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Comics

With the release of the trailer for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2, it seems everyone has been caught up in a wave of turtle fever—even Batman.

Can someone please explain to me why the whole ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ thing was so big? I mean, I remember it kind of being talked about by the bigger kids on the playground when I was in school but I really couldn’t see the appeal. Originally the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were meant to be a parody of Daredevil and X-Men among other things, but now we have Michael Bay shoving it in our faces with a complete lack of irony. At some point we as an audience went from laughing at the Turtles to laughing with them and I can’t entirely see why. The real problem is that I am finding myself starting to enjoy the world of the Turtles, first in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2 trailer and now with the Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Issue One. I must be losing it. Actually, before I get stuck into the meat of this review, maybe watch that trailer one more time…

I liked Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Issue One. I am finding it hard to believe I just typed those words. I have seen Marvel and DC Comics handle a lot of crossovers across the years but it has to be said that this was one of the best ones. Crossovers are tricky as both companies, in this instance DC Comics and IDW, want to feel like their characters are being well-represented on the page. I have heard rumours of collaborations boiling down to a fifty-fifty split in the amount of panels each company’s characters were allowed in. Luckily, the two groups seem to have come to a fairly amicable arrangement here as the focus seems split fairly without anything feeling forced. DC Comics have pulled out all the stops to throw top talent on the book with James Tynion IV, of Batman and Robin Eternal fame, handling the writing. Tynion IV is the perfect choice for the project as he has a lot of experience writing for the Dark Knight and a limited experience of working for IDW, back with his ‘Why so sad’ short. Needless to say Tynion IV hits it out of the park.

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Tynion IV likes to work with the perceptions of the people around Batman. This can be pretty interesting as it can lead to readers seeing Batman in a new light. In Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Issue One, the Turtles and their nemesis, Shredder, are thrown into the current DC Universe. Half the issue tackles their perspective as they attempt to figure out what is happening to them. This half culminates in a meeting with Batman and we see the caped crusader from the Turtles’ perspectives as they start to geek out over him. The other portion of the issue follows Batman as he tries to understand what is going on in his city. Killer Croc becomes involved, which adds an intriguing dynamic as he makes for a dark reflection of the Turtles. There are a few interesting exchanges between Bruce and Alfred in this issue as well, which add in another layer and an additional perspective. All of these perspective shifts play into the same themes as Tynion IV’s and Snyder’s Batman and Robin Eternal, exploring the Bat. It’s enjoyable and finds a way to serve most fans of both pop culture giants.

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Freddie E. Williams II has a very distinctive style. It’s a rare in the world of comics as it takes on an almost watercolour feel to it. Williams II seems to have become an ambassador for DC Comics as he worked on the Green Lantern/ Star Trek crossover earlier this year. He understands what pop culture fans want in composition: for their favourite characters to look bad-ass. That being said, his style can lack impact at points and I often found myself struggling to enjoy the fight scenes as everything looked a little too weak. There’s a reason watercolours are normally reserved for countryside landscapes. This doesn’t hold the issue back too much but it certainly takes away from the impact it could have. The panelling is fairly standard throughout with little to complain or praise but I will say that it is very readable.

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I like this book, it was a hidden gem in a week that was a little lacking when it came to the release schedule. Whether I would recommend it to everyone is a difficult question to answer. If you can wrap your head around the idea of a man dressed as a bat teaming up with a bunch of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to fight ninjas and imagine that combination to have serious emotional depth, you might just be the right person to buy this issue. That being said, I let out a series of manic giggles while writing that sentence. I think at the end of the day you already know deep down if you’re going to like this book. If you are one of those happy few, go grab it today!

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Get into the Christmas spirt with these fantastic holiday stories from the best and brightest in the comic book industry.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year and everyone is looking to cash in on the Christmas cheer. Every medium makes some attempt to milk the Christmas cash cow and comic books are no different. Over the years there have been comic book tie-ins to almost every major holiday but as with everything else there are some that stand out from the pack. So if you are looking to get your Christmas cheer on this year these are the top five comic books that will get your chestnuts roasted and your bells jingled.

5. Spider-Man Blue

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If you have never read a single Spider-Man book before this could very well be the best starting point. Spiderman Blue is part of the Jeph Loeb/ Tim Sale super series that also holds claim to Captain America White. The entire book looks at Peter Parker’s relationships with the people in his life, specifically the women. It set around Christmas and looks at the lives of young people in New York in the holidays. It looks beautiful and contains every drop of emotion you could want from a Christmas story. This is a must over the holidays.

