Doctor Who Listen Review

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Listen

Review by Paul Bowler

[Contains Spoilers]

Doctor Who Listen (4)

Clara continues to balance her everyday life as a teacher with her time travelling adventures with the Doctor in the TARDIS. Now, with Clara off on her first date with former soldier-turned-teacher, Danny Pink, the Doctor is left wandering inside the TARDIS alone, lost deep in through as he travels through space and time. So, what is it that really scares the Last of the Time Lords, and what terrors are lurking under the bed? Ghosts from the past and the future begin to spill into the Doctor’s and Clara’s lives: the petrified Caretaker in a children’s home, the last man in the known universe afraid of a door that must never be opened, and the lonely child that doesn’t ever want to join the army. The Doctor and Clara must embark on their most frightening adventure yet, one that will take them to the darkest edge of the universe itself and beyond…

Listen takes this fourth episode of series eight well and truly back into the realm of darkness, in this chilling tale written by show runner Steven Moffat, and Directed by Douglas Mackinnon, whose previous directing credits on Doctor Who include The Sontaran Stratagem / The Poison Sky (2008), The Power of Three (2012) and Cold War (2013). Steven Moffat has brought us some of the new series most fearsome creations: the gasmask children from The Empty Child / The Doctor Dances (2005), the terrifying Weeping Angels debuted in Blink (2007), the shadowy Vashta Nerada lurked in Silence in the Library / Forest of the Dead (2008), and the Silence warped perceptions to invade stealthily in The Impossible Astronaut / Day of the Moon (2011). Now he’s gone one step further, addressing possibly the most primal fear of all, the inimitable, creeping horror of what might really be there when we think we are alone, that unthinkable something that’s always secretly present, waiting to reach out and grab us from the shadows under the bed.

We join the Doctor as he ponders to himself in the TARDIS: “Why do we talk out loud, when we know we’re alone?” Peter Capaldi’s grave tone here as the Doctor speculates about the possibility of evolution spawning a creature that is always secretly with us but somehow remains unseen, instantly captivates the imagination and draws you into this episode. Here we see the Doctor alone with his own musings while Clara is away on her date night, but what does this more volatile incarnation do when he has no great menace or alien invasion to fight, alone and with only dark his thoughts for company, what is it that really frightens the Doctor?

Doctor Who Listern (6)

Clara finally gets to go out on her date with Danny in this episode. However, when the conversation moves to Danny’s time in the army, they inadvertently wind up offending each other, and when Clara returns home she’s soon off on her adventures with the Doctor in the TARDIS again. Although she’s initially sceptical about the Doctor’s theory that every living being has a silent companion, and that we’ve all shared the same nightmare, where we’ve woken up and thought there was something nasty under the bed, Clara eventually agrees to help. The Doctor gets Clara to use the TARDIS telepathic interface so that the time machine can extrapolate her time line and lock onto the same nightmare from her own childhood, but Clara’s thoughts drift back to Danny momentarily when her phone suddenly rings, causing the TARDIS to arrive instead outside a children’s home in Gloucester in the mid-90’s. The Doctor sets off to investigate alone, encountering a frightened Caretaker, Reg (Robert Goodman) along the way in a scene that also features the return of the psychic paper that was often used by the 9th, 10th and 11th Doctors, while Clara goes to visit the young boy, Rupert Pink (Remi Goodin), who has just waved at her from his bedroom window.

Jenna Coleman continues to make Clara a hugely resourceful, intelligent, and really interesting character, especially now she’s teamed with Capaldi’s new Doctor, and her role in Listen become even more vital than either of them could’ve expected. When Clara meets Rupert Pink, the boy is frightened there’s something hiding under the bed, and she realises Rupert is really the young Danny Pink (he changed his name when he was older because he didn’t like it), they both hide under the bed in order to convince him there’s nothing there, but it soon becomes apparent they are not alone when an unseen entity rises from the bedspread. These scenes, where the Doctor arrives and gets them all to stand by the window and turn their back on the horror that must never be seen, is brilliantly directed by Douglas Mackinnon, the tension here is almost palpable. I think it’s ingenious how the Doctor handles this fearsome encounter, and the scene afterwards, where Clara places the toy soldiers under Rupert’s bed to guard it and he names the Colonel “Dan”, is another magical moment, one that inexorably links Clara’s time line with Danny Pink in the most sublime way imaginable.

In an attempt to right things with Danny, Clara gets the Doctor to return her to the restaurant moments after she stormed out, but just as her date goes pear shaped again for the second time in one night, a space suited figure walks in and beckons at her to return to the TARDIS. Believing it’s the Doctor (having seen his previous incarnation wear a similar space suit in the 2013 story Hide), Clara confronts the figure in the TARDIS, but this is not the Doctor, it’s a time travelling pioneer from one hundred years Clara’s future, Colonel Orson, the pilot of the first human time shot – who also happen to bear a striking resemblance to Danny Pink. The Doctor takes Clara and Orson back to the planet where the Time Lord found Orson stranded in his capsule, a world at the very end of time itself, where even though nobody even exists anymore Colonel Orson Pink always keeps the door locked to keep out the horrors that bang relentlessly on the hull at night.

Doctor Who Listen (2)

Samuel Anderson returns as Danny Pink in Listen, and the character has a lot more to do this time around. Although Danny remains a good source of humour, especially during his date with Clara, it’s good to see the character featuring in some of the episodes dramatic moments as well. Danny is inevitably drawn into the Doctor’s and Clara’s adventures in this story- albeit unwittingly because of the TARDIS homing in on various elements from of his own time line. Indeed, the former soldier is clearly smitten with Clara, something that’s sure to impact on Clara’s friendship with the Doctor, especially considering the Time Lord’s moral stance where it comes to soldiers travelling in the TARDIS are concerned. Listen is a great episode for Danny Pink: we learn more about Danny’s time as a soldier, travel back in time to meet Rupert Pink in the children’s home, and learn about the voyage of future descendant Colonel Orson Pink (also played by Anderson) who unavoidably becomes entwined with the Doctor’s quest to unravel a mystery at the very end of the universe.

The Doctor orders Clara and Orson into the TARDIS as he prepares to open the door and face what ever is outside. Orson presents Clara with a very special family heirloom before he rescues the Doctor and brings him back inside the TARDIS. With the Doctor incapacitated and the Cloister Bell tolling as the sinister forces outside try to get in, Clara uses the telepathic circuitry to fly the TARDIS to safety. Clara steps out of the TARDIS and finds they have materialised in a barn where a child is crying in a bed underneath the covers, the child is the young Doctor, and when Clara has to suddenly hide under the bed to avoid being seen she accidentally sets in motion a chain of events that will change the Doctor’s destiny forever.

Doctor Who Listen (3)

Steven Moffat has excelled himself with this episode, and the way these final scenes link into the 50th Anniversary special are simply stunning. From the moment we see a brief glimpse of the War Doctor (John Hurt) from The Day of the Doctor (2013), it becomes apparent that this barn from the Doctor’s childhood is also the same place he would one day revisit on the Last Day of the Time War to activate The Moment. The scene here as Clara sets the Doctor on his path in life, with its moving dialogue resonating beautifully with the origins of the series itself in the very first Doctor Who serial An Unearthly Child (1963), and the gift of a toy solider so brave it doesn’t need a gun to save the world is utterly brilliant and extremely moving.

