Tuesday, 29 January 2013

The Hobbit BBC Radio drama review

This radio version of the Hobbit was originally broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in 1968, and has been released on CD now by AudioGo, no doubt to make the most of the first part of Peter Jackson’s movie trilogy.
And while listening to this production, it is hard not to have the movie looming large over everything. I was, in fact, determined not to mention the movie in this review, but that has proved to be impossible, so I’ll get all my thoughts on that out of the way.
As I’m sure you all know, the first movie covers only the first few chapters of the book, and it is amazing to compare the treatment of, say, the visit to Goblin Town here to the one in the movie. What was an epic action set piece on screen amounts to nothing more than a few lines here.
And then we’ve got Radaghast only being mentioned in passing and the animals talking, there are considerable differences. And listening to the rest of the story, I found myself both excited and curious as to what they’ll be doing in the next two movies.
But does this adaption work in its own right?
It certainly does. It is quite a light hearted adaption, with Bilbo in particular being wonderfully cast and played. With Gandalf, who is ssociated with Sir Ian McKellen so strongly, it was difficult to get used to another voice speaking his lines, but Heron Carvic is a fine actor and, well, he did it first, after all!
Some of the sound design was a bit too much for me – the effects added to the voices of the animals were at times too extreme, and some of their dialogue was hard to decipher. The music suffers a bit from this too, but it may be the case that the music was simply not to my taste. The final disc in this set is an isolated score, so you can make your own mind up about it. But I have to say, the version of the Misty Mountains song in the movie was much better and more atmospheric than the one here.
This all sounds like I’m damning with faint praise, but I am not. This is a very strong production, and is cleverly adapted and has universally great acting. It is thoroughly recommended to any fans of the book or the movie, and
is the ideal accompaniment to a long car journey!

Thursday, 24 January 2013

The Tyranny of King Washington Draws Near

The First Episode of Assassin’s Creed III – The Tyranny of King Washington: The Infamy to Release on February 19

The time draws closer to fight for justice against a revolutionary turned tyrant in Assassin’s Creed III newest adventure, the Tyranny of King Washington. The Infamy, the first episode of a three-part tale, will be available on Microsoft’s Xbox 360 video game and entertainment system and Windows PCs on February 19 and on PlayStation3 computer entertainment system on February 20.

In the first episode of the Tyranny of King Washington series, our hero, Ratonhnhaké:ton, awakens from an unsettling dream to find that, despite his efforts to deliver justice in the newly-founded United States of America, a new king has been crowned РGeorge Washington. The Infamy will take gamers through the beginning of the journey to dethrone King Washington.

The three upcoming episodes of the Tyranny of King Washington are available through the Assassin’s Creed III Season Pass, which is available for purchase for 2400 Microsoft Points on Xbox LIVE or £23.99 on the PlayStation Network and Windows PC. The first episode, The Tyranny of King Washington: The Infamy, can be purchased as a single DLC pack for 800 Microsoft points or £9.99.
Following The Infamy, The Tyranny of King Washington will continue in two additional content packs that let gamers experience an alternate history of the events following the American Revolution.

All Assassin’s Creed III downloadable content packs will also be available on the Wii U.

Assassin’s Creed III is now available on PlayStation3, Xbox 360 and the Nintendo Wii U. For Windows PC gamers, the Assassin’s Creed III Deluxe Edition is available as a digital download and includes all future downloadable content.

About Assassin’s Creed III:
Set against the backdrop of the American Revolution in the late 18th century, Assassin’s Creed III introduces a new hero, Ratonhnhak√©:ton, of Native American and English heritage. Adopting the name Connor, he becomes the new voice for justice in the ancient war between the Assassins and Templars. Gamers become an Assassin in the war for liberty against ruthless tyranny in the most stylized and fluid combat experiences in the franchise to date.

Assassin’s Creed III spans the Revolutionary War, taking gamers from the vibrant, untamed frontier and bustling colonial towns to the intense, chaotic battlefields where George Washington’s Continental Army clashed with the imposing British Army and the tumultuous high seas. Assassin’s Creed III features unprecedented scope and scale.

