Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Kingdom: Call of the Wild review

This is another in our exclusive range of Things We Should Have Reviewed Ages Ago But Are Only Getting To Now.
In the past few years there have been two genuinely classic creations. One is Ewing and Flint’s Zombo, and the other is Gene the Hackman.
This is the second collected volume of the series Kingdom, pulling together the third and fourth stories.
The first of these, Call of the Wild, sees our hero Gene and his young human companion Lizzie arrive at last in what is left of civilisation. Of course as is the way with these things, that is merely the beginning of their troubles and it is soon action all they way as Gene encounters another pack of Auxs, each with a spectacularly punny name in the way that only Dan Abnett can get away with.

This story ends on a bit of a downer, but thankfully with this being a GN, the reader doesn’t have to wait an entire year for the next series to find out what happens next.
And what does happen next is His Master's Voice. And boy… oh boy. There have been a lot of unanswered questions from the previous stores about Gene and his kind. Here is where we get the answers. And the thing is, we really do. Abnett doesn’t skirt around the edges of do it in a half-hearted way that says he didn’t really know in the first place – you know - like in Lost.
That is not to say that there are still not many questions to be answered. The Big Questions from Call of the Wild are still out there, and the ending of that story still needs to be resolved.
But His Master's Voice ends on a prefect note that in a way almost has Gene come full circle… but at the same time end up in a completely different place.
And before I go, I should really mention Richard Elson’s art. It is as you would expect, quite superb. His line work is magnificent, characters perfect and actions scenes kinetic and dynamic. This is helped along by seamless colouring from Abbey Ryder.
All in all this is a very good book, but it only leaves the reader wanting more, and there hasn’t been any new Kingdom  for quite a while. Fingers crossed we get some this year!

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Doctor Who The Sensorites audiobook

Target Book cover- this is the image used for the audiobook cover too

I was only familiar with this story as a title of a First Doctor adventure and from a few still images of the titular aliens, never having read the Target novelisation that this is a reading of.
It starts off quite normally, that is, in the usual Who way. Alien planet, blustering Doctor and all that, before everyone gets split up and goes off on their own adventure.
Overall though I found this story a confusing beast. It seemed to want to be too many things. There are too many story elements injected into the plot. I suspect this is a result of the original television version having to be a certain number of episodes long and them having to fill that screen time with story. So we have a number of plots featuring the TARDIS crew, the humans they meet and goings on among the Sensorites themselves.
The Sensorite plotline is the most interesting of them all, but it has a major plot hole in it that I really can’t get past. It hinges on the cliché about aliens that ‘they all look the same’, which is fine. But I find it had to believe that they all look the same to each other.

It also does something that annoys me in any fiction. The Sensorites constructs a clever analogy, like all good sci-fi does. But they then go ahead and ruin that analogy by having a character point out that ‘Hey! This is just like such-and-such back on Earth!’ Yes it is, we got that that already, thanks.
The book itself, written by Nigel Robinson, is well done, albeit with a few too many adverbs for my tastes. The character arc given to the Doctor’s granddaughter Susan is a strong one, and sets things up nicely for her future.
The audiobook is brilliantly narrated by William Russell, who of course played Ian in the original story, and he sounds like he is enjoying being back in the Whoiverse again.
All in all, I’d say this is a worthy addition to your collection. Maybe not a vital one like Earthshock, for example, but certainly worth a listen.

The Sensorites is available from AudioGo.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Sugar Glider and Sugar Glider Stories #2 review

We reviewed the first issue of Sugar Glider here.
Issue 2 has been on the review pile for a while and it has taken us far too long to get to it. But boy was it worth the wait.
The first issue of Sugar Glider, as well as the spin-off title Sugar Glider Tales was fantastic in setting up the world and characters, and in this issue we pick up where that has left off.
Thee is a new mysterious figure roaming the streets of Newcastle – the, frankly rather loony, Don Quixote. I’m being a bit too simplistic here. There is an awful lot going on, and the characters as much more rounded and real than my describing Quixote as a loony makes them seem, but I feel that to tell you too much about him would lessen the impact.
All I will say is this: Sugar Glider is one of the best Small Press titles, no, strike that. It's one of the best comics I have ever read, and I have read a lot of them.
It doesn’t just standing up against other Small Press titles, it easily holds it’s own against any superhero title you would care to name. Yes, That’s what I said.
If you read comics, you really should be reading this.