Peter Capali and Jenna Coleman both give terrific performances in this episode. The dynamic between Cara and this darker, more unpredictable incarnation of the Doctor bring an added edge to their friendship. Clara isn’t afraid to stand up to him though, and the Doctor even threatens that she will never travel in the TARDIS with him again when she refuses to follow his orders at one point. He’s not someone that’s used to being told what to do, certainly not by his companion, so it is perhaps fitting then when this incarnation of the Time Lord that adamantly doesn’t do hugging, finally receives a well deserved hug from Clara at the stories resolution.

Doctor Who Listern (8)

Listen is a brilliantly crafted tale from Steven Moffat, one that draws its influences from a similar dark vein as Blink, playing to our most primal fears and anxieties – and there are some really exciting and fast-paced action sequences as well. It also cleverly explores the Doctor’s character in a very different way, while also delivering a very poignant message that actually turns out to be quite poetic. Peter Capaldi is magnificent in this episode, he brings so much to the role, and his 12th incarnation of the Doctor is quickly becoming one of my favourites. Dark, sinister, and with an exquisite timey wimey twist, the stories unsettling premise blends seamlessly with the striking visuals created by Director Douglas Mackinnon to make Listen a truly memorable episode. A blanket on a bed suddenly becomes the most terrifying monster of all, the TARDIS interior seems hauntingly cavernous, and the unseen terror knocking on the capsules door are just some of the many highlights amidst the plethora of creepy moments in Listen that are sure to have you checking under the bed tonight.

Don’t look round… Listen!!

Batman Eternal #23 Review

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Batman Eternal #23

Review by Paul Bowler

Hush has returned to Gotham. He attacked Alfred in Wayne Manor, injecting a fear toxin directly into his brain. After discovering the Bat-Cave, Alfred’s daughter, Julia, must help Batman stop the Architect from destroying the Beacon Tower. With the newly appointed Commissioner Bard also corrupt, and secretly working with Hush, the evidence that could have proved Jim Gordon’s innocence has been destroyed. Now as the crime families vie for power, Catwoman’s secret past is finally revealed. The answers she seeks reside in Blackgate Penitentiary, where she must ultimately decide what her role in Gotham’s order of crime will be.

Batman Eternal #23 has a lot of ground to cover following the events of the last few issues, with the riot in Blackgate Penitentiary, Batman’s mission with Killer Croc and Bard in the sewers, Batwing and Jim Corrigan’s investigation at Arkham, and Batgirl’s quest to clear her fathers name, the action continues to unfold at a rapid pace as this weekly series shifts its focus towards Catwoman. With its intricately plotted storyline by writers Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV, with script by Tim Seeley, and consulting writers Ray Fawkes, and Kyle Higgins, Batman Eternal #23 makes the most of its extensive cast of characters and locations as it draws together a number of ongoing plot threads and sets the stage for even bigger things to come.

When Catwoman interrupts the latest skirmish between Mr Ibanescue and Tiger Shark for control of Gotham’s black market, her attempt to rescue a snow leopard cub from the carnage at the east end train yards doesn’t go well. Unable to save the wounded leopard cub back at her apartment, Selina receives a surprise visit from Jade, Killer Croc’s young friend who fences supplies into Blackgate Penitentiary, and who now brings a message for Selina from an old friend.

Batman Eternal #23 Cover

Batman’s fight with the Architect, another associate of Hush, continues high atop the Beacon Tower. With Alfred hospitalised, the Dark Knight is now reliant on Penny-Two, Alfred’s daughter Julia to relay information to him from the Bat-Cave. Julia’s role is becoming increasingly vital to the Dark Knight, especially with Alfred out of action, and I like the dynamic that’s developing between her and Batman. As the showdown with the Architect reaches its climax, an earth shattering surprise awaits us, and its one that is sure to have big implications for Gotham’s future.

The majority of Batman Eternal #23 is cantered around Catwoman’s secret visit to Blackgate Penitentiary. With Jade’s help, Catwoman manages to gain access to the prison through a drainage pipe, where Rex Calabrese “The Lion” is waiting to meet her. After a furious exchange, where Catwoman’s past is brought into sharp focus, Rex reveals that Jade’s father was also a gangster, just like Selina’s… Rex knows that Gotham is in chaos without a kingpin to maintain the order, and is certain there is only one person who can now unite the families before they tear the city apart… I really like how this issue of Batman Eternal flows into the narrative of the events we saw in Batman 28, the special “spoiler issue” released mid-way through Zero Year, that showed how Catwoman would become the new Kingpin of Gotham City – and these scenes between Selina and Rex Calabrese in Batman Eternal #23 proved a nice precursor to these future events.

Dustin Nguyems artwork perfectly captures the dark, foreboding skyline of Gotham, from the brutality of the dogfight, to the griminess of Blackgate Penitentiary, and there is also get a brief interlude in the sewers with Killer Croc. The short scenes in Sliena’s apartment and those in the Bat-Cave with Julie, with their pristine interiors and high-tech gadgetry, highlight’s the oppressive presence of the city even further. Nguyem’s pencils bring a real sense of kinetic energy to the action, which together with Derek Fridolfs inks, and colorist John Kalisz, makes Batman Eternal #23 a darkly atmospheric and visually impressive issue, one that is epic in scale and packed with exciting character development to accentuate the big action sequences.

The return of Hush has brought an added sense of tension to main story arc in Batman Eternal. We also have Commissioner Bard’s betrayal, having already become close to Vicky Vale, the new commissioner is also in league with Hush, and continues to consolidate his position of power this issue by pressuring the Governor to declare marshal law in Gotham. With the crime war still escalating, Jim Gordon serving a life sentence in Blackgate Penitentiary, the ongoing haunting inside Arkham Asylum, together with the Nanovirus that’s been sweeping through the Narrows, and now the devastating attack on the Beacon Tower, the corrupt forces conspiring to destroy the Dark Knight and his allies are beginning to close in.

Batman Eternal #23 is another great issue; The Lioness is a multi-layered story, which, together with the dynamic artwork, continues to develop the ongoing plot in completely new and unexpected directions.

 

Bullet Gal #3 Review

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Bullet Gal #3

Review by Paul Bowler

Bullet Gal #3 is the new issue from the Australian author Andrez Bergen, the writer of the noir inspired superhero detective novel Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa? , the IF? Commix book series Tales to Admonish, and the stylish anthology Black White. Now, following the release of his new novel, Depth Charging Ice Planet Goth, along with Tales To Admonish #4, and the graphic novel Tobacco Stained Mountain Goat, the latest issue of Japan based writer Andrez Bergen’s IF? Commix book series, Bullet Gal #3, will be published in print form in September 2014 in Australia.

Bullet Gal is a character from Andrez Bergen’s earlier works. This new ongoing series is a prequel that follows the adventures of the young woman, Mizi, a gun-toting teen with a taste for destruction and strong espresso. Her personal crusade against crime has brought her to Heropa, where Mizi began targeting criminals and citizens with connections to the criminal underworld.

After encountering the mysterious Lee, a cape (Super-Powered type), Mizi accepted his offer to begin training so she could join The Crime Crusaders Crew. However, her volatile and unpredictable nature soon brought her into conflict with her new mentor. Mizi’s attacks on the crime rackets in town have also caught the attention of the vicious gang leader Sol and the seductive French femme fatale Brigit, Sol’s lover and personal assassin, who is eager to confront the meddling Bullet Gal and make her pay for what she’s done.