For more information on Assassin’s Creed III, please visit the Assassin’s Creed Official Website: http://www.assassinscreed.com

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Babble review

Writer: Lee Robson01-Carrie
Artist: Bryan Coyle
Letterer: Eddie Deighton
I read this in Pdf form, a medium I do not like reading in. I am reviewing it as such and at times I may compare the experience to reading a paper product.
Firstly, I had never heard of this book before reading it. So I flicked through the pages of the Pdf to get a feel of what I would have thought flicking through the pages of a graphic novel in a comic book store. I saw a female lead character and what seemed to be zombies, though they didn’t look very dead. I didn’t get any feel for the comic, I didn’t connect with it.
When I started reading on my PC I found the experience quite uncomfortable and in the end chose to transfer the Pdf to my Kindle Ap on my Android phone. Reading it on my phone was much more comfortable even with the much smaller screen. I’ve only just started reading books in this medium.
So I started from page 1 again. Soon I found I was engrossed, despite the oddness of reading a comic on a hand held device.
Carrie Hartnoll, the main character, is a British woman who has left her old life behind after being offered a research job in an Ivy League College in USA by her ex-boyfriend Professor Alan Curtis. Alan was clearly her lecturer at University.
Carrie is first seen alone on a hillside at night, a man attacks her and at first sight as I said earlier I took this to be a zombie but I soon realised I was wrong. This man, among many others, had a speech bubble but it was blank.
We learn that the research Carrie is involved in is experiencing problems. The original head researcher has committed suicide and destroyed most of the research. Alan needs Carrie to find missing information before funding is cut. the other main characters are Si, a research assistant and Vanessa, Alan’s wife.
The characters are believable. Carrie is rather naive and over trusting. Si is gay and apparently the late Professor Cartwright was homophobic. Alan is slightly predictable, but that isn’t necessarily a flaw of the writer, more it is a flaw of the character itself – which is fine, just as naivety is an acceptable flaw for our heroine.
The story is part in the present and part in flash back. The flashbacks are in order and eventually catch up with the present. So we learn more of the ‘why’ in flashback while the present is mostly action. Flashback and present are clearly distinguished using the traditional way, different colours and shading. The past uses black, white and blue. The present is mostly in yellow, browns and black. Time lapse within the flashback is also shown by characters being in different clothing from panel to panel.
The panel count and layout varies from page to page and mostly are of regular shape, only in the first chapter are angled panels used, each time in scenes of violence. At times there are insets and panel bleeding. The artist did a good job at leaving room for lettering but at times the word count was a little heavy, the letter however did a fine job of coping with this.
There are plenty of unexpected turns of events in the story, indeed my own assumptions were proven wrong in more ways than the lack of zombies in the story. Though I would say in a way this is actually a twist on a zombie story.
A very good story, well illustrated and very well lettered. Given my dislike of reading on electronic media and the fact I ended up engrossed I think this book succeeded in what it was supposed to do, it entertained me and made me wonder what happened after the final panel. Well worth a read.

Review by Steve Hargett.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

New from Commando!

Commando No 4567 – Collision Course

So how did Flight Lieutenant Kerrie Matheson, in his unarmed DH 86 transport, end up hurtling straight towards an enemy Bloch 220 Auvergne aircraft?
   Well, it had all started off as a routine secondment from his posting at Coastal Command. He became part of a mission to build a long distance air bridge, ferrying Allied planes from French-held Africa to Egypt.
   Then his routine flying duties took a deadly turn – with mystery, espionage and murder setting him on a
Collision Course.

Story: Alan Hebden
Art: Keith Page
Cover: Keith Page

Commando No 4568 – Eighty-Eight!

It’s not every day you see a German 88mm gun being operated by a group of “Fighting Kiwis” – New Zealanders from a British and Commonwealth Expeditionary Force battling in Greece, determined to hold back the German onslaught.
   But this was not an everyday story.
   Thanks to a bungling SS officer, the Kiwis were able to help themselves to the enemy artillery’s pride and joy. Having been relentlessly pounded by the very same guns, they decided to give the Jerries a taste of their own medicine!

Story: Alan Hebden
Art: Jaume Forns
Cover: Ian Kennedy

Commando No 4569 – Beach-Head!

Johnny Malloy was a little guy – five foot zero or thereabouts, but he wore the coveted Commando flash on his shoulders.
   He seemed lazy, good-for-nothing, a coward – yet every man in his platoon was ready to die for him when it came to the bit.
   Who was he then – this odd little Commando? Just about the most important guy in the British army, that’s all!


