Hosted by Kris Bather and Mladen Luketin from Western Australia, ES is a weekly podcast filled with news, reviews and pop culture shenanigans. Kris (loyal superhero fan) and Mladen (manga, anime and indie defender) chat about their varying, and occasional overlapping, interests in the wonderful world of sequential art.

Issue 2

League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century #1 Review

I published my review of the latest League adventure from masters Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill in the 2nd ish of Extra Sequential, but seeing as the book is coming out this month, I thought I’d run it here too, for those who haven’t read it. Obviously Moore and the League have a lot of fans, but Century may not live up to their expectations. Read on…

lxg3coverThis third volume of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen opens at the bedside of a sweating man with feverish dreams involving a young lady swimming naked and cloaked cult members’ ambitions to create a Moonchild, whatever that may be. As the man, Tom Carnacki, the ghost finder wakes he speaks of his night-time adventures to his fellow team-mates, Orlando, A.J, Mina Murray and Allan Quartermain. Thus we are introduced to the latest batch of “gentlemen.” This has been an extraordinary series from the outset. Well, mostly. Writer Alan Moore (Watchmen, From Hell) and artist Kevin O’Neill unleashed their concept of famed adventurers from the annals of literature upon the world in 1999. Mina Harker, from Bram Stoker’s Dracula was tasked by British Intelligence to form a team and gathered Allan Quartermain, Dr. Jekyll, Captain Nemo and others along the way to saving London. The second volume was a great tie-in to H.G Wells’ War of the Worlds while the third was a stand-alone graphic novel entitled The Black Dossier. Dossier was not the high point that the first two series were, mainly due to its varied narrative and frequent use of Moore extras such as prose pieces, letters, maps and the like. The greatest asset throughout the series has been the constant relationship of Harker and Quartermain in the different time periods. Dossier was light on that but did fill in some details about other incarnations of the League, reminding comic readers again that Moore is no slouch when it comes to research.

Not nearly as accessible as the first two volumes, Century is the first to be published by Top Shelf, instead of DC Comics. This is the first in a trilogy of 80 page one-shots, with this introduction set in 1910. The next one will delve into the swinging 60s, with the finale set in the present day. That prospect intrigues me. However, this isn’t the Leagues’ greatest outing, though I am curious to see where it goes. O’Neill’s harsh lines are perfect to Moore’s creation, with it’s dark humour, nudity and brutal violence and he makes the most with the dirty world they inhabit.  League has always been unashamedly gritty and multi-layered, like most of Moore’s work, but League has always been, not surprisingly, his most literary series. You either feel smarter for having read it, or dumber for not grasping the references to works of fiction scattered throughout each page. Student of literature will continue to have a field day with this series.

The problem with Century is that there is simply too much going on. I know doubting Moore’s genius is like slapping Shakespeare, but whereas the first two volumes were just manic fun with a boy’s own adventure feel stamped all over it, this feels unnecessarily complex. The number of characters is greater than a Cecil B. DeMille film and the League gets diluted because of it. Saying that, I’ll attempt to break down the plot as best I can. Here goes…

The woman from Tom’s dream, Jenny Diver walks past a popular reproduction of Captain Nemo’s impressive battle ship, Nautilus and discovers from Nemo’s old friend Ishmael that the Captain’s last wish was to give his recently changed beauty of a ship to his only child. The crew need a Captain, but the stubborn woman doesn’t want to be any such thing. She eventually changes her mind for some reason and goes on a mad rampage.

Tom, along with Mina, new League member Orlando (known as he-she, behind his/her back), thief A.J Raffles and Quartermain (who is introduced as his own to avoid suspicions of his newly gained immortality presumably) visit the Merlin Society. While the team wanders around a room full of occultists, A.J does some snooping around and the team discover Doomsday premonitions from magicians Simon Iff and Oliver Haddo. Tom eventually barges into the cult’s HQ and sees the events of his dream played out before him -almost. Amongst all this, there’s plenty of singing from various characters espousing exposition, claims that Orlando posed for the Mona Lisa, and wields the famed sword Excalibur, the return of a famed serial killer and a meeting with Andrew Norton a figurative prisoner of London. All of these characters and more are from old novels, though don’t ask me which ones, and they do serve a purpose in moving the story. However I think Moore needed to restrain himself. The majority of the scenes, and singing, just appear indulgent. This could have been a tale with fewer pages and it would have been a lot less shambolic. References to actual events of the time, such as King George V’s coronation, as well as the events of the brilliant previous series help give this perspective, but it’s not enough.

