Monday, 30 May 2011

Spirit of Hope charity comic

This book, with all proceeds going to Japanese earthquake relief charities, has been put together by the guys in the CBA, with some gargantuan work being down by editor Alan Cowsill.
There's some astonishing work by the great and good of the comic's world including folks like Chris Weston, Simon Coleby, Jon Haward, some lady called Vicky Stonebridge, Jaspre Barke and, some guy called Richmond Clements and the astoundingly talented Inko.



It also comes in a choice of two beautiful covers.


Copies of the book can be ordered in advance and will be £14.99 + £3.00 p&p. Anyone ordering should state their preference of cover, both will soon be available to be seen on the CBA website or Facebook page. Advance orders will be sent out and will hopefully include 3 small limited edition prints of the covers and an extra picture. The address is: The Comic Book Alliance, PO Box 165, Marple, Cheshire SK6 7BL. Cheques & Postal Orders should be made out to 'The Comic Book Alliance'


We'll post more information as and when we get it, but meantime, you can follow at the CBA website.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

UBISOFT REVEALS NEW DETAILS FOR ASSASSIN’S CREED REVELATIONS

As you may know, we have no problem plugging the heck out of things that we think are brilliant.
So, with that in mind, some new info about the forthcoming game Assassin's Creed Revelation has been released by Ubisoft. And this teaser trailer looks awesome- my only real worry now is that the Rapture will happen before it gets released!


video



Ubisoft announced new product details for Assassin’s Creed® Revelations, the thrilling fourth installment in the critically acclaimed entertainment franchise that weaves real world history and global conspiracies into an ancient war between Assassins and Templars.

Assassin’s Creed Revelations follows master assassin Ezio Auditore as he walks in the footsteps of his legendary mentor, Altaïr, on a journey to recover five ancient seals that hold the keys to the future of the Assassins brotherhood. It is a perilous path – one that will take Ezio to Constantinople, the heart of the Ottoman Empire, where a growing army of Templars threatens to destabilize the region.

Assassin’s Creed Revelations is set to release on the Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system from Microsoft, the PlayStation®3 computer entertainment system and Windows PC this November.

·         Hone the deadly art of assassination – As Ezio Auditore, wield the lethal skills of a wiser, more efficient assassin. Armed with a new arsenal of weapons and abilities including the hookblade, bomb crafting and a heightened Eagle Sense, you can kill with death-dealing proficiency.
·         Herald the return of a legend – Assassin’s Creed Revelations features the return of Altaïr as a playable character, the hero of the original Assassin’s Creed.
·         Journey to the Constantinople –Explore picturesque settings, from Masyaf, the mountain stronghold of the Assassins during the Third Crusade to the vibrant and exotic Constantinople, the jewel of the Ottoman Empire in the 16th Century. Navigate crowded streets and vistas, through a cauldron of cultures as Constantinople comes to life.
·         Meet new players to the Assassins Creed lore –Encounter memorable personalities, including fellow master assassin Yusuf Tazim, Prince Suleiman, destined to become one of the greatest monarchs in history, and Sofia Sorto, a simple woman who vies for Ezio’s heart.
·         Test your skills as an assassin against your friends – the acclaimed online multiplayer experience returns, refined and expanded with more modes, more enthralling maps and new characters

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Doctor Who: The Hounds of Artemis review


