Saturday, 24 January 2015

Secret Wars, Battleworld and It Came From Darkmoor...

So this might surprise a few of you.


Back blogging again. 

While I've certainly still remained active on social media I fully hold my hands up to having let the lights at It Came From Darkmoor... dim out a little over the past year. It was never an intentional thing, but 2014 became a bit of an odd year for me. It was the first year since late 2011 that my health was good, that I was back to returning to my full duties at Work, and finally I got the chance to spend some actual time with friends and family doing the normal everyday things with them which chemotherapy patients don't get to do. So I made the absolute most of that. It was great.

As a result though I did start to fall behind with the general comings and goings of the Marvel universe. It's not that they didn't interest me. Far from it. But time and (for the first time) money started to create a heck of a backlog of reading material on my night stand. To the point that it now doesn't all fit on my nightstand. Or the table in the spare room. Or a few other places.

Mrs Sword is a very understanding woman.

Back in the early 2000s, when I first got back into reading comics, it was an easy time for completionists. At that lower price point it was perfectly possible to pick up a good cross-section of the Marvel Universe on a monthly basis without incurring too much debt or the wrath of a loved one. Monthly books were just that, and there hadn't been any full universe crossover event for a few years. Back then I was able to both purchase and spend considerable time scrambling through that cross-section of titles, searching and hoping for vague connections to the Marvel UK characters and concepts of my youth. And I found some. They became the roots of this blog.

In the past few years that has changed.

2014 was a watershed moment for me. It was the first year that I realised that with so many of Marvel's titles now priced up to $3.99, and with almost every major 'Monthly' title being published twice per month, there was just no way that I could carry on reading what I had been.

To put it another way, to read the equivalent of what I was in the early 2000s today, would now require a monthly stake of £120-140 a month. I love comics. But that's a point beyond what I'm willing to pay for comics.

So I have now quite judiciously cut back my monthly purchases to what is at this point a very small number of core titles. It was not an easy choice, but one I haven't really had much of a choice but to make. The downside of course is that when your buying less books, and you're already very behind on current events, running a blog which (at least in part) is designed to provide news on all things Marvel UK is a bit difficult.

I'm aware of things Marvel UK related going on, of course. I know that Captain Britain is an Avenger once more (and part of the universe's behind-the-scenes braintrust - The Illuminati - no less). I know that he appears to have lost an eye, and grown a beard, in the process. 

Oh, and the Captain Britain Corps are all dead. Again. 

The details of this, unfortunately, are lost on me until I read the issues. 

I know that The Black Knight is now part of some European Superteam initiative. That Spitfire and Union Jack are back on an Invaders title. That there's an alternate universe Spider-man out there who is actually a Braddock, and goes by the name of 'Spider-UK'.

But the combination of time and expense has thus far barred me from reading those appearances.

C'est la vie.

Anyway, at the start of this week I made a decision. I sat down and decided that it was about time that I began to play catch up. There was a lot of continuity for me to get through, a ridiculously high stack of issues which needed to be off my nightstand, and so I figured that there really was no time like the present to begin.

And then on Tuesday Marvel somewhat dropped a bombshell.

For real. No fakery involved. It's actually ending. 

And not just the Universe. Not just Marvel 616. The entire Marvel Mulitiverse is ending, with the advent of this summer's big Event 'Secret Wars'.

Now I'm a guy (not that I actually recall having made the conscious decision to) who has pretty much made it a crusade to remind people that Marvel UK existed and that its stories happened in continuity. So when the publisher confirms that they intend to end the Marvel Universe it's only natural for that information to concern me a little.

Because if the universe ends, so does its continuity.

And if the continuity ends then in whatever continuity replaces it things are going to change. While certain characters may still exist in whatever follows Secret Wars the history of this new universe could be very different. The stories, characters and former connections of Marvel UK to the greater whole may not even make it into this universe. A universe which Marvel are calling "All-New Marvel".

That's my concern.

This has all been a long time coming though. Ever since the start of the Marvel NOW initiative we've had hints that this could be coming. 

In the pages of The Avengers we discovered that the super-powered individuals of the 1980s New Universe line at Marvel were (from a story point of view) also supposed to have been created in Marvel's 616 universe. That they are actually supposed to be some part of every universe's natural defense system. 

Only in the 616 universe that did not happen. 

Because the 616 universe was broken.

It seems that all those time travel misadventures, characters coming and going, staying and leaving has had an accumulative effect. Cable and Rachel Summers for example. Days of Future past or the Age of Apocalypse maybe. In  trying to avert the Age of Ultron, with those multiple changes made to the timeline. Remember how in All-new X-Men The Beast brought the original 5 X-Men to the present? Trying to teach Scott Summers a lesson, but only to find that he could not send them back? It's broken. The very fibres of the universe are coming apart.

In the pages of New Avengers Marvel's 'Illuminati' have been trying to prevent the 616 universe from being destroyed as other universes collide with it. They've managed so far, but it looks like that's not going to stop. Because as Tom Brevoort stated last week:

"Once we hit Secret Wars #1, there is no Marvel Universe, Ultimate Universe, or any other. It's all Battleworld,"

Every universe will be crashing together and amalgamating themselves into only one. And they're calling it 'Battleworld'.

If you go over to Marvel's own website you will now find an interactive Battleworld map (which disappointingly does not seem to work on iOS devices, but will work on windows PCs).

It's well worth a look at, actually.