Fans of Watchmen will be familiar with typical Moore devices, particularly the panels that are filled with details that go over this uneducated fanboy’s head. After reading Century, I’m still a fan, but one of the earlier, and simpler tales. I don’t mean to say that I’m a fan of the much-diluted film version (which made Sean Connery retire from cinema) but Century has gone too far the other way. This is strictly for League lovers only. However, I am curious to see where the next two one-shots venture forth. League is far too grand an idea to let go just yet.

league31_06


And There You Are Review

atya-coverWriter/artist Ronnie del Carmen has had an impressive career, working on storyboards, designs and as a story consultant from Batman: The Animated Series to WALL-E and the upcoming Up, from Pixar. He’s also self-published a few comics focused on his dream walking character Nina. His latest comic is a 64 pager from AdHouse Books entitled, And There You Are is an engrossing peek at his journals and sketchbooks, all lovingly laid out before us. We featured the book in Extra Sequential #2, and I’ve just reviewed the whole thing over at Broken Frontier. Here’s a peek at what I said….

“Words are few and far between, and I think that’s a wise choice on the artist’s part. Del Carmen chooses to step aside and let his art speak for itself. Occasionally he’ll mention where this pencil sketch, or that water colour piece was done, such as the beach or a café, but there’s a genuine sense that we’re given a glance at his thoughts anyway, simply by seeing his vast array of art displayed before our appreciative eyes. Sketchbooks have a real wrinkled texture about them, complete with hand written notes and curled edges. I studied art a few years ago and it makes me long for those days where a blank piece of paper meant one thing – potential.”

If you like dreamy, inspirational art, pick it up. Read the rest of the review right here.

atya-p5atya-p7


Harker #2 Review

Harker #2I always admire those who risk their resources by doing something truly creative. It’s even more important in these days of Diamond’s recent changes that make it harder for the ‘little guys’ in the comic book biz to get their work noticed and appreciated by a worldwide audience. So, firstly my hat is off to Gibson and Danks, and the multitude of self-publishers like them. However, apart from all that Harker is genuinely entertaining, and it’s obvious that it’s a labour of love. From writer Roger Gibson’s nice introductions in each issue, that offer an honest peek into the process of creating a comic, to artist Vince Danks’ efforts on the art, which must be time consuming, it all makes this a pleasant change for those raised on a steady diet of spandex soap operas.

 

Carrying on from the debut issue, Harker #2 continues the look at the British detectives Harker and Critchley (the bald one) as they investigate a gruesome murder on the steps of a church. Last issue left us with a hint that the murder was tied into occult practices, and with this issue we delve deeper into that world. With the discovery of book remnants under the fingernails of the corpse, the two lads search a number of shops for a book entitled The Key of Solomon, but to no avail, until they meet a somewhat shifty man in an occult bookshop, who appears to be hiding something. Then it’s off to the coroner who gives the pair the identity of the murder victim, and the hunt continues.

Montages can sometimes be tricky to pull off in sequential art, but Gibson and Danks do it beautifully here. Harker and Critchley’s book hunting at the beginning of the issue, and their questioning of associates of the deceased towards the end, are both handled well. That may seem like an odd thing to praise, but in a black and white comic, it can sometimes be hard to identify faces and locales. Danks’ photorealistic approach to the art manages to avoid this pitfall though. There’s no confusion as to who is who and exactly what’s happening. With a style similar to that of Dave Sim’s current work on Glamourpuss, it’s simple, but not simplistic.

 

page-2-3

I couldn’t help but notice the incorrect spelling of “presumably,” but that’s a very minor misstep. The other one would be the differences between the two main characters. Hopefully as the series progresses, they will start to sound less alike. Harker appears to be the more level headed, logical one, while Critchley calls his partner, “guv,’ but other than that the differences are subtle. However, all their dialogue is natural and never awkward, and considering there’s no action in this issue, merely talking heads, that’s vital. Danks does well to make each page look interesting, with suitable detail of interior and exterior locales, instead of a steady stream of close-ups of whoever’s talking. Gibson and Danks are a superb team of creators. The dialogue just rings true in your head. It’s not ‘comic book dialogue,’ but rather it’s filled with the cadence and flow of something more realistic. The TV series comparison is the most obvious one to make, and Harker could easily fit into a late night slot in that format. This is another solid entry in this series and is definitely worth picking up. Gibson and Danks can be proud of what they’ve achieved.

