One Mad Dog

[John Constantine: Hellblazer : The Devil You know] – (Jamie Delano, Richard Priers Raynor, Mark Buckingham, Mike Hoffman, Bryan Talbot, Dean Motter, David LLoyd)

“The Devil You Know Collects  issues  #10 to #13, Hellblazer Annual 1 and The Horrorist #1 and 2.

  • #10 “Sex and Death”  written by Jamie Delano with art by  Mark Buckingham and Richard Priers Raynor.
  • #11 “Newcastle: A Taste of things to Come”  written by Jamie Delano with art by  Mark Buckingham and Richard Priers Raynor.
  • #12 “The Devil You Know” written by Jamie Delano with art by  Mark Buckingham, Richard Priers Raynor and Mike Hoffman.
  • #13 “On The Beach” written by Jamie Delano with art by  Mark Buckingham and Richard Priers Raynor.
  • “The Bloody Saints” written by Jamie Delano with art by Bryan Talbot.
  • “Venus of the Hardshell” written and drawn by Dean Motter.
  • “The Horrorist” written by Jamie Delano with art by David LLoyd.

I have some of the same criticisms for this second Hellblazer edition that I had for the first. Firstly, the book really needs to include the crossover  “Swamp Thing” stories as without them things can get a bit confusing.  Secondly, the panel layout can also be a bit confusing at times, especially when the story is spread across two pages. Finally the monologues can be a bit to arty and self absorbing at times and the art is nothing special.

#10 to #12 form something of a story arc and are pretty good but the stories are a little pretentious in feel and can be hard work to read.  I actually found each subsequent issue to be more enjoyable and the title story of the book “The devil you know” was actually pretty good.  “On The Beach” is a seriously strange little story with a somewhat predictable ending but it was OK.

“The Bloody Saints”  is a strange Arthurian based tale with Constantine really only along for the back narrative. The story includes Merlin’s talking head on a spit which is a nice touch but it left me cold.  “Venus of the Hardshell” is a throw away pop video type tale that fills in a bit on Constantine’s back story but was nothing special.

“The Horrorist” is probably the strongest story in the book even if it is a little to surreal for its own good at times.  It can be a little confusing and quite hard work to read but it is the only story in the book that left me with the urge to finish it before putting the book down.

It is my opinion that the artwork in stories #10 to #13 is better than that in the first Hellblazer collection.  Although the color pallette is similar, the drawings are much crisper and pleasing to the eye. It does get a bit psychedelic at times especially in book #10. Bryan Talbot’s artwork is in “the Bloody Saints” is good  and is very reminiscent of the style in earlier Conan or Solomon Kane works.  I didn’t like the artwork in “Venus of the Hardshell” at all and its attempt to recreate pop culture didn’t work for me. The final story in the book, “The Horrorist”,  features the art style of David Lloyd which is characterized by washed out watercolors and pastels. I am really on the fence about Lloyd, he is certainly talented but his work isn’t really to my taste.  It usually takes me 4-5 pages to get used to the style and I find that sometimes it is difficult to figure out what is going on.

Volume 2 of the Hellblazer collection was OK but it was a book that I struggled to get finished. I planned to read it over a weekend but it lasted me a whole week. Its not a bad book but I found it hard work rather than pleasurable at times. [ISBN-13: 978-1401212698]. 6/10

[John Constantine : Hellblazer: Original Sins] – (Jamie Delano, John Ridgeway)
December 21, 2010, 7:39 am
Filed under: 7 stars, Hellblazer, Jamie Delano

“John Constantine: Hellblazer”  is a Noire horror comic book set in the 1980’s during the grip of Thatcher oppression. The central character, John Constantine, is apparently nothing more than a streetwise magician. Constantine is not however another “Jonathon Creek” and the things he deals with are altogether darker. “Original sins” is written like a hardboiled crime fiction book with a demonic twist and in common with these books, it relies quite heavily on the use of narration and inner monologue. It collects issues #1 to #9 of the series.

