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Friday, February 24, 2017

Phaeton Proterra Issue 2. Maria Lantsuta. (Writer and Art), Darya Lantsuta (Colours), Tatyana Lantsuta (Translation). WP Comics (2017)

Very engaging and enjoyable second issue where the story takes off and the dramatic stakes are raised very nicely. Anna is growing increasingly concerned about her fiancee Theo, and is finding it difficult to persuade others to take her seriously. When she does the problems for the merc team become significantly greater.
The story development in this issue is superb, moving from an apparently trivial matter to to a significantly consequential one without ever breaking the thread of the story. There is a great deal of action and development put into the issue that never feels rushed or cramped. There is an interesting dramatic  play used to move the story from a focus on an apparently overreacting female to a significant and verifiable problem. Anna is forcefully following her concerns and creates the circumstances for an important discovery. The transition to the the to management of the discovery is a little too fast, it does not really give enough time for Anna, a little more space for her would have been welcome. The discovery is significant and the outcomes are great, the plot mechanics surrounding it are very engaging, they bring out the science fiction strength of the comic in full force and they lead to a great set up. Maria Lantsuta is happily willing to raise the stakes of the story in a smart and credible way.
The art is a pleasure to read, the cast are expressive, responsive and varied. This is subtle science fiction art , the context is full of details tat bring weight and depth to the story, the technology is used in natural and interesting ways. The panels are used very well to move and control the pace of the story, the backgrounds on the pages are used very effectively to create a contunity that supports the action.
Darya Lantsuta's colours are superb, they capture and amplify both the science fiction context and the emotional tones of the story. The cast are given definition and depth by the colours, the bright colours are glowing from the future of technology, the subdued shades bring in the cast and the low key aspects of people doing stressful dangerous jobs for a lot of different reasons.
Tatyana Lantsuta's translation is not entirely smooth, the words are not entirely as natural English speakers would use them, this is also very nice, it is a pleasure to get non Anglophone comics and constructions never draw the reader from the story.
Phaeton Proterra  Issue 2 is a reminder of the deep pleasure of smart science fiction comics, original talent and powerful storytelling.
Chief Wizard Note: This is a review copy very kindly sent by Kim Roberts, to purchase a copy of Phaeton Proterra  Issue 2, which you should to luxuriate in confident romantic science fiction, one of the joys of the world, you can get it here

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Darkest King 1. Tony Scott Astley (Writer), Paul Anderson (Art, Colours & Letters). WP Comics (2017)

A very engaging and enjoyable set up for a noir crime story that delivers the action, context and introductions with confident economy and force. A clever opening sequence introduces Kurt King and hints at past, present and future troubles. Kurt's brother Victor King, clearly much more successful that Kurt gets introduced as does the shape of the plot. Kurt is up to something very bad, Victor may be up to something worse, both share a brutal history and it all gets satisfactorily nasty.
Tony Scott Astley has written a classic noir set up , a damaged man doing ill to do good, with a strong connection to a man who appears to be doing good while possibly doing much worse. The events that bind and separate the brothers are shown and a very satisfactorily grisly climax pushes the action forward. There is a great deal of story in the issue, it never feels crowded or rushed, the voice over is smartly anticipating and commenting on the action. Tony Scott Astley has a willingness to push the action hard and that benefits the story, from the opening the stakes get higher and more complicated, by the end the reader is very nicely set up to plunge into the unforgiving world of Coldwood.
Paul Anderson's art is easy to read and very engaging, the cast are well defined and strongly expressive. They move naturally through their context and have the vital physical weight and presence they need for the story. Kurt and Vincent look like brothers, enough similarity to suggest a relationship, enough differences to make them strongly individual. The art moves comfortably from quiet conversation to brutal action, there is no strain in the change of pace, it flows naturally from one event to the next. The panel layouts are used to control the pasce of the story with skill, the splas pages ear thier slots as dramatic moments and they do not stop the story,  The colouring follows the demands of the story with care, it amplifies the context of the action, the changes are dramatic and hardly noticeable as they fit with the scenes so well. In particular the red lighting for a gunfight frames the action and the intent equally well.
The lettering for the various components, speech and voice over is clearly differentiated without being obtrusive and the sound effects are a pleasure.
A smart set up that gives the reader every reason to look forward to where this story will go and to be pretty sure that Kurt King is only starting to discover just how much trouble he had brought down on himself.
Chief Wizard Note: This is a review copy, very kindly sent by Kim Roberts, to purchase a copy of The Darkest King 1, and you should as really good crime comics are a deep pleasure you should give yourself, it is available from