4. Gotham Central Volume Two

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The Joker ruins Christmas and only the valiant members of the Gotham City Police Department can stop him. It sounds like some classic comic book action right? That’s because Gotham Central Volume Two is exactly that. It’s about Joker at his most sinister, perverting the greatest of holidays in Gotham. The narrative is solid as Ed Brubaker steps in to craft something that feels like an action packed Christmas spectacular to rival the likes of Die Hard. If you want a bit of action over Christmas there is nowhere better to turn

3. Superman: Peace On Earth

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Every comic book fan should love Alex Ross. He is the only artist capable of recreating the beauty and campy goodness of the golden and silver age in stunning painted quality. So when he and teams up with Paul Dini, famous for the Batman animated series, to create a Christmas book you can probably understand why half the comic book community lost their minds. Peace on Earth is about Superman trying to create a world without hunger for a day. It feels like a great combination concept and character that makes for a book that is both heart-warming and deeply emotional.

2. Marvel Zombies Christmas Carol

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The final two entries on this list are both based on Dickens’ classic Christmas tale. I don’t know why but this story seems to resonate with the western world at this time of the year. As there have been so many fantastic retellings it hasn’t taken too long for the world of Comics to crack out some truly insane interventions on the story. Marvel Zombies Christmas Carol is the weirdest and craziest of the Christmas Carol retellings you will find on any comic book store’s shelves. The story is basically about Scrooge learning how to fight a zombie invasion with the help of the three ghosts of Christmas and the other characters from the story of Scrooge. It’s hilarious and surprisingly action-packed, a good Christmas romp all round.

1. Batman: Noel

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If there were ever a comic book character that needed to learn the true meaning of Christmas, I’m pretty sure it would be Batman. Noel is Lee Bermejo’s attempt to marry Batman with A Christmas Carol and it is possibly the greatest piece of work by a sole creator in the industry. This piece is an odyssey into Batman’s soul: it is harsh and harrowing while also showing how the Dark Knight’s relationships are affected by his persona. The finale is heart-warming and filled with the warmth of the holiday of course, but it also has a sadness to it that gives it a punch found in few comics. This piece recreates the stunning imagery of A Christmas Carol in a way that nothing else can to a modern audience. If you need something to fill you with holiday cheer this year, you will find it in Batman: Noel

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At London’s MCM Expo I was able to interview Victor Wright, writer for Geeky Comics and industry expert, about his views on the current state of the industry.

The best thing about the British Comic Book Industry is that it breeds from within itself. Fans and collectors latch onto it and quickly find themselves inspired to go out and write their own material. Victor Wright is a fantastic example of this. Wright started collecting comic books around the age of eight and now he has climbed all the way up to being a writer for Geeky Comics, one of growing independent presses that are popping up all over the MCM Expo floors. Victor had worked on books such as ‘Exposed’ and ‘Lawless’ which have both been met with positive reviews from a variety of industry websites. Going into my interview with Victor I wanted to explore his feelings on the current state of the industry.

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PL: Do you think that the independent industry is growing at the moment?

VW: Most definitely. Yeah, we’re an independent publisher over at Geeky Comics and we’re producing about twelve to thirteen different titles at the moment. We’ve gone from producing one title, about three years ago, to thirteen which alone shows the difference.

PL: Why do you think the industry is growing in this way then?

VW: Film, TV, and pop culture in general has made everyone really excited about comic cons now. People want to dress up. They want a break from reality and to do something totally different. I think the people who don’t want to go quite as far as reenacting but want to do something else and get some different kit on for a weekend think that this sort of thing is great fun. It’s just become bigger and bigger and bigger. Obviously, the merchandising that’s pushed by the big names all the time has become so hard to ignore that everyone wants to be a part of it.

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PL: A lot of your books are not focused on super heroes. Do you believe there is more of a niche now for non-superhero graphic novels and comic books?

VW: Absolutely. We don’t do any spandex or capes. We do more horror and crime. If you look at publishers like Image and IDW they don’t really do any capes either, it’s all about horror and action. To me, that suggests that that market place is growing. Image is now in at least the top five now, that really shows that the audience are looking for something totally different. Marvel and DC tend to be for a younger audience, and I think that the people who have read comics for a long time are really looking for something more. Hence the reason Geeky Comics does so well.

PL: Fantastic! If someone was to read this article and they were inspired to go out into the industry as a creator, what advice would you give to them?

VW: Come to a convention. Produce whatever it is that you are going to produce and come to a convention. Have total commitment to your product, if you’re not excited about it then there is no reason for anyone else to be. If you sit back and don’t tell anyone about it, the product will go nowhere, but if you tell everyone about it you’ll be surprised how quickly it gains a following.