Bullet Gal 3 cover art_IF COMMIX_Oct 2014

Bullet Gal #3 follows Mizi as she resolves to find some answers about the people she is working for. Her journey across the vast city of Heropa leads her to a rooftop, where, overlooking a dark alley, she observes a secret meeting between eight men, who all incidentally look exactly like Lee, the man who offered to train her for The Crime Crusaders Crew. Feeling shocked and betrayed Mizi sets out to find some answers, unaware gang boss Sol and his deadly assassin Brigit are watching, assessing her skills and abilities. As Mizi returns to the apartment, she is confronted by Lee, but as the truth begins to unfold a new threat prepares to strike.

Rebound is another dark and intriguing issue of Bullet Gal from Andrez Bergen. We get to learn even more about Mizi’s past over the course of this issue as she wanders the streets of Heropa after discovering Lee’s secret, her pain and regret over his apparent betrayal is almost palpable, as is the all pervading sense of paranoia that threatens to consume her.

The scenes were Sal and his French assassin, Brigit, are observing Mizi from the rooftops also enhances the brooding air of tension, and it’s interesting to see how much influence the assassin has over her crime boss lover. Brigit is a really compelling character, seductive and deadly, she effortlessly wraps Sal around her little finger while also reigning in the over zealous henchman Bronco, alluringly honing her lethal art as she plots Mizi’s downfall.

However, one of the most intriguing aspects of Bullet Gal #3 is our insight into Lee’s character, well, one of them anyway. In a brilliantly structured sequence almost as many questions are answered as they have been raised, and the unique strengths and abilities of the “capes” of Heropa become more clearly defined. The ambiguity surrounding which doppelganger Mizi is actually dealing with is another subtle twist, and one that perfectly suits the distinct noir tone. Furthermore, is this version of Lee really the man she first met, and who, if any of them, can really be trusted?

The story and art by Andrez Bergen for Bullet Gal #3 seamlessly splices the series distinct noir style and tone, creating a dark web of intrigue and suspense that encapsulates the reader with its striking visuals and rich narrative. Bergen’s art resonates sublimely with the key aspects from Mizi’s past: from her father’s lucky number in the lens of the binoculars, the raw emotion of betrayal is sprayed like graffiti across her soul, polarizing the past upon the twilight glair of Heropa, as the dark shadows gathering against her in this metropolis prepare to strike. I particularly like how Bergen has infused Bullet Gal’s origin story with the dark hardboiled pulp narrative and style of his other novels and comic books, making it possible to enjoy this prequel series either as a stand alone story, irrespective of any knowledge about the series or characters, prior or otherwise, or as one that also enriches the noir inspired world already crafted in Bergen’s earlier works.

Bullet Gal #3 is another terrific issue in Andrez Bergen’s IF? Commix book series. The stylish noir style of Bergen’s storyline and art effortlessly imbues every level of the narrative with his sweeping vision, drawing you further into the dark world of Heropa and its intriguing characters. This new series continues to go from strength to strength, with its gritty adventure and excellent artwork, Bullet Gal #3 is Bergen’s most assured issue so far.

Bullet Gal #3, is published in print form in September 2014 in Australia, along with the digital version, and available direct from the IF? Commix website.

FIND OUT MORE FROM IF? COMMIX VIA THEIR SITE:

iffybizness.weebly.com

 

Doctor Who Robot of Sherwood Review

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Robot of Sherwood

Review by Paul Bowler

[CONTAINS SPOILERS]

Doctor Who Robin of Sherwood (1)

When the Doctor lets Clara choose what time and place she’d like to go to next, Clara decides that she wants to visit Sherwood Forest in the twelfth century and meet Robin Hood. Even though the Doctor claims there’s no such thing as old-fashioned heroes like Robin Hood, when the TARDIS finally arrives the first person they meet is… Robin Hood! The Doctor makes an alliance with Robin Hood and his Merry Men to thwart the evil schemes of the Sheriff of Nottingham. With all of Nottingham at risk, dark forces awakening from beyond the stars, and robot knights on the rampage, the Doctor must act quickly to discover who is actually real and who is fake – after all Robin Hood was a legend, a made up hero, he couldn’t possibly exist, or could he?

Robot of Sherwood, the third story from series eight, sees the Time Lord and Clara joining forces with Robin Hood, to do battle against the dastardly Sheriff of Nottingham. This fun adventure written by Mark Gatiss (Who also brought us The Unquiet Dead (2005), The Idiot’s Lantern (2006), Victory of the Daleks (2010), and two stories during 2013’s seventh series Cold War and The Crimson Horror) is a glorious blend of humour and legend, directed by Paul Murphy, where the fate of Nottingham and its famous fictional hero becomes inexplicably entwined with the uncanny technological influences that have fallen from the stars that could destroy the world.

From the moment the Doctor steps out of the TARDIS in Robot of Sherwood, he is resolutely set on proving to Clara that the Robin Hood they’ve encountered, is a fake, and Peter Capaldi is brilliant as the grumpy Time Lord. Peter Capaldi’s edgier, less patient incarnation of the Doctor, is an absolute delight to behold in this episode, and its great fun to see how the Time Lord deals with being confounded by the impossibility of Robin’s existence. The fight here between the Doctor and Robin Hood over the river is brilliantly staged. The Doctor even wonders if the TARDIS has materialised inside a Miniscope at one point, a neat reference to the device in 3rd Doctor story Carnival of Monsters (1973) that was used to store miniaturised life forms as exhibits for entertainment. During his fight with Robin Hood, the Doctor also mentions Richard The Lionheart, the 12th Century monarch the 1st Doctor met in the 1965 story, The Crusade.

Doctor Who Robin of Sherwood (5)

When the Doctor, Clara, Robin, and the Merry Men attend the Contest for the Golden Arrow hosted at the castle by the Sheriff of Nottingham, the rivalry between the Doctor and Robin continues, with each of them trying to outdo the other by performing the most elaborate shot. After the Sheriff brings the contest to an end it’s revealed that the knights are actually disguised robots, and the Doctor allows them to capture him, together with Clara and Robin, so they can find out what the Sheriff of Nottingham is secretly planning.

Offered a chance to go “anywhere in space and time” Clara’s wish to meet her childhood hero quickly sets up this episodes clever premise, and provides some great moments for Jenna Coleman as the witty script unfolds. Clara makes a stunningly beautiful and resourceful companion as events inadvertently cast her as the stories equivalent of Marian. Clara’s no damsel in distress though; she has to contend with deadly robot knights, act as referee when they are locked in the Dungeon as the Robin and the Doctor constantly bicker, and she cleverly gets herself released so she can trick the Sheriff of Nottingham into revealing his past.

Tom Riley’s Robin Hood embodies all the finest qualities of the Errol Flynn version of the medieval hero: dashingly handsome, honourable, well mannered and jovial, all his scenes with the Doctor are especially fun. At first, the two adventurers bicker constantly as they squabble over who is, and isn’t, real. The Doctor and Robin don’t really like each other at all, and the Time Lord becomes particularly vexed when he’s trying to escape from the dungeon with Robin, but they eventually manage to overcome their differences and it’s great to see these two iconic British heroes fighting side by side. Ben Miller also gives a wonderful scenery chewing performance as the villainous Sheriff of Nottingham, and he makes a great adversary for Robin and the Doctor.