Each territory on the map relates to a property or storyline from some part of Marvel's history. Kinda like Marvel's greatest hits, somehow existing in the same World, all at the same time.

A lot of them have yet to be revealed (they have date stamps on them of when they will) but the confirmed properties so far include:

  • Future Imperfect Hulk (The Maestro version of The Hulk)
  • The Age of Apocalypse (in which Charles Xavier's death in the past created a timeline where Apocalypse took over the entire of America and much of the World)
  • Armor Wars Iron Man (in which other supervillains gained control of Iron Man's armour tech designs and used them against him)
  • Iron Fist's K'un-Lun
  • Spider-Island (in which the Jackal's scheme gave everybody in Manhattan spider-powers)
  • House of M (in which Mutants became the ruling class of the planet, with Magneto as their figurehead)
  • Days of Future Past (the future timeline in which the Sentinels all but eradicated all superhumans and placed humanity into concentration camps for what they believed to be its Own Good)

Oh, and one more:

Now, I have no idea what 'Higher Avalon' is intended to be. Possibly it's what has happened to Otherworld with all of the Universes colliding. That would be my best guess. Much like the Iron Fist entry on the map all this really does is direct the reader to a list of suggested past stories featuring the character, but it does (at least to my mind) highlight the intention that the character is going to be used in the course Secret Wars. And if they're going to fix this multiversal crush having the last surviving Captain Britain - a former Multiversal Guardian to boot - could come in rather handy.

As I say I have certain misgivings over 'All-New Marvel'. The ultimate goal here would be a consolidation of properties and publishing lines into a more coherent and easier to approach universe of comics characters. Something which would be less impenetrable to new readers, and perhaps easier to sell in other mediums.

And that is a noble goal. Genuinely.

However, they do need to be careful about how they actually do it.

Having read DC's universe reboot as the 'New 52' there are plenty lessons to be learnt. Parts of their new continuity really was a bit of a hot mess of contradictions and confusions. Some stories and creative runs of more recent times (mostly those crafted by Geoff Johns and Grant Morrison) very much still happened exactly as they'd been told. Other stories (even going years back) were dramatically altered or erased entirely. Which could have been fine, but not every writer seemed to have gotten the same memo. Contradictions naturally ensued.

As long as All-New Marvel is approached intelligently it could be great. And obviously I live in great hope that not too much of Marvel UK gets wiped away in the process.

Though I'm sure we could fudge Death's Head surviving if we needed to. Heck, the Transformers and Doctor Who universes aren't part of the Marvel multiverse. He survived visiting those. ;)

As far as It Came From Darkmoor is concerned? Consider this my return from exile. With one caveat.

In the past I posted updates on this site several times a week, as and when new stories broke, etc. I wouldn't be expecting that to be the case this year. If something HUGE turns up I'll try to cover it, but otherwise I'm aiming to have something new for you a couple of times a month. And hopefully something worthwhile.

Long term readers will remember my Marvel UK A to Z series, which began a few years back only to be derailed when I lost my planning notes in our house move. Those never showed up again, but I've had several people recently asking about that feature. I think it's the one feature from the past 5 years of this blog that people seem to ask me about the most, and so I have decided to republish and continue this feature in the coming months, until its completion. It's a great way to showcase some of the lesser known properties and characters of Marvel UK. Regardless of what the future holds.

As always you can keep up to date with my more regular prattlings and updates on Twitter and once a month you can cringe at the sound of my voice on the Comiconference section of the Weekly Geek Speak podcast.

Until the next time (and I promise not to take quite so long)

Mark 'The Sword' Roberts

Sunday, 13 April 2014

A few Marvel UK Tidbits from Yesteryear

Hello everyone.

Many apologies for my recent disappearances from the interwebs. I heard talk of search parties. It's okay. I am alive a well. :)

Long term followers of this Blog will know that it's been a difficult few years for me. 2011 and 2012 were both years of stepping back and being treated, 2013 proved to be the year of recovery and that has led to 2014 - the year of getting back on track. Over the past few years I've had to put a lot of things on the back burner, I've had to take a less proactive role in a lot of areas of my life. With this having changed somewhat in the past couple of months, as you can see, regular updates to this blog have suffered. Do not worry. It's not been abandoned.

I feel greatly frustrated that it has impacted on my coverage of the final issues of Revolutionary War, because the Motormouth, Warheads and the final Omega issue were something very special indeed. The new status quo set up for several characters over those issues are things which I dearly hope get carried over into future projects.

Oh! And while it's coming a little late for the warning, Dark Angel fans? If you've not been picking up Kieron Gillen's Iron Man series, then you most certainly should be. Shevaun Haldane has now joined that title's supporting cast, starting with the Issue #23.NOW - as the curious Marvel Now numbering has named it. A good new platform for the character.

Revolutionary War has served to remind both readers and creators as to just what a buzz of creativity the early 90s were at Marvel UK. Over on the Make Mine Marvel UK Facebook group recently, one half of Revolutionary War's writing combo - Alan Cowsill - posted up a couple of images from what would have been Roid Rage #1. Roid Rage and Red Mist 20-20 were both advertised in Marvel UK titles in the latter days of the imprint. Two page painted adverts if I recall correctly. Sadly it never made it into print before the sell-off, but it was definitely intended to be a big story. If I understand correctly, from what I've managed to pick up over the years, the Super Soldiers title was going to play a large part in that and I believe there was even a set of painted artwork destined to be promotional trading cards for the event.