Sugar Glider Stories #2

See the previous Sugar Glider Stories review here.
Much like the previous SGS, this is a series of short stories, some no more than a page or so in length, but each adds something to the overall narrative of the book and the world of Sugar Glider.
Reading this, I was impressed by not only how complex it is, but the degree of effortlessness that seems to be present in the writing. This book dances back and forth in time, filling in spaces from Sugar Glider #2 and ending up just where that one begins, as well as letting us see what’s going on in the background of the events in the main comic.
Like I say – it is complex, but handled with deceptively consummate ease. What could so easily have been a disjointed mess reads very smoothly.
As with the last collection, the art is a mixed back, ranging from pages that would sit easily in a professional comic to art that is decidedly amateur.
Now – I thought long and hard about the word I would use to describe the art before going for amateur. And I mean that word in a very good way. The art may not be to any sort of professional standard, but it never once comes across as bad.
The strips are clearly drawn, with the action easy to follow and characters are distinct and can be recognised easily, even when drawn by artists with polar opposite styles.
If you’re reading Sugar Glider, and if you’re a comic fan you should be, then you should be reading this too.


New indie British comics anthology kicks off with Maggie Thatcher at the helm.
She shut the coal mines, privatised every major public utility in the UK, introduced the poll tax, pre-empted the banking crisis and stole the milk from our childrens’ mouths – and now she’s back from the dead to re-take her rightful place as the leader of the country from the weak-minded ConDem coalition.
That’s right: Maggie Thatcher is back – and this time, she’s a zombie.
Be afraid – Tory politics never looked so scary.

Launching at Kapow! Comic Convention at the London Business Design Centre in Islington on Saturday 19 May is the new black and white comics anthology OVERLOAD from The Copydesk Ltd.
Martin Conaghan, editor of OVERLOAD, will be holding a portfolio review session at table 34 at Kapow! on Saturday 19 May at 13:00BST and again on Sunday 20 May (also at table 34) at 13:00BST for potential OVERLOAD contributors. Writers and artists are welcome.  

Issue #1 of OVERLOAD features a stunning cover by Graeme Neil Reid (2000AD, Judge Dredd Megazine, The Beano) depicting the Iron Lady in all her zombified glory, attacking the good people of London – taken from the inaugural issue’s headline story ‘Primus Inter Pares’ (“First Among Equals”) – which sees the UK overcome by the dead returning from the grave and former prime ministers attempting to re-take 10 Downing Street. Written by Gordon Rennie (Judge Dredd, Doctor Who, Dept of Monsterology) and Emma Beeby with art by newcomer Eoin Coveney, it’s a ‘biting’ satire on the country’s current political decline at the hands of the Conservative/Liberal Democrat alliance.
Rennie and Beeby issued the following statement:
"The Prime Minister must be aware of the fear sweeping the nation about the coming zombie apocalypse. Will he now release HM Government's plans to deal with this matter? This comic is a call to action. The people need to know the truth; need reassured that they have thought of every eventuality. No matter how terrifying. We hope Overload's readers will follow suit, and email their MP to ask what they intend we do when the dead rise. We all know it's going to happen."

Also featured in issue #1 is ‘Comort’ written by Dave Cook and Gary Crutchely (2000AD), a short story about the things in life we turn to when the chips are down.
‘Staring Into The Eye Of A Blackbird, You Can See The Things He Likes And The Things He Doesn’t’, written by Martin Hayes with art by Graeme Howard depicts the tale of a lonely young man whose existence disturbed by dreams of a mysterious blackbird that watches his every move...
‘Omen’, written by Geoffrey D. Wessel (Keeper) with art by Steve Penfold (Fallen Heroes)the right-wing media agenda while an alien invasion takes place…
Cy Dethan (Cancertown) scripts ‘Open Source’ with art by Aaron Moran in a story about protect something precious by keeping it hidden in plain sight…
While writer Matt Gibbs and James Reekie (The Ballad of Frank Satre) deliver the haunting ‘Otherworld Sailor’ – a tale about ancient religion and a shocking visitation.
OVERLOAD is intended to be a regular black and white anthology title showcasing the work of established talent, while introducing some new creators to the comics industry. All material is creator-owned, with Overload reserving first reprint rights and some digital publishing rights. All deals are non-exclusive. We do not accept completed stories which have not been pre-approved. We do accept unsolicited idea submissions,  but not unsolicited scripts. Submissions are by invite-only. For more information, send an email to: overload@copydesk.co.uk  You can view a sampler of Overload #1 here: http://issuu.com/martinconaghan/docs/overload1

#1 £4.0036 PAGES Suggested for mature readers

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Doctor Who Shada audiobook review

Part of me is really surprised that there hasn’t been a bigger deal made abut this new book and audiobook release from AudioGo.
I mean, it’s not every day that you get some ‘new’ material from Douglas Adams, is it?
Of course, this is not ‘new’, what with him having been dead for a decade and all. And death does tend to put a bit of a kink in the ability to put out new material. Unless you’re Tupac or somebody like that, of course.