Monday, February 20, 2017

GalaXafreaks 1-4, GalaXfreaks- Dark Vibes 1-4.(Writer & Artist) Andrew Pawley Cosmic Freakout Comix. (2014-2016)

A gloriously engaging and wildly entertaining series that exploits the possibilities of comics with astounding and extraordinary artistic confidence. The GalaXfreaks are creatures of positive energy, thier opponents are creatures of negative energy, they clash and fight over the multiverses that surround us and are within us. The stories are very straightforward,in and of themselves they are the least part of the series, they are used to provide a structure that the real work is draped over.
The language of the comics is a potent hippie slang centering around vibes. It is so over boiled that it should obstruct the reader,it reads like a version of a dimly remember and mostly imagined version of the ways that hippies should have talked in their heyday of the Summer of Love. It should be an unholy mess, what it does instead is prove there are no rules for talent, Andrew Pawley makes it work and makes it vital to the workings of the comic.
It is the totally dominant art that marks this comic as the creation of a singular  and unerring artistic vision. The cast are wonderful variations on human forms, they are full of vigorous energy and engage with each other and the fluid context they move through with intensity. The GalaXafreaks themselves are unexpected, vivid and wholly engaging.
The colouring is probably the most exuberant aspect of the comics, Andew Pawley's mastery of colouring is breathtaking. The glowing range of colours that cover every page are so bright and loud that in any other hands they would drown the story and the cast. Instead they amplify the intent and the action to the greatest possible degree. They are harmonious and expressive, they balance with each other with precision and detail.
Andrew Pawley proves that the devil does not have the best tunes, love and positive vibes get the full throated creative energy that should have. GalaXafreaks are wonderful comics that proudly supports
the idea that a positive vibe is a welcome event, pour the energy into your mind, it will lift you up and remind you that there is always joy to be found.
Andrew Pawley is running a Kickstarter campaign for another GalaXa freaks:Time Songs, where GalaXafreaks serirs 1 and GalaXafreaks :Dark Vibes bundles can be found or purchased from the shop:

Monday, February 13, 2017

Crystal's Odyssey. Jordan King (Writer), Patrick Buermeyer (Art), Liam O'Connor (Colours),Chris Allen (Letters). WP Comics (2017)

