, Huckleberry hound. “So you have the young idealistic Lantern meeting up with a world-weary cartoon dog against the backdrop of the Vietnam War and Watergate. Seems like they might have something to talk about” Russell says, explaining what at first seems like a strange and unlikely pairing “Setting the crossover in the early 1970’s just seemed to make a lot of sense, because John Stewart is still at the beginning of his career, just learning how to be a Lantern, whereas Huckleberry is at the end of his. His cartoon cancelled and making a living on the “has-been circuit”, appearing on TV shows like the Hollywood Squares and hand-selling his comedy albums at stand-up gigs”

Maybe this crossover shouldn’t have been such a surprise from the writer of the criminally overlooked Prez; itself an updated spin on the original Joe Simon creation, Prez Rickard which while silly, fun and wildly inventive for it’s short run, never really took advantage of the Presidential angle beyond the teen president’s strong stance on gun control, settling for legless vampires and other comic oddities. Russel’s recent reinvention put the politics back into a book that was already a perfect fit for it, taking a sardonic look at 2000’s politics and how that works in the world of instant celebrity culture and quick fire social media. “It’s something I sort of got into by accident. DC offered me the chance to write The Flintstones based on the work I did on Prez” he says of his Teen President Beth Ross, whose time in office beat her male counterpart by two issues and led the writer onto his subsequent work with the Hannah Barbera stable of Saturday morning cartoon icons “What I’ve come to like about the Hanna Barbera characters is that they didn’t come in with a lot of backstory or continuity to worry about. Surprisingly, the Snagglepuss cartoons never included any flashbacks to his failed career in theatre or his broken relationship with his parents or anything like that. So I got to make all that stuff up”

 

It’s the looseness and simplicity behind this Saturday morning cartoon creations that has given Russell breathing to reinterpret and recontextulaize them, has writing some of the most striking and socially hard hitting comics of the last few years,both adding complex backstories to these beloved cartoon staples whilst staying true to the core of their characters. Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles framed the pink mountain lion as a less comedic, and much more melancholic soul leading a double life as  a successful and confident,Tennesee Williams type playwright forced to skulk and sneak his way into New York’s village against the backdrop of McCarthy witch hunts and the much less known about “Lavander Scare”, which sough out homosexuals casting them as subversives and communist sympathisers. It was the first time such a strong and overtly queer characterisation and story had been given to a character who had previously only been broadly gay coded, sweeping aside the snickering comments of the past and giving him a quiet, noble dignity “Snagglepuss’ gayness is not only central to his identity, but to his struggle against the institutions that are trying to destroy him. The entire story of Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles is built on two pillars. That he had a background in theater before he went into cartoons and that he was a gay man living in 1950s America” explains Russell on Snagglepuss’ portrayal as gay in this years Exit Stage Left and if he worried about any fallout from the decision “I don’t really worry about how people will react to modernizing or changing well-established characters. I just try to make characters who have depth and meaning for me and trust that other people will feel the same way about the character that I do” 

“I think stories resonate, not because we care about the time period in which they’re set, but because they’re populated by characters that are dealing with timeless human realities” Exit Stage Left encapsulates Russell’s outlook on storytelling perfectly. Shockingly for a comic set in the 50’s, with an underused character, is that it strongly and deeply resonates with the experiences of a queer audience in 2018. In a year that felt like it had been thrown head first into full reverse it expertly focused in and captured this feeling from the viewpoint of the LGBT community with pathos and heartbreaking tenderness “Whatever genre I’m writing, I basically ask myself the same questions. I want to know what it would mean to be that character and how to survive in a world that is trying to kill them” By adding things before or after their cartoon careers, in this world Snagglepuss and Quickdraw essentially serving as “actor”s on their respective cartoon shows, it has allowed Russell to add these in depth back stories and inner lives without casting aside the animations that made them so popular in the first place. For a story that ends on a hopeful but downbeat note, it makes the cartoons almost an act of defiance with the events of Exit Stage left in mind as the effeminate gay mountain lion perseveres and carries on with his life. It might be as a comedic and inoffensive version of his true self,but it’s close to it as he can get and Heavens to Murgatroyd does he live it. “I‘m much more interested in the conflict between a character and the world in which they live” Russell comments “The way they are expected to fall in line behind institutions that don’t care about them. About the ways they deal with their limitations and the apathy of the Universe by finding meaning in their work and in each other”

