Friday, 24 December 2010

Merry Christmas !

Winterval, Yule, Solstice, Snowpocalypse, Christmas, Xmas, Holidays Thing! Very very happy one to all of you ! X

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Doctor Who Relative Dimensions review

The previous Big Finish adventure, Resurrection of Mars, was very much the widescreen, big budget climax of this particular Eighth Doctor story arc.  It tidied up a lot of the hanging storylines very nicely, while leaving enough in the air to keep the listener wanting more.
Relative Dimensions though, while not following on from Resurrection as such, provides a lovely epilogue for the series, and also (something I only tumbled to halfway though listening) is a superb bookend to this run set, as it is, at Christmas, as was Death in Blackpool.
And like Death in Blackpool, and being set at Christmas, this one also deals with the same sort of subject matter: family.
This time round though, it is the Doctor in the spotlight, as his grand-daughter Susan comes round for Christmas dinner….
It was brilliant to hear Carole Anne Ford as Susan again, and it’s amazing to me that she is 70 years old! She sounds exactly like she did all those many years ago (not that I was around, of course…), and Jake McGann, Paul’s own son, as his great-grandson is also very good, sparking nicely off his father playing his grandfather… you know what I mean!
McGann’s Doctor gets some nice character stuff here. I always enjoy the tiny peeks we get into the Doctor’s mind and the brief glimpses we get of his motivations and the guilt and loneliness that drives his actions. There are some scenes of genuine poignancy, and I’m pleased to say that the rather bittersweet ending is not the one I thought I saw coming.
That’s not to say that this is a maudlin piece full of angst and misery- anything that features the Doctor riding the back of a giant multi-dimensional space fish cannot be described as dull!

The Switching

This short story is one of the extras that subscribers to the Big Finish Who series are lucky enough to get.
Written by Simon Guerrier, this is a nice little character piece that sheds some more light on the strange hate/respect/hate relationship between the Third Doctor and the Master.  It’s set (unless I’ve missed my guess really badly) between The Curse of Peladon and The Sea Devils, and fills the gap between the two adventures in a clever, exciting and very satisfying way.

Museum Peace

Like The Switching, this is another subscriber extra. Written by James Swallow, this one acts as a kind of epilogue to the Third Doctor adventure Planet of the Daleks (or at least, that’s what it seems like to me!). Here we see the Eighth Doctor visiting survivors of the Dalek war that began (does this count as a spoiler?) at the end of the Planet of the Daleks. As with The Switching, this is a lovely, in places subtle piece of writing with some nice 'Doctory' touches, not to mention some brilliantly written scenes from the point of view of a most unexpected character...

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Batman: Arkham City trailer

This looks rather awesome! The full trailer for the sequel to the astounding Arkham Asylum.

It's going to be a long wait until the Spring...

Saturday, 18 December 2010

RF Long interview

This should have been posted a couple of days ago- so apologies to all (especially Ms Long!).
We met the lovely Ms Long at the magnificent Octocon convention in Dublin earlier this year, so we thought it only fair to share the pleasure with all of you too...

Tell us a bit about yourself?

By day I'm a librarian specialising in rare books and religious subject matter. The rest of the time (actually all the time) I'm a mother of two, wife of one, catwrangler who tried to crowbar in some writing whenever she can. I like to cook.

How long have you been writing? What got you started?

I started very young. Certainly by secondary school I remember having a notebook containing my the "wonderful" novel confiscated because I was writing under the desk in my German class. Never did learn German aside from the word Sehenswürdigkeiten.

I read voraciously as a child. Once I'd gone through the entire junior section of the local library, the librarians there gave me adult tickets (possibly just to get rid of me, possibly they knew I'd end up as a librarian myself, who knows?) and I started in on what I could find there. At some point I must have objected to the end, characters or entire plot of a book and decided I would write my own. I wrote in copybooks. When I filled one, I would tape another to the back and keep going. I'm not sure these stories ever had endings, but they did have fantastic covers (doodled by yours truly with glitter & sequins to enhance the wonder).

