One Mad Dog

[Planetary: Volume 1] – (Warren Ellis, John Cassaday)
June 17, 2012, 7:11 pm
Filed under: 6 Stars, John Cassaday, Warren Ellis

Planetary is the story of a secret organization funded by a mysterious benefactor with a remit to discover the world’s secret history. The team consists of three super humans  including “Jakita Wagner” (strong, fast and full of attitude), “The Drummer” (Super IT guy) and Elijah Snow (Controls temperatures and does a good job of being reluctant  new man on the squad). Volume 1 has 6 short stories where the team investigate strange paranormal and scientific phenomena. A back story thread runs through all six chapters where the Planetary universe and characters are slowly revealed.

  1. Archaeologists of the Impossible
  2. Island
  3. Dead Gunfighters
  4. Strange Harbors
  5. The Good Doctor
  6. It’s A Strange World

Planetary is a complicated book with some pretty deep concepts and story lines. I did not find it to be an easy read and I found the main characters to be pretty superfluous to the intricate plots.  Of all the characters in the book,  I found “The Drummer” to be the most throwaway and annoying.  One of the problems I have with super hero books is that often the invulnerability of the characters leaves them lacking in any kind of humanity and as such it’s pretty difficult to empathize with them.

I liked the premise of the book that existing legends, folklore and secret military history would be investigated and although I found it difficult to spot what stories they were trying to retell (perhaps my lack of superhero universe knowledge) I enjoyed reading them.

John Cassaday’s art was crisp and clean in terms of presentation and this was absolutely essential for such complicated stories.  The art worked well and I was particularly impressed with how it captured the action and established a consistent feel despite the different subject matter in each story.

Planetary should appeal to fans of Superheroes and the X-files and has some good artwork too. Neither the story or the characters hooked my enough to want to read further planetary volumes but I still enjoyed reading this one. [ISBN-13: 978-1563896484]. 6/10

[Scars] – (Warren Ellis, Jacen Burrows)
May 14, 2011, 1:35 pm
Filed under: 8 Stars, Jacen Burrows, Warren Ellis

This is a book that reminds me of chilling British Crime dramas like “Cracker” or “Wire in the Blood”. It is a gritty and dirty in a way that most comics stay well clear of.  It is the story of a detective (John Cain) who is very close to breaking point after his wife and unborn child had been gunned down and killed. He is tipped over the edge when he is called to a an incident where he finds the remains of a little girl that has been chopped up and put into 3 cardboard boxes.  Cain makes a promise to the dead child’s parents  that he will find the killer using any means necessary and bring him/her to justice.

This is a really enjoyable and at the same time disturbing book. Ellis paints the picture of a central character that really has nothing left to lose and it makes for a good read. The subject matter is pretty horrific especially as it is dealt with in a realistic way.  It never ceases to amaze me what one human being will do to another and this is a book that really makes you take a step back and think about humanity.

Although the artwork in Scars is just greyscale, Jacen Burrows has managed to do an excellent job of illustrating such a desperate and gruesome tale.  I am a big fan of his artwork and his work in scars is no exception.

The subject matter may be a little too much for some people but if you liked the UK version of the TV series Cracker you should enjoy this. The artwork is also excellent. ISBN-13: 978-1592910519. 8/10

[Dark Blue] – (Warren Ellis, Jacen Burrows)
May 10, 2011, 10:49 am
Filed under: 7 stars, Jacen Burrows, Warren Ellis

“Dark Blue”  is a pretty thin B/W trade paper  back weighing in at only 72 pages. It is the story of a violent and disturbed cop, Frank Christchurch, who appears to be borderline insane. His partner is convinced that he’s mentally ill, his fellow officers are into all types of illegal activities and  his commanding officer is addicted to drugs.  Frank is in pursuit a serial killer that only he seems interested in catching.  His mental decline leads to violent and psychotic outbursts spiced up with vivid hallucinations and to cap it all off, the world seems to be falling apart around him. 

“Dark Blue”  is a great short story with nice twists and turns and it is also very violent in nature. It features the artwork of one of my favorite artists (Jacen Burrows) although in this book his drawings are not as detailed as in his later work. Considering the use of simple B/W drawings with limited shading, Jacen still manages to portray some pretty gruesome images that wouldn’t be out of place in a something like Crossed. I don’t think it ranks amongst his best work but it does the job well.  I am not very familiar with Warren Ellis’s work although he had input to one of my all time favorite TPB’s “Hotwire – Requiem For The Dead”. Some elements of “Dark Blue” remind me of Hotwire. His explanation at the end of the book of where he got inspiration for this story is fascinating.

 It is a short read but worth picking up if you like your comic book action gritty and full of blood and gore. ISBN-13: 978-0970678430. 7/10

[HOTWIRE: Requiem for the Dead Volume 1] – (Steve Pugh, Warren Ellis)
August 16, 2010, 7:26 am
Filed under: 10 Stars, Steve Pugh, Warren Ellis

Requiem for the dead is set in what appears to be a London of the future where the electromagnetic fog from the mass of wireless devices has started to trap souls on earth.  The ghosts, or “Blue Lights” as they are called, are generally non aggressive and kept in their place by electromagnetic towers. Some of the “Blue Lights” manage to become a serious nuisance and this is where our hero, detective exorcist,  “Alice Hotwire” is called in.  Normally sending the souls over to the other side is a straightforward job but some extremely violent “Blue Lights” are causing havoc and are not so easy to get rid of. This escalation of  ghost activity and a huge civil riot means that Alice really has her work cut out for her on this case.

The original story concept came from Warrren Ellis but this book is artist Steve Pugh’s baby and he both wrote and illustrated it. “Requiem for the dead”  grabs you from the first page and it keeps hold right up until the satisfying climax. The story is well paced and  Alice Hotwire’s dialog is witty, well crafted and at times laugh out loud funny.

Hotwire has an almost photo realistic, painted art style with a vibrant palette  and crisp clarity. Often “painted” comic book art is muddy and overly stylized making it difficult to follow the action but this book isn’t like that at all. The human faces are extremely realistic and the backgrounds are a  wonderfully imagined sci-fi  backdrop.  I have heard Radical say before that the artwork within their books matches the cover art but this is the first book of theirs where I truly think they have achieved this. The extras in the book are also really good including interviews, backgrounds, sketches, unpublished strips and a cover art gallery.

This is an incredible first effort from Steve Pugh where he has managed to produce a complex but easy to read story with amazing art and a very cute hero that isnt ridiculously proportioned. It is printed on good paper stock too and is really good value for the page count.  [ISBN-13: 978-0980233537]. 10/10