 

“Sometimes I’m accused of making a cult of my own sorrow” admits Huckleberry Hound, fellow Playwright and longtime friend of Snagglepuss in a moment of self depreciation. Huckleberry Hounds journey mirrors and then veers of wildly from our pink protagonist in one of the more heart wrenching moments in a book that already pulls no punches. Unable to weather the storm Huckleberry takes his own life, leading to Snagglepuss working with his son Huckleberry Jr who becomes the beloved star of screen and attains a sense of happiness his father never knew. For a while at least. Russell’s stories might be slightly unmoored from the history of the cartoons we watched as children but we are children no longer and the gentle continuity between his multitude Hannah Barabera books has  allowed for some fascinating new aspects to characters, based on their shared history in an adult world “There are references both to the father he never knew and the cartoon career that was just beginning at the end of Snagglepuss. This fact informed the character and influenced the story” tells Russell on Huckleberry, seen protesting side by side with the Green Lantern on the cover to this weeks special “Not only in terms of Huckleberry’s willingness to speak out, but also in terms of Huckleberry having to deal with the destruction of his career in show business, much the same way Snagglepuss had to. As it is sometimes said, and as John Stewart points out in this issue, history never really repeats itself, but it sure does rhyme a lot”

 

“I felt like there were a lot of parallels between that time and our own. Most notably, about people’s capacity to lie to themselves to keep fighting a war they know is unwinnable. To keep believing in a president they know is corrupt. About the futility of trying to control people through fear and brutality” Russell explains on the setting of the Green Lantern Huckleberry Hound special, the 1970’s and more specifically the Vietnam war. Huckleberry is down and out on his luck while the freshly recruited Green Lantern John Stewart returns home not to a heroes welcome but to distrust and hatred as he himself learns the difference between having power, and using power. In scenes that could equally have been ripped out of the headlines of either the 1975 or 2018, we see fearful residents calling the police to ‘deal with’ groups of black people. Making his prediction of history rhyming even further is Stewart retelling the story of his brother surviving two tours of a warzone, only to be felled by racist troops after less then 24 hours back in Detroit in the same week that holocaust survivor Rose Mallinger was shot dead with 10 others in her own synagouge. “The hard part, the part I regularly struggle with, is not in describing these realities so much as offering hope that we can overcome them” Russell offers on his tackling of such important and sensitive issues in his comic work “In the end, the best solutions I’ve been able to come up with are to self-medicate, not necessarily with drugs, but with beliefs and relationships that allow you to take meaning from your life and to not wait for institutions to change to start building the world you want to see in microcosm”
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Thank you to Mark Russell for agreeing to and finding the time to conduct this interview. The Green Lantern Huckleberry Hound was released Wednesday 31st October and Exit Stage Left the Snagglepuss Chronicles is available in trade paperback. You can follow him on twitter here.

Wednesday Adventures 31st October

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A brief weekly rundown of recommendations of new releases I’m intrigued by, excited for and will be grabbing off the shelves to curl up with every new comics day before delving into them later in the week!; Have you hugged your local comic store owner today?

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Sex Death Revolution- Blackmask Studios

Transgender New York mage Esperanza discovers that someone or something is changing her past,with those around her describing terrible things she doesn’t remember doing in the new modern fantasy title from the writer of Kim and kim and Eternity Girl with art from Ladycastle artist Becca Farrow.

Described by Visaggio as a comic that she’s been working and ruminating on for close to two years, Sex Death Revolution is clearly a passion project for the writer as she explores themes of gender, identity and inner conflict within a modern fantasy setting. Although these are all themes she touched upon with the recent Eternity Girl series for DC, Sex Death Revolution looks set to delve head on into the subject with Visaggio stating that is “the most overtly trans thing I have ever written” and despite the fantasy elements sounds like a far more personal and grounded title from one of comics newest and most exciting voices.

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Green Lantern/Huckleberry Hound Special- DC Comics

By far the best example of properties that have fallen by the wayside being rejuvenated and reinvented for a modern audience is DC’s superb and suprising handling of the long dormant Hannah Barbera characters, in particular the works of Mark Russell. Far from modern cringey updates that just change the aesthetic to something more contemporary, instead Russell sticks far more faithfully to the original characters while still giving readers something exciting and fresh. Putting the subtext of theses cartoon staples into the foreground and letting them play out to their ridiculous, thought provoking and often heart breaking conclusions.

