One Mad Dog

[Alan Moore’s Neonomicon] – (Alan Moore, Jacen Burrows)
January 9, 2012, 8:34 am
Filed under: 6 Stars, Alan Moore, Jacen Burrows

This book contains two stories from Alan Moore that are both based on the horror writer H.P. Lovecraft. The two stories follow on from each other so they work well as a single collected edition. The first story “The Courtyard” was previously released as a TPB and I reviewed it here.  The second book, “Neonomicon”, picks up a few years after the events of “The Courtyard” with Two FBI agents (Brears and Lamper) looking into another string of murders that are remarkably similar to the ones in the first book.

“Neonomicon” is definitely an adult only book as it contains copious amounts of nudity, sex, rape and violence. There is one section of the book that is a bit over the top in this department and I started to wonder if it was just there for shock value.  I think horror works best when the worst and most sordid details are hinted at  but left to the imagination of reader to fill in the details.  The story itself is pretty good although it seems that you have to have a sound grounding in the works of Lovecraft to understand a fair chunk of what is going on. The book also suffers from being overly complicated at times and I got the impression that Moore was going out of his way to try to confuse the reader.

“Neonomicon” started off strong  with the two FBI agents investigating the murders but as it became more occult and complicated my interest fell off.  Its not a bad book but it can be hard work and requires a lot of concentration from the reader. All this serves to hurt it’s entertainment value.

“Neonomicon” adopted a more traditional comic book layout rather than the more unusual style that was found in the “Courtyard”.  I am a normally a big fan of Jacen Burrows art but in this book it really didn’t look all that special. The gallery art section at the back of the book was special however and some of the splash pages were really good.

This really is a horrifc book and not in a fun way.  It left me with a bad taste in my mouth and is definitely not one of Moore’s best works. ISBN-13: 978-1592911301. 6/10

[Alan Moore’s The Courtyard (Color Edition)] – (Alan Moore, Jacen Burrows)
May 11, 2011, 6:52 pm
Filed under: 6 Stars, Alan Moore, Jacen Burrows

This TPB is really just an over sized comic with a fancy cover and it weighs in at only 52 pages .  It is the story of an undercover FBI guy trying to find a connection between a gruesome set of murders where no connection seems to exist.  It is set in a very run down inner city and Aldo Sax  (the FBI guy) lives in the worst part of it. The book opens with him trying to have a shave only to find that someone has defecated  all over the sink.

The story is told in an unusual two vertical panels per page layout and I really enjoyed it up until the point where Aldo sampled the drug. From then onwards it became a confusing homage to Lovecraft with barely pronounceable words and obscure and abstract concepts.   The story totally lost me at this point and for me it spoiled what was actually a pretty good ending.

Jacen Burrow’s art was fantastic throughout this book especially in the later half with his illustrations of the demonic hallucinations.    It seems that it wouldn’t be a Jacen illustrated book without depictions of extreme violence and this book is no exception.

Its hard for me to recommend this book as the story will probably only really appeal to Lovecraft junkies and devout Alan Moore fans. For me it was just a bit too mystic and arty for its own good in the story department but the art itself was first rate. This special collected edition featured an introduction by Garth Ennis (of whom I am a huge fan) that was probably the worst book introduction I have ever read.  ISBN-13: 978-1592910601. 6/10

[Tom Strong Book 3] – (Alan Moore, Chris Sprouse, Leah Moore, Howard Chaykin, Shawn McManus)

Tom Strong Book 3 collects issues issues #15-19 which include:

  • Tom Strong #15 – “Ring Of Fire!” –  Tesla Strong is kidnapped by one of the mysterious Salamander people that first appeared in Tom Strong #8 and it is up to the Strong’s s to rescue her. What they find doesn’t please Tom at all.
  • Tom Strong #16 – “Some Call Him The Space Cowboy”  – Part One: While Tom Strong is a bit stressed out trying to come to terms with his daughter’s new boyfriend, a mysterious three-eyed stranger arrives in Millennium City with a warning for Tom Strong.  Tom is in no mood to entertain strangers and behaves in an uncharacteristically un-gentlemanly way . #16 also sees the welcome return of ex Tom Strong adversary Temple Baldry and gives a back story on the Weird Rider.
  • Tom Strong #17 – “Ant Fugue!”  – Part Two: Tom Strong and the Weird Rider attempt to prepare a force to tackle the impending invasion of Earth by calling upon friends and past adversaries. Unfortunately the strongmen decide to tag along which has dramatic consequences.
  • Tom Strong #18 – “The Last Roundup” – Part Three: Tom Strong and company defend Earth against the alien ant menace and attempt to rescue the strongmen. This is the final part of this 3 episode story arc.
  • Tom Strong #19 – This issue contains three short stories :  1) “Electric Ladyland!” with art by Howard Chaykin where Dhalua is kidnapped by a secret society of women. 2) “Bad To The Bone” which is written by Leah Moore with art by “Shawn McManus”  where the details of Paul Saveen’s death are revealed as he searches for the Temple of Everlasting Life. 3) “The Hero-Hoard Of Horatio Hogg!” with art by Chris Spouse where Tom and Tesla are trapped inside a booby-trapped comic-book by crazed collector Horatio Hogg.

Book #3  keeps up with the excellent story telling and art that have characterized this series. I enjoyed this book as much as book 1 and more than the slightly weaker book 2.  I think it is important that this series is read in order and would not consider this 3rd volume to be a jumping on point. The two main stories and three short stories are all of a high standard but it is the story of the Space cowboy that stands out the most.

Chris Spouses’s art is excellent and his work really defines the Tom Strong universe.  Shawn McManus also does a really good job of capturing the correct look and feel in the excellent “Bad to the Bone” short story. I am sorry to say that the only real let down in the art department in my opinion was the work of Howard Chaykin in the short story “Electric Ladyland”.  Its not that his work is bad but just that it appears dated and lacking in detail when put next to Sprouse and McManus.

Buying this should be a safe bet for fans of Tom strong and the stories and artwork should appeal to a wide audience. [ISBN-13: 978-1401202859]. 8/10

[The Complete Ballad of Halo Jones] – (Alan Moore, Ian Gibson)
November 18, 2010, 7:42 am
Filed under: 2000AD, 8 Stars, Alan Moore, Ian Gibson

This TPB collects the three books of the 1984-1986 “2000AD” story line “Halo Jones”  in the original black and white comic format.

In Book One, the readers are introduced to Halo Jones, who lives in a futuristic ring-shaped ghetto called “The Hoop”. The hoop is a huge floating structure that is moored off the East coast of America. The story gives a background to the insane and violent culture and introduces many key characters to the plot.  When Halo discovers a good friend has become part of a cult know as the “Different Drummers” and her best friend Brinna has been murdered she decides to leave Earth for go0d.

Book Two depicts Halo’s life as a stewardess and Dolphin liason  on the ship “Clara Pandy” and her year-long space voyage into the cosmos. Halo discovers who murdered her friend Brinna and is forced to take drastic action. It is also revealed that Halo eventually becomes legendary which is a story that is continued in the third book.

In Book Three, Halo reaches rock bottom and is forced to sign up for the military to make a living.  She ends up fighting in the same interstellar war which ran as a back-story in the previous two books.  The war is gruesome Guerrilla style conflict in totally bizarre planetary conditions. This book ties up lots of loose ends and gives a satisfying conclusion to the series.

I must have read Halo Jones when it was originally published as I used to read 2000AD back then but I dont remember a single thing about it.  I have to be honest that I found the story and art in the first chapter of book one to be a little confusing and I was beginning to wonder what all the hype was about.  I have started reading this book two times in the past and each time abandoned it around chapter 3.  This time I persevered and I am glad I did. On the third attempt at reading things finally clicked into place and it turned out to be a great and enjoyable story.  I think the slang used in the book takes a  little getting used to and once you are comfortable with it the story just takes off. This saga is typical of both Alan Moore and 2000AD in that it mixes humor with social and political comment and some hard hitting drama.