Superbly engaging and entertaining horror comic that that solves the problems of a first issue with astonishing confidence and pitch black humour. Crystal is an assistant to a coroner and she is drowning in grief for her dead husband. When a body is delivered, to the joy of the coroner and the consternation of Crystal events start to move in very strange directions. Crystal makes a decision and starts on an odyssey with two very strange companions. Naturally things take a nasty turn and Crystal finds shelter at place that is plainly both more and less than it seems. The narrative switches and May, a very and justifiably sad  young girl, who has just made a new friend is about to demonstrate the depth of her rage. The story moves somewhere very bleak and unexpected as May finds herself somewhere very strange and horrifying.
Jordan King has packed an astonishing quantity of story into the comic without the story ever feeling rushed or compressed. This is a high speed and extremely violent set up that never sacrifices character or emotional framework for shock or gore. The cast are ferociously alive, the walk on parts are give a chance to be someone, Crystal and May are horrifying alive, vulnerable and packed with huge energy. Jordan King creates a very welcome ambiguity with Crystal and May that invites the reader into the story and creates a precious sympathy for both. This is critical given the level of violence in the story, the forces that are propelling Crystal and May have been set up with care and detail, they do not get lost in the explosive action that follows.
Patrick Buermeyer's art is every bit a match for the story, it captures and amplifies every nuance and emotion of the cast. The body language is expressive, the cast move through their off kilter context naturally and with physical presence and weight. Crystal's friend Jessika is everything that shattered, delicate Crystal is not, she has the steely rage that pushes against Crystal's devouring grief. The physical contrast is huge without ever being overbearing. May in her little girl blue dress and green eyes is just terrifying, with her compressed rage and terrifying apologies. Patrick Buermeyer delivers conversation and disemboweling with equal confidence and care.
Liam O'Connor's colours are so natural that they are a character in themselves, they give the art depth and definition, they create a emotional context that just drives the story and the art wonderful energy. The sound effects by Chris Allen give a horrible physical depth to the action, in particular the sounds over an all black page ensure that the reader does not have to see anything to get the full impact, the following panels still are brutally unexpected and push the story to very dark places.
With a set up as confident as this and as willing to take ideas as far as they have already, the story possibilities are (happily for readers) both enticing and horrifying.
Chief Wizard Note: This is a review copy very kindly sent by Kim Roberts, to purchase a copy of Crystal's Odyssey 1and enjoy the sticky, bloody embrace of tremendous talent making it all look easy, it is available from

Sunday, February 5, 2017

The Mysterium. Paul Doherty. Headline Publishing Group (2010)

A very entertaining and engaging medieval murder mystery that makes the most of the historical context, engaging cast and superb plot mechanics. In February 1304 in London the Chief Justice, Walter Evesham has been removed from office and has been allowed to retire to a cell in the Abbey of Syon on Thames. When Evesham's chief clerk is found murdered with the mark of an assassin that Evesham had captured years earlier and Evesham himself is found murdered and marked, Sir Hugh Corbett is ordered by Edward I to investigate. The investigation twists and coils as Sir Hugh Corbett investigates the original case and the present murders. The reveals are cunningly staged and the satisfying sour conclusion is very well staged.
Paul Doherty uses the historical context with impressive skill, evoking the crowded space of London with its extraordinary collections of nobles, merchants, workers and criminals all jostling each other in narrow streets and all the hidden connections that link and divide them. The King and the wealthy merchants of London, The Great Ones, were in constant tension as they struggled to establish the boundaries to each others power and influence. The Great Ones routinely uses gangs of criminals to carry out their wishes and the Mysterium exploited this situation to the full before he was captured by Evesham, only to escape from a tightly guarded church. This locked room mystery is superbly set up and managed by Paul Doherty. The mystery and its resolution are central to the story and are firmly tied to the rest of the plot mechanics.
The unfolding of the plot is masterful, from the ferocious opening action of a murder and a dreadful siege of a church, the action returns to central questions from different angles as the reveals start to point to am increasingly tangled and dark story that slowly pulls the cast into grip. The black heart at the centre of the story is clever and malicious, Sir Hugh Corbett has to work very hard to grasp the full depths of the trouble that has been created. Paul Dohery has done a great favour to the reader, he has given his lead character a genuinely difficult problem to solve. The work that Sir Hugh Corbett has to do to is what brings the reader into the story and the conclusion is entirely appropriate for the story that went ahead of it.
The story captures the way the present is a hostage to the past and reappear with shattering results. The investigation is carefully managed, Sir Hugh Corbett is clever resourceful and persistent. He follows the possibilities with energy and is fully aware of the web on interests that he is attempting to unravel. The cast are very well developed and engaging, they all push themselves forward to engage the reader and they are given true, individual voices, including the walk on parts.
Paul Doherty is so confident in his context and the cast that the context is allowed to seep into the story, it is simply present and influential, the social and religious structures taken so firmly for granted are revealed in the action of the story without being explain to the reader. Great story, superb crime fiction.