This is another in the range of adventures from AudioGo featuring the eleventh Doctor.
This one sees the welcome return of Matt Smith, as he partly narrates this adventure. I say ‘partly’, as this story has a clever structure. It begins with the discovery of the diary of Amy Pond, which is being read by the daughter of one of the main characters from the story. This part is ably played by Clare Corbett, who throws herself into the various roles with great gusto. She does a very good reading of both the Doctor and Amy.
Because this tale flips back and forth between Amy’s first person point of view in the diary and Smith narrating, we are able to see various scenes from different angles.
As for Smith, he is- of course- brilliant. He inhabits the role of Doctor- possibly like no actor has since the days of Tom Baker.
And that is all very well, but means nothing if the story itself is not up to scratch.
Well, luckily it is. In fact, this is perhaps the best AudioGo Who I have heard so far. It has a well constructed narrative and the characters are great. It is easy to imagine both Smith and Gillan speaking the lines James Goss has given them here.
The story starts with a great scene that just screams New Who (Oh how I hate that expression!) and manages to drop the listener into the middle of the story perfectly. There is also a nice little nod in there to The Pyramids of Mars, which this story is very much a direct descendant of.
There is little or no hint of the more sinister side of Smith’s Doctor in this story- it is basically a good old fashioned adventure romp very much in the Indian Jones style, with the prerequisite scares and laughs along the way that you’d expect from such a tale.
Listen to this!



Thursday, 19 May 2011

Doctor Who The Sentinels of the New Dawn review


For me, Liz Shaw was a criminally underused companion. She and the Doctor had a real sparky chemistry, and her not being intimidated by him and displaying an intellect close to his set her apart from most other companions.
So, it’s nice to see the character coming back in this latest Big Finish release. Caroline John plays the character as if she has never been away. That easy confidence and intellectual swagger is still there, and she’s clearly enjoying herself as she throws herself into not only her own part, but the voices of the other characters in the story.

The story is a good one too. It has a real authentic 'of that era' feel to it, and could easily be lifted from the early Pertwee shows with all it’s Avengers/Bond type adventures. We get pretty much all the tropes that the series displayed at the time: There’s the country house setting with a mysterious monster. There’s a car chase and a helicopter and a big action sequence at the end.
But as well as the action, there is some good character work going on too. I was struck in particular by some of Liz Shaw’s insights into the character of the Doctor, which were clever and show not only her understanding of the Doctor, but the writer’s.
There are hints laid in places that Liz’s story has not been fully told yet, and I for one would be delighted if this was so.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Bristol Comic Expo

Every year Team Hi-Ex make the trek to Bristol for the Comic and Small Press Expo. It's actually an easy trek due to direct flights between Bristol and Inverness, in fact it's more expensive getting to the airport- go figure.

Bristol Con has gone through a few changes the last couple of years. It was traditionally the biggest UK comic con, held in the Isembard Kingdom Brunel railways shed next to Temple Meads station, It was always mobbed and in the South West in May very hot and sweaty. For various reasons in needed to downscale and move venue. So it was split into two events. Mike Alwood, (who has always been a brilliant support to Hi-Ex) and his team ran the main comics event in the Ramada Hotel, while Mal from Fallen Angel and her team ran the Small Press event in the Mercure Hotel around the corner. The Small Press event was initially quieter and only lasted one day, but this year it seemed to be the main buzz, with many professionals choosing to be there instead of the Ramada.

The distinction between Small Press and mainstream comics does seem to be growing blurrier in the UK. Floppy sales are dropping and independently published work is getting better and better in standard. New technology also means it's becoming easier to publish good quality comics and speed up the process between doodling in a bedroom to selling nice looking books.

The comic convention scene has also changed since the beginning of Hi-Ex. There were only around four big events in the UK at that point, I believe there were 11 last year. Traditional selling and distribution models are stagnating and downsizing, but the fan base and creative talent is clearly growing. Exciting and challenging times!

The Bristol Expo has been limited in the number of attendees it can fit in the two hotel venues, but next year it will be back to the railway sheds, with the two organising teams working together.

Meanwhile our business of promoting Hi-Ex at these other UK events has become easier and easier, with guests now coming up and introducing themselves and asking if they can come. Word of mouth is a wonderful thing!
It looks like we will have a top-notch guest list again for the 31st March and 1st April 2012. We hope to have some new book launches at the event, and as ever new talks and happenings. It is important to have a lot of fun and provide children friendly activities to stimulate a buzz in the North of Scotland, give something for families in geographically isolated communities something of their own. But also events like ours are important to raise the understanding of comics as an art and literary medium, to overcome 'establishment' dismissal of the medium. It is a brilliant way to not only get reluctant readers engaged, but it can also deliver very sophisticated 'high brow' concepts.
We also like to get the professionals together- quite a few projects are well underway now that have been hatched at Hi-Ex. It is important in any industry that people get together to move things forwards collectively.