I think Ian Gibson’s art in the first book is a little sparse as if it were rushed but he regains his usual form from book two onwards. It is not as good as his work on Robohunter or Star Wars but still a great example of the genre. All three books collected in this edition are good but I think the final one really hits home the hardest. “The Complete Ballad of halo Jones” is a satisfying and rewarding read that draws you in as the story progresses. [ISBN-13: 978-1905437184]. 8/10

[Rogue Trooper: Tales of Nu-Earth Vol. 1] – (Gerry Finley Day, Dave Gibbons, Colin Wilson, Eric Bradbury, Cam Kennedy, Brett Ewins, Mike Dorey, Alan Moore)

Rogue Trooper is a classic 2000 AD comic strip that was created by Gerry Finley-Day and Dave Gibbons. It follows the adventures of Rogue, a G.I. (or Genetic Infantryman) and his search for the traitor that ochestrated the massacre of his entire unit. What makes Rogue unique is that he has been genetically modified to be able to survive the poisons of new earth and that he carries the personality of 3 of his fallen comrades around with him in the form of biochips implanted into his helmet, Backpack and gun.

Rogue trooper is one of the classic series from 2000AD and ranks amongst my favorite strips. Considering it was originally published in the eighties it still feels fresh today.  Most of the stories are pretty short with a satisfying start and end within only a few pages (designed for weekly comics) but there is an overlying story arc throughout all of them. Reading the stories in collected form really helps to hammer home the ongoing plot which I wasn’t as aware of when I originally read the weekly comic episodes. Rogue Trooper is a bit more serious than other 2000AD stories of the day.

In this volume the following issues are collected (all written by Gerry Finley Day).

  • “Rogue Trooper” with art by Dave Gibbons (2000 AD #228, 1981)
  • “Nu Paree” with art by Dave Gibbons (2000 AD #229, 1981)
  • “Glass Zone” with art by Dave Gibbons (2000 AD #230, 1981)
  • “Clash in Doomsday Valley” with art by Dave Gibbons (2000 AD #231, 1981)
  • “Terror of the Decapitators” (with art by Dave Gibbons (2000 AD #232, 1981)
  • “Raiders” with art by Dave Gibbons (2000 AD #234, 1981)
  • “Scum Sea” with art by Dave Gibbons (2000 AD #235, 1981)
  • “Ascent To Buzzard-Three” with art by Colin Wilson (2000 AD #236-238, 1981)
  • “The Rookies” with art by Dave Gibbons (2000 AD #239-240, 1981)
  • “Blue Moon” with art by Colin Wilson (2000 AD #241, 1981)
  • “Poison” with art by Mike Dorey (2000 AD #242-243)
  • “Fear of the Machine” with art by Colin Wilson (2000 AD #246-248, 1982)
  • “The Dreamweavers” with art by Dave Gibbons (2000 AD #249-250, 1982)
  • “The Buzzard” with art by Colin Wilson (2000 AD #251-253, 1982)
  • “The Petrified Forest” with art by Mike Dorey (2000 AD ##254-257, 1982)
  • “War of Nerves” with art by Colin Wilson (2000 AD #258, 1982)
  • “Bagman Blues” with art by Colin Wilson and Eric Bradbury (2000 AD #260-262, 1982)
  • “The Body Looters” with art by Cam Kennedy (2000 AD #265, 1982)
  • “All Hell on the Dix-I Front” with art by Colin Wilson, Cam Kennedy and Brett Ewins (2000 AD #266-277, 1982)
  • “Assassination Run” with art by Cam Kennedy (2000 AD #278-279)
  • “Hats Off to Helm” with art by Cam Kennedy (2000 AD #280-281)
  • “Marauders” with art by Colin Wilson and Cam Kennedy (2000 AD #282-289)
  • “Fort Neuro” with art by Brett Ewins and Cam Kennedy, (2000 AD #290-310)
  • “Major Magnum”  with art by Brett Ewins (2000 AD #311-315)
  • “Bigfoot” with art by Cam Kennedy (2000 AD #316)
  • “Bio-Wire” with art by Cam Kennedy (2000 AD #317)