Beyond that? Well, we've not really known very much.

I hope Alan doesn't mind me posting these up, here. I've tweaked the contrast a little for clarity, but the artwork comes from Andrew Currie on pencils and Bryan Hitch on inks.

Interestingly, from that second image, Cowsill posted that "Rw trivia, it's also the first time Agent Keller appeared...he didn't last long though...". So he was always a planned character, even all those years ago...

Marvel UK artwork from this period is of course somewhat hard to come by. A lot of it, tragically, ended up being trashed when the Marvel UK offices closed. It has been lost forever. However, in the same category of unpublished artwork John Freeman also recently posted up these couple of images from an unpublished Warheads story.

The artwork comes courtesy of 2000 AD's SMS (Smuzz). Freeman notes that "Just to note, we're now thinking that these two 'pages' are amalgams of incomplete art from the strip, now everyone has had sight of the script. Neither 'page' matches the script exactly. I've been pushing Smuzz's excellent work for years and at some point he sent me these two pages as samplers". 

A third and final page of artwork was later added, with a name for the story as "Target Practice".

"There are amendments on the script that asked that the alien on this final page be Vorin, the leader of the Shadow Riders," says Freeman, "I suspect that, as I have never seen this page before today, this would have been a matter of me asking for the change when I'd seen the art!"

It would have been great to have SMS doing art for Marvel UK. He's probably best known for his work on 2000 AD's ABC Warriors. I definitely think he'd have been a good fit for the tone of the series.

But perhaps the most interesting thing to have come from this stroll back through Marvel UK documents is that John Freeman has shared up some internal notes from 1993, on future plans for Overkill magazine. 

US readers - For those of you unaware Overkill magazine was a UK market anthology series which printed choice sections of what was printed in the US market books (along with the odd bit of exclusive material) in a fashion not entirely dissimilar to, say, that of 2000 AD. 

"(The document)outlines some of the unpublished comic strips planned for Overkill," says Freeman, "and my thoughts on the future of some of the company’s title such as Motormouth and Warheads, in January 1993, when I was in the process of leaving the company to take up life as a freelancer. The company was absorbed by Panini UK in 1995 and is no longer in business.

The hand-written notes re...fer to “Paul” – Paul Neary, Marvel UK’s Editorial Director; and editors Tim Quinn, Jacqui Papp and Bambos Georgiou."

And there are a number of interesting details within. Such as this, for example. Highlighted below:

How interesting is that? A US market book fronted by DH II, to collect the strips which the US market missed.

Now I can recall in the Marvel UK 'Bodycount' freebie from around that time that there was definitely some painted dinosaur artwork from a future project showcased there. I wonder if that was from the same piece?

But one of the most interesting parts of the document refers to two creators who would certainly play a role in shaping British characters for mainstream US Marvel at a later point.

Warren Ellis would later take the reins of Excalibur at Marvel and go on to create the character of Pete Wisdom - who is now among the most prominent British characters out there and active in Marvel Comics. Paul Cornell of course would also go on to write Pete Wisdom, as in integral part of his Captain Britain & MI13 series. Small world.

I'd have loved to have seen this. The MYS-TECH board were always intriguing characters, to me. There were so many possibilities in expanding their history and individual character. An organisation capable of rivaling The Hellfire Club with their clandestine operations around the world (and for a much larger chunk of history, at that).

For those who are interested in reading more, John has shared the document up here:

I'd also recommend looking over the ongoing list which John has been keeping of all Marvel UK projects, past and new, over at his own site. It really is a comprehensive list, both of published titles and the many projects with never saw the light of day.

Well, that's it for now folks. Hope that's proven to be of interest to you.

Until we meet again... (and hopefully it won't take as long next time)

Mark (Sword)

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Out this Week - Revolutionary War: Motormouth and Avengers Undercover

Well, here we are into the third month of Revolutionary War already. This week sees the turn of Harley Davis, know better to many as 'Motormouth'. This time out the writer and artist pairing of Glenn Dakin and Ronan Cliquet will be taking on the reins, with Mark Brooks on the lead cover, and a variant cover by Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire:

There is 3 page preview up at Comic Book Resources, for the curious, and this is probably one of the books I've been most curious about. As we saw in the Alpha issue Harley's former partner-in-crime Killpower was separated from the other UK heroes some time ago, lost into an alternate dimension at the Battle of London Bridge. Furthermore, as was mentioned in the solicits, apparently Harley is a... mum now??

• When Mys-Tech returns and threatens the safety of Great Britain, MI:13 need to try to convince MOTORMOUTH to come out of retirement.
• Harley Davis’ days of being a hero are over, though.  Now, her day job is being the mother of  her two children. Until an explosive Mys-Tech attack calls her out of retirement!
• Be there as Motormouth gets her mojo back!
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99 

Two kids. I wonder who the father is. 

The story also picks up directly from where the Alpha issue left off for SHIELD Agent Keller and Col Tigon Liger of The Warheads. Both of whom are trying to locate Harley - who has always had a knack for not being found when she doesn't want to be...