What or who helped/ or inspired you to write?

Loads of people over the years. My family, my friends, my husband who is a fantastic support and my alpha reader! We both come from families who read and love books. I've had tremendous support from fellow writers. It's one of those professions where people really do help each other out, and are always ready to offer advice or just an ear to moan into. I have a particular group of friends who write and we form a general support and crit group together. We bounce ideas off each other, help with brainstorming, talk about markets and generally chat about life. Writing can be really solitary so its good to have people who really understand that. Twitter has been a fantastic revelation for me. I'm thoroughly addicted and making new friends all the time - writers, readers, publishers and everyone really. I find it fantastic. I've got stuck and had questions answered immediately, gathered opinions and met a whole bunch of local writers too.

I think we learn all the time, and grow as writers all the time. I joined the RNA this year and it has been a wonderful help, especially the summer conference. The SFF community in Ireland are also wonderfully supportive and I don't know where I'd be without going to Pcon, Octocon and Wexworlds this year. So much fun!

Everything helps me write. I'm inspired all the time -- usually too many ideas. Music, images, storeis, urban legends, films, other books, non-fiction, documentaries -- anything can spark off a story. I try to remain open to everything.

What are you working on now?

At the moment I am doing edits for my 2012 release from Dial Books for young readers MAY QUEEN, which is a dark fantasy set in the Realm of Faerie, where a girl in search of her lost brother finds that the origin of all our fairytales lies in sacrifice, blood and betrayal.

I'm also working on its sequel FOREST KING, and a new story which is a Space Opera with a steampunky vibe (although not really steampunk)--its a tough one to describe. And one or two other things. :) I never end up working on only one thing at a time.

What is your biggest frustration as a writer?

Time. Finding it, using it well, running out of it. Because I work and have a family its really important to keep myself working and to use the writing time I have to the best of my ability.

And that moment when you're working on one thing, and something gorgeous and shiny appears from the back of the queue going "look at me! look at me!". It can be very hard to keep focused. (Although I do try. Honest!)

What is or has been a particular highpoint for you?

Selling MAY QUEEN to Dial. It was one of those marvellous situations where my editor Jess Garrison got what I was trying to do with the book, understood it and loved it. The experience so far has been something of a whirlwind and its so exciting with ideas bouncing all over the place, levels of meaning and understanding getting revealed as we work together and the book just shaping up to be better than I ever imagined. I'm one of those very strange people who adore the editing stage. I've been very lucky with my editors, first Deborah Nemeth who was with Samhain and is now with Carina and now Jess. I've learned so much from them and they make the experience so much fun. It can be nerve-wracking, and I have been known to pout on occassion but the bottom line is that what we do makes the story better. So I'm all for that.

Another was seeing SONGS OF THE WOLF come out in print last week (7th December). The first story THE WOLF'S SISTER was my first sale to Samhain and come out in 2008. It was just so amazing to see it again, like reuniting with an old friend. It also made me very grateful for everything that has happened since. I've been very lucky.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to become a writer?

Be prepared to work hard. Writing is a business as well as an art. Write as often as you can, as much as you can, but remember that there will always be words that you'll have to throw away. But if you don't write, find the time to write and make yourself use that time to write, you will not produce anything. So long as you write, you're a writer. I think its a famous Nora Robers quote "you can't fix a blank page." So basically if you want to write, go and write. No one else can tell your story the way you can.

What's the best advice (about writing) you've ever had?

Two things and they are quite low level but they help every time.

When I'm trying to get right into the mind of a character and see the world through their eyes, when I'm trying to put the reader inside them, I try to engage all the senses - describe not just what is seen, but also what is felt, sounds, smells (very powerful one) and the emotional response to each of these things. How does the emotional response feel? What similies can best describe that sensation and what is a new way of saying it rather than those we hear all the time? There's a difference between saying "a chill ran down his spine" to saying something like "the cold worked its way between his vertebrae with inisidious fingers."