Two Specials written by Alan Moore

  • “Pray For War”  with art by Brett Ewins (1983 2000AD Annual)
  • “First of The Few” with art by J Rendondo (1984 2000AD Annual)

There is great B/W art throughout and surprisingly for a long running comic series there is great continuity between the different artists. Out of all the artists I liked Bret Ewins the least and Dave Gibbons the best. At times Ewins art seems a little heavy handed compared to the rest but it did not detract from this excellent collected edition.

My favorite stories in the book are  “All Hell on the Dix-I Front” and “Marauders” and these really are up amongst the cream of classic 2000AD stories. The longest story in the book is “Fort Neuro” which reminds me a lot of the “Robohunter” or “Judge Dredd” style of writing. It has more of a comedic style which at first felt out of place to me but the story got better as it progressed and the end was very satisfying. The two Alan Moore stories are a nice bonus but I prefer Gerry Finley Day’s take on Rogue Trooper.

This book is highly recommended to British SCI FI comic book fans.  [ISBN-13: 978-1906735340]. 8/10

[Top Ten: The Forty-Niners] – (Alan Moore, Gene Ha)
August 10, 2010, 5:11 pm
Filed under: 8 Stars, Alan Moore, Gene Ha, Top 10

“The Forty-Niners” is a prequel to Alan Moore’s “Top Ten” series and it sets the plot for the creation of Neopolis and its special police force. Neopolis is a post WW2  futuristic city where all the super heroes, freaks and societies misfits are being housed.  It is a melting pot of humanity plagued by Nazi scientists and mafia like Vampires.  Moore does an excellent job here of developing the characters and exploring social issues whilst still driving the story forward with exciting plots and subplots. 

 Moore’s writing is complemented by Gene Ha’s excellent artwork which is almost photo realistic at times. I admire the way Gene has captured an 1940’s feel to the backdrops and characters yet still made it futuristic in a sort of “Flash Gordon” style. The other thing that makes Gene Ha’s artwork so special is his attention to detail. There is always something going on in the background and he is one of the few artists that I study the frames just to see what sort of witty “easter egg” you may find. It is a bit like where’s waldo on every page. This book is an excellent introduction to the “Top Ten” graphic novels. [ISBN-13: 978-1401205737]. 8/10

[Spawn Collection, Vol. 1]- (Todd McFarlane, Alan Moore, Frank Miller)
July 24, 2010, 10:37 pm
Filed under: 8 Stars, Alan Moore, Frank Miller, Spawn, Todd McFarlane

This book collects Spawn Issues #1 to #8 and #11 to #12.  It is disappointing that it doesn’t include   Spawn #9 and #10. I can only guess that the authors of these two editions (Neil Gaiman and Dave Sim) had contract obligations that prevented them from being included.  It does ruin the continuity especially the introduction of the character “Angela” and really annoys me. I am not sure if these two editions are collected elsewhere. Spawn is the story of a government assassin and family man who is murdered and then makes a deal with a devil to come back to earth, to see his wife, in exchange for his soul. Unfortunately for him he is returned back to earth as a Hellspawn and his wife is now married with a Kid.

Spawn is a fantastic story of betrayal and revenge. It also is filled with a great cast of characters and absolutely fantastic artwork by Tod McFarlane.  Key characters that are introduced in this first volume are his family and best friend, his ex boss, the Violator (great Killer clown artwork on this one), Overt-Kill, Tommy Kincaid and the detectives Sam and Twitch. The main storyline  running through the book is Al Simmons trying to remember exactly what happened to him, who he was and his struggle with his powers. He finally remembers who killed him in Issue #12.