You can order Harker from your local comic shop, or from Ariel Press. If you’re looking for something that stands out from your pile of funnybooks, I’d recommend you do.

And you can read my interview with Gibson and Danks in the latest issue of Extra Sequential here, starting from page 32.

page-12

 


Superman Homepage

 

wondertwins-sdcc091I’ve been reading the Superman Homepage for, well, years now. It’s the place to go for all your Supes-related news. Yesterday, being April Fool’s Day, they launched a few pearlers. Go here to see them all, including Tom Welling’s Smallville departure and the latest ‘development’ in the next Superman film. They’re done very well, and I’m not surprised they caught a few people out. They were also kind enough to mention my interview with Larry Tye on his new Superman book, as seen in pages 18 and 19 of the latest issue of Extra Sequential a few days ago.

Today they have even more amusing posts, including July’s Comic-Con’s exclusive Mattel action figures (Jan and Jayna) and an all-singing and all-dancing Superman and Spider-Woman from India. Sadly, this is no joke.


Issue 2 Out Now!

It’s finally arrived. Woohoo! Our second issue is 88 pages long (30 pages more than our first issue!) and features more interviews, features and reviews. Inside you’ll find stuff on the new Flash Gordon, the Brit detective series Harker, the all-ages Kid Beowulf, artist Joe Jusko, the scary Dread Force mechs, and a look at the gorgeous work of Steve Pugh in Hotwire, as well as a review of the brand new League of Extraodinary Gentlemen: Century. There’s so much more of course. Hope you enjoy it! Check it out right here.

es-2-cover

flash-gordon

dread-force

larry-tye-interview


Watchmensch Review

WatchmenschI’ll be honest with you. I only ordered this from Previews because it’s written by Rich Johnston. Rich is the man in the know when it comes to insider goss in the comic book biz, and is always the first to offer up juicy news that gets all those forums hyperactive. I’ve enjoyed his Lying In The Gutters column at CBR for years now and felt it was my civic duty to buy his latest foray into writing comics, rather than about them. He also was extremely kind enough to mention Extra Sequential in his column, as we were one of the few comics sites with daily updates during last year’s Christmas break.

Johnston isn’t a first time creative writer though. The English scribe has written for TV’s Smack The Pony sketch show as well as indie comics such as The X-Files and The Flying Friar.

I must say reading Watchmensch from Brain Scan Studios was a relief. I was blessed enough recently to get a preview copy of Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill’s latest League of Extraordinary Gentlemen adventure from Top Shelf. (See the review in the upcoming Extra Sequential #2!) and was disappointed. Hugely so in fact. As is Moore’s want Century is brimming with the stuff that makes literature students giddy, but makes the rest of us feel somewhat perplexed.

However Watchmensch gave me the happies. It spoke to me. Sure, it’s a niche comic. A very niche comic. Not only is it a Watchmen parody, but it is also filled with a multitude of references to Moore’s unique personality, DC’s mistreatment of its writers and artists, and the troubles with Moore’s film adaptations. Fanboys will eat this up, but everyone else will be left scratching their heads, kinda like the Watchmen film really.

With nods to The Simpsons and reality TV, heartless studio execs and even Ozzy Osbourne, Johnston and artist Simon Rohrmuller have crafted a tidy, black and white laugh giver. It was honestly a refreshing read, and after the sour taste of Century in my mouth, I felt relieved after reading this. It spoke to my inner geek and gave it a warm hug. It’s a good feeling being an insider.

Rohrmuller’s art is very much like Dave Gibbons in places and he uses the constraints of the two colours very well, managing to fill in the panels with enough detail and give great expressions to the characters.  It’s no easy feat to summarise the epic that is Watchmen, but this creative duo have done it, even down to exact panel recreations and familiar lines. I won’t say too much about the plot, as the genuine laughs come from the surprises but it’s cleverly done.

The characters we all know and love from Watchmen are amusingly tweaked here, so The Comedian resembles Krusty the Clown, Rorschach becomes the “Jewish” Spottyman and Dr. Manhattan becomes a man who walked under a falling tin of blue paint and became Mr. Broadway.