I just love the darker tone this preview seems to have compared next to some of the other recent Revolutionary War issues. It's clear that Harley is in a pretty bleak place, right now. In her original Marvel UK stories she was always the mouthy teenager who the world could never bring down. Always cheerful. Frequently very funny. I suppose in some kind of messed up way Motormouth was the nearest Marvel UK had to a Kitty Pryde figure in the imprint years. And while they are quite different characters, seeing the ever positive Harley Davis broken by the real world has a similar powerful effect to it as the X-Men trend of putting Kitty in peril. People sympathise with her. She's an easy character for the reader to connect with.

This is exactly the kind of contrast I'd been hoping we'd see in Revolutionary War - how the intervening years have effected our forgotten heroes. I really look forward to it.

In connection with Motormouth, this week's issue has also reminded former Marvel UK editor John Freeman of his time editing the character. He's been talking about it over at Down The Tubes. You should check that out.

This week see the launch of another new series at Marvel, with ties to the British side of universe. For all of you who read and enjoyed Dennis Hopeless and Kev Walker's Avengers Arena series, you'll want to pick up the continuation of that story. The name has changed, but the creative team and the surviving cast (including former students from 'Braddock Academy') are all still here in the new series Avengers Undercover.

What's the premise this time?

Well, here's the solicit blurb:

Damaged by their experience in Murder World, five conflicted young superhumans go rogue and infiltrate the Masters of Evil, planning to bring the Avengers’ rivals down from within. But the longer the teens spend undercover, the more they descend into darkness, and as they start to build relationships with these multi-layered criminals, the line between good and evil blurs. What will happen first…joining the Masters for real, or getting exposed and killed? If you thought Murder World was dangerous, just wait until “Most Promising New Talent” Harvey award-winner Dennis Hopeless and acclaimed artist Kev Walker surround you with Evil!

Avengers Arena has been one of the rare gems of Marvel's recent history, which while some might only see tenuously connected to Marvel's Britain I've certainly enjoyed a lot.  The first run is a hard act to follow, but it's great to see the Hopeless/Walker pairing got to continue into a second run. They do great work together.

Both Revolutionary War: Motormouth and Avengers Undercover are out tomorrow - Wednesday 12th March.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Revolutionary War: Knights of Pendragon - Some Thoughts & Theories

Before I start, a reminder. While this is a summary for Chapter 3 (the greatest of apologies), Chapter 5 Revolutionary War: Super Soldiers is now coming out this Wednesday (26th February 2014), courtesy of Rob Williams and Brent Anderson. This one has a really interesting premise, so I would really recommend checking it out. A four page preview (which should cover that premise very well indeed) is up at Comic Book Resources.

Okay, back to the task at hand. So, albeit unavoidably delayed by a few weeks, here is my summary for the third Chapter of Revolutionary War - Knights of Pendragon.

This third chapter, written by Rob Williams, was originally solicited as having art supplied by Simon Coleby. This changed. The art for the issue is actually by Will Sliney. Though let me be absolutely clear when I say that it does not suffer at all for it. Sliney's artwork, with colours by Veronica Gandini, looks genuinely great. You'll see a few examples throughout this article.

This issue also had a variant cover (as can be seen here) supplied by 'Edwards, Pallot & Redmond'. It featured the second volume costume renditions of Adam Crown and Francesca Grace, alongside a modern Union Jack. It should, however, be noted that neither Adam nor Grace appear in this issue. It's purely a tribute cover.

Sorry about that. But a nice nod to the past, all the same. :)

Now we here at It Came From Darkmoor are huge fans of Knight of Pendragon. In terms of Marvel UK history it's a damned important book. Without its success we probably would not have had the 90s Imprint which spawned the majority of characters which are appearing in Revolutionary War. This was the precursor to the UK office really being taken seriously as an entity in its own right.

Knights of Pendragon was a standout book. It was still Marvel Comics' characters, but they were appearing in what was at its base a high concept myth and legend story, and with a decidedly different (and much darker) tone for those characters than was usually explored in their US appearances. While we're not quite talking Vertigo comics levels of 'mature reading' this was nevertheless a series which showed its readers things such as scenes of serial killers cutting motifs out of the flesh of their victims, showed the discovery of mutilated body parts turning up packing crates, and somewhat controversially even showed a costumed hero seemingly beating a non-powered character to a bloody pulp - beating him quite literally to within an inch of his life.

It was never gratuitous, but Knights of Pendragon was certainly a little more mature in its themes and content, that's for sure. It set a standard back in 1990. It became the standard by which Marvel UK went forward.

Understandably, to this day it has some very dedicated fans on the back of that. It even has a fan fiction community who continued writing Pendragons stories online.

So yes. There's a certain tone which many readers expect from a title bearing the Pendragon name. For those readers the more light-hearted tone of Revolutionary War: Knights of Pendragon was not entirely to their personal tastes.

I got emails. And tweets. They were not happy ones.

I personally enjoyed the issue. If I had one grumble it would be that it did seem a little rushed to its conclusion, given some of the excellent concepts it touched upon. But I did enjoy it. I can however, understand where they are coming from. I want to draw a line under that and move on. But yes, guys, I heard you. I get where you're coming from.

I'm going to be looking at this issue objectively, and I hope that a few weeks on you might also think about a few of the things I'm going to be highlighting here, and give the book a second chance.

Okay, so with that in mind (and the issue as a whole) here are my Thoughts and Theories...

So what's the story about?

Well, it seems that long time Pendragons foe the Omni-Corporation are out and about again. This time they're Fracking in the Lake District. And yes. I did say 'Fracking'. As in hydraulic fracking for gas and petroleum, and not the pseudo-swearing used by the likes of 2000 AD or Battlestar Galactica. :)

Omni? Weren't they a front for Mys-Tech?