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PL: How important would you say social media is to a new, or more experienced, creator?

VW: It’s very important. We use it all the time over at Geeky Comics. I still can’t get the hang of Twitter, but certainly with Facebook. For example, across London MCM Expo we’re collecting photographs of horror characters as they go past and people who are buying our products. We publish those on the day of the convention in the evening, so people can see themselves. For us, Facebook is the big one, but we do use Twitter and we’re just dabbling in Instagram at the moment. It can be hard to manage social media because there’s so much going on between the Geeky Comics site, the books site, and the comic festival site. We try to avoid spreading ourselves thin with too many platforms at the moment, but we do know we have to break out into things like Instagram.

PL: Finally, is there anything that is coming out over the next couple of weeks that you would like to tell our readers about?

VW: Blood Red Moon. It’s about a clan of Vikings that capture a werewolf. They build a big pit and they chain the werewolf down into it. Each full moon, they then send their warriors into the pit to be marked by the werewolf, in hope that they can create a clan of werewolves to go into battle with. It was a big Kickstarter for us. It did really well and it was released towards the end of October.

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How can you get involved?

If you are interested in looking at some of the horror and crime work being done in the British industry then there is no better place to start than with ‘Blood Red Moon’ or ‘Lawless’.

You can also follow Victor Wright and the rest of the Geeky Comics team on their website at: http://www.geekycomics.com/home and on Twitter at: @Geeky_Comics

If you want to locate your nearest convention try: http://www.mcmcomiccon.com and check out my article on London’s MCM Expo here.

Photography by William Shackalady

With the rising popularity of the Netflix TV series, Marvel have put top talent on their new Daredevil book, but will the gambit pay off?

Daredevil is the reason you are reading this right now. I would not be a writer if it wasn’t for Brian Michael Bendis’ legendary run on the book which convinced me to pursue this crazy career. I wasn’t the only one affected by Daredevil, countless generations of creators have been inspired by the book, this is because Marvel have an interesting habit of putting their best rising talent on the book. However, this year marked the release of season one of Daredevil onto Netflix and with that came some new appreciation for the horn headed hero. Now, with the release of the All-New All-Different, Marvel have put talented writer Charles Soule at the helm of Daredevil, but can this great match of writer and subject live up to expectations?

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Charles Soule has taken Daredevil from the sunny west coast, where he resided in the previous Mark Waid run, and thrown him back into the hive of scum and villainy that is Hell’s Kitchen, New York. Add in a new sidekick, Blindspot, and the fact that Matt Murdock is working as a prosecutor and it’s easy to see that this book is nothing like any Daredevil book that has come before. Murdock has also gone back to a mostly black costume, possibly to tie in with Netflix series, and this gives the series a very dark and gritty tone. For the first time since before Waid took over the series, Daredevil feels intimidating and aggressive. Murdock has taken on these traits as well, to the point where he threatens a terrified witness to testify. Soule has striped Daredevil back to his roots as a shady, almost noire-esque, super hero. The addition of Blindspot is perfect to display this as Daredevil has taken on the role of an abrasive master, coming full circle from his own training with the master Stick. This transformation is made complete by the amazing artwork by Ron Garney.

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Back in the hay day of comics the majority of books used a dotted style of printing, Ron Garney has called back to this era by mimicking the dot style and creating a piece with a limited pallet. Garney’s pallet is brown and grey with the occasional black, red or faded primary that makes the entire issues feel very visceral.  Daredevil’s costume pops off the page and looks impressive from every angle. The experimental style has some issues, especially when depicting panels with a lack of brown and grey tones, but for the most part it is perfect for the genre of story Soule is trying to tell. The panelling is great as well and incredibly easy to follow which makes for great piece with a lot of flow.

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Daredevil Issue one is a good comic book, in fact, I would even go so far as to say it was a great comic book if it wasn’t the for the fact that I’m not crazy on Soule’s new villain, as it seems a little dumb. The book is well paced with strong writing and fitting art throughout that is sure to impress any comic book reader, from the veterans to the noobs. I really recommend picking up this book, you can get it for under £3 from a lot of suppliers on the internet and it’s more than worth that price. Daredevil might have only just started on Netflix but he’s on his come back tour in the Marvel Universe and I am sure it’s going to be a hell of a ride!

At London’s MCM Expo I was able to sit down with Marvel and DC Comics artist John McCrea.