We hope to have a new website as soon as possible, and will be chasing funding for all it is worth and scurrying about the country creating networks and schmoozing our little Hi-Ex socks off to bring you the latest freshest most exciting comics happenings for Hi-Ex 2012!

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Bristol Comic Expo: more goodies to look out for!

Yup, we've already pimped what we're doing at the Bristol Expo this weekend, so it's only fair we give a quick shout out to a few other folks...



Publicity shy comics creator Daniel Clifford will be selling copies of the rather splendid Sugar Glider, which we reviewed here. He also tells us he has the newly released 'Sugar Glider Tales', as well as all-ages anthology, A4 Comics presents, and as if that wasn't enough, there is also young kids comic, Lily and Danel Adventurers.
There are more details over on Daniel's blog.


And look out for issue 4 of Martin Eden's very popular Spandex! You do not want to miss this one..!


You can find both these books at table 47- so now you have no excuse for not buying them!


And last but by no means least, you'll be needing a copy of 'The Sorry Entertainer' from Smoo Comics. This is a newspaper sized comic, and looks absolutely wonderful- this is exactly what small press/independent comics are all about- doing things that bigger (but not necessarily better) publishers would not dare to do.
Details can be found here.







Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Long John Silver Vol 2 Cinebook review



As I’m sure you remember, we reviewed the first volume of Cinebook’s Long John Silver a while back, and it was good.
So it was with eager hands that I opened volume two, ready to experience something as good as the first volume. But, it is not as good. It is, if anything, even better than volume one.
The main reason for this is the title character. In volume one, Silver doesn’t get much to do, the main character is the delightfully odious Lady Vivian Hastings. Lady H is in here too, but she takes somewhat of a backseat to Silver this time around.
As I said before, previous attempts to write a sequel/spin-off/further adventure of the Treasure Island characters, and in particular John Silver, have failed by trying to make him into an heroic or likeable lead.
Xavier Dorison, the writer here, does not fall into that trap. His Silver is not a nice man. Witness here just how ruthless he is- how far he is prepared to go to silence any rumors of piracy or just what he is prepared to sacrifice to carry out his plan.
And the art by Mathieu Lauffray is… look, I’m running out of superlatives to describe the quality of art in these Cinebook volumes- okay? 

I absolutely love the version of Silver in these books- he’s massive and muscle bound with a dark cruelty behind his eyes, and his character is brilliantly realised- he moves through this book like a shark through water.
As is now the norm with Cinebook, this ends at a surprising point in the story. Not unexpected- what happens in inevitable, I was just not expecting to see it happen when it did!
This really is beyond good.


Bristol Comic Expo

Team Hi-Ex are heading to Bristol comic and Small Press Expo this weekend as usual.
We will be doing the important work of catching up with past and prospective guests for Hi-Ex. I'm sure we will have more news when we get back, Hi-Ex is always a hot topic of conversation at comic events, lets see who we can persuade to join us in 2012!




We will of course also be promoting our own work. Richmond with be with the FutureQuake Table 78 with Dave Evans over in the Mecure venue. Selling the latest quality comics from FQ Publications, including the much loved Dogbreath and Zarjaz fanzines. Its always a crowded table with developing artists bringing along portfolios and comic creators amateur and professional keep to snap up the latest work. Rich has done a write up over on the Forbidden Planet blog about the small pressers fun and games preparing for comic events.