The other was something Sarah Duncan said about drafts of a manuscript and I've tried to apply this at every stage - to look for an item with "pzaz" on every page, preferably several. This can be a piece of description, or a line of dialogue, or a reveal of character or plot but a key, shinging moment that stands out. In the same way look at each page and try to make absolutely certain that nothing will stop the reader from turning the page and reading on-- in a sense, a mini cliffhanger, a question or something intriguing enough near the end of every page. Keep your readers interested at all time. Which also ties in with not pulling them out of the story -- remove everything that doesn't fit or makes them go "huh?" from a badly worded section, a typo or something that simply doesn't make sense. A reader is offering you their time and attention and is willing to suspend disbelief to engage with your words. So don't let them down.

What are the challenges of writing in a 'fantasy' setting?

Combining complex and detailed worldbuilding with a compelling story so as to avoid infodumping all over the place. This ties in with the idea of the agreement between writer and reader. As readers we want to experience as many aspects of a fantasy world as possible, but often there is more than could ever be included in a story. Just as with research, there are many things that the author may know about their world which are not necessary for the reader to know in order for the story to progress. In fact, over-explaining, or putting in too many details can end up boring the reader. A story should always progress forwards. Every time we stop to fill in the history of a kingdom or the reasons for a particular custom the story could stop dead. Even wose, it could start moving backwards!

Did your education help or hinder the work you do now?

I think it has helped very much but then I was lucky enough to be able to combine a number of interests together in my studies. I studied English in the University of Aberdeen and was able to take things like Celtic Civilisation and History of Religions as well. The English course allowed me to incorporate diverse elements such as early literature, film and media studies, different forms of story telling and generally indulging my interests.

As I said above, I have always loved to read, so research isn't a chore (especially when it's something I'm interested in), and a major part of librarianship revolves around the ability to look things up and find out details for people. Working with rare books is often like a treasure hunt in itself.

What is your writing work regime if you have one?

I work Monday to Friday 9-5 in the library and then pick up the kids so my writing regime has to fit in around that. Generally I try to do something every day. When we first get home and I get supper for the kids, I am usually sorting out emails etc. It has led to some burnt dinners, I can tell you. :)  Once the kids are in bed, I try to write for about an hour if I am in the middle of something. I am blessed with the need for noise when writing - I think because the library is quiet and so I associate silence with that work - so I can still be relatively social and productive in the evenings. I often write longhand when I go to bed. I find I can tease out ideas and scenes better with a pen and paper than on the screen. Editing is a combination - I do a lot of it on the laptop, but then print out the manuscript to go through in detail with a pen in hand, then type everythg up again. So basically my writing regime is whatever it takes to get the job done. Bum in seat, pen in hand/laptop open. :)

What else other than writing is important in your life?

My family and friends. Good food, nice wine. Holidays. Visits to archeological and heritage sites, that sort of thing (ok, kind of researchy but still I love doing it). Books! All kinds of books. 

Where can people find out more about you? 

Twitter: @RFLong

Paul Trailer

Yahoo movies have posted a full trailer for the next Simon Pegg/Nick Frost movie, Paul. You can watch it HERE.
We weren't quite convinced by the teaser trailer released a few weeks ago, but this looks like great fun, and that last joke in the trailer is brilliant.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Doctor Who The Resurrection of Mars review

And so, everything that has been bubbling under in the previous adventures in this series comes to a head here.
If George Bernard Shaw hadn’t chrono-stolen the title, this could have been called The Doctor’s Dilemma, because the heart of this tale, and indeed  the heart of this series so far, has been the terrible burden that the Doctor has taken on himself.
Not only the burden- to decide who lives and who dies- but also the affect that the impossible decisions he makes have on both those around him and the universe at large.
As the Ninth Doctor said, his life is about ‘Standing up and making a decision because nobody else will.’
In The Resurrection of Mars, we get to see just where doing this leads the Doctor, as we are shown the possible consequences to an innocent planet if the Doctor succeeds in stopping the Ice Warriors in their scheme to create a new Mars.
Oh yeah- the Ice Warriors… this is the second half of the adventure begun in Deimos, which itself ended in a tremendous cliff-hanger.
I don’t want you reading this review and thinking it’s nothing but angst and introversion. These things are present, but they are interspersed with some rollicking action sequences, witting dialogue and genuinely exciting and unexpected twists and turns- one of which, towards the end of episode one actually had me shouting at the mp3 player. 
In the car.
This is a very well realised culmination (or at least apparent culmination) of plot threads the writers have woven through this season to date. It ends on a note that manages to be both hopeful and slightly dark at the same time, and leaves the listener hungry for the next episode- so, job done, I say!

