The Dark and Bloody #3 Review

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For those of you who have been keeping up with this series it will have been apparent that ‘The Dark and Bloody’ got off to a rather slow start. The story was more plodding than it was tension building and as such it failed to fully deliver on its potentially horrifying premise. Thankfully those complaints are no longer founded as issue #3 finally gave this story the shot in the arm that it has been so desperately needing.

The first thing that will hit you in this comic is that, finally, the characters in a horror story are reacting in something nearing a realistic manner to the events around them. Sure, it isn’t wholly representative of how your ordinary person would act if, say, two possessed people had just showed up and subsequently been shot in the face but it gets nearer than the vast majority of literature that shares this genre. Case in point, the shooting that occurred at the tail end of last month’s instalment is addressed not by the perpetrator going about his business as if nothing really happened but instead by having him desperately try to explain what happened to the Sheriff as well as his wife whilst also clearly trying to make sense of things in his mind too.

Shawn Aldridge’s writing is a triumph for the reason stated above but also for the way in which he portrays the character of Iris as so overwhelmingly human. Too often will a lead character in a horror story come across as some sort of caricature that no audience can relate to, that is not the case here as Iris once again proves to be a very real man in his presentation. He is broken by war, tortured by what he was forced to do, and terrified by whatever it is that is stalking him now. To build upon this, each and every scene involving him evolves his character in some meaningful aspect by giving the audience more and more of a peek behind the curtain. Such is the case when readers are finally granted a look back at the pivotal moment in his tour of duty that set in motion the current events plaguing him.

Those wartime atrocities have to do with Shiloh’s creepy young friend, Ayah. She has been a constant looming spectre throughout this book’s short run and the audience was waiting to see how exactly she fit into the wider story. Wonder no more. It transpires that she and her family were casualties of war as Iris was forced to gun them down in cold blood. What happened after that act of barbarism shan’t be spoiled for you as you are going to want to see it for yourself. You won’t be disappointed when you see how it feeds into the larger narrative at play here.

Overall Aldridge built upon more than just character though as the story progressed in great leaps, becoming a far tenser and more chilling affair. The evil that lurks in this backwater town now has a face and, perhaps most jarring of all, it is one that evokes sympathy rather than hatred… unless you’re Donald Trump. This is something that definitely needed to be done as the initial reveal of the monster in the first issue fell flat due to the fact that big, grotesque creatures no longer work as well in horror as more readily identifiable and real life tormentors. They speak to a part of us that still jumps at the creaks in the dark and as such are infinitely more effective as a main antagonist than the likes of Godzilla.

There could be no dark, foreboding tone however if it weren’t for the tireless efforts of Scott Godlewski and Patricia Mulvihill. Between them they have created a book that exudes fear, it is shadowy and oppressive in nature which all makes for a delightfully claustrophobic experience. For a book so intimate in its attention to characters there could be no better artistic style than the one currently in use on the title.

You surely will have come to the conclusion by now that this is the best entry in this series so far. It has just about everything a good horror story requires and it does all of it brilliantly. The second half of this series is looking deeply promising and you will want to be onboard for this ride.

Score: 10/10

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The Dark and Bloody #3 Review

Green Lantern Corps: Edge of Oblivion #4 Review

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With just three issues remaining in the series it was time for Tom Taylor to up his game and deliver on the initial promise that this title held. He obviously tried to do that with the use of some much needed twists and substantial character development but it was at the cost of other plot elements. The question is, could he do enough to overcome the negatives?

At the end of last month’s issue, Guy Gardener and several other Lanterns were attacked by the walking corpse that is Marniel and stripped of their rings. In this issue you get to see the aftermath of that encounter and whilst it does make for some enjoyable reading it is hard not to notice that Taylor missed a trick by not showing us exactly how Marniel overcame all of the Lanterns so easily. It is a small grumble but one that many fans will agree with.

The story begins with a very one sided reconciliation between Kilowog and Guy. It is one sided because, as the cover promised, Marniel has gagged Guy and finally cut off his steady stream of hot headed arrogance. It’s a short moment that finally gives Kilowog a shred of relatability and likability in this series. Up until now he hasn’t displayed enough personality, again falling victim to the bloated cast, and as such his contributions to the story have all felt overly hamstrung so it was with a sigh of relief that fans saw him be paid the proper attention.

Kilowog’s growth didn’t stop at a brief monologue either as he got to go toe to toe with Marniel in the scene below. What this showdown did was quite brilliant in that it didn’t highlight Kilowog’s much talked about strength but rather opted to give him a little humanity as he spoke to his foe and quickly realised that he and Marniel weren’t so different after all. These similarities also fed very nicely into the big reveal regarding Marniel which created a nice fluidity to the script that has been lacking in previous instalments.