Doctor Who Robin of Sherwood (4)

Ever since Doctor Who returned in 2005, the celebrity historical adventure has become something of a mainstay for the new series: so far the Doctor has encountered Charles Dickens, Queen Victoria, Winston Churchill, and Agatha Christie. Whereas these were all adventure in the past, the seventh series saw Queen Nefertiti travelling into the future. Now with Robot of Sherwood we have possibly one of the most interesting takes on this format to date, as the Doctor and Clara become part of the fabled legend of Robin Hood.

Mark Gatiss has ingeniously woven the legend of Robin Hood into this episode of Doctor Who: we have a very traditional style Robin Hood, one that’s free from the angst so inherent to many modern versions, then we have Robin’s band of Merry Men, the fight over the river, sun-dappled glades, an archery contest, a dark dungeon, and exciting swordfights. Gatiss’s excellent script for Robot of Sherwood perfectly balances all these key elements, it’s certainly a more light-hearted episode, and there are some very poignant moments as well that offer a meaningful insight to the value of old-fashioned heroes like Robin Hood.

The Sheriff described to Clara how he witnessed a spaceship crash, discovered its secrets, and began collecting all the gold in the land with the disguised robots to repair the ships circuitry so he can use it to take over the Kingdom and the world. It is only when the Doctor and Robin finally escape from the dungeon that the full extent of the Sheriff’s grand design is finally revealed, when they discover a secret room and learn the castle is actually a disguised spaceship that has fallen back through time. The engines are damaged and the ship has been attempting to blend in by altering itself and the surrounding environment from the data of Earth’s myths stored in its memory banks; inadvertently creating Sherwood Forest and instigating the legend of Robin Hood.

Doctor Who Robot of Sherwood (7)

After a dramatic start to the season, we get a break from the darker tone of series eight for this episode. Robot of Sherwood is packed with humour, clichés, lots of puns, and even a hilariously absurd sword / spoon fight between the Prince of Thieves and the Last of the Time Lords, but it’s all brilliant fun too! While all the merriment and mirth won’t appeal to everyone, I think it’s good to have a lighter toned episode like this to balance a season out; otherwise everything can become unrelentingly dark. Mark Gatiss’s script cleverly weaves its magic, making Capaldi’s Doctor all dour and grim (and consequently really funny), while Riley’s outlaw of Sherwood Forest is a thigh-slappingly cheerful Robin Hood, and Miller’s Sheriff of Nottingham serves as a fittingly grandiose pantomime villain. As such, Robot of Sherwood is a marvellously fun run-around for the Doctor and Clara, so much so that at times it almost feels as if this episode is actually daring you not to like it, before winning you over with its cheeky grin and infectious charm.

Even when he is captured again the Doctor quickly realises there is nowhere near enough gold in the area to repair the spaceship properly, and it will almost certainly explode soon after take off. The Doctor instigates a revolt and leads the other prisoners against the robot knights, which, together with the arrival of Clara, Robin Hood, and his men, ensures that the Sheriff’s plans are soon in ruins. Robin’s swordfight with the Sheriff of Nottingham sends the Sheriff plummeting into a vat of molten gold as the remaining robots take off in the ship. Although his arm was injured in his fight with the Sheriff, with the Doctor’s and Clara’s help, Robin manages to fire the golden arrow at the spacecraft, enabling it to safely reach orbit, where it explodes.

With its impressive production values, costumes, and colourful cast of characters including Friar Tuck (Trevor Cooper) Little John (Rusty Goffe), Will Scarlet (Joseph Kennedy), Alan-a-Dale (David Benson), Walter (Adam Jones), Herald (David Benson), Quayle (Roger Ashton-Griffith), and Quayle’s Ward (Sabrina Bartless), together with Paul Murphy’s excellent direction, Robot of Sherwood remains a thoroughly enjoyable affair from beginning to end. While there is no sign of Missy (Michelle Gomez) the bizarre Mary Poppin’s-like character who has been welcoming the recently deceased in previous episodes, the data bank on the robots space ship indicated the vessel was bound for the promised land – the same place the Half-Face Man was searching for in Deep Breath. Fans also got a nice surprise as the Doctor showed the spaceships files to Robin and an image of Patrick Troughton appeared from when he played the title role in the BBC’s 1953 TV production of Robin Hood.

Doctor Who Robin of Sherwood (3)

The robot knights are also very impressive, and its clever how their helmets open to reveal their true identity. It’s only really towards the end of the episode, when the robot menace is defeated and everything gets wrapped a little too easily, that Robot of Sherwood becomes a little unstuck. However, minor quibbles aside, this is a great comedic episode, Peter Capaldi is superb, and the final scene as the Doctor says his farewell to Robin is something really special. The Doctor and Clara also appear to be getting along much better now, they seem more comfortable with each other, and the way the legacy of Doctor Who collides with the legend of Robin Hood in Robot of Sherwood gives added weight to the Time Lord’s ongoing mission to rediscover himself and understand the man that he has ultimately become. Robot of Sherwood is a very old-fashioned style of adventure, its always an extra special event when the Doctor meets a historical figure, even more so this time because its a fictional one, and as a stand-alone story it works remarkably well.

Images Belong To BBC

Doctor Who Into The Dalek Review

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Into The Dalek

Review by Paul Bowler

[Contains Spoilers]

Doctor Who Into The Dalek (1)

In a remote corner of the galaxy a Dalek Saucer hunts down a lone spacecraft. The Doctor saves a soldier, Journey Blue, seconds before the vessel is destroyed and returns her to the rebels command ship, the Aristotle. The rebel’s hidden base contains the human forces last hope of survival, a Dalek captive, one afflicted with a bizarre malfunction. The Doctor must travel into darkness, on his most dangerous adventure yet. A miniaturised squad of troops, along with the Doctor and Clara, begin a fantastic voyage into the Dalek. With the Dalek fleet closing in, the Doctor must look to his conscience as he confronts a decision that could alter the Dalek race forever…

Into The Dalek takes the Doctor to one of the most dangerous places in the universe, a place where even he’s weary of visiting, the inside of a Dalek itself! With its exhilarating story by Phil Ford (co-writer on The Waters of Mars (2009), writer of the animated Dreamland (2009), and contributor to the Sarah Jane Adventures) and show-runner Steven Moffat, and Directed by filmmaker Ben Wheatley (Kill List and Sightseers), Into The Dalek sees the new Doctor confronting his old enemies, the Daleks, and the Doctor finds he needs Clara by his side now more than ever.

Returning to Earth to collect Clara from Coal Hill School, the Doctor and Clara are soon back on the Aristotle. The humans last chance rests with their “patient”, a Dalek, one so battle damaged that it has actually become good. The Doctor and Clara are taken to meet the Dalek prisoner. Intrigued by this Dalek’s unusual behaviour, the Doctor agrees to help them and find a way to use this malfunction against the rest of the Daleks. The Doctor, Clara and a special team of soldiers are miniaturised and injected into the damaged Dalek through its eyepiece on a mission to find the cause of this sickly Dalek’s altered moral state. The Dalek seems willing to cooperate, but can it really be trusted?