The TPB opens up with a great story about a demonic power that possesses people and fills them with an overwhelming desire for things they already crave. The first few pages where a fat man eats like there is no tomorrow but still ends up starving is amongst my favorite parts of the book. The rest of the stories in the book are a bit of a mixed bag and they can feel a bit disjointed at times. There is definitely a bit of Twilight Zone feel to them but with a more R rated theme. I didn’t really enjoy the Yuppie Demon story which was quite obviously another political rant. There are also occasions in the book where there were “Swampthing” cross over story lines that ended up being a bit confusing. DC should really have included the “Swampthing” episodes to maintain the continuity.

This is my first time reading Hellblazer and it is difficult for me to actually tie down John Constantine as he seems to be a pretty normal guy doing extraordinary things. I think it will take a few more volumes before I am comfortable with his character but he doesnt seem particularly likable.  He definitely sits on the fence of good and evil and doesn’t care which side he is fighting against. The Demon blood transfusion which occurs near the end of the book might well point to his powers for the future.

There are a lot of references to 80’s Britain in the book that perhaps overseas readers will not pick up on. It isn’t widely known outside of the UK just how hated Thatcher was by large areas of the UK population during this time. The portrayal of her as Nosferatu on the back cover is a nice touch.

The Art is nothing special in Original Sins and looks pretty dated. It is a typical 80’s comic book with a limited color palette and scratchy art work. It does the job and gets better as the book progresses. Some of the pages have a confusing layout with the panels stretching across two pages in a haphazard manner. A few times I had to reread several sections until I found the proper flow or had stuff spoiled by reading things out of order. The presentation is a bit of a mess at times.

Original sins is a bit of a shaky start to the series but it is still worth a read. [ISBN-13: 978-1563890529]. 7/10

[Fallen Angel Omnibus Vol.0] – (Peter David and David Lopez)
December 16, 2010, 5:16 pm
Filed under: 9 stars, David Lopez, Fallen Angel, Peter David

Volume Zero contains the complete DC Comics run of Fallen Angel, created by Peter David and David Lopez. It collects issues #1-20 of the series that ran from 2003 to when it was cancelled in May 2005 because of low sales. It is a mystery to me why this book achieved low sales but perhaps it was a little too dark and cerebral for DC’s audience.

Fallen Angel is a masterpiece of writing that slowly unveils its plots and mystery’s to the reader. Few things are explained directly and the story of the the main characters is dark and seldom straightforward.  I read a great comment on wiki that said that the characters in Fallen Angel are morally ambiguous and cant think of any better way of describing them. There is no clear cut line between good and evil and Liandra, the Fallen Angel’s  behavior is definitely not angelic.  Although several supporting characters have their backgrounds revealed, the main protagonists such as  the fallen Angel or the City itself  are still to be explained by the end of this run. You can tell that the author had bigger plans for the story than the 20 issues allowed.

Explaining the actual stories themselves in this review would be a travesty as the beauty of reading this book is trying to figure out what will happen next and where the main plot will lead to.  I found this book hard to put down when I started reading it and suffered some late nights as a result.

The art is excellent throughout and the characters are well drawn and not strangely proportioned like certain books I could mention. The backdrop of Bette Noire is impressively dark and believable and the art fits the story perfectly.

Fallen Angel Omnibus Zero is well worth reading thanks to its engrossing storyline and excellent artwork. It is very dark at times but it has some lighter moments such as the reveal about Benny’s true nature. [ISBN-13: 978-1600106743]. 9/10

[Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files 01] – (John Wagner, Pat Mills, Brian Bolland, Ian Gibson, Mike McMahon, Gerry Finley-Day, Peter Harris, Kevin Gosnell, Malcolm Shaw,Massimo Belardinelli, Ron Turner, Joe Collins)

Even if people have never heard of the top UK Sci-Fi comic 2000AD they have most likely heard of Judge Dredd. No doubt this is as a result of the rather poor Stallone movie rather than the excellent comic books.  For those who have not heard of Judge Dredd, he is a lawmaker of the future fighting crime and dealing justice on his trusty lawmaker.  His adventures are set in 2099AD in a very hostile version of the earths future.