Tackling the absurdity of consumerism in The Flintstones and giving a fresh voice and dignity to everyone’s favourite pink mountain cat; Snagglepuss. This time around Russell teams up Blue with Green with the unusual pairing of Huckleberry Hound and the Green Lantern, John Stewart. Green Lantern has a strong history of politics within it’s pages since the Denny O’Neil run and it seems like both a sensible fit and an interesting twist going back to the time that was punished with a different lantern. It’s the last foray into the cartoon world of Hannah Barbera for the time being and I’m really excited to read what Russell does with the pair facing up against the challenges of the 1970’s,Vietnam and what similarities he will draw to now.

 

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Doom Patrol 12- DC Comics

It’s been a long time coming, admittedly not as long as Hotel Oblivion, but still a long time and thankfully this month heralds the welcome return of Way and his inventive take on DC’s misfit hero’s . With the majority of the imprints second wave winding down, Doom Patrols triumphant return most definitely fills the strange and bizarre Young Animals shaped hole that they have left in my pull list.

Billed as a low key issue following The Great Ludini and master of Gonzo magic, Lucius Reynolds in a D&D inspired adventure with his family along for the ride, clearly a fun filled calm before the storm before gearing back up next month Hopefully, wouldn’t want to speak to soon you know. Delays aside it’s fantastic to see Doom Patrol finally back on the shelves marking big things for the next story arc and fingers crossed, a lot more weird and wonderful comics for dangerous humans from the Young Animals imprint.

“The whimsical must harmonise the prosaic”- Simon Spurrier revisiting The Dreaming proves to be a dream come true

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Revisiting older properties, especially those that have cemented their place in comics history and a generation of readers is always going to be a tricky and precarious proposition. Like the silver screen, the comics industry big-wigs would rather play it safer and bet on known properties and while it’s thrilling to see new ideas, I can understand it. There’s something comforting in revisiting old friends and familiar worlds. The again follow ups have a tightrope of fan expectations to tip-toe across and at their worst can either stomp roughshod over the source material or slip off into monotony becoming stuffy and boring ,treating it with unmanageable reverence as some grand,untouchable work of art. The Dreaming is one of four titles spinning out of fantastical pages of The Sandman and while Spurrier, the writer of The Spire and Angelic clearly knows his way around Gaiman’s world, and true to form isn’t treating it with kid gloves.

“Just tell great stories.” Gaiman reportedly told the creators behind the new Sandman Universe titles, giving his blessing for a new set of creators to play in the Sandman toybox and not some sacred,untouchable title. Not that Sandman has ever been untouchable, not really. Already endowed with a slew of spin offs ranging from the acclaimed (Lucifer), the forgotten (The Dreaming’s first time around) to the truly overlooked and charming (Merv: Agent of Dream) not the mention the amount of times DC has tried to make Dead Boy Detectives stick and none of them have taken the shine of Gaiman’s original work. If anything it prove the exact opposite that such an expansive and complicated tapestry of  worlds, characters and creatures definitely has new stories to be woven into it.

Once again a new threat casts Dreams realm into chaos, only this time around the master of The Dreaming is once again missing as Spurrier cleverly decides to make it’s most powerful resident a complete absence in his story allowing other characters to come to the foreground and, perhaps for the first time in comics history, making the main character a mild mannered librarian as Lucien unwillingly steps up to fill the void left by his creator. In the series first two issues the spotlight is cast around the many denizens of the Dreaming and these characters immediately suit Spurrier’s cruder, cheekier and more irreverent style of writing. These are the people and creatures that while Dream, on the grand cosmic adventures of self exploration and discovery in the original Sandman run, dutifully kept the lights on, the machinery turning and the dream world in some semblance of orderly chaos. in the series second episode told from the perspective of Merv, pumpkin headed,blue collar Janitor and serial complainer who in this issue slips readily into a character we are seeing all too much in real life as he bemoans the arrival of new creatures and outsiders managing to give the issue a touch of real world relevance that somehow still fits seamlessly into the fantastical dark setting.

