Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Comic Review: Transformers - Ironhide

PUBLISHER: IDW (2010)
WRITER: MIKE COSTA
ARTIST: CASEY COLLER

IDW's first attempt at a solo 'spin-off' mini-series Bumblebee suffered from a catastrophic piece of mistiming, choosing a character who was too entrenched in the ongoing plot and at exactly the wrong time. Aside from which it wasn't all that bad; the problem with the Spotlight format had always been that it's fairly easy for any writer worth their salt to focus on one character and give them a bit more focus than might be allowed in a bigger arc, leaving them to come out the other side a richer character. The problem was always the plot - whether to keep it self-contained and end up with something inconsequential or whether to link it into something bigger and just be left with a regular issue with narration boxes.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Comics: Machine Men Mini-Comics

In Australia the Machine Robo line was imported as Machine Men, distributed by Bandai Australia. Like the European version and unlike the American Machine Men line the toys sold well enough that Bandai opted to keep the original branding, even after Gobots took off. Indeed, uniquely the cartoon was even retitled Challenge of the Machine Men to fit in with the toys. To help promote the figures, Bandai Australia did provide catalogues that included short comic strips.


Saturday, 25 March 2017

Minifigures - Red Robin

Red Robin has been the identity of three different characters, all former Robins. The character debuted in Alex Ross' acclaimed Kingdom Come as an identity of Dick Grayson, the original Robin, with the costume clearly a mash-up of mentor Batman and his own. The design was striking enough to make it to regular continuity (or as regular as DC's continuity gets) as a guise for former Robin and current Red Hood Jason Todd whenever he was being overtly heroic before he eventually went nuts and spoilt it all. The identity then made it to the third Robin, Tim Drake - and that's who I'm saying this one is for ultimate line-up line-upability.


Comic Review: Transformers - International Incident

PUBLISHER: IDW (2010)
WRITER: MIKE COSTA
ARTISTS: E J SU, JAVIER SALTARES, GUIDO GUIDI

All comic writers have bad ideas. The trick is to realise them as such. The second batch of issues from Mike Costa's unsubtitled ongoing series are an odd bunch. The man has no quality control; not since Bob Budiasnky's second year on the old Marvel title (after which he was obviously trying to get fired) has a writer on Transformers had so many good ideas and so many bad ideas blended with a total inability to realise which is which. The result is bordering on schizophrenia and results in a wildly uneven ride. 

Comic Review: Thunderbolt Jaxon

PUBLISHER: WILDSTORM (2006)
WRITER: DAVE GIBBONS
ARTIST: JOHN HIGGINS

Wildstorm/DC brought up the rights to the fabled comic wing of IPC/Fleetway in 2005 and promised a selection of new material and reprints (the main hitch in the latter being the absence and poor condition of most physical masters). The opening gambit was Albion, written by Leah Moore and John Reppion and maybe read or spellchecked or vaguely acknowledged by Alan Moore. This was a hugely clumsy attempt to "do a Watchmen" for the characters but while it was nice to see so many characters back in print after decades on the sidelines and it was nowhere near the desecration of the infamous 2000AD Holiday Special it's generally considered impolite to mention the whole thing now. Phase two was a pair of spin-off five part miniseries "from the world of Albion!" largely chosen by casting around for British Invasion creators who had fond memories and asking them if they wanted to write anything. Dave Gibbons answered the call and chose Thunderbolt Jaxon, but there were two major catches - he didn't want to draw it and apparently he didn't want to write about Thunderbolt Jaxon either. Jaxon was never quite in Fleetway's first echelon, mainly being limited to Comet and Knockout rather than the A-list and his big moment might well have been a whiny death in Grant Morrison's Zenith. He was left out of Albion and you get the impression it wasn't so much to keep him free for this mini but because the writers didn't know who he was.