Volume 1 collects all the Judge Dredd appearances in 2000AD from prog 2 all the way through to Prog 60 including :

  • “Judge Whitey”  written by Peter Harris with art by Mike McMahon (Prog #2)
  • “The New You”  written by Kelvin Gosnell with art by Mike McMahon (Prog #3)
  • “The Brotherhood of Darkness”  written by Malcolm Shaw with art by Mike McMahon (Prog #4)
  • “Krong” written by Malcolm Shaw with art by Carlos Ezquerra (prog #5)
  • “Frankenstein II”  written by Malcolm Shaw with art by Mike McMahon (Prog #6)
  • “The Statue of Judgement”  written by Malcolm Shaw with art by Mike McMahon (Prog #7)
  • “Antique Car Heist”  written by Charles Herring with art by Massimo Belardinelli (Prog#8)
  • “Robots” written by John Wagner with art by Ron Turner (Prog#9)
  • “Robot Wars” written by John Wagner with art by Carlos Ezquerra (Prog #10), Ron Turner (Progs #11, 13 & 16), Mike McMahon (Prog#12 & 15) and Ian Gibson (Progs#14 &17)
  • “Brainblooms”  written by John Wagner with art by Mike McMahon (Prog#18)
  • “Mugger’s Moon” written by Gerry Finley-Day with art by John Cooper (Prog#19)
  • “The Comic Pusher” written by John Wagner with art by Mike McMahon (Prog#20)
  • “The Solar Sniper” written by Gerry Finley-Day with art by Ron Turner (Prog#21)
  • “Mr Buzzz” written by John Wagner with art by Ian Gibson (Prog#22)
  • “Smoker’s Crime” written by Gerry Finley-Day with art by Mike McMahon (Prog #23)
  • “The Wreath Murders” written by Malcolm Shaw with art by Mike McMahon (Prog#24)
  • “You Bet Your Life” written by John Wagner with art by Ian Gibson (Prog#25)
  • “Dream Palace” written by John Wagner with art by Mike McMahon (Prog#26)
  • “The Academy of Law”  written by John Wagner with art by Ian Gibson (Prog#27) and Mike McMahon (Prog#28)
  • “The Neon Knights” written by Pat Mills with art by Ian Gibson (prog#29)
  • “The Return of Rico” written by Pat Mills with art by with art by Mike McMahon (Prog#30)
  • “Devil’s Island”  written by Gerry Finley-Day with art by Ian Gibson (prog#31)
  • “Komputel” written by Robert Flynn with art by Mike McMahon (Prog #32)
  • “Walter’s Secret Job” written by John Wagner with art by Ian Gibson (Prog#33)
  • “Mutie the Pig” written by John Wagner with art by Mike McMahon (Prog#34) and Ian Gibson (Prog#35)
  • “The Troggies” written by John Wagner with art by Mike McMahon (Prog#37) and Ian Gibson (Prog#36)
  • “Billy Jones” written by John Wagner with art by Ian Gibson (Prog#38)
  • “The Ape Gang” written by John Wagner with art by Mike McMahon (Prog#39)
  • “The Mega-City 5000” written by John Wagner with art by Bill Ward (Prog#40) and Brian Bolland (Prog#41)
  • “Luna 1” written by John Wagner with art by Ian Gibson (Prog#42)
  • “Showdown on Luna 1” written by John Wagner with art by Mike McMahon (Prog#43)
  • “Red Christmas” written by John Wagner with art by Mike McMahon (Prog#44)
  • “22nd Century Futzie” written by John Wagner with art by Ian Gibson (Prog#45)
  • “Meet Mr Moonie” written by John Wagner with art by Ian Gibson (Prog#46)
  • “Land Race” written by John Wagner with art by Brian Bolland (Prog #47)
  • “The Oxygen Desert”  written by John Wagner with art by Ian Gibson (Progs#48 & 49)
  • “The First Luna Olympics” written by John Wagner with art by Brian Bolland. (Prog#50)
  • “Luna 1 War” written by John Wagner with art by Brian Bolland (Prog#51)
  • “The Face-Change Crimes” written by John Wagner with art by Brian Bolland. (Prog#52)
  • “The Killer Car” written by John Wagner with art by Ian Gibson (Progs #53-56)
  • “The Oxygen Board” written by John Wagner with art by Brian Bolland (Prog#57)
  • “Full Earth Crimes” written by John Wagner with art by ???? (Prog#58)
  • “Return to Mega-City”  written by John Wagner with art by Mike McMahon (Prog #59)
  • “Firebug”  written by John Wagner with art by Mike McMahon (Prog #60