Vicky will be at Table number 46 at the same venue with the 'Slaughterman's Creed' team. This event is the launch of this Graphic Novel published by Markosia. Its sold out the first run on pre-sales alone! Vicky was the colourist on the second half of the book and will be doing live sketching with penciller Stephen Downey. There are all sorts of good deals and artwork & book bundles for sale. There will also be lots of original comic art & prints for Sale.Vicky has also make some recycled comic bowls (just to make the comic collector's cry)

Back to the Slaughterman's Creed launch, Vicky will also be on a discussion panel "The task of Blood" at 12pm Sunday at the Mercure Hotel. The panel will be hosted by Scott Grandison of Comic Book Outsiders and recorded for a special edition of the podcast. Writer Cy Dethan will talk about the stories origins, Nic Wilkinson, designer & letterer, Stephen, Vicky and hopefully some of the other collaborators will explain how the artwork was designed to enhance the tension in this 'not-for-children' tale of meat and murder.

Vicky will also be appearing on the Saturday at a panel hosted by Hi-Ex 2010 guest Jaspre Bark, again in the Mercure at 12pm. This one is on 'Women, Politics and Cartooning' with panelists Lou McKeever ( Guardian etc ) and Kate Evans ( Independent & Guardian ).

on Sunday - 3 pm - Panel Room 2 (orange room) Richmond will be chairing  IT'S A "YES" FROM HIM, BUT IT'S A "NO" FROM ME.

'What gives a book the Com.x-factor? A discussion on how to make the most out of your submission, how to improve the quality of your pitching materials and an insight into what floats our publishing boat!

Thoughts and comments from Hi-Ex 2010 guests - Com.x publisher Eddie Deighton & Jon Sloan and insights and anecdotes from creator of acclaimed graphic novel [Forty-Five]45, Andi Ewington.' 

Rich is also on the 'Small Press, Big Ideas' panel- Sunday - 4 pm - Panel Room 1 (pink room)

'With the falling cost of producing comics and the rise of the internet as a tool for marketing and distributing comics, it's becoming more and more viable for creators to publish mainstream, commercially viable comics by themselves. These books share little in common with the more artistically driven labours-of-love that are traditionally associated with the small press so is it right that they are all classed under the same banner? We will examine whether there is a difference between a true small press book and a mainstream book that is printed in small numbers. Is it damaging creators and limiting ambition by creating an artificial underclass of comics? Is it time for up and coming creators to abandon the term 'small press' and just make comics? '

We hope to see many of you there, come and say hello!



Tuesday, 10 May 2011

The Vampire Vixens return!



Yes, after the triumphant first episode and their brief sojourn in the wilderness when they were temporarily cast out from Facebook, the Vampire Vixens of the Wehrmacht return in the latest issue of Wasted magazine.

If you haven't read the first episode, well, you really should be ashamed of yourself! Call yourself British?
But if you have, then you'll know what to expect with this one, and boy do they deliver! In a mission that even Indiana Jones would shy away from, our foxy lady and her British army chums are on a mission to infiltrate a Nazi witches coven and retrieve... well, something I cannot quite bring myself to mention here!
All you need to know that it is brilliantly written with just the right level of tongue in cheek humour and dreadful one liners by the mysterious Emperor, and the are by Alex Ronald is exquisite.

His figure drawing is excellent, and the lighting superb. Some- most- of the panels look photo real they are so well executed. This would sometimes be a negative in comic art, as photo real art tends to lean to the side of being static and lifeless, but not so here. The art is expressive and kinetic.

Also, I should add that it was only a few hours later, while lying in bed, that I clicked to the stupendously brilliant visual joke in the final couple of panels.

All in all, this is excellent stuff- seek it out!