So, anyway – a brief history. A long time ago, Douglas Adams worked on Doctor Who, writing some classic adventures. He wrote one called Shada, which was put into production, but was left unfinished thanks to a strike at the BBC during the filming.
It was released some time ago on video, in its unfinished form and came with a copy of the script, but I remember buying this at the time and finding it a difficult watch… in fact I can’t even remember if I managed to watch it the whole way through.
So fast forward a few decades and here we have a brand new novel based on Adams’s scripts and written by Gareth Roberts. Again, this is another surprising thing – Roberts has now joined what can only be called an elite group of writers who have dabbled in the world(s) of Douglas Adams. But how does he do..?
I think that it is, on balance, unfair to compare him to Adams or judge him by the standards of that writer. Roberts is a very good author in his own right, and he has written a very good book here. Yes, there are sections and turns of phrase and wordplays in there that sound like pure Adams. The listener could oh-so easily assume that these bits are all from Adams, but there are some that make reference to people or events from after Adam’s death. Douglas was good, but not that good.
No, I think it is more than fair to give Roberts a lot of credit for turning the scripts into what is a pretty good novel.
That is not to say it is perfect. I think it is overlong in the epilogue, but understand why this is so – there are certain things that need to happen, in this story more than others, but I feel it could have been trimmed somewhat. It also lags in places throughout, but again, this is not necessarily the fault of the author. He was working off the scripts for a six part who story, and as any fan will tell you, the six part stories always dip in the middle.

As this is a review of the audiobook version, we better give mention to the production. First off, it is read by none other than Lalla Ward who, you will know, played the Time Lady Romana during this stretch of the series, and her voice lends a great deal of weight, as does that of John Lesson, who reprises his role as the voice of K-9 here.
Ward is a fine actor, and she attacks this book with great gusto. Her accents and voices are great, with her Fourth Doctor being particularly fun. There is some superb sound design and incidental music throughout, which help add to the feel of the package.
If I had one complaint it would be that I was disappointed that there were no ‘extras’ on the discs. I would have thought that a release of this importance, and it is important, both to Who fans and Sci-Fi fans in general, should have been marked in some way. I was hoping for some interviews at the end with the author and/or those connect with this project, but it was not to be. But that, of course, is a minor thing to be quibbling about and something that most people would not be bothered about.
If you’re a Who fan, or a fan of Adams, you’ll be needing this.

Zombies Hi - part 5 out now!

The much anticipated fifth issue of the "Zombies Hi" series has been released as of Friday the 13th April and is now available from our online Uproar Store, or from one of our stockists across the UK and Ireland. Please check their blog page for stockist info.

 They also offer an "Intro" pack of the first five issues at a reduced price with some complimentary Zombies Hi merchandise.

Uproar Comics are a small press Derry/Londonderry based collective. They have combined their efforts into producing a monthly comic titled "Zombies Hi". Based within the local area, the collection of stories reflects on alot of current issues including identity, cultural heritage and the occasional zombie decapatation. The over arching story focuses on the culmination of events which takes place after the inevitable zombie apocalypse.

Here's a link to a blogpost with pics of issue 5:  http://www.uproarcomics.co.uk/blog/?p=119 

In addition to this, they are also releasing a book about Derry's Prize hero, Ameilia Earhart! The Earhart Book will be getting launched in the Tower Museum Derry and will be available for online purchase later that Day. Everyone is welcome to join us between 1-2pm and meet the writer, artist and the Uproar team and pick up a signed copy. Heres a link to some pages-  http://www.uproarcomics.co.uk/blog/?p=260

And if you're a writer or artist, and you want to submit your derry stories or a picture of that lovely undead couple from down the road...then get in touch as they are always looking for new talent! You can find out more about their open submissions policy here. http://www.uproarcomics.co.uk/submissions.html

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Keegan Jask: Tales from Heaven-11

Straight from the pages of critically acclaimed science fiction annual ‘Omnivistascope’ comes
the collected tales of Keegan Jask in: Tales from the Heaven-11 written by Paul von Scott with art
by Leigh Shepherd
Keegan Jask is a space adventurer and raconteur operating from the Omega Bar of the Heaven-11 galactic
service station. There he recounts his incredible adventures, which are almost too good to be true...
Tales from the Heaven-11 is a 134 page paperback collection. It features all 8 stories from Omnivistascope plus an all new adventure, ‘Down among the Dead Men’. 