The series’ first two issues are bursting with striking little character moments that already really give this series a strong voice and hook. Issue one depicts Lucien,wearing Dreams helm and clearly rattled by being thrust so suddenly into a temporary position of power and deceiving the rest of the Dreaming. Spurrier presents us with the far more vulnerable and emotional side to characters that might have seemed a little lofty and otherworldly in other appearances, apart from Merv who remains his same old stubborn and steadfastly caustic vegetable headed self,even in the face of fantastical new threats. Most intriguing by far though is a new creation from the writer, Dora. A foul mouthed, wing eared enigma who has demonstrated a unique ability to travel between peoples dreams. More fiery and proactive then any of the supporting characters she also exudes a sense of melancholy behind her temper as lost and broken items are seemingly drawn to her, all the while keeping her distance from the castle and it’s residents. she fully embodies the tale of loss and longing that is being laid as the foundations for The Dreaming in it’s opening issues.

A rotating series of vastly different artists throughout The Sandman made the Dreaming a place that never looked quite the same twice,lending it an allusive, half remembered  dreamlike quality as if Dreams world was twisting and shifting around it’s master to his ever changing whims and moods. Bilquis Evely now joins the ranks of fantastic artists who have added their own perspective to The Sandman as she gives her take on the world of dreams that seems at any given time both familiar and unsettingly alien. As with the writing, she strikes the balance between the beautiful and the horrific from the explosive energy of lucid dreamers to the monstrous yet vulnerable depictions of Dora’s rage.

By taking the rich setting of the Sandman and it’s mythology as a basis for something new and exciting instead of a set of stuffy rules that have to be adhered to closely, Spurrier and Evely have created a comic that was as exciting to me as when I read Gaimian’s work years ago and uses a vibrant and distinct cast of fantasy characters to tell an achingly human story.

The Dreaming’s first two issue are available now, Issue 3 is released on November 7th

Wednesday Adventures 12th September

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A brief weekly rundown of recommendations of new releases I’m intrigued by, excited for and will be grabbing off the shelves to curl up with every new comics day before delving into them later in the week!; Have you hugged your local comic store owner today?

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The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 36- Marvel

Nuff Said! The often uttered phrase from Stan’s soapboxes lead to the gauntlet being thrown down by Joe Quesada to see who was more important to the creation of comics, the artist or the writer (answer: Unsurprisingly, It’s both!) and challenged various artists to “see what they got” across various tittles including Uncanny X-Men and Spider-Man. That’s the story at least and while it’s gimmicky and lead to some mixed results,they are never the less some of the more interesting comics. This time around North and Charm’s hilarious title teams up with Tony Stark and Doreen in an adventure that sees the team falling silent in the face of a new adversary.

Squirrel Girl has more laughs per panel then any other comic (scientifically proven, go check) and often that’s in no small part to North’s whip sharp dialogue, so if nothing else it will be interesting to see the writer challenge himself telling a story that doesn’t rely on his trademark witty exchanges between the colourful cast!

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Iceman 1- Marvel

The last thing many of us expected from another silly time travel story and Marvel’s attempt to have it’s cake and eat it by having both the modern and and more classic X-men teams around was a furore about the sexuality of one of it’s oldest characters,Bobby Drake. Typing it like that three years later in light of the arguments still raging around comics and comicsgate sounds almost adorably quaint.

Even then I found it hard to get worked up about and at least thought it was interesting for a character I’d spent very little time with beyond the films and on the surface a lot less clunky then attempts like Green Lantern over at DC. I was at least intrigued in how the younger coming out affected the older and the commentary on how both were impacted by the time they were from and the period of time they’d come to,one that was (theoretically) more accepting. I genuinely didn’t mind Bendis making the subtext text and outing him as a gay man and felt that Jean Grey being a teenager and “outing” him clumsily and against his will spoke more of them being young and rough around the edges,rather then a nasty statement from the characters or creators.

While his solo series seemed dead in the water with Marvel execs blaming failing sales on this and recent changes, disappointingly declaring “people didn’t want any more diversity”, trade sales have apparently been healthy enough for the company to give Bobby another try at a solo outing this month. Once again headed by writer Sina Grace who has stated his intends to explore “how he can be a shining beacon to the gay community”. No matter what the impetus for the change Sina along with artist Nathan Stockman (X-Men Blue, Dr Strange) seems genuinely invested in making Iceman a positive LGBT character going forward.