Dammit! I’ve done it again… one of these Big Finish audios will get a bad review in the end…

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Simon Fraser talks Lilly MacKenzie

With the first series of Lilly Mackenzie just finishing a triumphant run in the Judge Dredd Megazine, and the new series about to begin on the ACT-I-VATE site, we figure now was a good time to ask the series creator, all round sickeningly talented and nice guy Simon Fraser a couple of questions- and he even sent us a sneak peek at panel from the strip!

What can we expect from Lilly this time?

MUCH bigger, more characters, more backstory. The first Lilly story was very much about their personal jeopardy and their own lack of confidence in themselves. It's still a family saga, dealing with the consequences of past mistakes, but this time the stakes are much higher.

How long it it going to be?

I'm aiming for around the same length as the first one, so the pacing will be a little quicker.

Will it be published in the Megazine?

I think the reception from the Megazine was very good and that they do want the second part. My problem right now is that I am committed to the final arc of Nikolai Dante in 2011, so I'm not entirely sure how I'm going to fit it all in.

Any chance of a collected print edition of this and the previous series?

It's sitting with several publishers right now. The problem is that the state of the market is making people a bit risk averse, so it's far from a done deal. I'll keep people up to date with progress when there is some.

Thanks, Simon!

Monday, 13 December 2010

Mass Effect 3 trailer

It’s humanity’s last stand and only Shepard can save us. On Saturday, leading video game developer BioWareTM, a division of Electronic Arts Inc. (NASDAQ: ERTS), unveiled Mass EffectTM 3, one of the most highly anticipated games of 2011. After weeks of rumor across dozens of gaming websites and blogs, the speculation finally came to an end as the world witnessed, “Earth”, the game’s spectacular premier trailer, broadcast exclusively on the Spike Video Game Awards (VGAs). Mass Effect 3 is the pinnacle of Commander Shepard’s emotionally charged journey. To view “Earth”, please visit

Check out this mind blowingly good trailer:

Darryl Cunningham investigates - Climate change

If you havent seen the stunning work of Darryl Cunningham We recommend you take a look now! His book Pyschiatric Tales is out with Black Slate publications. Its a very inspiring look at many aspects of mental health. He has also recently tackled a few urban myths and controversial contemporary issues. The lastest subject under investigation is 'Climate Change' read the first draft HERE

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Doctor Who: Lurkers at Sunlight's Edge review