Monday, 9 May 2011

Doctor Who Heroes of Sontar review




I was genuinely excited when I first saw the title of this new Big Finish release.
I like it when they use monsters from the old series, and the Sontarans are one of my favourites.
It started well too, with a wonderful budget breaking opening scene that would have crippled the BBC. SFX budgets on audio are great! However, some alarm bells were set ringing in my head as the scene went on… these were Sontarans, but not as I knew them…
And as things progressed through the first episode, I found myself at the beginnings of sadness almost- at an opportunity missed. The creators didn’t seem to be taking this seriously! They were playing it for laughs!
I should add, that I am not averse to comedy in Who, but as a rule I find the occasional one liner more palatable and easier to digest that a full on comedy script.
But I thought I would soldier on (see what I did there?) and listen to the rest of it anyway. And then I laughed out loud a couple of times… my icy demeanour began to crack and I saw what Big Finish were doing with this.
As I said, I don’t as a rule like comedy scripts, because they more than often end up falling back on cheap gags that ridicule the monsters (Daleks can’t go up stairs? Really? No one has ever thought of that before- that’s hilarious!), but that was not the case here.
As for the cast, the was wonderful to hear the ‘old team’ back together again. The Fifth Doctor with Nyssa, Turlough and Tegan produced some great stories, and the actors spark off each other here as if they had never been apart. Everyone is clearly having a great time, and each gets there one particular moment in to shine, with these moments helping to illuminate the cleverness of the title, which is turn tongue-in-cheek, ironic and poignant.
That, and I’ve been singing the Sontaran national anthem to myself for the past couple of days after listening to this…



Friday, 6 May 2011

Assassin's Creed Revelations announced!



Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood was my favourite game from last year, in fact, it is one of the few games that I bothered to complete to 100%- and then went back to to play again.
Also- the online play is utterly fantastic. The server may be slow at times, but it's always worth the wait for a game.

So, when this press release came through, I think it was fair to say that I was more than a little bit excited:


Today, Ubisoft announced the development of Assassin’s Creed® Revelations, the fourth installment in the critically acclaimed and immensely popular video game franchise. Developed and led by Ubisoft Montreal with the support and expertise of Ubisoft studios Annecy, Massive Entertainment, Quebec, Singapore and Bucharest, Assassin’s Creed Revelations presents the most immersive experience available in the series to date and the culmination of Ezio’s adventure. The game is set to release on the Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system from Microsoft, the PlayStation®3 computer entertainment system and Windows PC this November.

Initially launched in 2007, the first three Assassin’s Creed® games have sold more than 28 million units worldwide, and the franchise is now established as one of the best-selling series on next generation consoles. Recognized for having some of the richest, most engrossing storytelling in the industry, Assassin’s Creed has transcended video games, branching out into other entertainment experiences such as comic books, Facebook, novels, short films and more.

In Assassin’s Creed Revelations, master assassin Ezio Auditore walks in the footsteps of his legendary mentor, Altaïr, on a journey of discovery and revelation. It is a perilous path – one that will take Ezio to Constantinople, the heart of the Ottoman Empire, where a growing army of Templars threatens to destabilize the region.

In addition to Ezio’s award-winning story, the acclaimed online multiplayer experience returns, refined and expanded, with more modes, more maps and more characters that allow players to test their assassin skills against others from around the world. The latest chapter in the Assassin’s Creed saga also includes revolutionary gameplay, allowing players to manipulate the construct of Desmond’s memories and the Animus to decipher the mysteries of his past and gain insight into the future.

“Delivering the final chapter of the Ezio trilogy is an important milestone in the Assassin’s Creed franchise for us and for our fans,” said Alexandre Amancio, Creative Director at Ubisoft Montreal. “Assassin’s Creed Revelations includes lots of new features and some significant surprises. We can’t wait to show our fans what we have in store at E3 this year.”



I officially cannot wait!