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With regards to Marniel, she was finally shown to be a deeply misunderstood character as the most telegraphed reveal of all time took place. You know Ausras and Dismas, the two overly creepy giants who definitely weren’t secretly villains? Turns out they’re villains. Here, have a minute to pick your jaws up off the floor. All joking aside this was handled in the best possible way as Xrill-Vrek uses her empathetic powers to see the true Marniel and then relay her life story to the other Lanterns. It is the perfect example of powers being used to their fullest effect within a narrative and bolstering a story rather than serving as a shiny distraction, hats off to Taylor for that one.

The twist also set up something far more interesting as the two separated factions of Lanterns now look set to do battle due to the giants insidious control over John Stewart’s group. Combine that with the impending death of the universe in which they currently find themselves and you have the makings for something explosive. Though Taylor cannot afford to ignore the search for a way home any longer.

On the subject of Taylor ignoring things that seemed fairly integral to the series, what happened to those other Lanterns that were making their way to Mogo last month? They were nowhere to be seen this time around. It’s almost as if someone realised they had too much going on for a six-part series, but that just couldn’t be. More than that thought was the previously mentioned fact that there was no progress on the search for a route home. You’d have thought that, since he was still free, John would have been looking for a viable option. For reasons best known to Taylor he not only wasn’t doing that but he also made zero attempt to rescue his friends who had been kidnapped. Not such a great leader after all. And that problem really is endemic in this book, ideas get picked up and dropped with no regard for common sense or continuity which makes it hard to become invested in this series.

It was disappointing to hear that Ethan Van Sciver would not be working on the internal art of this book but thankfully Aaron Kuder and Ardian Syaf did an admirable job of keeping the general look and feel of the comic the same. Nobody’s world will be set alight by their efforts but it does help for a series to retain that level of artistic continuity even with the departure of Ethan. Speaking of whom, his Rebirth title ‘Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps’ should be something to behold when it finally launches and it is the reason he was forced to move away from this series halfway through its run.

So yes, this a perfectly decent offering in a series that can best be described as middling. It is not going to go down in history as must read material, nor is it going to be remembered as the worst story either, it is simply going to be forgotten. That’s a shame considering what could have been done with a premise such as this but not everything can be ‘The Killing Joke’ and this certainly wasn’t.

Score: 7.0/10

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Green Lantern Corps: Edge of Oblivion #4 Review

Lucifer #5 Review

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‘Cold Heaven’ has now concluded and God’s killer was finally revealed. Sounds pretty exciting, right? It wasn’t.

Before getting into all of the negativity that is to follow it might be nice to take a moment to appreciate that beautiful cover art. All five issues of ‘Lucifer’ so far have had absolutely gorgeous covers but this one really is the cream of the crop. It sets the tone of the series immediately and if you can look at it and not be compelled to look inside then you either have a will of iron or zero interest in comics. Probably the former, considering where you are right now.

So, the entirety of this first arc in the rebooted Lucifer has dealt with the murder of God and subsequent search for the culprit. If that premise wasn’t interesting enough for you, and it really should have been, Gabriel and Lucifer were forced to pair up in order to find their father’s slayer. Each issue was steeped in supernatural delights, fantastical biblical characters, and more mystery than you could shake a stick at. It all came together to make some of the most compelling reading in recent memory and it certainly showed that this series was worth the revisit. With that in mind it was rather exciting to reach the end of the first arc and receive the answers to all of the questions posed throughout the saga. What a shame it is that all of those answers fell flat.

The most disappointing of these endings was the one given to the Azazel. He was first introduced as a demon in a jar a few issues back and quickly made an impression by compelling a down on her luck middle aged woman to murder her friends. The story then became even more spellbinding after a young girl, fostered by an abusive family, came into possession of the jar and finally found a way out of her hellish life. The avenues that could have been explored on the back of this premise were too many in number to go into here and all of them would have made for some fantastic reading as Holly Black had done a great job of building this B-story into the best one in any comic at the moment. Then issue #5 happened…

The big cap off to this terrific narrative occurred over the course of just a few pages and had all the impact of a lightly thrown tic tac. Azazel, for all his build as a deadly foe, was released from his jar only to be killed moments later as Lucifer, Gabriel, and Metatron did battle. He wasn’t even important to the story in that moment, all he did was remove the sword fragment from Lucifer’s side and then that was all she wrote. Black could have done anything with this character, she could easily have extended his story throughout the next arc too and it still would have been a treat for readers. Instead off all that though she squandered it on a moment that you would be hard pressed to care about under any circumstances. Just as she did with the far bigger reveal of the issue.