The book includes nearly 50 pages of extras! Including introductions from author, artist and Keegan Jask himself, Telling Tales - The Making of Keegan Jask, a 4 page sketchbook, Officer Flojag’s service logs, a
16-page ‘Jasklopaedia’ with over 300 entries on the world of Jask, the board game and 2-page role-playing game.
Keegan Jask - Tales from Heaven -11 launches at Bristol Comics Expo and is available on sale on Saturday 12th of May, marking ten years since the creators first appearance at the Bristol train sheds with the National Comic Award winning Solar Wind.

Thereafter the comic is available for £9.99 plus postage from: www.omnivistascope.com. Contact
the author via e-mail: paulvonscott@yahoo.co.uk, or by post: Paul Scott, 13 Kiln Crescent, Bishop
Middleham, Ferryhill, County Durham, DL17 9AP. United Kingdom.

Acclaim for Omnivistascope

SFX Fanzine of the Month - (5 Times)
“What’s that you say? You didn’t know fanzines came this professional looking? No, neither did we, hence why we’re so impressed with Omnivistascope.”

Silver Bullet Comics – 4 Bullets out of 5!
“Omnivistascope is a highly polished and highly professional book, and is well worth a look by any fan of science fiction” – Kelvin Green

Down the Tubes -
Pick of the Week!
“It’s a great collection…featuring some great strips and art” – John Freeman

Comics International- 10 out of 10! 
“Resplendent self-published Sci-Fi Anthology”

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Marrow Bones review

This is a new comic by artist and writer Eric Orchard and it is completely marvellous.
Bah, that didn’t last long… I was determined to write this review in a cool and detached manner but it is just so… good, that it’s all but impossible to do so.
So, briefly, this is the story of a young girl, Nora, who runs away from the horrible orphanage she lives in to stay with her uncle Barnaby in the swamps of Marrowbone. Oh, I should mention that Uncle Barnaby is a werewolf and the swamp is haunted and filled with all manner of dark creature.

Orchard has assembled a wonderful cast of characters here, from our plucky young lead to Ollie, a friendly and rather rubbish vampire by way of some genuinely creepy creatures and encounters.
Of course, all of these characters would be for nothing without an actual plot, and thankfully, Orchard is able to supply one of those, too. The story itself is a brief one, but it is fun, funny, scary and well told. The book is packed with additional material showing maps of the swamp and character studies of the various participants.
And as you can see from the images here, Orchard’s art is utterly charming. He has an astonishing style, and thankfully also understands how a comic page works and is able to tell a smoothly flowing story.
I cannot recommend this book enough, and am at a loss as to why Tim Burton has not already snapped up the movie rights.

The comic is available digitally from Orchards blog for a mere $2. Buy it HERE.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Path of the Renegade review

I’m sure that at least some of you are familiar with the Warhammer 40,000 universe.
We have dipped into it before in this blog with our review of the game Space Marine. And of course, those of you who have attended Hi-Ex! Will no doubt have looked into our enormously popular games room, if not actually taken part in a game or two yourself.
It is a universe that is a lot of fun, but one that can be daunting to the outsider.
One of the best ways into this world, and in fact one you can enjoy without having to be into the games, is the Black Library.
This is a publishing house that is a spin-off of Games Workshop, and publishes an enormous amount of Warhammer based novels.
Path of the Renegade is the first in a series focusing on a race called the Dark Eldar. In 40k, the Eldar are the elves, and the Dark Eldar are, as the name suggests, their evil (or rather, eviler) counterparts.
All these races have a brilliantly rich and vibrant backstory for the writers to draw upon, and Andy Chambers, the author of this particular book, does so with obvious glee.
The Dark Eldar themselves are delicious fun.
Chambers has a bit of an uphill struggle from the beginning with the very nature of the race. Because they are all Bad, then we logically cannot have a hero, a Good Guy for the reader to root for. And while this is true to an extent, it also makes for a very interesting read as we sit back and enjoy a group of characters who are all Evil trying to out-scheme and out-manoeuvre each other for political power.
While all this is going on, there is also a ‘proper’ plot going on, and one that left me nicely wrong footed at the end. Because this is the first book in a series, I as a reader had figured out the pace the major plot elements were going to unfold in my head, so when these things happen when you do not expect them, it makes for a pleasant surprise.
As I mentioned, this is the first in a series, and while I am a bit annoyed the second book is a year away, I will certainly be looking out for it when it is published.