Saturday, 18 June 2011

Comics Round-Up # 5


Written by Peter Milligan

Illustrated by Gael Bertrand, Trish Mulvihill and Sal Cipriano

Published by Vertigo

Phantom Pains, Part Four: Gemma's Story. Gemma Masters is traumatised since her beloved uncle, John Constantine, brutally assaulted her at his wedding. In fact, unknown to Gemma, it was not Constantine that attacked her but a vengeful demon that had taken his form. However Gemma is out for revenge and has summoned a demon of her own to destroy him. Luring Constantine to an abandoned warehouse Gemma unleashes the murderous demon, and comes to a revelation of her own.

In this bleak revenge story, John Constantine finally meets his match in his own neice, Gemma, who has previously been a fairly minor character in the Hellblazer universe. It hearkens back to the wedding issue of the comic that came out about five months ago which categorically shows that Gemma was not attacked by Constantine, and when he comes to, as he believes, rescue her, he has no idea why she has suddenly turned on him. Gemma herself is a complex character who, while feeling betrayed in the most horrific fashion and deeply traumatised, discovers her own avenues of power.

"Trying to turn myself into Gemma Constantine. Maybe tonight I've finally become Gemma Masters."


Written by Brian Wood

Illustrated by Marian Churchland

Thor's Daughter. The Outer Hebrides, A.D. 990: Birna Thorsdotter is the fourteen year old daughter of a powerful man who pretty much owns the island and is paid by travellers for his advice and opinions. Birna's mother died some time earlier. After her father is murdered by some of his own men, Birna is left completely alone with no status and no protection. Despite her fear and grief, Birna realises that she has to step up and survive in a hostile world and reclaim her birthright.

Northlanders is an endlessly fascinating series. Despite being linked by a common backdrop (the Viking age, approximately the late 8th to 11th centuries in Northern Europe) each storyline is completely self contained with completely different characters and even different artists for each story. This issue contains a single issue story concerning the resourceful Birna Thorsdotter who has to avenge the death of her father and earn her birthright from her family's enemies. The story has the feel of an old folk tale and benefits immensely from beautiful and evocative artwork from Marian Churchland. Treasure this series while you can because apparently it has been canceled by Vertigo and is scheduled to finish in March 2012.

"I was born on these islands, not far from the stones. Sometimes it feels like magic. Sometimes like a prison."


Written by Chris Roberson

Illustrated by Shawn McManus

Published by Vertigo

Cinderella, Fabletown's premier spy, is hot on the trail of the murderous criminal mastermind Dorothy Gale, who is working for a sinister Shadow Fabletown. In an attempt to flush out her enemy, Cinderella decides to deliberately step into a trap that Dorothy has set for her. However, Dorothy has an ace up her sleeve.

This is the fifth installment of a six issue spin off from the popular comic Fables, which featured popular characters from fairy tales and folklore existing in a contemporary universe. This story recasts Cinderella as a secret agent, and Dorothy Gale (from The Wizard of Oz) as a villainous criminal mastermind, along with monsters, magical spoons, witches and wizards and a plot straight out of one of the James Bond books by Ian Fleming (the title is a reference to Fleming's book Diamonds Are Forever and subsequent film). The mix of styles works very well and the story is told with plenty of humour and there are plenty of enjoyable twists and turns along the way. Since this is the fifth of a six part story it's too late really for newcomers to the comic, but wait around a couple of months and check it out when it's released as a graphic novel.

"Don't worry, the fall won't hurt you. But stopping certainly will."

BATMAN # 711

Written by Tony S. Daniel

Illustrated by Steve Scott and Ryan Wynn

Published by DC

Pieces, Part Two. Harvey Dent (aka "Two Face") is shocked to discover that his beloved Gilda is alive after all, despite the fact that he thought he killed her. However Gilda is now with his enemy, mobster Mario Falcone, and is trying to kill him. Dent is then captured by Edward Nigma (aka "The Riddler") and his "daughter" Enigma. To his surprise, the Riddler offers to help him and informs him that Gilda is being held by Falcone against her will. With all the confusion, Dent is desperate to retrieve his "Two Face" coin (one side is clear but the other is badly scarred and Dent uses it to decide whether the Harvey Dent or Two Face part of his psyche should be in control). To complicate the situation for Batman, he has to watch out for Kitrina Falcone (aka "Catgirl") who has gotten in way over her head. The Caped Crusader has his work cut out for him.

It's complex enough in stories when you have two sides being played off against each other, whereas here you have three sides being played against each other with Batman stuck in the middle. It is a dark and complex plot, full of twists and turns and double crosses The main problem being that Batman himself is kind of pushed to the background with all the other stuff going on around him. While this is probably not going to become one of the classic Batman stories it is a solid slice of Gotham City adventure, mixing both action and detection, which will please fans.

"From now on, I'm killing anyone who pops up."


Written by Paul Jenkins

Illustrated by Will Conrad and Lee Loughridge

Published by Marvel

A terrible threat is approaching which has the potential to wipe out the entire mutant population. Faced with complete extinction, the X-Men gather at their island base Utopia. As tensions grow among the assembled X-Men, their leader Scott Summers (aka "Cyclops") reflects on his past and the development of his powers as he struggles to come to a decision whether they should stay and fight or whether they should flee.

This is the third of a four part story in which the X-Men prepare for a devestating cataclysm. Each issue has dealt with the soul searching of one of the X-Men leaders (the first issue it was Professor X and the second issue was the turn of Magneto). This is a curious, quiet series focussing primarily on the internal lives of the characters. It provides a lot of interesting backstory and character devlopment and gives a striking impression of an approaching devestating event.

"I'm the one who lost his first battle so convincingly and utterly. Who closed his eyes to all possibilities. Who was accused of closing his eyes to the future."



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