At last readers found out who killed God. There was surely much excitement in fans as the answer to that most pertinent question approached, but it was all for naught. The culprit will not be named here as there is no place for such a large spoiler in a review, however you should be forewarned that it is the most lackluster, inane ending that this story could possibly have had. Black should have strived for something more when the ground was so fertile from the incomparable work she had put in for four straight issues beforehand.

All of that being said, you will come away from this issue with a suitable degree of hype for the next arc. It is built up in a very effective manner and promises to be something to write home about should Black return to form by that point.

It’s not all doom and gloom throughout this issue though as Lee Garbett once again created some stunning art work on each and every page. His characters continue to be drawn in a manner that fits with the fanciful nature of the script. The background could have been more colourful and eye catching but they still weren’t a weak point by any means as each of them served their purpose admirably. It is heartening to see one half of this creative team stay on course.

You’ll have already gathered that this comic is not highly recommended. If you’ve been reading the full series thus far then you’ll want to pick it up in order to get your answers but don’t get it if you are new to the title and want a taste of what it’s about. It was a massive disappointment and has sullied the good work that Holly Black has put in for four months on this series.

Score: 4.5/10

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Lucifer #5 Review

Mini Mario and Friends: Amiibo Challenge Review

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When characters were jumping around in the trailers for the new Mini Mario game it looked like we might have a bit more player agency this time around, perhaps harking back to the original Mario Vs Donkey Kong. Alas though, this is another straight puzzler, but it’s still a blast to play.

Mini Mario and Friends has a lot in common with the previous entry, tipping stars. It is available for Wii U and 3DS, uses the same engine and you’ll still be managing resources to guide your character to the end of the level, Lemmings style. However there are some differences, most notably, the use of Amiibo.

Mini Mario and Friends is a free game, it’s essentially a ploy by Nintendo to get you to buy their toys (or take them all out of the boxes if you’re a collector). You can use any Amiibo to play as Mini Spek, a very boring character. In order to unlock all the levels you’ll need the ones for the characters pictured above. They each unlock four levels.

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The game has a lot of variety, provided you have all the Amiibos at least. It pays homage to the characters and their previous games well. In the Yoshi levels you’ll be throwing eggs around, in the Diddy Kong levels you’re riding around in mine carts. The characters are as charming and funny as ever.

The music is great, you’ll be transported back with remixes of tunes from classics like Mario Bros 2 and Yoshi’s Island, it all fits the mood of the game well.

In terms of cost though Mini Mario is a bit of a rip off. If you like collecting Amiibos then great, this is a nice little bonus. However, if you like Mini Mario but don’t like Amiibos then you’ve been shafted here – you’ll end up spending around £100 if you want to unlock all the levels.

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There are sixty levels in total. Some claim to have beaten the game within an hour but really it depends how much time you want to spend with it. If you go after all the coins and collectibles, it would end up taking much longer than that.

Overall Mini Mario and Friends is a good game, definitely recommended for Amiibo fanatics. For everyone else though, it isn’t really viable in terms of cost, you may be better off visiting one of the past entries in the series.

Review by Tom Martin

Mini Mario and Friends: Amiibo Challenge Review

Deadpool #10 Review

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In a remarkable turn of events Deadpool improved dramatically in its last instalment. So much so that the series became one to watch for the first time in its entire run. That turnaround meant that this issue found the book at something of a crossroads, it could either continue to gain traction or it could revert back to the sorry state it was in just a few issues back.

Or it could stay steady without getting any worse or any better. Yeah, that’s the one they went with.

As you may have seen as the climax of issue nine, Sabretooth sat in a seedy restaurant and awaited yet another showdown with Deadpool. One would assume that that would mean bullets flying, swords swinging, and claws slicing. But no, Gerry Duggan decided that the most logical way to go just wasn’t for him as this book opened on a more puzzling note.

Sabretooth was indeed sat in the same place when the story began but instead of Deadpool busting in and going to war with his animalistic nemesis yet again he opted to do something a little different… he sat down and shared a meal with him. This was one of those moments that made you question just how Duggan ever made a name for himself in the writing business in the first place. The fans wanted to see these two do battle once more and it would have been the only thing that made sense too considering how Deadpool believes Sabretooth killed his parents but instead they got a rather nondescript bit of conversation. It is hard to even recall any stand out moment from that portion of the book despite having just put it down, that’s how little of an impact Duggan’s writing made in this instance.