Bonus Stuff:

  • “The First Dredd” written by Pat Mills and John Wagner with art by Carlos Ezquerra.
  • “Walter the Wobot : Tap Dancer” written by Joe Collins with art by Ian Gibson (Prog#50)
  • “Walter the Wobot : Shoot Pool!”  written by Joe Collins with art by Ian Gibson (Prog#51)
  • “Walter the Wobot : Walter’s Brother” written by Joe Collins with art by Brian Bolland (Progs#52 – 56)
  • “Walter the Wobot : Radio Walter”  written by Joe Collins with art by Brian Bolland (Prog#57) written by Joe Collins with art by Brian Bolland (Progs#58)

Judge Dredd Case Files Volume 1 is mainly made up with one shot issues about Dredd fighting crime and upholding the law. Looking at the list above it can be seen that pretty much every issue of 2000AD  changed the writer or artist (or both) between consecutive issues which sounds like a recipe for disaster.  Reading a collection with such a diverse collection of writers and artists  is usually a bit of an unsatisfying experience as a trade lends itself much better to longer story arcs. That isn’t the case with this book and I ended up really enjoying the overall experience.  Although most of the stories are one shots there are still some developing themes that run through the books such as Dredd’s robo servant Walter, the odd criminal, Mega City 1 and Luna 1. The artists and writers obviously did their research before they contributed.

Its hard for me to single out particular stories that I enjoyed but the longer arc about a robot revolution (Robot Wars)  stood out. Even though it a pretty common story premise across the different characters in 2000AD/Starlord it was good to see Dredd’s character flesh out a little over a multi-part story. This story also introduced his somewhat annoying sidekick Walter the service droid who got his own strip eventually (see bonus material).

The “Case Files Volume 1 ”  is drawn by a bewildering array of artists including some of the cream of 2000AD.  Although Dredd does look different between consecutive issues I think the old 2000AD editorial team did a great job of keeping the feel the same. The artwork is generally from black and white originals although it does appear that some of the scans have been made from color sources. The reprint quality is pretty good and it captures the original feel of the comics well. It is hard for me to choose a favorite Dredd artist from this collection but the good news is that there are no standout bad interpretations. My least favorite Dredd is Mike McMahon’s interpretation where Dredd has a Mick Jagger lips.