Doctor Who Into The Dalek (2)

No Doctor ever really seems like the Doctor until they’ve battled the Daleks. Peter Capaldi’s first run in with the Daleks in this second story of series eight is a fittingly action-packed adventure. Capaldi delivers a towering performance as the Doctor. Faced with a chance to strike back at his old adversaries, the Time Lord must soon confront some unpleasant home truths about himself, while also getting miniaturised and sent on a mission inside a Dalek to boot! Of course, this isn’t the first time that Doctor Who has ventured into the realm of The Fantastic Voyage (1966), Tom Baker’s 4th Doctor and his companion Leela (Louise Jamerson) also got miniaturised and injected into the Doctor’s brain to defeat the Nucleus of the Swarm in the 1977 story: The Invisible Enemy. Into the Dalek sees the Doctor placed in the most dangerous situation imaginable. The scenes inside the Dalek are really effective, offering a fascinating new perspective on the universes most feared supreme beings, and Peter Capaldi brings so much gravitas to the role of the Doctor that you are left hanging on his every word after he’s miniaturised and sets about exploring the Dalek’s interior – where he gravely surmises the technology that has refined hatred into an evil beyond all imagining.

Into The Dalek is another good episode for Clara, as she is miniaturised along with the Doctor and the soldiers, and quickly finds she’s right at the heart of the action when their mission becomes a desperate battle for survival. Jenna Coleman is excellent Clara, and she’s involved in many of the stories key moments. The scenes in the TARDIS where the Doctor asks her if her to be a “pal” and tell him if he’s a good man, which featured so prominently in the series eight trailer, is finally put into context here, and there is a nice moment of levity between Capaldi and Coleman as well, when the Doctor later introduces her as his carer! Clara is still getting used to the new Doctor, there’s a really interesting dynamic developing here, and she’s not afraid to stand up to this more argumentative incarnation either. There’s also a hint of romance in the air back on Earth for Clara when new maths teacher, and ex-soldier, Danny Pink (Samuel Anderson), starts work at Coal Hill School, and despite the awkwardness of their first meeting, she eventually asks him out for a drink.

The crew of the Aristotle: Journey Blue (Zawe Ashton), Colonel Morgan Blue (Michael Smiley), Gretchen (Laura dos Santos), and Ross (Ben Compton) are all fairly well developed characters, and you get a real sense of how desperate the situation has become as these human survivors make their last stand against the Daleks. Once miniaturised and inside the damaged Dalek, nicknamed “Rusty” by the Doctor, there are some really tense encounters with the Dalek antibodies along with a heroic act of self-sacrifice as well.

Doctor Who Into The Dalek (5)

Into The Dalek initially conjures up memories of the Robert Shearman episode Dalek (2005), from series one, which also featured a lone Dalek prisoner. Into The Dalek, while not exactly peppered with references to other Dalek stories, certainly embodies aspects from a few episodes that immediately spring to mind: that familiar Dalek heartbeat sound effect, a mainstay of nearly every Dalek story since their first appearance, which begins once the miniaturised team are inside the Dalek, seems even more ominous in this setting, the Doctor also reflects on his first encounter with the Daleks on Skaro, Rusty screeches “Death to the Daleks” at one point, the title of the third Doctor story that featured the Daleks in 1974, and we see moments of destruction from Journey’s End (2008).

The moment that really strikes a cord happens after the Doctor repairs the Dalek, and its original moral setting gets inadvertently restored. Clara gets to see a much darker side to this Doctor, especially after they’ve fallen into the Dalek’s organic refuse disposal, the way she challenges the Doctor when he’s about to give up on Rusty is superb, she also plays a key role in helping reboot Rusty’s memories, enabling the Dalek to once again experience the miracle of seeing the birth of a star and the endless rebirth of the universe. The Doctor manages to link into the Dalek’s mind, helping to open its thoughts to accept the truth of the Daleks, but Rusty is soon overwhelmed by the Time Lord’s ingrained hatred of the Dalek race. Rusty turns against the Daleks attacking the Aristotle and exterminates them, before leaving in the Dalek ship to continue its mission to destroy the Daleks. Though victory may be his, the Doctor is left troubled by the hatred the Dalek saw within him.

The Daleks are back, as hell-bent on universal domination as ever, and exterminating everything in sight. Phil Ford’s and Steven Moffat’s exciting scrip, with its intriguing central premise, engineers some fantastic moments for Capaldi’s Doctor, as he confronts a fascinating moral dilemma. With its disturbing insight into the concept of Dalek purity, unnervingly friendly lone Dalek (Barnaby Edwards), and titanic showdown between the Daleks (Voice of the Daleks by Nicholas Briggs) the Doctor’s old enemies are as menacing and as ruthless as ever.

Doctor Who Into The Dalek (3)

Journey Blue endures the loss of her brother and her adventure inside the Dalek is fraught with challenges. Through it all she finds an unwavering trust in the Doctor, she asks to join the Doctor on his adventures, but he sombrely declines because she’s a soldier. With Clara taking a shine to Danny Pink it will be interesting to see what the Doctor makes of his companions blossoming relationship with this former soldier. There is also another brief interlude featuring the mysterious Missy (Michelle Gomez), a bizarre character who seems to be gathering up people that have recently died or sacrificed themselves for the Doctor.

With excellent Direction by Ben Wheatley, Into The Dalek fully embraces the darker tone of series eight, the underlying tension between the Doctor and the captive Dalek is positively electric, and Capaldi’s performance is riveting. The miniaturised crew’s exploration of the Dalek’s interior provides some really tense and claustrophobic scenes; there are moments of dark psychological horror, and some great character development for the Doctor and Clara. The special effects and big action set-pieces are truly spectacular, and by the time the Daleks begin gliding through the airlock you’ll be completely immersed in the spectacle of it all.

Doctor Who Into The Dalek (4)

Into the Dalek provides a great second adventure for Peter Caaldi’s new Doctor, with its bold storyline, great dialogue, and impressive visual effects this episode is a sure fire winner. Dalek stories are always something special, the trick is finding new ways to feature them and keep them interesting, and Into The Dalek with its good script and excellent direction provides a fittingly action-packed adventure for the return of the Daleks!

Images Belong To BBC

Doctor Who Deep Breath Review

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 Doctor Who Deep Breath

Review by Paul Bowler

[CONTAINS SPOILERS]

 Doctor Who Deep Breath (5)

In Victorian London, a dinosaur suddenly appears outside the Houses of Parliament. The Paternoster Gang, investigating trio extraordinaire, Silurian Warrior Madame Vastra (Neve Mclntosh), her human wife/maid Jenny Flint (Catrin Stewart), and the Sontaran Nurse/Butler Strax (Dan Starkey), arrive to help Inspector Gregson (Paul Hickey) just as the T-Rex spits the TARDIS out onto the banks of the Thames. After taking charge the Paternoster Gang soon encounter a newly regenerated Doctor (Peter Capaldi) when he emerges from the TARDIS along with travelling companion, Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman).

On their return to the Paternoster Gang’s residence Clara struggles to accept the Doctor’s transformation and new personality. When the Doctor witnesses the dinosaur bursting into flames from the rooftops, he sets off to investigate, and soon the connection with the recent outbreak of spontaneous combustion in the capitol becomes apparent. A newspaper advertisement for the Impossible Girl catches Clara’s eye. Believing it’s a message from the Doctor, she goes to meet the Time Lord in a restaurant, where the patrons turn out to be clockwork robots from the 51st century, controlled by the sinister Half-Face Man (Peter Ferdinando), who has been ghoulishly harvesting human body parts to rebuild himself.