A subsidiary company of, yes. While in the original Pendragons run Omni were an evil multinational company (who just happened to be a front for an evil species known as 'The Bane') it was established at the start of the second volume of Knights of Pendragon that Omni were in fact a subsidiary company of Mys-Tech.

So when they 'say' they're fracking there's more to it, right?

What do you think? :) But we'll get to that...

So no Adam Crown, and no Grace? Which other Pendragons appear?

Well, maybe I should let them introduce themselves...

First up:

Both Dai and Kate were original members of the team during it's first run. All of the above is true. And yes, since we last saw Dai (way back in Paul Cornell's Wisdom MAX series) he has once again become possessed by the spirit of Arthurian Knight Sir Gawain, who occasionally channels his way into Dai's body to help or hinder him, depending on the occasion.

Something like that, for instance. Kate's been researching, and with Gawain's guidance they've realised that the position of Omni's fracking and that of an old Mys-Tech underground lab appear to have a little too much in common for it to be a coincidence....

We also have:

Wait! Pete Wisdom wasn't a Pendragon. He'd not even debuted back then.


But after the events of Revolutionary War: Alpha Captain Britain is now MIA, and with the dire need of a Powerhouse British Hero being a thing, Wisdom and Union Jack are off to reacquaint themselves with another one...

Union Jack was a Pendragon in both previous runs of the original series. Although thankfully his modern look is used here, rather than his appearance from the last Pendragons run...

Or the 'Union Juggernaut' as many fans have dubbed him...

But didn't he appear in that costume in the flashback in the Alpha issue?

Um... erm...

Moving on!

So which other British hero are they searching for?

Well, that would be Peter Hunter - 'Albion' the costumed hero of the trenches of World War One.

Ah, yes! Because he appeared in that Un-Earth vision back in the Alpha issue.

He did indeed.

Appearing much as he used to in the first volume of Knights of Pendragon. The old school teacher who doesn't let his students know that he used to be a hero...

So what's he been up to since last we saw him?

Well it looks like Albion has, at least for some while, been residing in the The Green Chapel, in Avalon.

The what in the where now?

Sorry... let me explain.

The previous incarnation of the Knights of Pendragon were always based out of a structure called the Green Chapel. 

The Green Chapel stands in the region of Otherworld known as Avalon. 

It's also the home of the Pendragon's mentor, known only as The Green Knight.

The Green Knight is probably not its original name. I don't think anybody knows what its original name actually is, if it even had one at all. But it takes its name from the Arthurian legend "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" in which Sir Gawain is tricked into a challenge with an opponent who he cannot beat, even having removed his opponent's head.

In Knights of Pendragon, though, the Green Knight is a rather complicated entity, which strives only to maintain the balance of nature in the world. When a threat arises to endanger the natural order, across history, the Green Knight has transformed men and women into its champions, to go out into the world and restore the balance. Hundreds across history. In the space of the 2 Knights of Pendragon series he has chosen ordinary men and women like Dai and Kate, but also existing Marvel heroes including Union Jack, Black Panther, Captain Britain, The Black Knight and Iron Man.

This is, to me, what has always made Knights of Pendragon a stand out, untapped, resource at Marvel. With ties to so many properties, and such a strong concept as the one above, leaving it untouched for so long is such a bizarre move, in my book.

But, anyway... Avalon and Otherworld. 

It's important to understand that the landscape of Otherworld, which is probably most closely associated with Captain Britain stories, is always subject to a certain amount of physical change. This is because it is a whole dimension of space which is tied to (and shaped by) the people of Marvel's Britain. Their sense of what is 'British' is what effects how the landscape appears.

Now in the past Marvel has often shown us glimpses of Otherworld as being this kinda hokey 'Ye Olde England' theme park vision of Britain. Castles, Bowman, Robin Hood, Knights, Chivalry... terrible Olde Worlde dialogue.

Yeah. That.

In more recent times though we've had stories such as Journey into Mystery's 'Manchester Gods' arc, injecting a sledgehammer of industrialisation into the landscape.

Things have been changing in the consciousness of Marvel's Britons - and its no different here. Where once was idyllic and filled with greenery, a certain amount of globalisation has began to creep in.

Ah. Yes. That's a little bit different.

I really like the concept here. These are the kind of ideas which I've been asking to be explored at Marvel, for years. British identity has changed such an incredible amount since the 1970s, and here we have a landscape which is simply perfect for producing a commentary on all of that through clever storytelling.

But this being a 'British Thing' it just hasn't been. 

I can't help but think if Otherworld was as a dimension based upon the American psyche we'd be getting that regularly explored. 

As it is. We don't. Sadly.

Anyway, this cultural invasion has permeated into the very fibres of Avalon. Of the Green Knight...

Even Peter Hunter, trapped between screens, in an endless cycle of daytime television...

Wait! Albion wasn't bald in the Un-Earth Vision! What's going on??

You really don't miss a trick, do you? An Art error, maybe? Or in some way an added effect of what's happening around Albion. Who can say? I mean the last time we saw Albion in the 90s he was in a rejuvenated body again. Maybe that is what has caused him to age? 

It doesn't match, no. Which is a shame, but not world shattering.

So, back to the plot? Please tell me Fracking isn't the real enemy? 