Honestly, in my wildest dreams I didn’t think this would happen. When I rocked up to London MCM Expo all the way back in October I expected to discuss the British Comic Book Industry Spotlight with a lot independent artists, writers and editors but I doubted any creators working for Marvel or DC Comics would have the time. That’s not to belittle either type of creator, it’s just as a rule of thumb that the independent creators have a little more time for projects like this. I have tried to give every perspective I can on the British Comic Book Industry over the last few weeks but here’s a new one, how does someone in the mainstream feel about the industry? I was with this question that I approached artist John McCrea, famed for working on just about every character in the industry including Batman to Hulk to Star Wars.

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PL: One of the things the British Comic Book Spotlight looks at is the life of the artist, what advice would you give to someone who wants to break into the comic book industry?

JM: From the very beginning, just draw all the time. Just draw all the time, but draw comics. A lot of people come to me with portfolios and it’s pin-ups. You need to draw comics, you need to show you can draw sequential art. If you want to be a comic artist, don’t just work from your own scripts, work from scripts that are prewritten. Download stuff from the internet. Buy a comic, don’t read it, get somebody to write out the story for you and draw it up from their script. I’ve always found that was a good way to work because you can then compare your work to an established artist and see where your shortcomings are. If you write your own stuff, you will write what you want to draw and not what you have to draw. You end up having to draw a lot of stuff in comics that you never expected you were going to have to draw and it pushes you. So you have to push yourself from the very beginning, even when you are trying to break in. Also, just show your work, go to conventions and get your work under the noses of editors, have a webpage, have deviant art, have all the social media you can. Because everybody else is doing it so you have to do it too. If you can get stuff sent to editors do. A small piece of advice, if you are sending something to Marvel don’t send DC Comics stuff to Marvel and vice versa cause that really hacks them off.

PL: How did you break into the Industry?

JM: When I was trying to break in I looked at it seriously and considered what I would have to produce every month. For most artists, that is a monthly book, which is twenty or so pages of art. So I said, every week I am going to draw four to five pages of comic. The first week I did Judge Dredd then I sent it to Titan and 2,000AD. The second week I did Spiderman stuff and sent it to Marvel. The third week, Batman to DC Comics and the fourth week I did American independent stuff, where I drew something published and sent it to them. With each month I repeated the process and I did that for four years. I figured, that’s what I am going to be doing so I might as well get used to it. The thing is, it has really prepared me for the workload that has come with drawing monthly books. There’s a lot of discipline in comics because most people work from home and so you have got to be able to work from home and not be distracted from producing the work that’s required. It’s so easy with the myriad of distractions around now. Discipline and practice are the most important things for any artist looking to start out. You will eventually get asked to draw the Human Torch juggling dogs on a bicycle and you need to be prepared.

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PL: Would you say that it is important for a creator to be business-minded in the industry now?

JM: Oh God yes! Absolutely. You are a freelancer so half of your business is business as well. Unfortunately, you can’t just be great at drawing comics without any idea of how to look after yourself and your interests. One, almost essential, bit of advice on that is when you get paid have two bank accounts. One account for tax and bills and another for spending, then when the money comes in put the twenty five percent for tax and all your bill money in the bill account. Many creators I know have gone bankrupt because they have spent all their money and forgotten about their bills or taxes. It sucks, but it’s the way it is.

PL: You have worked on a lot of super hero related projects, do you think there is a growing gap in the market for new genres of comic books?

JM: This what is happening right now. Image have come along and changed the entire playing field. I’m working on my own Image book at the moment actually, and while it is about big concept crazy stuff it’s not about super heroes. The readership for comics has changed. There is now a much greater percentage of female readers than ever before, and most of them don’t really want to read about men in tights. So with the Walking Dead and Saga there the medium is expanding away from super heroes more and more. I think it’s a great time for other genres to come to the foreground. Image are my go to company, pretty much every book I buy is an Image book now. I think it’s because there are a lot of good quality writers and artist doing books that they really care about.

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PL: One of my favourite Image comics is Matt Fraction’s Sex Criminals run, which I think takes note of the female readership more as there are a lot of different women in the book with varying body types. How do you feel that the growing female readership is reflected in the art of industry now and your own art work?

JM: They are putting real women in comics, crazy but there you go. I work with Garth Ennis most of the time, Garth doesn’t really write women characters. He tends to write around world war two and lot about male rites of passage, all that John Woo stuff. When it does come up however, I do try to give women at least a passing resemblance to reality. I don’t want to make them look all silicon.

PL: Finally, is there anything that you are currently working on that you would like tell our readers about?