Trapped inside the robots buried spaceship, the Doctor manages to escape, seemingly abandoning Clara in his confused state. Clara holds her breath to try and evade the robots, she’s captured, but the Doctor uses a robot disguise to reach her as the Paternoster Gang join the battle. The Doctor and his companions must end the terrifying menace of the Half-Face Man before he can escape, but exactly who is this new incarnation of the Doctor, is he a good man, and will the Time Lord’s friendship with Clara survive?

Doctor Who Deep Breath (2)

The eighth series of Doctor Who launched in a blaze of publicity with Deep Breath, a special feature-length episode, staring Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman, and written by show runner Steven Moffat, and Directed by Brian Minchin. Deep Breath certainly gets the 12th Doctor’s era off to a great start as Peter Capaldi, actor, Oscar-winning film-maker, writer, artist, and life-long fan of the show, known for playing darker roles, especially the notoriously potty-mouthed Malcolm Tucker from BBC’s cult political comedy The Thick of It, brings a much darker, edgier side to his incarnation of the Time Lord. With his piercing gaze, wild eyebrows, spiky attitude, and unpredictable nature, the 12th Doctor is instantly captivating, very impatient, abrasive, and even a little intimidating at times. Peter Capaldi’s superb performance energises virtually every scene and quickly establishes the mercurial idiosyncrasies of the new Doctor’s personality.

Post-regenerative high jinks aside, in between forgetting everyone’s name, his insistence that Clara is a control freak, running across rooftops in his nightshirt, or charging off into the night on horseback, the Doctor actually spends a lot of his time in Deep Breath telling people, and even a dinosaur, to shut up! There is a great scene were the bewildered Doctor meets a tramp, Barney, played by Brian Miller (the widower of Elisabeth Sladen), where the ensuing discussion about the Time Lord’s new face, the fact he’s Scottish now, and has “attack eyebrows” provide some really fun moments. Midway through the episode we being to get a real sense of what Peter Capaldi’s new Doctor is about: he’s a real livewire, he wont necessarily care what you think about him, and he certainly wont stand around waiting for your to keep up with him either – if anything, his erratic behaviour and unruly nature makes him seem even more alien and mysterious.

Jenna Coleman is excellent in this episode as Clara. Its clear from the start that Clara is struggling to cope with this radically different, older, and greyer version of the Time Lord, who she had, until now at least, developed a close friendship with. Now she’s not even really sure who he is anymore. The Impossible Girl proves as resourceful as ever though, especially after she’s reunited with the Doctor in the restaurant, their banter is terrific, and the flashback when she becomes the Half-Faced Man’s prisoner gives us further insight into her character. Jenna Coleman really gets a chance to shine in this episode, she makes Clara seem bolder, more confident, and as a consequence the new dynamic that’s established towards the end of the episode between Clara and the 12th Doctor also feels all the stronger and refreshingly different as a result.

Doctor Who Deep Breath (3)

Fan favourites, The Paternoster Gang, also make welcome return in Deep Breath. Neve McIntosh is magnificent as the Silurian warrior Madame Vastra, she is accompanied by Catrin Stewart who plays Vastras human wife Jenny Flint, and Dan Starkey is also back as the hilarious Sontaran Nurse/Butler, Strax. This episode is a great showcase for their characters individual strengths: Vastras and Jennys relationship is beautifully portrayed, Vastra also provides some very timely advice for Clara about the Doctor, and Strax gets some brilliant comedic moments too.

Deep Breath also heralds a significant change in the pace and tone of storytelling from Steven Moffat as well, there are longer, more developed scenes, and the extended running time is an added bonus that really allows the plot and characters a chance to develop naturally. Deep Breath is Directed by filmmaker Brian Minchin (Kill List and Sightseers), who brings his own distinct style of horror and suspense to this episode, and as a result, the sombre atmosphere, Victorian streets, and sinister Clockwork robots are elevated to a whole new level that really underlines the darker tone of this of this new series. There are references to a number of past Doctor Who adventures as well in Deep Breath: perhaps most notably with Vastra’s initial observation about the 12th Doctor, which is reminiscent of the Brigadier’s line: “Here we go again,” from the Planet of the Spiders (1974), when Jon Pertwee regenerated into Tom Baker, there is also mention of the 4th Doctor’s long scarf, and when Clara first sees the changes inside the TARDIS she says: “You’ve redecorated, I don’t like it,” echoing Patrick Troughton’s classic line from the Three Doctors (1974/74). During her debate with Vastra, Clara also mentions Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, who she quoted in the 50th anniversary special The Day of the Doctor (2013) while teaching in a lesson at Coal Hill School.

The Clockwork robots are also very effective, it’s clever how the episodes title forms the basis of how they attack, and their clunky, jerky movement are quite unsettling. The Half-Face Man (Peter Ferdinado), driven by his quest to reach the Promised Land, with his creepy mechanical features, unnervingly brought to life with some incredible special effects, also makes a perfect foil for the 12th Doctor. I thought the scene where Clara held her breath to try and evade the robots was really tense, and the way the Doctor then disguised himself as a robot provided an unexpected twist. The Doctor’s confrontation with the Half-Face Man in the restaurant after it takes off using a hot air balloon made of human skin, also reveals the Clockwork robots link to the 10th Doctor story The Girl in the Fireplace (2006), when the Doctor discovers this ship is the SS Marie Antoinette, sister ship to the SS Madame De Pompadour. The parallels between the Doctor and the Half-Face Man are actually quite striking in this story, both are attempting to rebuild themselves in some way, and the resolution of their conflict is chillingly effective.

Doctor Who Deep Breath (4)

When the Doctor and the TARDIS vanishes, leaving Clara stranded in Victorian London, Vastra assures Clara that the Doctor will return for her, which he soon does. However, Clara is unsure if she wants to continue travelling with him but when the TARDIS lands in Glasgow she gets a call from the 11th Doctor (Matt Smith) on her mobile, imploring her from Trenzalore to stay and help his new incarnation. The 12th Doctor remembers this conversation, he asks Clara if she will help him, and she agrees as they leave to go for a coffee. It is this scene that really stays with you long after the credits have rolled. Matt Smith’s cameo as the 11th Doctor provides a great link into the events of The Time of the Doctor (2013), Jenna Coleman handles this scene perfectly, and when Capaldi’s Doctor steps from the TARDIS and asks Clara to help him it become a heartrending moment of clarity that effectively re-defines the Time Lord’s friendship with his companion and reboots the series in an instant.

In the final scene the Half-Face Man wakes in a garden, where he is greeted by a strange woman called Missy (Michelle Gomez), who seems to know the Doctor and refers to him as her boyfriend, as she welcomes the Half-Face Man to Heaven. Michele Gomez’s unexpected appearance in Deep Breath as Missy, having already been officially announced as playing the Gatekeeper of the Nethersphere, hints that this bizarre Mary Poppins like character will play a key role in series eight. Could she be the woman in the shop, the one who gave Clara the Doctor’s phone number in The Bells of St John (2013), the same person who apparently put the advert in the newspaper so Clara and the Doctor would meet at the restaurant in Deep Breath? For now she remains a mystery, whoever she is she certainly knows the Doctor, and seems to delight in telling the Half-Face Man that he has finally reached the Promised Land.