   All the ingredients for a classic Commando story are here – a dicey but vital mission, a group of soldiers who don’t trust a comrade…and Gordon Livingstone’s inimitable artwork. I say inimitable with confidence as many have tried and none has succeeded.
   Flipping open the Ken Barr cover in 1963, you’d be met with a script and art which neatly capture all the fine details of service life, thanks to a generation that lived through a world war and National Service. There’s a priceless authenticity about this. And you can have it for only £1.50. What a bargain!

Calum Laird, Editor

Beach-Head originally Commando No 54 (January 1963)

Story: Parsons
Art: Gordon Livingstone
Cover: Ken Barr

Commando 4570 – Arctic Victory

After a few weeks in a certain squadron of the RAF Regiment, Phil Adamson was beginning to wonder if this unit really was just for the defence of airfields. What with unarmed combat instruction, learning about explosives and a mock-raid on a local flying school, it was more like training for a crack Commando squad.
   He didn’t know how right he was!


Although it first appeared in the Spring of 1988, it somehow seems fitting to republish author David Heptonstall’s icy tale in mid-January, the chill of winter still in the air.
   Artist Terry Patrick’s rendering of Arctic Scandinavia – especially on pages 26 and 27 – is very effective and, as always, cover legend Ian Kennedy does Commando proud.
   The story seemingly starts as an air yarn but then changes gear, morphing into a “men-on-a-mission” adventure with a hint of espionage. It’s a little bit different.

Scott Montgomery, Deputy Editor

Arctic Victory, originally Commando No 2177 (April 1988)

Story: David Heptonstall
Art: Terry Patrick
Cover: Ian Kennedy

Friday, 11 January 2013

'Zoo City' author Lauren Beukes pens new introduction to Halo Jones

I honestly do not think it is possible to exaggerate just how important to the medium the character Halo Jones is. The following is a press release from Rebellion about the forthcoming reissue of the book. You really should buy it, 

The author of the Clarke Award-winning novel Zoo City and the much anticipated The Shining Girls, Lauren Beukes, has written a brand new introduction to a character she says was her “first love”.
The South African novelist and journalist, whose magical hardboiled thriller set in Johannesburg was a break-out hit in 2010, has penned the introduction for the new UK edition of The Ballad of Halo Jones by Alan Moore and Ian Gibson, due for release in May 2013.
Beukes cites the character as a major influence on her childhood: “She’s remarkable for being just a girl caught up in extraordinary circumstances. Halo is working class, she doesn’t have any superpowers, in her own words, she was ‘just there’.”
Dubbed “possibly the first feminist heroine in comics” by The Observer, the ground-breaking character from 2000 AD catapulted writer Moore to popular attention, helped in no small part by Gibson’s stunning SF artwork.

Moore introduced comic book readers familiar with macho ‘guns and gore’ male characters to the poignant, fascinating, and at times heartbreaking story of an ordinary woman who lives an extraordinary life.
Set in a future where the unemployed are herded into the Hoop, a floating ghetto off the coast of Manhattan, Halo is a young woman who dreams of escaping her boring life. When she gets the chance to do so aboard a luxury space cruiser as a hostess, it catapults her into an uncaring galaxy that will take her from the lap of luxury to a time-bending war of atrocity.
“It’s a story about choices and compromises, about defying expectations, about poverty, society, celebrity, identity, the toll of war, and also love, ambition, ambivalence and the places restless curiosity will take you,” says Beukes.
This new edition will be published in the UK and Ireland with the introduction from Lauren Beukes and a  rand new
design-led cover by 2000 AD head designer Simon Parr.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Revenge 30 years in the making, a deadly virus, an escaped serial killer, a tense election,  dire predictions, a fanatical assassin - the first collection in the critically-acclaimed Judge  Dredd epic, Day of Chaos, is here!
Named by ComicBookResources.com as one of the top 15 best comics of 2012, Dredd cocreator John Wagner wowed 2000 AD readers with this year-long storyline in which he tore  the world of the future lawman apart in an orgy of intrigue, death, and destruction.  Dredd’s actions 30 years ago in the Apocalypse War come back to haunt him as the Judges race against time to prevent a terrifying ‘day of chaos’, predicted by their psychic division, that will engulf the city. But where will the threat come from? And what form will it take?
And will even Dredd himself succumb to the horrors that will be unleashed? With stunning action-packed ensemble art from Ben Willsher, Staz Johnson, Colin MacNeil and Henry Flint, Day of Chaos: The Fourth Faction is the first collection of what is rightly acclaimed as one of the best Dredd stories of the past 35 years.
‘Things will never be the same again’ may be a clich√© in comic books - but Day of Chaos delivers on the promise with repercussions that will go on for years!