 

 

“It is quite a lot of fun to watch” -Cates pens the daddy of “what if?” tales as Cosmic Ghost Rider continues

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“Alternate realities were as easy at that; they were waiting for us in our bathrooms”

Elseworlds. Imaginary stories. What if’s. Call them whatever you like,of all the comic book concepts the one I’ll never ever grow tired of is the Multiverse. Infinite and seemingly inexhaustible iterations of all our favourites just waiting for a writer to flip a character on their head, give them a cheeky tweak here and there, slap a universe number and an intriguing premise onto them and you’ve got a guaranteed reader right here almost every time. In fact I’ll take any multiverse you got, although Marvel really seems to spoiling us lately and while the more cynical might point to the company spreading themselves too thin or wanting a pandering easy cash in it’s hard to argue with the entertaining inventiveness behind recent character outings like Spider-geddon, Infinity Warps, Exiles and of course, Cates and Burnett’s Cosmic Ghost Rider.

Debuting in the pages of Thanos last year, with the unhinged lunacy at play fans initially thought the rather chatty over powered new owner of both the Power Cosmic and the Spirit of Vengeance was the merc with the mouth, until it was revealed (with a somehow sheepish looking flame headed skull) to be none other than the former Punisher, Frank Castle. You can see where readers were coming from at first not knowing the effect this power set would have on Castle and not the comparison couldn’t be any more apt than in his solo series’ third issue when it becomes very much like the “Deadpool kills the Marvel Universe” when the former street level vigilante taking on and pretty much owning the entire of the Marvel Universe in this ludicrously skewered future he has accidentally created by blazing across time and space with an infant Thanos in tow. This issue doesn’t let up with delirious pace for even a second as Frank is confronted by Cable, the Guardians and increasingly unlikely and ridiculous versions of Marvels rosters of heroes as they compete with him to undo “the worst decision ever made” all the while  playing fast and loose with a Bill and Ted style of time travel that only adds to the mounting chaos and action.

The whole series has inverted expectations and steered it in weird directions since issue one and where Cates could have found himself written into a corner with, what on the surface seems like a tongue in cheek character that had nothing worth exploring story wise he gives us something unexpected. If there was nothing to Frank’s new cosmic adventures beyond the initial novelty and the frenetic visuals then I sincerely doubt it would have garnered as much good will or word of mouth buzz as it has but Cates has gone beyond all the flash and bombast directly to the core of Castle’s character, effectively sneaking in a gripping, compelling and genuinely sincere redemption arc in among the fan pleasing character mash ups and action. Indeed it portrays Frank more of a meditative mood then a comic called “Cosmic Ghost Rider” would at first suggest. You can feel feel the frustration that result from his rash but well intentioned cosmic road trip, trying to make amends hundreds of year and thousands of light years away from that fateful day in that park. Shouldn’t Frank of all people believe that someone has the chance to change?

Whilst as driven as he ever was back on Earth, Cates does write a more reserved and thoughtful Castle here and the in story explanation of Frank (of all people) laughably trying to set a good example to infant Thanos enables him to explore this without wall to wall violence, making it all the more visceral and well deserved when it does go down,and man, does it ever happen in this issue when frank goes “@#$%$& explicit”. past the excitement it’s the really relatable portrayal of the Ghost Rider struggling with his humanity and the exploration of the complicated, knotty and difficult parts of Frank’s personality that drive the story.

Right here, on the printed page, Burnet has captured the exhilirating speed, energy and frantic hellbound intensity behind this new incarnation of an old favourite ,one that of the Riders movies ever managed to put up on the big screen,this issue treating us to glorious displays of cosmic violence as Frank finally looses it, perfectly complimented with the pallet of hot hues from colourist Antonio Fabela that look like they are ripped directly from Thor Ragnarok and enough Easter eggs and background cameos for fans to pick through and search through. Burnet should be given some sort of award or recognition at the very least for the sheer number amount of facial expressions he’s manages to tease out of a flaming demonic skull, giving Frank the air of power or comedic vulnerability when required.

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It’s not very often I comment on the nature of the comic,but the layout of this issue in regards to advert placement is appalling. I know as much as anyone argues that comics are an art form, at the end of the day Marvel isn’t there to make a loss and business is gonna business, yadda yadda. Usually adverts fade into a white noise until enough time has past that they become quaintly nostalgic on re-reads years later, they were difficult to ignore in this issue. After the admittedly spectacular and jaw dropping violent double page spread the issue drops into a pattern of page, advert, page advert pretty much up until the final reveal and seriously derails the strong sense of speed and momentum that Cates and Burnett had intended for the issue. If the only complaint of an issue is the intrusion of capitalism, then hey.