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Monstrous Creatures review



As I am sure you know, Jeff Vandermeer is the author of the Amberigris series of novels, as well as being writer of countless short stories and editing a number of fiction collections by way of winning a load of awards.
This book, however, is a bit different. What we have here is a collection of Vandermeer’s reviews, articles, interviews and introductions to various collections.
It is a wonderful read. There are a few occasions where information is repeated, although this is understandable as it happens in pieces that have been written for different publications.
I’m trying to think of one or two examples where things didn’t work, but I honestly cannot. But on the other hand, there are many highlights.
The interview with author China Melville is very interesting. Both Melville and Vandermeer are fearfully intelligent and widely read and make for some awesome conversation. I’d like to get the two of them on a stage at a convention sometime, and I suspect that if we got them on the first panel of the day, we wouldn’t need to schedule any more…
While the interview with Melville is great, there are a couple more in there that are even better. The one with Joseph Nigg is heart warming and rather beautiful. And then, right out of left field, there is an interview with Melanie Typaldos. Who is she?, you may rightly ask. Well, she is the owner of a capybara. For no other reason than being interested in the animals, Vandermeer has interviewed her, and the result is a fascinating article.
The book ends with a couple more wonderful pieces. Vandermeer writes love letter to the novella that makes me feel guilty for net reading enough of them. And then there is a nice article on hiking- this, I think, hit home more because I read it at the perfect time, having just returned from a holiday where we had hiked up a mountain (and, I should add, down again). Because of this I was able to identify with a lot of what Vandermeer describes- not quite as many alligators where I was though.
And that’s just five of the many articles in this book!
There is too much in here for me to mention it all. I’ll settle for saying that Vandermer is a very good writer. He writes with an amazing intelligence and breathtaking breadth of knowledge. His reviews are insightful and sometimes toe-curlingly honest. And why had I never thought of the through-line between Lovecraft and Nigel Kneale before?
Each review or article is, as you can imagine, short enough to read in a few minutes, making this an ideal book to dip in and out of.



Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Section 8: Prejudice released for PC

I've been playing this on the Xbox for a couple of weeks, and it's spectacularly good fun, as well as being terrific value for money.



From the press release:

It's already one of the most talked-about launches on Xbox LIVE® Arcade for the Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system from Microsoft, and now Section 8: Prejudice is available for download on the PC. Section 8: Prejudice packs a ridiculous amount of gameplay into a $15 package, and the game, hailed by many critics as the best multiplayer shooter on Xbox LIVE Arcade, is available today from leading online retailers, including Steam, Games for Windows Marketplace, Direct2Drive, and Impulse.

Reviews have been overwhelmingly positive, including:
Eurogamer.net – 9/10
GamePro.com – 4.5/5
StrategyInformer.com – 9/10
VideoGameTalk.com – 5/5
RipTen.com – 9.5/10

The PC version of Section 8: Prejudice includes special features implemented for the GamePanel LCD found on the Logitech® Gaming Keyboard G15 and the Logitech® G19 Keyboard for Gaming:

-        Score screen that shows how you compare to the top 3 players (on the Logitech G19 Gaming Keyboard only)
-        Loadout screen that shows your current weapons and remaining ammo
-        Toast Screen that shows your last few in-game toasts (achievements, badges, records, etc.)

Section 8: Prejudice also supports NVIDIA's 3D Vision (http://www.nvidia.com/object/3d-vision-main.html), a technology that brings games to life in an immersive 3D experience on the PC.

Since there's not much point in having a 32-player online arena shooter without being able to earn bragging rights, Section 8: Prejudiceboasts one of the most thorough stats portals in gaming. Player stats are linked to their TimeGate account and let players:

-        View career and in-a-life records on player profile pages
-        Setup and manage clans
-        Compete in TimeGate sponsored “Events” and “Seasons”
-        View leaderboards for a wide range of stats and weapon loadouts
-        Examine player trend graphs to see which maps, equipment, and purchases are most popular (to name a few)

Then, of course, there’s the game itself.  Section 8: Prejudice features:

·         Mobilize by Drop Spawning from 15,000 feet, use Jet Packs to evade enemies, and ram opponents in Overdrive
·         Campaign mode: 5-hour story-driven single-player campaign
·         Conquest mode: Large-scale multiplayer for up 32 players
·         Swarm mode: Four player co-op mode where shooter gameplay meets tower defense
·         Offline bot support for all game modes
·         Highly customizable weapon and equipment loadouts; deep level progression and unlockable content systems
·         Dynamic Combat Missions: ensure no two multiplayer games ever play the same

Section 8: Prejudice is available on Xbox LIVE Arcade, PC, and is coming to the PlayStation®Network this summer for $14.99/€12.99 / £9.99.

For more information visit www.warisprejudice.com , and follow the game on Twitter at http://twitter.com/Section8Game and on Facebook at http://facebook.com/Section8Game.