Written by: John Wagner
Art by: Ben Willsher, Staz Johnson, Colin MacNeil, Henry Flint
ISBN: 978-1-78108-108-2
Price: £17.99     Pages: 160
Published: 14th February 2013
Market: UK and Ireland

Monday, 7 January 2013

Rogue Trooper: Tales of Nu earth 03

Review by Montynero

Popular opinion often has it that Rogue Trooper should have been killed off after he killed The Traitor General. ‘Tales of Nu Earth 03’ tells us what happened next (progs 410 to 603) – providing the perfect opportunity to question that theory.

‘Tales of Nu-Earth’ is a little misleading. This is a brand new mission on a brand new planet - finding the antigen on Horst to make Rogue's bio chipped buddies real men again. It’s a good premise and how much you enjoy it depends on your taste for Jose Ortiz’s elegant art and Gerry Finley-Day's old-school storytelling. Do you smile at the prospect of Alienesque crab combatants catching Rogue in a pincer movement, or revel in dialogue like "Keep firing, Gunnar. I'm going in PLASMA HANDED"? Personally, I love it.
Finley-Day explains the point and the status of his characters at the start of each episode, and wraps up a continuing tale with a cliff hanger designed to lure you back next week. It reads like an adrenaline shot to the neck – something many of today's writers could learn from.

Throughout the late eighties this type of storytelling was eroded by a desire for graphic novel respectability. The age of 2000ad’s readership rose and simple action stories became less popular. The nuclear arms race reaccelerated, neutering the apparent impact of a lone battlefield soldier. What to do with Rogue Trooper? One answer would be to continue the action but add deeper themes and some on-going emotional resonance. Unfortunately what follows is the beautifully drawn ‘Hit’ saga (prog 495–603) by Simon Geller and Steve Dillon. 

All sense of Rogue's motivation disappears as he becomes a confused and inept interstellar assassin. The ending to Finley-Day’s ‘Return to Millicom’ is retooled, at a stretch, to cast Rogue as an ultimate warrior trying to end all war on behalf of 'the power that binds the universe'. 2000ad’s editor Steve McManus was so convinced by the new direction he co-wrote the reboot intro, which trumpets much in the way of forthcoming excitement. Dillon’s visual storytelling throughout is fantastic - but the run and gun plotting is witless and empty. Rogue memorably gets knocked out by a cleaner with a mop at one point. It’s so narratively underwhelming that the planned thirteen hits peter out after just four.

Dillon writes two episodes himself, including ‘The Hit: Conclusion’ with art by Chris Weston. This attempts to wrap up the Hit saga in sixteen pages of the 2000ad Winter Special 1989. His script postulates that the dumb action he’s been asked to render for the last few years was part of an alien plan to numb Rogue of his reasoning and combat skills, something that’s only believable when you consider the alien in question was Tharg! It would take a better writer than Steve Dillon to pull this off convincingly, and Weston’s art – while detailed – is not his best. It’s a disappointing end to an ill-conceived arc.

What’s so striking about this collection is Rogue Trooper only makes sense as, well... a rogue trooper. If the war he’s fighting has no reliance on hand-to-hand fighting between infantry in combat then he becomes meaningless. He was designed as the sci-fi apotheosis of heroic Tommy’s fighting in the trenches, with the cool storytelling device of bickering digital comrades in his high tech equipment. Given the history of modern warfare, Rogue’s unique skills seem more relevant now than they did when he launched in the 80’s. Stories that embrace his essential raison d’etre are successful. Stories that don't, aren’t.
Rounding off the collection are seven short and peripheral tales from sci-fi specials (Grant Morrison and Pete Milligan provide the best of them), two Dice man episodes, and seven Rogue Trooper covers including a wonderful final painting by John Higgins.

Personally I'd buy this collection just for the art – but there's a good deal of fun and nostalgia in the Finley-Day scripts and some interesting curios too. With over 400 lovingly rendered pages, it’s well worth getting if you can.

I’ll sum up with a quote from Rogue Trooper prog 567 – ‘The Legend’:

Cutting himself off from Souther command he roamed the battle scarred planet in his search for the traitor general. He found him…but success was hollow. Without that hatred to drive him on disillusionment set in..."