Comic Review: X-Men - X-Tinction Agenda

PUBLISHER: MARVEL (1990-1991)
WRITERS: CHRIS CLAREMONT, LOUISE SIMONSON
ARTISTS: JIM LEE, ROB LIEFIELD, JON BOGDANOVE

This is it, the progenitor, the prototype, the big daddy - the first real mutant crossover, the harbinger of "X-Cutioner's Song", "Fatal Attractions", "Age of Apocalypse" and "Onslaught". Marvel's mutant titles had done events before, starting with "Fall of the Mutants" in 1988 and "Inferno" the following year but for those each title had remained relatively self-contained. But 1990's "X-Tinction Agenda" featured a full flow of three issues of the three books with a constantly shifting cast; if you didn't buy all nine issues involved you would not have a clue what was happening and while each title would subtly focus ever so slightly on the home team it was only as part of an ongoing plot.

Friday, 24 March 2017

Comic Review: Transformers - Last Stand of the Wreckers

PUBLISHER: IDW (2010)
WRITERS: NICK ROCHE, JAMES ROBERTS
ARTISTS: NICK ROCHE, GUIDO GUIDI

It's fair to say that in 2010 people were fed up with IDW. Simon Furman had been given unprecedented control and freedom when the publisher got the licence at the fag-end of 2005 and squandered it with a meandering three-year pile-up of dreadful storylines. Replacing him with Shane McCarthy upset the deluded who felt Furman's work was ever going to go anywhere and then upset the people who were up for a change when his All Hail Megatron arc rapidly went from being stupid fun to stupid stupid, and then successor Mike Costa's tenure got off to a very wobbly start. Something was needed to get the fans onside; the result was the recalling of fan-turned writer-artist Nick Roche, whose debut on Spotlight - Kup had been one of the few universally acclaimed pieces of output since IDW picked the licence up. Roche then roped in fellow Transmasters alumni James Roberts to help out on the script, to focus entirely on the Wreckers.


Minifigures - Firestar

Firestar has led an odd life; at the time she was a rarity in being a Marvel character who didn't debut in the comics. Initially eighties cartoon Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends was meant to feature Iceman and the Human Torch as Peter Parker's superpowered fellow students but Marvel had already hawked the Fantastic Four to a rival network and Johnny was dropped. However, someone really wanted to keep the "ice and fire" thing for his buddies even if a collision in a fight would take them both out (a situation put forward in one of those jokey one-pagers they did at the end of some issues of What If...) and instead of rounding up an extant pyrotechnic (to be fair off the top of my head I can't think of any others from the period apart from Pyro, Jim Hammond and Sunfire, who were too evil, dead and Asian for early eighties network cartoons, though Shiro did get a guest appearance) devised Angelica Jones, a.k.a. Firestar.

Toy Review: Grind Rod / Masterpiece Rollbar (KO version)

I've long had a genuine unironic love of the Throttlebots; they were the only team I was able to complete as a child, the toys were good simple fun (and could zip for miles when new) and their profiles had great potential even if they tended to be "Goldbug's mates" in the various media. So the prospect of third party toys for them was salivating but at £60-80 a throw out of my reach as I try not to spend such amounts since becoming a parent. Step in the backbone of my toy collection, Chinese bootleggers (in this case Weijiang) and the inestimable Denyer, who sent me the oversized knock-off version of Grind Rod (i.e. Rollbar, the team's sort-of leader depending on what Goldbug was up to).

Comic Review: Dan Dare

PUBLISHER: VIRGIN (2007-2008)
WRITER: GARTH ENNIS
ARTIST: GARY ERSKINE

There have been many attempts to bring Dan Dare up to date since the original strip in Eagle retired with its' protagonist in 1967. 2000AD tried a spikier revival when they launched in 1977 by bringing him out of suspended animation but it didn't go down well and the non-traditional elements were cranked back until it disappeared; a revival of Eagle in the eighties saw a more conventional story with the contrivance that this Dare was a descendant; more influenced by war comics this never quite took on either and reverted to a straight sequel featuring the original to no great effect. The next outing was Grant Morrison's heavy-handed but still striking Thatcherism satire Dare in Revolver, after which most of the rights' owners energies were in exploring TV and film in light of the weakness of the British comic industry, resulting in the single-season CGI cartoon Pilot of the Future. In print there was no significant new material until the licence was picked up by the recently-founded comic wing of Virgin Enterprises.