Some of the entertainment factor from the last book was recovered however as the two men engaged in a somewhat epic chase scene on motorbikes. It has to be said that the art was on fine form throughout this sequence as Matteo Lolli managed to inject each static shot with a fluidity of movement that you would have been forgiven for not thinking him capable of capturing. The writing? That was less impressive. The jokes flowed well and that’s where the entertainment comes in but the actual plot devices were idiotic especially as it pertains to the end of said chase. What happened there was that two helicopter collided for no discernable reason other than it being convenient for Duggan. Why work hard when you can hardly work?

From there Deadpool and Sabretooth abandoned their fight to the death and rescued the civilians from the wreckage. Of course, neither of them could resist getting in one a few wise cracks at the injured parties’ expense. In that lies Duggan’s strong suit of excellent characterisation, though it does little to make up for the glaring plot holes.

The real highlight of the issue was the ending, which will not be spoiled here as to do so would be to rob you of the chance to read it yourself and get that little jolt of excitement ahead of issue eleven. Let’s just say that it is nice to see Deadpool being his remorseless self. The stakes definitely got ramped up for Sabretooth.

In the review of the last issue one major sticking point was the art. It was far too cartoonish and didn’t do the book justice whatsoever. That’s seemingly changed overnight though as this really was a deeply enjoyable book on that front. Matteo Lolli may now have found his footing after a shaky start to his Deadpool career and as such he is starting to turn out some gorgeous artwork. Earlier the fluid movement was mentioned but it should also be noted that the expressions on character’s faces as well as their look in general are both vastly improved. Really, Matteo was the high point of this issue which is something that was previously highly unlikely to ever be said. The cover art is still ugly to the point of causing nausea unfortunately.

All things considered, this was not a great issue but it was by no means a bad one either. The current storyline is still very promising and stops you from wanting to drop the title any time soon. That being said it still isn’t living up to its potential and the thought of replacing Duggan as writer is once again at the fore.

Score: 6.8/10

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Deadpool #10 Review

Totally Awesome Hulk #5 Review

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Hulkamania is running wild, brother! That may not be the right Hulk… Anyhow it is still true that this new series got out of the gates running when it debuted several months back. Despite the somewhat shaky premise, TA Hulk has proven to be thoroughly enjoyable affair. The best part of that ride was the story of Banner’s fall told through flashbacks. With that element now gone how would this latest issue stack up?

Amadeus Cho has, thus far, been a surprisingly weak character which is odd considering he is the main one. He is sold as being one of the smartest people on the planet but very little of that shines through in his everyday actions. Where he should be several steps ahead of an opponent he is instead lagging behind and being led by teenage hormones rather than anything remotely resembling common sense. Due to this it has become necessary for a different angle to be given to this new Hulk and that has been the question of whether or not he could control the monster he now played host to.

In previous issues that question has been explored a little bit as readers have gotten to see Amadeus lose control a little more each time as the beast within gains more ground over time. However, The Hulk feeds off of rage and negativity and until now Amadeus had been written as a fairly happy go lucky type of person with none of the personal problems of a man such as Bruce Banner. In this issue that was remedied and fans were shown a deeply traumatic event in Amadeus’ childhood as his parents were killed right in front of him. It is a ridiculously overused trope in comics but in this case it is forgivable as it provided a reasonable basis for Hulk to be gaining more control within Amadeus. It also gave the issue’s villain, Amora the Enchantress, something to exploit in her attempts to make The Hulk her champion.

Before moving on the story proper it seems worthwhile to take a moment to lament the lack of an adequate explanation as to how Amadeus managed to take The Hulk out of Banner and place it into himself. This was something that pretty much everyone balked at in the last issue and yet Greg Pak did nothing to elaborate on this confusing turn of events here. Hopefully he is just saving that juicy tidbit for a future instalment because at the moment it seems like he realised he had written himself into a corner, didn’t want to actually kill off Bruce Banner, and so just wrote the first asinine thing that came into his head in the hopes that fans would accept it and move on. Sorry Pak, your readers just aren’t that stupid.

Now onto the main narrative. The entire issue had to do with Amadeus’ loss of control and the increasing concern that his sister, Maddy, is having for him. In a move of questionable intelligence, she purposefully makes him mad to see if he can retain his composure, which he does for a long while before growing irate and taking off deep into the desert. There he encounters Amora, an Asgardian who wishes to use Hulk to help her overthrow Asgard. There isn’t really too much to be said for this encounter, it is brief and sets up something very interesting but it in and of itself is not inherently interesting. In truth this is a comic that does more to build interest in future issues than it does to excite audiences at this point in time. That’s fine though as every good story needs the proper build, this can be thought of the first part of act one.