We already know that I like a bit of Who.
One of my other favourite things is H.P. Lovecraft. And arguably his best work was the novella AT The Mountains of Madness, which had recently been released as a graphic novel by Self Made Hero, and is also about to be made into a film by Hellboy and Pan’s Labyrinth director Guillermo Del Toro.
Indeed, Who has flirted with Lovcraftian themes and monsters many times in the past, so it’s no surprise to see them being used again in this one.
At the Mountains of Madness concerned itself with a group of explores discovering an abandoned, impossibly old, city in the Antarctic wastes. If you haven’t read it, you really should, it is a textbook exercise in creating terror by atmosphere alone.
In this tale, The Doctor, Ace and Hex arrive on an island off the coast of Alaska somewhere. A mysterious island that has only been there for a few years, upon which there appear to be impossibly old structures. So far, so Lovecraft. And while the whole feel of the piece has the creeping dread of a Lovecraft tale (I think it even uses the word ‘cyclopean’), it isn’t actually set in the mythos as other Who tales have seemed to be- but that, of course, is the beauty of Who.
There were a couple of points during listening to this one that I feared the worst. It seems to tread water a couple of times. It’s not padded out exactly, but there are some scenes that could handle a few minutes shaved from them. And there is the story strand with a hospital built on the island, and one of the inhabitants is a writer, not unlike Lovercraft, who is famous for writing tales of otherworldly monsters… much like the ones appearing on the island.
When this storyline started to emerge, I will confess to an 'Oh dear, they're not, are they?' moment, but I needn’t have. The dreadful cliché that I feared is nicely sidestepped and turned into something rather neat and original.
As always, the performances all hit the mark perfectly, with Hex in particular getting some nice action.
But best of all is the atmosphere. Perhaps it’s the weather here at the moment (it was -17 when I wrote this), but the sound effects and score really help to sell the idea we’re on a freezing island off the coast of Alaska. But this brilliant job in sound design is all but ruined (for me at least) by one enormous blunder in the script, where the characters find the bones of an animal half a planet away from where they should be!
Apart from that, this is another home run by Big Finish.

Children's Hospital

This has just been brought to our attention...
Now, I'm not sure if this is altogether in the best taste... but it is very funny.
The new series on Adult Swim, Children's Hospital. Link to the site is here.
Try and figure out the password yourself...
If you want a clue... we've already told you it.
We tried to link the trailer to the blog here, but can't figure out how to!

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood Review

That’s something you’ll be saying a lot when you play this game.

Everything in this game looks absolutely astounding. The environments are, as you expect, brilliantly detailed and atmospheric. The characters move realistically and the ‘extras’ are also well realised.
The story picks up at the end of Assassin’s Creed II and after a very brief ‘catch up- level where you can get the hang of the controls again, you’re thrown head first into your first astounding high octane action scene.
After that you’re into all the great Assassin’s Creed stuff you’re familiar with in the previous games.
Storyline is great fun and unfolds nicely as intrigue and double-cross and twist pile one upon the other until we get to what is a pretty incredible climax.

Yes, I liked this game.
If you liked the previous games, you’ll also love this one.   
What is doubly amazing though, is the fact that this has come out only a year or so after the previous one, and far from being a cobbled together cash in sequel this is a fully fledged game on its own. In fact, if anything, this may be bigger than the last one- the city is massive and I’m pretty sure you can go anywhere with your free running skills.

Ah- that brings us to the controls. Like all good games (I’m thinking Arkham Asylum specifically here) they are deceptively simple. The combat system has been tweaked a bit and it flows nicely, making battling impossibly large gangs of enemies almost believable!

Come to think of it- why has this not been made into a movie yet?

Another new addition to this one is an online multiplayer game. And this deserves another one of those ‘wow’ moments.
I’m sure you’re all used to playing things like Call of Duty and the like with their frantic pace and non-stop fighting action. Things take a different direction here though.
You take the role of an assassin (well, obviously!) going up against other players. Unlike CoD and the like though, running into battle here with all guns blazing will get you killed pretty quickly. Here, you’ll be given a target and have to track them down, while you yourself are being stalked by another player. This leads to some astonishingly tense play- particularly when you’re just about to perform your hit and suddenly realise that you yourself are in imminent danger yourself. Do you take the chance and go through with your hit or just run and hope to get away with your life?
The single player story mode is brilliant, but this multiplayer mode lifts the game into a new level and adds an enormous amount of life to the game.

Another aspect, and one I don’t think I’ve seen mentioned in other reviews, is the clever and subversive way that this game actually teaches stuff. While the storyline is obvious fantasy, it mixes in actual fact and genuine historical characters, Da Vinci is here again, as well as the notorious Borgia family and Niccolò Machiavelli. As each of these characters appears, a bio appears, which blends the fantasy of the story and some real fact wonderfully. And for my money, if just a few players are inspired to read The Prince after playing this, then for that reason alone the game is worth it.

Not that it isn’t anyway. If you’re a gamer, this is pretty much an essential purchase.