Cosmic Ghost Rider is entertaining in an all out, bombastic, laugh out loud way with a surprisingly compelling human story to back it up, rising beyond it’s supremely fun original premise. Cates writing straddles the line between sheer dumb fun and heart string pulling sincerity to floor the reader with a budding father and son relationship you most definitely, assuredly never saw coming.

“They love a rebel, but not a real one”-Edge of Spider-geddon’s first two issues prepares us to be thrust back into the Spider-Verse

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“We don’t have the power of the state. We don’t have the authority on our side, the cops, or the media. What we have are angry hearts. Clenched fists. Love and rage”

If one thing holds true and consistent, even beyond death and taxes it’s that Marvel loves itself an event. Even more so if it’s a bankable follow up to an already proven event. That’s not necessarily as negative as I’ve probably made it sound with the company throwing out surprisingly excellent and enjoyable sequels to a lot of past titles including yet another Secret Wars, another Infinity storyline and two spin offs from the seemingly unstoppable Old Man Logan title that followed Hawkeye and Laura. So it was one hundred and ten percent inevitable that the House of Ideas would get around to revisiting their hugely successful, multiverse spanning Spider-Man epic, Spider-verse with the equally ludicrously titled, Spider-Geddon!

Setting the stage for the event with the defiant punk rock sneer of “With great responsibility, comes no future” is Hobie Brown, the Anarchic Spider-Man of his home reality of Earth-138 where the biggest threat comes from, you guessed it, corrupt politicians and it’s strict authoritarian government. Last time around the Spider-Punk had brought down President Norman Osbourne (who seems to abuse that position in every reality, go figure) and his terrifying V.E.N.O.M program is this time faced with an even bigger and much more nefarious threat, selling out!

Writer Jed Mackay returns this time around on writing duties on this “radioactive suicide machine” version of Spidey in a story that crashes along at the pace and volume of a good punk song, with rebellious energy to spare. Facing off against his universe’s version of Eric Masters, Spider Punk is soon confronted with Kang the Conglomoragor, a new spin of the might future conqueror. His plan not to conquer him, but instead to comodify and sell him to a future audience who want a rebel “edgy, but just enough” and sets up the rebellious wall crawler against an army of chibi-fied versons of himself, spouting well worn “punk” epitaphs and bearing more than a passing resemblance to the popular Tsum Tsum plushies.

“Well…I don’t make much from the comics, but the films! oh the films!” brags Kang , explaining his plan to the Anarchic Spider-Punk reminding us that this is a comic about a punk, and putting a focus on the  absurdity that claiming it was a punk comic created for the all consuming and watchful eye of the house of mouse, would be, with a nice little bit comical meta teasing at Marvel’s expense. It’s a neat little issue exploring all the thorny and knotty issues over selling out, and ultimately what comics ask us to do,investing a vast amount of love, time and money into a character owned by a huge multi-national corporation. Kang’s explanation of the eventual fates of both Brown and Captain Anarchy give the comic another layer in asking us to question our ongoing and morbid fascination of young, dead rock stars and the attitude it is still used flippantly to portray that still persists to this day.

The book definitely would have benefited from having the unique, feverish hot hues and rough punk aesthetic that Sheldon Vella brought to Hobie’s Spider-Verse outing. However new artists who has worked in the spider-man sandpit before with Venom still has a  very kinetic and vibrant style, utilising double page spreads that add to the books enegergetic, breakneck pace.

With the heavy promotion thrown behind Sp//dr along with the big name draw behind relative comics newcomer and rock star Gerard Way, I’m convinced that Marvel was banking on the anime inspired adventures of Peni Parker being the next big thing and the obvious breakaway hit. That is until it became obvious that ironically the book staring a musician version of a familiar face had swung in and webbed up our hearts,giving us the true breakthrough “character find” of the original event, Spider-Gwen. Unfortunately her fame lead to a lot of the other books, including Way’s Sp//dr being criminally overlooked. Sure,the premise isn’t as simple and elegant as Latour’s contribution, requiring more unpacking and at least a passing knowledge of a handful of Anime staples,it doesn’t make it any less a fascinating world or interesting interpretation of the Spider-mythos.