Thanks Mr. Johnston. I may not be educated enough to get Moore’s latest League (though I loved the first two) but Watchmensch makes me feel part of the in crowd. Yes, it’s a crowd of misunderstood, net-aholics with opinions as varied as their action figure collections, but it’s my crowd. The kind of crowd that will enjoy this too.


The Gallery: The Incredibles #1

We have a feature about the new properties coming from BOOM! Studios in the upcoming second issue of Extra Sequential. They have some greta new properties including The incredibles, Cars and those loveable Muppets. Written by Mark Waid, with art by Marcio Takara, the four issue min-series The Incredibles, hits shelves on March 25. Preview pics at the link below.

boom-incredibles-01-cover-oeming

(more…)


Hotwire: Requiem for the Dead #2 Review

hotwire2_covera_pughThose Brits sure know how to make good sci-fi tales. Ridley Scott behind the lens of Blade Runner, all those crazy cats at 2000AD and now Steve Pugh with Hotwire: Requiem for the Dead. There’s something in the water that gives the English a refreshing perspective to the genre, and the perfect package that is Hotwire is the latest jewel in the crown.

When a skeletal figure shambles up to the front desk of a police station and mumbles, “I tried to check my pulse, but I must be doing it wrong,” it becomes obvious that this isn’t a standard futuristic adventure. Writer/artist Steve Pugh is the clever hand behind this tale (with early support from Warren Ellis) and his off-centre ideas are presented beautifully.

At the end of the first ish, Alice Hotwire, the unpopular but efficient detective exorcist and her new partner Mobey were facing a possessed hobo named Filthy. Here Filthy gets saved with an unusual method by Hotwire and her and Mobey try to put all the pieces together of the general craziness that’s been happening around them, which includes riots in the cities and a spate of damaged blue-light suppressor towers. All this is making Alice’s usual job a lot harder.

Alice soon meets Darrow, the new city commander of the police force who shows the pale cop their latest “resident.” The shambling skeleton from the intro explodes in his holding cell revealing a very pretty Chinese dragon electro-magnetic manifestation, and an intriguing new plot line which ends on a great cliffhanger. Next issue should be a doozy.

hotwire2_coverb_stjepanThere’s some simply amazing work in this title. It’s very accessible to the new reader and moves at a brisk pace. Hotwire is a great character – a loveable rogue, like a female Han Solo. She’s always where the action is and doesn’t concern herself with official policies when there’s citizens to be saved and “blue-lights” to be exorcised.

Pugh’s also just as adept and creating tidy visuals as he is at tightly scripted pages. He paints texture, lighting and the human form like Alex Ross at his prime. Even when Mobey and Hotwire are simply talking at her apartment the scene looks vibrant. Pugh’s obviously done his research and has created a fully realised world. Every gadget, weapon and vehicle looks like it’s a current concept design from some hi-tech company. If you’re into Ross, or anything else from Radical Publishing, you’ll lap this series up. And if you’re familiar with Pugh’s previous work on the excellent Shark-Man, you must pick up this title.

hotwire2_coverc_brooks


Issue #2 Delay

feb094062fHow it pains me to write those words! But it’s better to have great quality a little late, rather than poor quality now. Dave and I really only meet for less than 3 hours a week to put together a 60 page issue. That’s not very much at all, and every time we manage to sneak in some time during lunch away from our ‘real’ jobs, it reminds me how important collaboration is on any sort of creative endeavour. Neither one of us could do ES alone. Anyway, so issue 2 is coming. It will be here in March, but not March 15 as originally hoped and promised. We will get it out in late March sometime, and so far it’s looking to be a real cracker. Leaping and bounding with improvements from our first issue in January we are extremely excited to get our second ish out, and to see what everyone thinks. In the meantime, here’s a teaser of what to expect:

A hilarious interview with Amazing Spider-Man and Dark Reign: Elektra writer Zeb Wells

An honest interview with Marvel writer/editor Tom DeFalco about the end of his much-loved Amazing Spider-Girl

An interview with Richard Emms about Ardden Entertainment’s new Flash Gordon series

An interview with two great English gents from Ariel Press about Harker

A look at the awesome mechs of Dawn of the Dread Force

A look at Steve Pugh’s glorious Hotwire from Radical Publishing

and oh, so much more including reviews, Superman: A Biography, BOOM!’s take on Disney and the Muppets, and DIY paper superheroes. Thanks for your patience. It’ll be worth the wait.