JM: I’ve got few books coming out across winter, I’ve got Section Eight Issue Five and Six published by DC Comics and written by Garth Ennis. Then I’ve got Mythic Issue Five coming out which is published by Image and written by Phil Hester. That’s my creator owned book and it’s the book I am the most proud of.

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How can you get involved?

If you are interested in looking at the work of a British artist in the mainstream industry it is certainly worth checking out both ‘Mythic’ from Image and ‘Section Eight’ from DC Comics as they are both great examples of how the mainstream is changing to reflect the independent market.

You can also follow John McCrea on his website at: http://www.johnmccrea.com/ and on Twitter at: @mccreaman.

If you want to locate your nearest convention try: http://www.mcmcomiccon.com and check out my article on London’s MCM Expo here.

Photography by William Shacklady

Comic Book fans everywhere have been trying to box the Civil War trailer into the Mark Millar graphic novel storyline and it has to stop.

I have had the same conversation three times this week. A friend will sidle up to me and say ‘I love the new Civil War trailer but it doesn’t look much like the comic book everyone has been banging on about for years’ to which I’ll reply by slamming my head on the closest desk or desk-like surface. I didn’t think we still had this problem. I’m going to let you all in on a secret right now: Marvel have been lying to us for some time. The comic version of Age of Ultron takes place in an alternate future where half the superheroes are dead. The comic version of The Winter Soldier involves Captain America using the tesseract (which is called the cosmic cube in the comics) to wish Bucky back to normal. None of it is like the comics, but there is nothing wrong with that.

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Apart from the obvious problems with Fox owning a third of the Marvel Universe, there are a lot of good reasons why Marvel Studios have decided not to follow the exact plot of the comic books. To follow the entire plot of the Marvel Universe would require Marvel to accurately recreate over sixty years chronologically, the majority of which is very dated. The budget required to recreate some Marvel events would be staggering and many heroes would barely get more than two lines. That being said, I have seen the argument floating around the internet that Civil War could just be a recreation of the comics as we have already had a lot of set-ups from previous films for the universe. It is the dumbest idea I have ever heard.

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Scroll back up to the top of the page and count the number of super heroes that you don’t know in that picture. Even if you are a major comic book fan, do it. You’re back? Good. I counted around seventeen heroes and villains in that picture that haven’t played a major role in a film or TV series. How confused do you think everyone is going to be when all of these super heroes suddenly appear from nowhere. There’s still people that think that the guy in the all black suit with a panther motif is Batman ‘finally joining the Avengers’. It’s Black Panther people. If you don’t know who he is, I wrote a handy guide right here.

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No, Civil War will be nothing like Mark Millar’s graphic novel but that’s fine because I personally believe it might prove even better. The Civil War graphic novel was immensely ambitious and was only just held together by a combination of good writing and an audience who were willing to suspend their disbelief to the point of insanity. Now we have two small forces fighting over a more personal matter. I know they are still doing the Registration Act with the Sokovia Accords, but the real fight seems to revolve around Bucky. This should balance the story and allow the it to be a lot more streamlined while giving all the involved characters enough screen time, even though it’s still going to be a struggle. Captain America: Civil War will be a good film no matter what it’s relation to the comic books is and if this article doesn’t convince you then maybe you should watch the trailer one more time.

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Frank Miller is writing the final chapter of his legendary 'Dark Knight' series, but after more than a decade, is Miller’s Gotham still edgy?

Only this week on his one-hundredth Fatman on Batman podcast, Kevin Smith stated that ‘The Dark Knight Returns is one of the greatest pieces of American literature’ and in all truth, I tend to agree with him. Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns has become a cornerstone of modern comic books, setting a darker tone for all other comics to attempt to match. The sequel, The Dark Knight Strikes Again, is good. A lot of people will tell you it’s terrible but this is more due to the fact that it is compared to its predecessor, and unfortunately it doesn’t really compare. Now Frank Miller has come out of the shadows once more and, with the help of Brian Azzarello, has begun the final chapter in the Dark Knight Trilogy, Dark Knight III: The Master Race.

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Frank Miller has always had a great vision of the world in the Dark Knight series and The Master Race is no different. Across the first issue we are introduced to a new world set ten years on from the original book. This is good as it allows Miller to incorporate a lot of different elements from modern lifestyle into the book, specifically texting and the friction between African-Americans and the police. This grounds the book in reality, much like the original series, which is something The Dark Knight Strikes Again sorely lacked. The latter half of the book follows Wonder Woman and her family. Diana seems to be coping a lot better in the semi-dystopian world than most other heroes, her redesign seems pretty light but it works well to show how she has stuck to her heritage. The final scenes of the book contain a serious reveal that I won’t spoil here, as it sends the entire story in a new direction, but it is refreshing and puts gives me a lot of hope for the rest of the series.