Thor teaser trailer!

<insert weak hammer related pun here>

After showing us the poster yesterday, Yahoo movies have went one better with the teaser trailer for the Thor movie.
Seems to be mostly footage from the SDCC stuff (not that we watched it when it was leaked onto the net, of course...)
Looks splendid though- a nice old fashioned adventure romp!

Friday, 10 December 2010

More Dredd set pics

The clever chap behind the Judge Dredd Movie News blog has spotted another few pics from the forthcoming Dredd movie on the site, and for the Dredd fan, there's a lot to get excited about.
A wonderful pic of a hottie stand here- check out the rather disgusting sounding foodstuffs on sale!

Best of all though, is this piece of graffiti:

Yes! Kenny Who?
For those not in the know, Kenny Who? is a character from the Dredd comic- a Scottish comic artist inspired by an encounter between a US comics editor and the legend that is HiEx Guest of Honour and all round spectacularly nice guy Cam Kennedy!

Thor teaser poster

This looks rather nice!
Yahoo Movies has posted the above image of the new Teaser poster for Kennth Brannagh's upcoming Thor movie.
It's all moody and stuff, innit? Can't wait for the first proper trailer!

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Adi Granov interview

You know when you say that someone really doesn't need an introduction..? Well this is one of those times, so on with the interview!

Tell us a bit about yourself?

My name is Adi Granov and I am an illustrator and concept designer. I work primarily on Marvel related projects, mostly comics and movies, but a lot of random other stuff too, such as video games, etc. I was born in Bosnia, have spent a third of my life in the US, and currently live in England with my wife Tamsin.

How long have you been drawing? What got you started?

This is one of those chicken and egg questions... I've been drawing all my life and always because I thought it was a lot of fun to create something out of nothing. I became serious about it around the time I was 16. Up until that point I did if purely for fun, but one day realised there was a career to be made out of it.

What or who helped/ or inspired you to paint?

Comics inspired me to draw and my mom encouraged it. I didn't paint at all until I went to art school and to this day I think of my self as a drawer not a painter.

Do you think that being European and coming for that very different school of comics, you brought something different to the very American idea of the superhero?

I suppose so. I think my ignorance of the history and the established rules in the comic world has been of great help to my work and career. I just want to do the kinds of things I like but try to maintain the identities of these iconic heroes. I think the audiences have appreciated my take on the superheroes because it offers something a bit different but attempts to stay true to the characters.

You have a very distinctive and different technique to other artists, are you influenced more by traditional art than by comics?

Technique wise I am mostly influenced by commercial illustrators such as poster and book illustrators. I was specifically very influenced by the airbrush techniques of Hajime Sorayama and Drew Struzan.

What are you working on now?

I am working on the Avengers movie, I am doing Captain America: Hail Hydra covers, and I am in the early stages of the Astonishing Captain America comic mini-series.

Do you ever get really bored when people ask you about (as I'm about to!) Iron Man?

I get bored of drawing him at conventions... But since I continue to work on new designs for him in the movies I am quite happy to chat about it (as much as I can legally). Iron Man has been a huge part of my life and career and I am proud to have been involved in bringing him from the bargain bins to one of the more famous big screen characters.

What is your biggest frustration as an artist?

Lack of time. I always feel that I am at least a day short on every single illustration I do. Time always gets eaten up no matter how well I plan in advance. I wish days were twice as long, but even then I suspect I'd end up in the same situations...

What is or has been a particular highpoint for you?

There are new ones all the time. I suspect you are asking about the professional ones (personal being meeting my wife!), so I have to say possibly when I met Stan Winston and he knew who I was and wrote me a really nice dedication on a poster. At the time I wasn't aware of his illness, but he passed not long after. I feel very fortunate to have met one of the real giants of the effects industry. 

Did your education help or hinder the work you do now?