They lost me a bit in the middle there with some technical talk- all I know is that it's got a nice easy control system, great graphics and an exciting online mode.

Doctor Who The BBC Radio Episodes pt4



Over the years, the BBC have produced a number of their own Doctor Who audio adventures.Audio Go have just released them in a box set, here we review the final two discs in the set.
I should add that these reviews where written before the tragic death of Elizabeth Sladen, so reading it back now is a bit weird...

First up: Expedition Earth


This one is a bit of a curio- in fact both of the adventures on this disc are.
This first one is from the olden days when the BBC used to broadcast educational programs for schools during the day on television and radio rather than shows about houses and cooking. This particular one is a Who story featuring Tom Baker and Elizabeth Sladen. The story, what there is of it, is slight. It involves the Doctor and Sarah Jane flitting through time from the very birth of the solar system to when the Earth was fully formed and populated by animals. While doing this, they repeatedly encounter an alien intelligence who seems to do nothing other that hang around in space and shout about things.  
As I said, the story is largely irrelevant. It is really just a hook to hang descriptions of the various states of the Earth upon as Baker explains them to Sladen (and in turn to the listening child).
It’s not going to win any awards, but this was surprisingly fun- I suspect mainly because of the nostalgia element of listening to an schools broadcast for the first time in decades!


Whatever happened to..?
Carole Anne Ford doesn't actually play Susan in this, but y'know...

This was originally recorded as part of a series of radio plays focusing on different fictional characters and what they did after their story finished and broadcast on Radio 4.
It has an impressive cast, lead by Jane Asher in the role of Susan Foreman, and even features a lovely cameo from the mighty Claire Rainer. It is not without its problems though- mainly for the more… ‘dedicated’ Doctor Who fan. Some are pretty big howlers. Claiming the Doctor to be a travelling salesman, for example, which flies in the face of everything that had went before. There are factual errors- the play states that Ian and Barbara were left back seconds after they left with the Doctor, when in actual fact he left them back two years later.
Susan’s character largely contradicts everything we have seen since, but as this was well before the range of Virgin and BBC novels and Big Finish studios, this can be excused.
The comedy in the play is rather hit and miss too, but some of the jokes are absolute corkers. I also liked hearing what Ian and Barbara got up to when they returned. Barbara’s story in particular rings tragically true in that I suspect her reaction would be what most people’s would be.
Again, as with Expedition Earth, this is worth it for the curiosity factor.



Monday, 2 May 2011

Crusade Vol2 review




Not having read the first volume of this series, I approached this one with some trepidation. I should not have worried though. Being only the second volume in the series, it does not have the vast backstory that the Largo Winch book did. And things are explained very well in a couple of introductory pages that fill the reader in on both the story so far and some of the inspiration behind the book from author Jean Dufaux.
The story is not what I expected, which is of course a Good Thing. I was assuming that this was going to be a straight forward adventure tale set in and around the Crusades- I suppose I had Ridley Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven in mind. So when the supernatural elements of the tale were introduced, I was a bit taken aback at first. This was my own preconception, of course.
Really, I should have learned by now not to approach any Cinebook release with any sort of preconceived notion about what I was about to read!
And what did I read here?
Well, it is a densely plotted book. There is a hell of a lot going on in this volume. There is a large cast of characters, most of which are in some sort of conflict with another set of characters- and this could easily become confusing. Thankfully though, it is not, and characters are explained and motivations made clear without it ever sounding like exposition or info dumping.
The art is, no surprise here, astounding. Highlights include a jaw dropping double page spread which stops the reader in their tracks and some glorious character design. Chief among them is The Master of Machines, who I am assuming is a character introduced in this volume. He’s like something that’s walked out of a Mad Max movie by way of the inside of Clive Barker’s head.
The plot builds nicely and ends… well, it ends on a great moment. But- and you know what’s coming- not the moment I expected it to.
When will I ever learn? Cinebook do not play by the rules of your everyday comic. In fact, the more of these I read, the more I begin to wonder why people read mainstream superhero books at all…