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However, the book’s pacing seems off. There’s far too long spent on world building and fluff whilst the actual plot makes few moves until the end of the book. That said, if you are a fan of the Dark Knight series, more world building will probably interest you. There are also some plot threads from The Dark Knight Strikes Again that are clarified and tied up, which serves to make the piece feel more like a continuation instead of stand alone. I also want to mention the mini-issue included alongside this issue. It’s important to note that the book is to be read before the mini-issue, as it continues the story slowly. The mini-issue focuses on the Atom, a hero I know little about, but it works really well to widen the universe and create a piece with further depth. I actually feel that the writing is much stronger in the mini-issue as the slow pacing feels much more fitting. The two pieces together create a good start to what I am hoping will be an extremely engrossing story arc. However, if that is happening it will require some more plot driven storytelling in further issues.

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The artwork, by Andy Kubert, sets Dark Knight III: The Master Race aside from the other two story arcs in the Dark Knight series which were both illustrated by Miller himself. I am not sure how I feel about this. The book doesn’t seem to contain the same tone as the previous pieces, which suffered from being a lot rougher round the edges. The issue feels a little too sleek in places, but if you’re more used to the modern style of comic books then this is probably more readable when compared to rest of series. I also understand that Miller may not be capable of working on the art anymore. He is becoming one of the elder-statesmen of the industry so this feels like a good compromise. The panelling and layout is smooth while changing things up just enough to give everything a distinctive feel.

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Where does Dark Knight III: The Master Race fit into the Dark Knight Trilogy? Well, in a lot of ways it’s far too early to say, but if the arc continues in this vein it will probably sit comfortably as the middle child of the series. My only concern is that this book feels a little more removed from Miller, both in the writing and the art, like the piece has been slightly rushed. This got me thinking. Is it possible that Miller is now in his own dystopia? Where the corporate masters at DC Comics are trying to manipulate his creative vision? Pushing out something that can be repackaged next March with to coincide with Batman V Superman? Only time will tell.

At London’s MCM Expo I was able to interview artist Steve Penfold, an industry veteran who has worked with Beyond the Bunker and Lucasarts.

With any industry that is going through a period of growth there are newbies and veterans. When it comics to the British Comic Book Industry, Steve Penfold one of the most experienced veterans you can find. I had a list of people I wanted to interview when I started devising this feature and Steve was at the top of it. As an artist, Steve has worked with companies such as Lucasarts and Cbeebies, and as a member of the comic the book industry Steve has worked on a tonne of great projects including Caelum Priory, Zookeeper and The Reverend: Wrath of God which all saw success. Currently, Steve is working with Beyond The Bunker to produce Moon, which has been met with a high level of critical acclaim. Going into my interview with Steve I wanted to really pick his brain on why the British Comic Book Industry is in such a growth period.

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PL: Do you think the British Comic Book Industry is growing?

SP: Yes. I mean, without a shadow of a doubt. It’s not what it was, by any stretch of the imagination. Back in the nineties of course there was Marvel UK, which arguably was just an American division that appeared to be a British company, and there was 2,000AD at its height. But, yes in real terms, in terms of titles, creativity and scale. The industry is back, even if it’s not quite as commercially back. It’s certainly in a phase of rapid expansion.

PL: Why do you think it’s growing again after the chaos of the late nineties and early two-thousands?

SP: I think it’s down to time. One of the things that affected it the most was that retailers changed the way that they sold comics. For instances nowadays, WHSmiths and places like that hire out space on their shelves. Now for a smaller comic, you can’t afford to put it out there before you even get started on the off chance that your books will sell. So without that guaranteed sale and return on major retail, small comics simply couldn’t survive. 2,000 AD struggled, so it’s that which effectively killed the relationship between retailers and smaller presses back in the nineties. But you can’t stop an industry like this and it was only so long until it was going to come kicking back, I mean British comics have always been famous anyway. The Dandy, The Beano, The Buster are all so iconic to Britain, they just had to find their feet again. Another problem we had to overcome was the exodus of British talent to America, once Marvel UK went down they moved a lot of their talent across the pond. DC followed suit and you saw some of the best writers of our generation leave the British industry. But once people got sick of all that they started doing their own thing and here we are today. It makes perfect sense, Marvel and DC are not as attractive to artists and writers as they used to be and so we are beginning to see more of a home grown industry and talent.