Hmm, good question... Both. I think it definitely helped with the technical aspects, using the tools, etc. But it is also quite restrictive and a lot of unbridled creativity gets beaten out of you by the house styles of particular schools. I was lucky to have always been very stubborn so I didn't absorb too many of the stylistic ideas, which would've been a mistake. For instance I was advised by one of my professors to abandon linework and focus purely on value, and since a large part of my style, and its appeal, is linework I would say I was wise not to follow that advice.

What is your work regime if you have one?

I don't have a specific regime, but I have patterns and habits. I just work as much as I can every day, which usually means long days. But I also like to take time off randomly to recharge. I dislike the idea of regimented weeks with specific weekends, so I try to avoid those kinds of schedules as much as possible. I've been very busy lately with the movie work as well as the covers, which has meant I've had very little time off the past few months.

What else other than art is important in your life?

My wife and family closely followed by my classic Lotus car, the rebuilding of which is my main hobby. I love mechanical things of all kinds and have a real thing for watches. In general I really like anything that has taken skill and ingenuity to design and build, be it a vacuum cleaner or a jet fighter. I also love learning about history, particularly the politics and wars which have shaped our modern world and society. And I am a huge lover of science fiction!

Where can people find out more about you? 

Adi, thank you very much for your time!

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Gods of Manhattan review

His mind doesn’t work like your or mine. The man seems to be a never-ending mine of ideas. If you read his comic work- Zombo for example- there are enough ideas there that he uses as throwaway gags for another writer to make a career of. It’s damn annoying. So it wasn’t a surprise when he wrote his first novel for Abaddon, El Sombra, and even less of a surprise to discover it was brilliant.
And so he returns with a sequel to El Sombra in the form of Gods of Manhattan.

I think, given that this is a sequel, I'm safe in revealing that the titular insane Mexican ‘hero’ escapes at the end of El Sombra, and we last see him heading North, on his way to Nazi Germany…
Well, so far, he’s gotten as far as New York. And this being the steampunk world of Pax Britannia, it’s not quite the New York that you or I know.
For a start, in this New York, you’ve got your real life superheroes. And boy, does Ewing have some fun with them.
Not only is Ewing a good writer, but his obvious love for the superhero genre comes across loud and clear. But not just a love… he understands them- how and why they work – in a way that most writers, even some actually writing for the Big Two, do not. And it’s this understanding that adds another level of, for want of a better word, realism to the narrative.
While we can recognise elements of existing heroes in Ewing’s characters- there are parts of Superman, Reed Richards, Batman, Spider-man, Black Panther, The Beast and so on- they are all so well drawn that these elements don’t swamp the originality of the characters. Indeed, the heroes here go to places that the ones in the comics would not dream of… at least not outside our darkest fantasies…
Chief amongst the superheroes in this New York is Doc Thunder. And what a creation he is. I can’t talk about him, or indeed the plot, without giving too much away, but he is a genuinely interesting character in a why that the aforementioned Reed Richards can only dream about.
And El Sombra himself is as lunatic and hilarious and out and out fun as you remember him from the first book. It feels like Ewing has a blast writing him, and if I had a complaint it would be that this book is really about Doc Thunder, and El Sombra isn’t in it enough for my liking.
But that is a trifling complaint- there is more than enough going on here to keep any reader amused and on the edge of their seat.
The plot is intricate and clever, action scenes are exciting and dialogue is great, and he even managed to include one of my favourite lines from one of my favourite films. 
And when you think about it, if the only thing I’m complaining about was that there wasn’t enough of one particular character in it, then the book must be doing something right, yeah?

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Tyneside Zombies, Superheroes and monsters

The Paperjam Comics Collective are a group of small press comic creators in Newcastle, and they’ve just released a collection entitled ‘Food for the Dead’, which is, as the name suggests, a zombie book.
It is a series of tales about individual people in and around Tyneside, and telling of their experiences in the aftermath of whatever caused the zombie invasion.