Well, fracking is probably always the real enemy. :) But no. Mys-Tech intentionally had the area mined to unleash something, previously prepared, upon the world. 

Well? What was it?




I was not prepared for that.

How many people are ever truly prepared for Knights of the Zombie Round Table?

A valid question.

Isn't it.

Are they the real Knights of the Round table... as Zombies?

Possibly. It's a little unclear. They certainly seem to believe they are. They even have a Zombie Excalibur.

Oh, good grief...


This is just one of those big, dumb, larger than life concepts which you can't help but enjoy. It's light-hearted silliness, but it's fun. My only grumble is that the knights keep on using the word "Briton" - meaning a person of Britain - as if they think it's just some kind of Ye Olde English term for 'Britain'.

That really is odd. Does it happen a lot?

Just a little...

What the hell!? The mean 'Britain,' right?

I would assume so. It's all very odd. It would be like calling the USA the 'United States of American'. 

The thing is, I can only assume this is a truly weird editorial or lettering muck up. I mean the writer, Rob Williams, is British. He'd know the difference. 

Minor mistakes, such as when the term 'Ley Line' is incorrectly spelled as "Lay Line" in that first panel? Fine. Typo. That's okay. But this is a frequently repeated term being used completely incorrectly. It becomes very jarring. 

So I notice Sir Gawain appears on the cover of this issue...?

He does.

But if he's inside Dai Thomas, how does that work?

Well, back in the original series, Gawain's spirit found it's way into Dai and slowly began to change him. From the out of shape, chain smoking copper of Scotland Yard...

Very quickly into a much leaner individual...

(Obviously the guy on the left. Not Captain Britain)

...the longer Gawain's spirit stayed in him. But it was still more like a possession. Gawain's memories in Dai's head. Physical tweaks rather than an actual change.

In this issue that kinda changed.

Here Dai is shown to physically transform into Sir Gawain. Off camera, so to speak, but a physical change nonetheless. Where exactly the armour and sword actually comes from, I'm unsure. I'd imagine this approach was taken because it's far quicker and easier to illustrate this way than try to explain Gawain directing Dai's actions. Far easier to display to new readers. But nevertheless I can understand why it's rubbed some readers up the wrong way. 

So yes, that's why a filly armoured Gawain appears as he does on the cover. Not an android. Not a ghost. The real deal. Maybe something to explore another day, in another series. It's a little odd, but if we can buy into the logic that the Green Knight can de-age Peter Hunter is Dai transforming int Gawain really that far a stretch?

So Albion does get de-aged?

Oh. Yes. Sorry. Probably aught to have mentioned that.

Okay, maybe the Zombie Excalibur thing is kinda funny...

Yeah. It made me laugh.

And it is great to see Albion back in action. My only grumble is that it actually only lasts 4 panels. We don't really get to see who takes Hunter down. Or how. He's briefly visible in the background, seemingly fighting back, and then he's down and carried off.

That's a bit abrupt.

It really is.

And just like that Mys-Tech have their hands on one more hero. That's three now. Captain Britain, Dark Angel, and now Albion.

Wait, did they just mention The Bane??

Spotted that, eh?

Yes. The Bane. Original adversaries of the Pendragons. Certainly the adversaries of The Green Knight.

These guys... 

No signs of The Red Lord, though it's possible that Albion is referring to 'him' when the Zombie Knights begin to stir. The Zombie Knights themselves mention serving The Bane several times, although we don't actually see them in panel.

It does make me wonder if they were originally planned to play a more active role in this story. 

So how does the issue get resolved?

Well, that would be the Green Knight. Sort of.  

Sort of?

Sort of. Just not as... we know him.

You see with Albion kidnapped, what remains of the Pendragons are really up against it. Overrun. By Arthurian Zombies.

Which is when Pete Wisdom tries a risky play. Zombie Excalibur's still lying around to hand and with the Green Knight grown over by bracken he decides to try and... wake it up. By introducing one to the other. 

The result is a melding of old and new.

Meet "G Knight".

Meet who, now?


All the magic, heart and soul, of an Old God repackaged in the form of modern Britain. And what better typifies modern Britain than the form of a giant Olympian Athlete treading zombies into the dirt.

You know what's really odd here? I honestly would have thought that to be a fairly obvious likeness. I mean Farah was such a huge personality of the 2012 Olympics, right? Yet I've seen several posters on forums confused by this one. Granted, mostly American readers, but I was very surprised that they wouldn't have been aware of who Mo Farah is. I mean, I'm British (funnily enough), but I know what guys like Michael Phelps look like, for example. I was quite surprised by that.

Anyway, I know that this one upset a few people. While they conceded that the idea was a pretty clever one, they felt that this transformation in some way belittled the Knights of Pendragon concept. Or to some degree, even if unintentionally, that it sent it up.

Again, I can kind of understand how some might feel that way, but I honestly wouldn't feel too aggrieved. Clearly no offense was intended, here. And think about the transitory nature of Otherworld. The Green Knight has assumed this form specifically for this situation. Where a giant running shoe was the quickest way to resolve things. He can assume many forms. He has before, and will again. Yes, it's for comic effect here. But it's a joke which makes use of a knowledge of the series. I don't think that it sends it up. There is respect here.