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PL: I’ve noticed a lot less super hero stories cropping up in the British, do you think more alternative stories are a definitive aspect of the industry.

SP: Well superheroes weren’t always part of the industry. If anything moving away from the super heroes is a return to form. Actually, what’s left now with super heroes? We’ve seen the alternative super hero stories where we see the ‘real’ life of a super hero and now even the most abstract ideas have become mainstream. For a medium like comics, because of its nature and the specificity of its audience, it thrives from being at the edge of culture. If super heroes are mainstream, new comics are not going to be about super heroes, it’s as simple as that. We have to look for something else and I think that has created a whole new wave of creativity because now no one can do the obvious. We can’t go back to the old styles, like westerns, Sci-fi is making a bit of kick back but now Sci-fi is becoming mainstream as well. So comics have found themselves in this weird situation where all the geeky things they have covered have become mainstream so for them to be against the grain, as it were, they have to be cool.

PL: What would you say to people who are looking to come into the world of comics as creators?

SP: Do it for the love until you reach a point where you are making money at it. Be prepared to work very hard for little or no gain for a long time. Be ready for it to feel like you are never going to get anywhere, but then be ready for the moment, if you stick at it, that it does. Don’t assume anything, keep working hard and be patient. Make sure you don’t lose sight of what you are doing and why you are doing it.

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PL: How important do you think an event like MCM Expo or Thought Bubble is to a creator like yourself?

SP: The industry would not exist without them. In fact I would go as far as to say, the reason that me as a creator, and probably most of the guys at such events, are able to continue doing what we are doing if because of the existence of these events. They have just taken on a life of their own. MCM in particular is that rare thing that is both a commercial enterprise and a creative one that remembers what it’s about. The comic village has grown and the table price has managed to stay cheap enough that new talent can come along and thrive. The one thing you hear about all MCM’s is that, as a creator, you will always make your table price back. Other events have really forgotten that, they put their prices up too high, and that simple requirement has gone. As a result, it’s not as attractive to a lot of the new guys. That being said, MCM have very specific rules, for instance no stall is allowed to sell fan art. Which basically means that you cannot do a direct drawing of a pre-existing license. You can do a joke or something involving your own property interacting with an existing character but you cannot do an existing character. They want to see original ideas and original work.

PL: Do you think there is a good community spirt between the artists, writers and the public?

SP: Yeah. You get a sense of how important it can be to some fans, at the same time you also are reminded about how you are just one of many, so it can be humbling. You’re not the king of the world, you’re not Stephan King or JJ Abrahams, when you get down to it you’re selling a book. It’s great if it makes people happy and you live for the smile on their face, but the bottom line is you aren’t changing the world. It stops you looking at sales figures and instead start looking at how people actually feel about your work.

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PL: Just before we finish, is there any of your recent work that you would like to tell our readers about?

SP: Of course! Ours is the story of the moon. Our moon. A lot of people don’t seem to know about this, but moon has been dropping out of the sky now for the last two thousand years in the early hours of the morning. Most recently, he has been putting on a suit, taking out a gun and fighting crime on behalf of us all, mainly the British public. He’s teamed up with a homicidal traffic warden by the name of Shades Rodriguez, he has no face with which to emote and he has no mouth with which to speak. If you put a coke float in front of him he will drink it, but no one is entirely sure how. He’s a surprisingly good shot and he’s doomed to plummet out of the sky for the rest of time.

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How can you get involved?

If you’re looking to get into the British comic book industry it is worth picking up ‘Moon’ Issue One, Two and Three as it is a good example of the abstract work being done in the industry.

You can also follow Steve Penfold and the rest of the Beyond The Bunker team on their website at: http://beyondthebunker.com/ and on Twitter at: @BeyondtheBunker

If you want to locate your nearest convention try: http://www.mcmcomiccon.com and check out my article on London’s MCM Expo here.

Photography by William Shacklady

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This week Mark Millar's new comic book, Huck, hit shelves. With such high expectations, can Huck live up to the hype?

It’s easy to see why Mark Millar has such an esteemed reputation in the comic book industry. From his work with Marvel Comics, on award winning series such as Civil War and Old Man Logan, to his work on independent titles, such as Kick-Ass, Kingsman and Chrononaughts, Millar has always delivered high quality. Whenever he comes down from his mountain in Millarworld to deliver a new comic or graphic novel it is always cause for concern and excitement, will this be the series that breaks the Millar spell or the one that cements his place in the lineage of comic book history? This week Huck, Millar’s new series, hit the shelves and I couldn’t resist picking it up.