One thing that was deeply disappointing was realising that Sonia Oback is no longer in charge of the colouring work on the book. She has been a constant high point for the series and thankfully her presence is still felt on the excellent cover art. Her replacement is no slouch though as Frank Martin wows with his superbly blended shades and hues. He has also retained much of the same look for long running characters in this book and such there is a very welcome sense of continuity despite the change in personnel. Mike Choi is also a fresh face on the title as he replaces Frank Cho, who has also landed on the cover art team. Choi will receive only praise too as his characters are just as bold and eye catching as his predecessors were. There is that sense of continuity in this area too which makes for a book that won’t alienate any fans who have grown accustomed to a certain standard of art.

It may not be the best book in terms of a must read story but Totally Awesome Hulk is still well worth picking up on a monthly basis. It is something a little different to the other Marvel fare and as such is deserving of a spot on your haul list.

Score: 8.0/10

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Totally Awesome Hulk #5 Review

Spider-Man/Deadpool #4 Review

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Spider-Man/Deadpool has been an absolutely ridiculous ride so far and it shows no signs of letting up any time soon in its fourth instalment. This is a series that can best be described in one word and that is ‘fun’. There comes a time however when fun needs to be put to the side and an emotional gut punch delivered in its place. That is what fans got with this book and it marks a massive turning point for both titular characters.

If it weren’t for the shocking ending there really wouldn’t be a massive amount to write about with regards to this issue. Whilst it advanced the character’s relationship to the bromance levels that readers have been wanting for so long now, it did precious little else to warrant being full price. The primary focus of the book was on a prolonged night out where Deadpool and Spidey hit up ‘Pool’s nightclub for a little double date.

The scene, which spans almost the entire issue, is highly entertaining considering the unusually small scope of the narrative which makes up for having so little happen within it. Seeing Deadpool manipulate the situation to force Thor and one of Shiklah’s succubus friend into a mud wrestling match should have provoked a smile from readers at the very least. The subsequent underwear clad dance that he and Parker were forced to perform as recompense will undoubtedly have provided a few more laughs for good measure. And then everything got flipped on its head as the tone changed and Joe Kelly slammed fans with a totally unexpected finale to an otherwise uneventful issue.

Usually such a large spoiler wouldn’t be given in these reviews but since it is all there is to talk about and explore an exception will be made. At the climax of this book the story arc that has been bubbling away in the background for the last three issues came to a sudden, jolting stop as Deadpool shot Peter Parker, seemingly killing the legendary character. It wasn’t a moment full of epic back and forth action or hilarious quips. It didn’t feature a single solitary explosion either, instead it played out in much the same way that one might imagine a real life hit would. Deadpool rang Peter’s doorbell and when Parker answered the door ‘Pool shot him multiple times with a silenced pistol. If that was it then it would have made for one of the most gut wrenching endings in recent memory, made even more jarring due to the lighthearted nature of the previous pages, but Kelly wasn’t content to leave it without one more heart string plucking scene.

With the deed done, Deadpool phoned his new best buddy to see when they could next hang out. In the next panel you see Peter’s phone light up with a picture of the two men as it lies next to his blood soaked body. It’s a heavy scene that will get a rise out of even the most hardened of comic fans. Yes, everyone is fully aware that they’re not going to kill off Spider-Man but it doesn’t really lessen the impact of seeing him gunned down in such a cold and clinical manner. It also doesn’t change the fact that the door is now open for a major reveal as Deadpool is sure to learn who exactly is under that web lined mask, a moment that will have huge ramifications for both men. No matter how you look at this one thing is for sure, Joe Kelly achieved what he set out to do as he shocked everybody who picked up a copy of this fantastic title.

As is always the case, Ed McGuinness and Mark Morales were on fine form as they drew yet another winner of a book. The playfulness on display in the previously mentioned nightclub scenes really added to the story to an immeasurable extent. The colours for these moments were deep and rich, creating a lively atmosphere befitting of such an energetic setting. When Kelly flipped the script and turned serious, McGuinness and Morales were right there with him as they drew everything in a far more subdued and meaningful manner. A lesser artist would not have been able to pull off such a switch with such grace but this pair delivered it with ease.

The future of this comic is looking very bright indeed as the narrative is now guaranteed to take a massive sidestep into completely foreign territory. There hasn’t been a poor instalment as of yet and this certainly didn’t change that trend, if you haven’t already then you really should consider getting your hands on a copy of all of the issues thus far.

Score: 9.0/10

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Spider-Man/Deadpool #4 Review