The US edition is printed on a coarser paper stock than the UK  collections I have but it has a nice weight and suits the content perfectly.   The bonus material is also a nice touch even if you are not a huge fan of Walter.[ISBN-13: 978-1906735876]. 8/10

[Strontium Dog:Search/Destroy Agency Files: Volume 1 ] – (John Wagner, Carlos Ezquerra, Brendan McCarthy, Ian Gibson, Alan Grant, Keith Page)

Strontium Dog is a comic book series created by John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra for the British Sci-Fi comic Starlord back in the late 1970’s. It features the stories of “Johnny Alpha” with his friend “Wulf Sternhammer” and his alien medic “The Gronk” . Strontium Dog is set in a post apocalyptic future where the mutating effects of the radioactive isotope Strontium 90 has caused portions of the population to mutate. The mutated people are treat badly by the normal population and are forced into ghettos where the only job they have open to them is that of Bounty Hunter.  Johnny alpha is one of the best of these bounty hunters (Strontium Dogs) and he uses his mutated eyes, that now emit piercing Alpha rays, to see through solid objects and into mens minds.

Volume 1 Collects: (Stories by John Wagner and art by Carlos Ezquerra unless otherwise stated)

  • “Max Quirxx” (Starlord #1-2, 1978)
  • “Papa Por-ka” (Starlord #3-5, 1978)
  • “No Cure For Kansyr” (Starlord #6-7, 1978)
  • “Planet Of The Dead” (Starlord #8-10, 1978)
  • “Two-Faced Terror!” (Starlord #12-15, 1978)
  • “Demon Maker” #17-19 (with art by Brendan McCarthy (17) and Ian Gibson (18-19), Starlord #17-19, 1978)
  • “The Ultimate Weapon” (in Starlord #21-22, 1978)
  • “The Galaxy Killers” (2000 AD #86-94, 1978)
  • “Journey Into Hell” (2000 AD #104-118, 1979)
  • “Death’s Head” (with co-author Alan Grant, 2000 AD #178-181, 1980)
  • “The Schiklegruber Grab” (with co-author Alan Grant, 2000 AD #182-188, 1980)
  • “Mutie’s Luck” (with co-author Alan Grant, 2000 AD #189, 1980)
  • “The Doc Quince Case” (with co-author Alan Grant, 2000 AD #190-193, 1980–1981)
  • “The Bad Boys Bust” (with co-author Alan Grant, 2000 AD #194-197, 1981)

Bonus Stories:

  • “Strontium Dog : Funfair of Fear” (writer unknown with art by Brendan McCarthy, Starlord Annual 1980)
  • “Strontium Dog” (writer unknown with art by Keith Page, Starlord Annual 1981)
  • “Strontium Dog” (writer unknown with art by Carlos Ezquerra, Starlord Annual 1982)
  • “Strontium Dog” (writer Bill henry with art by Brendan McCarthy,  Starlord Summer special 1978)

I think that Strontium Dog really started to find its feet when it moved to 2000AD where it was allowed to run longer story arcs. My Favorite story in the book is “The Galaxy Killers” and this is a classic example of  John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra hitting top form. Stories such as “Journey into hell” and “The Schiklegruber Grab” are also really good arcs.

The four bonus stories are a bit of a mixed bag and hammer home to me that Strontium Dog really needs a decent length story arc to truly shine. The art is great but looks like it might have originally been in color and it is a shame it is only B/W in this collection.

For me there is only one artist for Strontium Dog and that is Carlos Ezquerra. When anyone else tries to draw it I think that it  just doesn’t look right.  Brendan McCarthy actually does a really good job of illustrating strontium dog and his very detailed artwork is a real pleasure to look at but his Johnny Alpha still looks a bit wrong.  The other two artists in this collection are Ian Gibson who does a respectable job and Keith Page whose art I really didn’t like at all. This book suffers from my constant complaint about all these  “Rebellion” collected editions in that it has poor Quality reproductions in places, especially from the early Starlord stuff which may well have been in color. Slightly fuzzy reproductions aside I think Carlos Ezquerra’s art throughout this book is first rate.

I really enjoyed this book and could recommended it to any 2000AD fan wishing to delve back to earlier stuff. It should also appeal to fans of Star Wars stuff like Bobba Fet. Strontium Dog remains as one of my favorite comic book characters of all time.  ISBN-13: 978-1905437153. 9/10