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Huck is a Superman story for the modern age, the title character is a slightly simple farm boy with the powers of super strength, speed and flight. The character of Huck is so sweet and selfless that you cannot help but fall in love with him, Millar really gets us on side quickly which is perfect as the issue ends with Huck’s exposure to the press. This final moment carries a lot of weight however I feel like it comes a little quickly. This is a problem that persists throughout the entire book as everything seems to pass a little too fast. I think this is due to a lack of dialogue as Huck is a man of few words and a lot of the issue is made up of silent panels. That being said, the story is strong and the scripting is thoughtful with an elegance rarely seen in comics. With all that said, Huck would not feel like good value for money were it not for the artwork.

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Huck’s artwork by Rafael Albuquerque is beyond anything that I normally expect in the world of comics. Every panel has a warm comforting glow to it that conjures up endless images of warm summers nights, fireflies and corn fields. In a few panels the pencilling is a little week but the colouring never fails to convey the emotions encapsulated within the piece. Panelling is very simplistic throughout, which isn’t a problem but can lead to the piece reading very quickly. A montage sequence in the middle of the issue exacerbates the problem to the point that the entire piece feels lacking in content.

huck_imageIs Huck Issue One a good issue? If you like quality over content, I would say yes. However, if you want value for money you may be a little disappointed by this Issue. There is no debate that this piece is strong, and it is certainly the first chapter in a great story that will surely get a large following over the coming weeks. I have to recommend this book, but if the quality was any lower this book would not be worth buying. Millar has managed another masterpiece but it will be how the series progress that will decide how Huck and Millar are remembered in the history of comic books.

Last week Netflix released the newest chapter in the Marvel Universe, Jessica Jones, and you need to go watch it!

I was sick of super heroes. Honestly, as a huge fan of Marvel and DC Comics even I was starting to feel a little tired, I felt like we needed a year off. Just one year with no super hero related films, TV shows or video games. That was how I felt last Thursday, then I watched Jessica Jones, the antidote to super heroism hysteria. Jones works hard to create something new and unlike any super hero series to date. The first, and probably most obvious, difference between Jones and any other Marvel property is that it features a female protagonist, but Jessica Jones isn’t just any female protagonist. Jessica Jones may be one of the most interesting women in world of television at the moment. Before we go any further I want to make it clear that this is not a review and it will contain no spoilers for the TV series, if you want to know what happens you’ll have to find out for yourself.

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As I explained in a previous article, Jessica Jones was popularised by Brian Michael Bendis back in the noughties. Jones quickly became a fan favourite as she is a strong, kick-ass protagonist, but what makes her stand out is that she is also broken, cynical and filled with hatred for the entire super hero shtick. This translates almost perfectly to screen, setting Krysten Ritter’s character apart from the likes of the Avengers or the Guardians of the Galaxy who revel in their roles as heroes. There is never a point when Jones enjoys being a hero, she just wants to be numb and ignorant but there is some aspect of her that feels a responsibility to her powers. This aspect of the series can feel a little angsty but it’s a brilliant change of pace from most of the other super powered stories out there. Almost as if Jessica Jones is sat next to you on the sofa saying ‘yeah I know it’s all the power stuff is dumb’. However, the genius of the series comes from everything that is left once you take the powers away.

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Netflix’s first Marvel series, Daredevil, showed us that super hero stories can work as vehicle for great drama and Jessica Jones continues that trend. The main plot could be from an episode of EastEnders. Jones’ Ex is back in town looking to cause trouble. No, that wasn’t a spoiler, if you have watched any of the trailers you already know this. The Ex in question is self-centred, controlling and manipulative and these characteristics are then reflected in his powers. The other powered characters in the series all have their characters reflected in their abilities too, Luke Cage is an unstoppable force for good and Jessica has an inner-strength she’s reluctant to unleash. The writing revolves around how these characters interplay with one another and how people without abilities get caught up in their drama. The finished project is intelligent, dramatic and impossible to stop watching.

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I’m not going to harp on the female protagonist stuff but if the rest of my article hasn’t convinced you to watch Jessica Jones then at least watch it to support a well written female hero. There’s a growing trend for gender diversity in the world of super heroes and it’s something that needs to be encouraged. If none of that sells you, Jessica Jones does have a final secret weapon in the form of David Tennant who takes on the role of Kilgrave, the aforementioned ex. This may be a return to form for Tennant, since his days as a certain Time Lord, as he plays a villain you love to hate! So, there’s good writing, good characters, great drama, gender diversity and Tennant, you really should watch Jessica Jones