The majority of the book is written by Todd but there are two stories that are crafted by other authors. Issue 8 “In Heaven”  is written by Alan Moore and doesn’t really have much Spawn in it at all. It is a bizarre story about  child killer Kincaid’s time in hell and definitely has an Alan Moore Feel to it. Alan isn’t credited at all in the book.  Issue 11 is written by Frank Miller who is an author that I have little to no experience of.  It is  really good action tale of some wacky gangland warfare on Spawn’s turf and I especially enjoyed Todd’s artwork on this one.

This Collected Edition has excellent art, great presentation and an engaging story line. Spawn is a true comic milestone but it is a great shame that this first collected edition of the storyline is incomplete. [ISBN-13: 978-1582405636]. 8/10

[Tom Strong Book 1] – (Alan Moore, Chris Sprouse, Arthur Adams, Gary Frank, Cam Smith, Dave Gibbons, Jerry Ordway)

Tom Strong is a superhero comic book with a classic feel to it. The characters are almost Victorian in values and although much of the book is set in some strange vision of the future, it also calls upon key events in human history such as WW2.  Tom Strong was born a regular human but became super strong  when his parents kept him in a 5 times gravity chamber until he was 11 and fed him on some strange root from a lost tribe.  He is also super smart and uses his science skills to fight evil. Tom doesn’t fight alone, he is supported by his wife (also from the lost tribe), daughter, a talking ape and a steam powered robot.

The stories in this collected edition are enjoyable and have a pulp fiction weekly comic book style to them. The  artwork is excellent and the color pallet vibrant. Although there are futuristic elements, the book has a bit of a steam punk look to it. I don’t always enjoy Alan Moore’s work but I think this is the type of thing he does best. [ISBN-13: 978-1563896644]. 8/10

[The Complete Robusters] – (Pat Mills, Alan Moore, Chris Stevens, Carlos Pino, Dave Gibbons, Ian Kennedy, Jose Lewis Ferrer, Kevin O,Neil, Kev.F Sutherland, Dave Harwood, Steve Dillon, Bryan Talbot, Joe Eckers, Mike Dorey)

The Monthly UK Comic book Starlord was a huge thing for me when I was a kid. It was unlike any other comic I had ever read and I instantly became hooked. I still vividly remember the first issue that my mum bought me to read on a train trip to visit my grandparents. One of my favourite story lines in Starlord was “Robusters” and it is great to finally see it collected in one large TPB. The good news is that the adventures of Rojaws and Hammerstein are as good as I remember them to be. The bad news is that the book is just Black and White and I seem to remember some of the stories were originally in Colour. The other bad thing is that the book looks like it was made by photocopying the original comics. Some of the pages have blurry bands running down the middle and occasionally information is cropped off the top of the page.
Robusters is sort of like Thunderbirds but with ill behaved Robots and tyranical human bosses. It has that typical Pat Mills feel to it where every story has a not so hidden undercurrent that pokes fun at the class system, politics, the publishers or other social issues. The writing is witty and the artwork excellent for a comic series.

My favorite story is the “Terra-Meks” that features the writing of Pat Mills and the artwork of Dave Gibbons.  A true British Comic classic. [ISBN-13: 978-1905437825]. 8/10

[League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier – H/C]- (Alan Moore, Kevin O’Neill)
April 21, 2010, 6:06 am
Filed under: 5 stars, Alan Moore, Kevin O'Neil, League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen
This book reminds me of annuals I used to read as a child. It has a mixture of Graphic novel sections to narrate the story and some lengthy prose sections to represent the “Black Dossier” itself. Although the book is well written and nicely laid out with different textures of papers and such I did not really enjoy it that much. Some of the semi erotic art work is particularly well done but the prose sections just drag for me. Even the back story just doesn’t seem to have any drive or edge to it and the prose sections really disrupt the flow. Some sections are quite enjoyable such as the interplay with Jimmy Bond and the Bertie Wooster story but other sections are incredibly hard work. The “Crazy Wide Forever” story is virtually unreadable. The 3D section looks pretty impressive but does not provide a very satisfying end to the affair. Reading this book has been more of a chore than a pleasure especially when the characters are speaking in strange tongues. [ISBN-13: 978-1401217105]. 5/10