As with all anthologies, there are some tales and artists that are better than others. But the most important thing with comic art is storytelling, and that is of a pretty good standard throughout. The stories themselves are surprisingly good. I say surprising because, you know, it’s zombies, and there is an argument to be made that they are a bit overexposed at the moment. But the tales here range from the darkly humorous, to the just plain dark by way of some genuinely touching moments. There are also hints throughout of an overarching back story, and I wouldn’t say no to seeing some more of this.
If I had to pick one name from the book- I don’t of course, but I’m going to- it would be Faye Stacey, the artists on the tale ‘Miss Turner’. I really love her art style.

Paul Thompson, one of the contributors to Food for the Dead, also produces his own comic, Tales of the Hollow Earth, and issue 2 has just been published.

I feel I can’t talk too much about this story for fear of spoilering it for those who haven’t read it yet (or have yet to read the first issue). But I will say this, Thompson, who both writes and draws this, has plotted out a hell of a captivating and intriguing mystery story. He's working with some pretty big ideas and deep concepts in here, and it's a credit to his skill as a writer that he not only manages to pull them off, but to communicate them to the reader. His art may not be the greatest, but it is good (better than mine!) and his layouts are always well thought out and inventive. You should buy this.
Finally, from Food of the Dead contributors Gary Bainbridge and Daniel Clifford is Sugar Glider. In a step away from the zombie plague of FotD and the otherworldly, Cycolpean plots of Tales of the Hollow Earth, this is a superhero tale. Bored teenager Susie Sullivan crime fights in the city of Newcastle in the guise of the titular heroine. 

This is the first issue, so some of it is concerned with setting up the premise, although they are clever enough to hold back answers to the big questions until the promised second issue.
Again, I really enjoyed reading this. It reminded me of those old classics Billy the Cat and The Leopard from Lime Street. There are some storytelling issues with the art in places, and some instances where the script would have benefited from another pass, but overall, it’s a strong debut.
Click on the links above and buy these books!
This is what comics are all about- not the latest spin-off issue of Batman or X-men, but the true creativity that you find in the Small Press.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Doctor Who: The Book of Kells review

While the previous Big Finish adventure, Nevermore, was a literary one, this is that other Who classic- the historical.
And, being Irish, it is one that had me worrying a bit beforehand. I was prepared for a load of ‘Begorrah’ ‘Top of the mornin’ to ye’ ginger leprechauns- but thankfully this is not American TV.
The story has a good historical feel to it, which is, I suspect, not easy to do in audio alone.
So, as the title suggests, this story revolves around the Book of Kells and (is it a spoiler to mention something that is of historical record [I know people, for example, who got annoyed when told the end of 300… do you ever read a book?]) its mysterious disappearance and the equally mysterious circumstances it was found again in…
Reviewing this one is difficult, because while the first half of the adventure is pretty so-so and made be think I was getting my first duffer of the season, the second half lifts things considerably and in ways that make it impossible to say anything at all for fear of spoilering.
So I’ll limit myself to saying that I fell hook line and sinker for a rather spectacular red herring in there.
And I’ll mention the cast. Nick Brimble and the national treasure that is Graeme Garden are as brilliant as you would expect. But the one and only Jim Carter steals the show with his amazing presence and distinctive vocals.
And… gahh! There I go again, trying to talk about the plot… I can’t, but it’s brilliant and stick around until after the end theme.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Comical Animal Launch

Those of you who attended Hi-Ex 2010 will remember the wonderful Childrens activity area with Sarah McIntyre, Jim Medway, Gary Northfield, Dave Shelton and helpers?

Well these folks don't sit still and do nothing when there's no convention in Inverness you know!

Sarah Mcintyre recently won the
Sheffield Childrens Book award, And Dave Shelton won the Leeds Graphic Novel Award, for Good Dog Bad Dog - Hurrah! and congratulations to them!

Also what a lot of these lovely creative people have been up to is producing the very new Comical Animal  ' a bi-monthly online publication for comic, cartoon and kids books afficianados.'
It is FANTASTIC, So head over there and subscribe NOW. there is also opportunity to sponsor a comical animal and support this wonderful project. They Have been helped so far by Blank Slate Publishing which produces Gorgeous books! ( more of them another blog )

remember Comics are not just for Grown ups anymore !