Deep Breath features a brand new title sequence, a glorious steam punk mix of whirling cogs, punctuated midway with Capaldi’s steely gaze, all set against the swirling backdrop of the time vortex as the title logo is revealed. The special effects in Deep Breath are uniformly excellent, and the attention to period detail is exquisite. There’s a new theme tune as well, which initially took me by surprise, but it‘s really beginning to grow on me now. The TARDIS also gets something of a makeover, bookshelves now line the upper gantry of the console room, and a vivid orange glow emanates from the time rotor – swathing the entire TARDIS set in deep shadows.

Doctor Who Deep Breath (7)

While events in Deep Breath are resolved relatively straight forwardly, above all else it is Peter Capaldi’s terrific performance as the new Doctor that really impresses. Jenna Coleman also excels, and return of the Paternoster Gang was most welcome. Deep Breath, while not the most complex of stories, still offers an excellent introduction to Peter Capaldi’s new Doctor, and provides an enjoyable start to the new series.

Batman #34 Review

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Batman #34

Review by Paul Bowler

Now that Zero Year is over, and events in Batman: Eternal have caused major upheaval in Gotham City, Batman #34 finds the Dark Knight faced with task of tracking down a mysterious killer who has been secretly haunting the streets of Gotham for many years. Now with the GCPD turned against him and Jim Gordon in jail Batman must work quickly to solve the mystery behind these heinous crimes before the killer can strike again…

Following the thrilling conclusion of Zero Year, Batman #34 sees the series move forward in time to coincide directly with the events and continuity that will follow the conclusion of DCs current weekly series, Batman Eternal. Batman #34 is a stand-alone story, written by Scott Snyder and co written by Gerry Duggan (Who is also writing this Octobers new series Batman Arkham Manor), is a spooky detective mystery, one that offers an unsettling insight into the mind of a killers deranged psyche, with art by Matteo Scalera.

When a patient from Leslie Thompkins medical clinic goes missing, Batman suspects that a killer is operating in Leslie’s neighbourhood. Batman #34 reintroduces us to a Gotham City still in turmoil following the events of Batman Eternal: the GCPD are no longer his allies, Selina Kyle is now a Kingpin, and Jim Gordon is locked up in Blackgate for murder. Now it seems a killer has been at work in Gotham and Batman didn’t notice. Furious with himself, Batman resolves to find this murder who has, until now, managed to evade the Dark Knight’s sight.

Batman #34 (COVER)

The Meek is dark and disturbing tale, one that simultaneously brings us bang up to date with current events in Gotham City while also providing a seamless transition from Snyder’s and Capullo’s 12 issue re-imagining of the Dark Knight’s origin in Zero Year. With its excellent story by Scott Snyder and co-written by Gerry Duggan, Batman #34 sees the Dark Knight working in a Gotham where the status quo has now been drastically altered. While so much has changed for Batman its good to see him working with his old friend, Leslie Thompkins, the medical practitioner who runs a clinic for the neglected and impoverished, during his investigation.

One of the aspects I really liked about this issue was the unsettling way it actually gets under the skin of the killer himself. This average guy, a person no one would notice, whose everyday life is as entombed within the realm of darkness, death, and despair as the poor and impoverished lost souls that he preys on at night. He’s one sick, twisted individual, someone who just happens to have slipped between the cracks, an opportunist nobody ever sees, his crimes blending into the dark underbelly of Gotham City, unnoticed even by the Dark Knight himself.

Matteo Scalera (Deadpool, Black Science) provides the art for Batman #34, capturing the dark and foreboding atmosphere of this tale with a series of dynamic page layouts that really pull you into events as they unfold. Scalera’s rendition of the Dark Knight’s world is perfectly suited to the tone of this story: from the cavernous shadows of the Batcave, to the headstones of Potters Field with Gotham’s skyline looming ominously in the distance, the concisely delivered recap of Batman Eternal forms a sublime collage of interconnecting images as Batman swings over the city, and the finale offers a chilling descent into the full horror of the killers design. The subdued grey and brown tones employed by colorist Lee Loughridge serves to enhance this issues dark atmosphere even further, creating a grainy mix of light and shadow that makes Batman’s search for the killer seem even more intense.

The issue concludes with a razor sharp double edged coda. While the Meek is effectively dealt with, the full extent of his depraved appetite and the dark legacy which it ultimately unearths is enough to render even Batman speechless. By the time you reach this stunning final page by Matteo Scalera and Lee Loughridge, the full impact of this issues story really hits home, and it’s an image that’s sure to send a few chills down your spine.

Batman #34 is a great self-contained issue, Snyder, Duggan, Scalera, and Loughbridge have crafted a deliciously dark and macabre story, and it certainly delivers plenty of shocks and surprises. Next we have a glimpse five years into the future, with Septembers special tie in issue Batman: Futures End #1, before we return for the start of Snyder’s and Capullos next major Batman story arc, Endgame, that begins in Octobers Batman #35, Endgame, is also set in during the same continuity established in Batman #34, and will subsequently take place directly after the conclusion of Batman Eternal.

Batman Endgame is Scott Snyder’s and Greg Capullo’s big event story for Batman’s 75th anniversary, featuring a large cast of characters and major events in store for the Dark Knight, together with back-up stories linking into the main story arc of Endgame, co written by Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV, with artists changing monthly, Batman Endgame promises to be Snyder’s and Capullo’s most epic storyline to date.

 

Doctor Who Deep Breath Official TV Trailer

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Deep Breath Doctor Who: Series 8 Episode 1 Official BBC TV Trailer

Check out the official TV trailer for Deep Breath: Doctor Who Series 8 Episode 1

12th Doctor & Clara

Tales To Admonish #3 Review

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Tales To Admonish #3

Review by Paul Bowler

Tales To Admonish #3 is the latest issue of the noir adventure series by Australian writer Andrez Bergen (Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa? & prequel comic book series Bullet Gal) and artist Matt Kyme (That Bullet Proof Kid) and will be available in print form and digitally on August 17th 2014 from IF? Commix.

This third issue from Tokyo based author Bergen and his fellow Melbournian, artist Matt Kyme, is their most innovative and stylish issue to date. Tales to Admonish draws on many influences, predominantly from the Silver Age of comic books, to splice its rich blend pulp adventure and noir inspired visuals with a knowing twist of black humour.

Tales To Admonish #3 Cover

Tales to Admonish #3 features two very different stories. Hell’s Angels showcases the WWI ace pilot, “Wilks” Wilkinson, is a Biggles-style adventure set high in the skies above the North Sea where Wilks has a surprise run in with the goddess Britannia, and accidentally shoots at her before crashing his Sopwith Pup into the back of an enemy zeppelin. With his aircraft now embedded in the side of the zeppelin, one very angry goddess clinging to his planes landing gear, and the German’s shooting at him as the zeppelin rapidly loses altitude, our fearless hero must find a way out of his perilous predicament.

This Wilks Wilkinson tale is derived from The Condimental Op (Andrez Bergen’s collection of short stories, involving comic books and articles about music, movies, and Japan) and this faithful adaptation makes a seamless transition into the world of Tales to Admonsh. Hell’s Angels is a great story, the dialogue is sharp and witty, and it’s sure to keep you guessing right up until the surprise ending

The second story features the return of Roy Scherer and Suzie Miller, who also featured in the first two issue of Tales To Admonish. Hock, Flock, and Two Choking Carols, sees this darkly comic duo and their paranormal investigations uncover a gruesome skeletal corpse – who also turns out to be their client. Matters are complicated further when they find a bizarre alien device near the dissolving remains.