All in all, granted, in comparison to the Alpha or Dark Angel issues of Revolutionary War this one does read more like an interlude than a crucial part of the story. But there are some really strong elements to this issue. From ongoing gags like Pete Wisdom's Prog Rock references and Dai's Dylan Thomas quotes, to the overall concepts of the modern world encroaching on the British psyche. For me personally, my only major grumble is that concept alone could have spawn a mini series worthy of exploration in its own right. There's not enough space to explore it in a single issue. Nor is there really space to explore a whole new Knights of Pendragon status quo - which I'm sure many readers would love to read, but wasn't really ever going to be on the cards in a single issue. 

I do find myself hoping though, as was also the case with Journey into Mystery's 'Manchester Gods', that we do at some point get some kind of peaceful synthesis for Otherworld. Here again we see the old torn up an replaced with elements of the new. But this is Britain. It is both old and new. There's no reason why both can't co-exist, as an overview.

But, yes. That too is a story for another day. 

As it is, this issue has moved one more important piece into Mys-Tech hands. And Albion makes three...

Well, we assume three. 

If that's where Death's Head II was taking Captain Britain.  

More of that in the Death's Head issue. Which should still be available, and which I would definitely recommend you track down if you missed it. It's something rather special.

I'll have a summary for that up in the next week. And again, apologies for the delays with the site, of late. I'm working hard to catch up when I get a moment. 

In the meantime, Revolutionary War: Super Soldiers is out on Wednesday. Joseph 'Invincible' Hauer was in that Un-Earth vision, as well... 

I think we can see where that might be going. ;)

Until the next time.



Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Out Tomorrow: Revolutionary War - Death's Head II

Hi guys.

Just a quick post to remind you that tomorrow (12th January 2014) sees the release of the fourth Chapter of Revolutionary War. This time it's Death's Head II's turn, courtesy of Andy Lanning, Alan Cowsill and Nick Roche.

If you're interested the cover looks like this:

With a truly wonderful variant cover courtesy of DH II's co-creator Liam Sharp.

Variant Cover by LIAM SHARP
Part 4 of "Revolutionary War"
• The long-awaited return of DEATH'S HEAD -- one of the biggest hits of the original Marvel UK!
• Death's Head! Death's Head II! On an adventure together for the first time EVER!
• What threat could be grave enough to bring these two heroes together from across time? How about the villainous Mys-Tech organization resurfacing with an army?!
32 PGS./ONE-SHOT/Rated T+ ...$3.99

There's a 3 page preview up at comic book resources. In which we see Captain Britain being returned 'home' of  sorts, to the Darkmoor Research Centre from Captain Britain #1. This issue has a number of promising factors in play, not least of which being BOTH Death's Heads.

So, go out and grab it! :)

And for the astute among you, yes, I know we're missing a Chapter 3 Summary. It's coming...

In the meanwhile enjoy this page from tomorrow's issue.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Revolutionary War: Dark Angel - Some Thoughts & Theories

Hi guys.

Other pursuits have delayed me getting this article out this week. My Bad, but it's finally here. A few days ahead of the third chapter in the story, Revolutionary War: Knights of Pendragon. I've seen the preview. And that is looking like something rather special. But before it arrives, let's take a moment to catch up on the previous issue. Here are few thoughts and theories on Chapter Two.

Right. So here we are, again. This time courtesy of Kieron Gillen and Dietrich Smith - Revolutionary War: Dark Angel. And I'll be honest, while the last issue set the quality bar pretty high I'm glad to say that this one very neatly matched it. Not just through serving as a continuation of the story, but also as an individual issue in its own right.

Kieron Gillen has built somewhat of a reputation over recent years, for telling some intricate and rather clever stories at Marvel, involving magic, myth and legend, with a strong internal logic and a central message behind them. Firstly on Thor, but in particular in telling Kid Loki's story on Journey into Mystery. Anybody who read the 'Manchester Gods' arc of that story (which featured Captain Britain and focused on the logical application of the mechanics of Otherworld) will know what I mean.

I'm very glad to say that he delivers once again .

I was really impressed by Dietrich Smith's artwork too. I'll be honest, before seeing his name in the solicits and looking him up I knew pretty much nothing about him. I see that he's mostly done bits and bobs of indie work, and worked on the Battlestar Galactica comic for Dynamite, but there wasn't an awful lot to go on. His artwork here fits the tone of both the character, setting and story incredibly well. It reminds me a little of Chris Samnee's art on books like Thor: The Mighty Avenger. The art may initially look rather uncomplicated at a glance, but it actually has an awful lot of detail to it. Ruth Redmond's colours compliment the art work very well. They keep it looking very clean, but give it depth where it matters - such as the outlines of energy pulses and portals.

Really good stuff.

But what does the issue offer in way of story, I hear you ask. Well, here are a few little thoughts and theories...

So Dark Angel survived the last issue, then?

Yes, she did. Whatever electrocuted her (and I'd say Death's Head II is a strong contender for 'culprit' there) appears to have done little more than render her unconscious. She awakes in this issue to find herself on the floor of the same room she was in at the end of Revolutionary War: Alpha.

Who the hell is 'Shevaun Hadley'?!?

You read the primer page, didn't you?

No. Shevaun has not changed her name. Nor has she (at least that we know of) had some kind of off-panel marriage to Spandau Ballet's Tony Hadley. It's 'Haldane'. Which is how it correctly appears throughout the rest of the issue. This is thankfully just an editorial slip up. :)

So what about Captain Britain and Death's Head II???

Patience, reader. They are long gone, it seems. But the means of their exiting the scene appears fairly clear.