On Earth 14512, mechs are the order of the day in a universe clearly inspired by Anime, particularly Evangellion with Peni inheriting the huge Spider mech suit from her father which she pilots through a physic symbiosis to her Spider and is tutored by Aunt May and Uncle Ben, who are a lot more distant and clinical then any depiction we’ve seen so far. Naoler & Thompson flesh out the world of Sp//dr with some cute moments that add to Peni’s character such as her and her relationship with the Spider, who is much more a character here as he perches on her shoulder between action scenes looking suitably adorable. Sometimes it feels like there is a lot more story than can be comfortably worked through in a single issue,with Peni’s first encounter with Addy Brock and the subsequent brush off feeling extremely forced and rushed through in the first few pages. It’s a shame Peni and Sp//dr weren’t given the chance at their own ongoing series where the reveal of Addy Brock and her own Ven#m mech could have been given more space to breath and be explored.

As with this mini-series first issue, the original artist Jake Wyatt doesn’t return for Peni’s next big outing beyond contributing a cover that teases how much more special this book would have felt with the distinct anime-esque look and feel that he provided in Edge of Spider-Verse.While I loved Albuquerque and Farrell’s art in this issue, it just feels like Wyatt would have suited this world a lot better and given it a more distinct look from the other Spider-Man books and indeed, Marvel overall.

Both Sp//dr and The Anarchic Spider-man follow the structure set up in Spider-Verse, following these new interpretations of the web-slinger before ultimately whisking them away in preparation for the main event and conflict. The characters worlds are fascinating enough to explore for short done in one stories, and while they could spin off and delve in more in the future, it’s nice to have something to dip into. The titles suffer a little bit from the rule of diminishing returns, not quite having the surprise or shock appeal they had they first time around in 2015, but what they lack in novelty the writers have more than made up for in both the gripping writing and character development, getting across as much of both characters strong hooks and personalities in a very tight few pages. While they might not have the immediate impact of their first outings, the inventive settings and spin on familiar characters and spider-tropes make them breezy, yet endearingly fun and irresistibly silly worlds to explore in the lead up to the big main event next year.

Wednesday Adventures 18th July

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A brief weekly rundown of recommendations of new releases I’m intrigued by, excited for and will be grabbing off the shelves to curl up with every new comics day before delving into them later in the week! Have you hugged your local comic store owner today?

 

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Skyward 4- Image

Henderson and Garbett are slowly but surely building up and expanding on the premise of Skyward and it’s ‘low g’ world, with every issue bringing an interesting new concept to the forefront alongside the rip roaring action, simultaneously exploring the ramifications for those left living after the event’s of ‘G day’ and the story of Willa,who has quickly become embroiled in plots from parties wanting to either restore the earths gravity or keep the current status quo, both, unsurprisingly for their own financial gain.

Four issues in and the team are still crafting a story that like it’s protagonist floats effortlessly between the childlike wonderment of flying and low gravity parkour that the younger characters experience and the scars left by the devastation of the world changing event, felt by those who were old enough to experience it first hand. A great deal of this is from Garbett’s striking artwork, juxtaposing both sides of this new world from the gorgeous mid air acrobatics with images of terrified people floating of into space, capturing both the excitement and horror of this upside down world.

With more ideas then it possibly knows what to do with, Skyward feels like a world that could be explored for along while to come, without ever seeming gimmicky in any way. Issue four looks set to deliver on more of it’s breathtaking and gently frightening world as Willa heads out of the relative safety of the city into the wider world, where the sky is even more dangerous then ever.

 

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Royal City 12- Image

Ever since Essex County through to The Farm of superhero epic Black Hammer, Lemire has always made the locations and geography  of his stories as much  characters as much as any of his human protagonist. The crumbling, fading glory of Royal City is no exception. The perfect backdrop for his slowly unfolding family drama, populated with the deeply complex and richly fleshed out residents that keeps you coming back month after month in an attempt to understand and pick apart their puzzling inner lives and secretive pasts.

Lemire’s intimate and heart wrenching story of a family torn apart by tragedy continues and while it has been a series I’ve had to have on the day of release since it’s debut issue. It’s twelfth issue, even more so. It’s rare a comic can make me audibly gasp and then bring me almost to the brink of tears, but the shocking revelation of Clara’s daughter’s relationship to the rest of the Pikes is one that did just that, and left me eager to see how it will change the families already fractured dynamic going forward.