Roy and Suzie are like chalk and cheese, they are also popular characters from The Condimental Op, and this decidedly odd couple make a terrific team. Roy is tough private investigator, while Suzie is the enthusiastic geek of the partnership. The banter between the two of them is really funny, with Rory more concerned about not getting paid now their client is dead, while Suzie is more fascinated by the alien technology. Hock, Flock, and Two Choking Carols may be a little on the short side, but it’s a punchy little tale, and as ever where Roy Scherer and Suzie Miller are concerned, there is a fittingly neat twist that resolves the case.

This issue of Tales to Admonish is rounded off with brilliant piece from Sly, editor-in-chief, as he waxes lyrical about: “The Lamest Comic Book Villain Ever.” It serves as a perfect complement to his profile about Greatest Heroes from last months issue, and there are some equally fun references and anecdotes here as well.

Matt Kyme’s art is excellent throughout, both stories have their own distinct style, and Kyme perfectly captures the tong-in-cheek tone that makes Tales To Admonish such a great Aussie iNDie comic book. I really like how Matt Kyme’s art manages to convey the characters emotions and expressions, the page layouts are really well structured, and every humorous line of dialogue is pitched just right.

As a series, Tales To Admonish is a terrific homage to the 1960’s era of comics, with Bergan and Kyme ensuring there is just enough contemporary swagger to make every story shine. The Silver Age themes are carried through to the Dejavu at the Neon Bullpen letters section, and there are notes and galleries featuring Bergen’s and Kyme’s many IF? Commix titles to enjoy as well. The 32-page Tales To Admonish #3 comic will be published in print in Australia – launching on August 17th in Melbourne, with two striking covers by Andrez Bergen, and people can start ordering the physical edition internationally ($5, with no postage charge) or digital ($1) from that date, via the IF? Commix website from the link here. http://iffybizness.weebly.com

Earth 2 #26 Review

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Earth 2 #26

Review by Paul Bowler

The final battle begins in Earth 2 #26. A massive Boom Tube has opened in space. While Green Lantern attempts to prevent the world being transported to Apokolips, the Wonders of Earth 2 have united with Commander Khan and the surviving World Army forces to attack the facility generating the Boom Tube in Geneva. The young Kryptonian Val Zod must now battle the evil Superman as Earth’s fate balances on the edge of oblivion…

Events take a dramatic turn in The Kryptonian: Part 6 as Tom Taylor steers the conflict on Earth 2 towards the mother of all showdowns between the combined forces of this parallel world and the might of Apokolips itself. After last issues extra sized prelude to this main event, Earth 2 #26 wastes no time at all in plunging you right into the thick of the action, with Green Lantern using all his power to stop the world being dragged through the Boom Tube, while Batman leads the charge against Bedlam’s base in Geneva, and Val Zod steps up to the plate as Earth 2’s new Man of Steel to confront the wrath of Superman, the former protector of this world, now transformed and resurrected by Apokolptian science as Darkseid’s crazed Herald.

Tom Taylor rounds off the current Kryptonian storyline in Earth 2 #26, with an issue that’s positively bursting at the seams with action, as we see Val Zod embrace his destiny as the new Superman of Earth 2. Faced with an army of Parademons and Warhounds standing between them and the complex housing the source of the Gateway threatening the world, Batman forms a plan with Aquawoman, Flash, Hawkgirl, Major Sato, and Commander Khan’s forces to breach the facility so they can free Mr Terrific, Terry Sloan, Mr Miracle, from Bedlam’s mind control and shut down the device they’ve been forced to build.

Earth 2 #26 (Cover)

Earth 2 #26 certainly has more than its fair share of action, and Tom Taylor does an excellent job maintaining the pacing and structure of this issue while balancing all the characters and big action set-pieces. Its great to see all the Wonders of Earth 2 working together as a team, there are some great moment of characterisation as well, along with a couple of surprising plot twists that few of us could have seen coming either. Unfortunately there’s no sign of Dr Fate this issue, which is a shame really, as it would’ve been great to see him take part in the battle.

The scenes in Smallville, where Lois and Martha are still reeling after Superman killed Jonathan Kent, as the young Jimmy Olsen continues monitoring the global situation from Amazonia are handled really well. Tom Taylor has written some really strong roles for all the female characters of Earth 2, especially Lois Lane, her resurrection as the Red Tornado was an inspired move by Taylor, and her role proves even more crucial now following the events at the Kent’s farm. Aquawoman is another great character, regal and powerful, Queen Marella dominates every scene she’s in. The way she puts Commander Khan in his place when she arrives in Geneva is priceless, dismissing Khan’s greeting with hardly a glance, and her clash with Bedlam leaves us with no doubt that the Queen of the Sea is a mighty force to be reckoned with.

Ever since the Superman returned from the dead as the crazed Herald of Darkseid and Val Zod was discovered in Arkham Asylum, the inevitable showdown between these two Kryptonian powerhouses has been the major event that we’ve all been waiting for. One of the four Krytonians that Lara and Jor-El sent into space before Krypton was destroyed; Val Zod was then hidden in Arkham Asylum by Terry Sloan. It’s been fascinating to see Val’s character progress over the course of this storyline, as his new friends Jimmy Olsen and Red Tornado helped Val overcome his agoraphobia and he learned how to use his powers. Now his journey has come full circle. Val Zod’s confrontation with the evil Superman is the undoubted highlight of this issue as Val’s vow of pacifism clashes with the raw power and ferocity of Superman’s wrath.

Nicola Scott’s art is as superb as everything we’ve come to expect from her work on this series. Earth 2 #26 contains so many artistic highlights that you will be completely immersed and swept away by the sheer spectacle of it all. Nicola Scott has excelled herself with this issue, along with inker Trevor Scott, and colorist Peter Pantazis, every page is so vividly detailed and crammed with action: from the Warhound flattening Bat-Punch, to the epic scale of the ground battles themselves, and the conclusion of Val‘s showdown with Superman, this issue of Earth 2 has it all.

Earth 2 #26 is also Nicola Scott’s final issue. Nicola Scott has been with Earth 2 since issue #1, she has brought so much to this series, creating the distinct look and style of this parallel world, its technology, and of course its heroes. Nicola Scott’s contribution to this series has been outstanding, and I look forward to her future projects.

So, with Nicola Scott’s departure, a new era of Earth 2 is set to begin. First off we will discover what happens during the major clash of worlds in Futures End, followed by a glimpse five years into the future, with September’s special tie in issue Earth 2: Futures End #1, before Earth 2 #27 hit’s the shelves (Oct 8th) and the new DC Comics weekly series, Earth 2: Worlds End, debuts in October. Earth 2 #27, written by Tom Taylor, also sees Marguerite Bennett joining the main series as co-writer, (Taylor and Bennett are also part of the writing team on Earth 2: Worlds End), with Andy Smith taking over as Earth 2’s series artist.

While not quite living up to the promise of the great cover by J.G Jones and Paul Mounts, Earth 2 #26 is still an excellent issue. Tom Taylor and Nicola Scott have wrapped up this storyline up in fine style, with its brilliantly staged action, beautiful final page, and intriguing epilogue, the possibilities for the future look very promising indeed….

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