I'm sure we'll return to them in the Death's Head issue...

Meet Doris - Darkmoor resident, reader of tea leaves and casual magician.

Yes. She's new. It would be best to describe her as a bit of a local busy-body, with a very wry sense of humour and a relaxed attitude.

A magician... 'of sorts'. I mean we don't actually see her doing any magic per se, in this issue. It certainly sounds as if she owns a shop which caters to that, but in the practice of it I don't think we can really say that this counts...

Effective though a shotgun is... :)

Doris is a welcome addition to Dark Angel's supporting cast (which after all, was not huge in number in the first place). She gets to make some snarky comments, sure, but her true strength here is that she gives the story a down to earth perspective. A lot of Shevaun's dialogue is a little complex, a little wordy - as it should be with the concepts she deals with in her world. Doris' no nonsense attitude to everything balances things out nicely. So many scene stealing phrases, too.

I really hope that if we do get to see more Dark Angel material we'll also get to see more of her. 

What's that about a vision?

Ah, yes. Apparently while Shevaun was out cold she had a vision.

A woman made of electronic parts, rising from a grave. 

We'll return to that shortly...

Kieron Gillen pretty much covers everything you need to know about Dark Angel's origins in the course of one page.

Yes. No messing about, here. No long winded pages of exposition and backstory. One page summarising pretty much everything you might need to know. This one, in fact.

Pretty concise. And it means that it doesn't dominate the issue. It's out of the way early.

Wait a second... did they just tweak Dark Angel's origin...?

Well... yeah. Yes, they did. Those of you who can remember back to 1992 may remember how these events unfolded the first time around. But for the rest of you, it all began with Shevaun's father Ranulph Haldane - a member of the Mys-Tech board - who had constructed a process and device which was going to be capable of granting him and his cronies continued immortality, separate from the boon offered to them by that centuries old contract with the demon Mephisto. 

Only Mephisto found out. 

It didn't work out well for Ranulph.

After his death Mephisto claimed Ranulph's soul. Which was a bit awkward when another, more saintly entity, calling itself 'the Darkangel' arrived attempting to do the same. It informed Shevaun of her father's secrets, for the first time.

And while Shevaun initially rejected what it told her, when she met the Darkangel for a second time (planning to extract revenge on her Father's colleagues) the entity took a strong of fibre from the very universe itself, and bonded it to her, body and soul.

Thus becoming the Darkangel's envoy, with the same kind of incredible power Gillen's page describes, above...

But shouldn't we be hacked off about this??

Well, I cannot tell you each how you should personally feel about it. But I'd actually lean towards the side of 'No' on this one. 

Let me explain why.

For one this 'Darkangel' entity has never reappeared or even been referred to in a Marvel comic since. Not in Dark Angel's own series, or in the wider Marvel universe as a whole. It's not like it would be particularly missed. 

But, that aside, there's the name too. When Dark Angel's series was launched in '92 it was actually named "Hell's Angel". As was she after this transformation. The title had its name altered with issue 6 due (as I understand it) to the threat of legal action from members of a certain Biker Chapter of the same name. :)

As 'Hell's Angel', an envoy or agent of the 'Darkangel', that kind of scans okay. But having two virtually identically named characters on the same book is more than a little confusing. The name change was always a bit of an awkward transition, and as it was never really necessary to refer to it again after the first issue it's no real loss.

What Gillen has done is to write around all of that - now telling us that Shevaun's powers were always part of her father's plan for her. That he was in some way instrumental in her gaining them. 

Some might see that as a dramatic change, but it is not as if such an idea wasn't actually foreshadowed in Shevaun's original series. There was more than one occasion where it was stated that Shevaun had been brought into the world as part of a former Mys-Tech science project. A test subject who was intended to be terminated, but whom Ranulph Haldane found ways to keep around.  

It was actually mentioned as early as her very first issue:

So what's Dark Angel been up to since her appearance in Captain Britain & MI13? Where has she been? 

And that's the really interesting part...

One might wonder, what with the kind of power levels Dark Angel has at her disposal, why hasn't she been appearing in Marvel's bigger stories - fighting the good fight, alongside the other heavy hitters. She's a powerhouse. Where has she been?

Well, it seems that Shevaun has been kept busy. By a higher (or should that be lower?) power...

Yes. That would be Mephisto.

And this is the clever part. Because, remember, Shevaun's father signed a contract with Mephisto? A centuries old legal agreement with the Devil himself? Well, with his betrayal and subsequent death, Mehisto has chosen to pass that Debt on from Father to daughter...

Yeah. That's got to suck pretty hard hasn't it?

Shevaun now gets to spend every evening serving Mephisto to repay her father's debt. Doing whatever he should wish. From quelling minor uprisings in Mephisto's domain to making the Demon bleed for His own Sins. Really.

The problem is that in order to do all these things it also means Shevaun has to expel some power. Quite a lot of it to be exact. When Dark Angel gets back to Earth 616 she can't buddy up with the likes of the X-Men or Captain Britain. Because she often has to wait for her powers to recharge.

You know, almost as if that is that was EXACTLY what Mephisto had planned in advance. :)

In the past few years, of course, Mephisto has been appearing in a number of different marvel series. Spider-man, X-Factor, New Mutants, Journey into Mystery... he's becoming a frequently more visited character. So Gillen placing Dark Angel squarely in his control is a great idea for future story options. It's not without foreshadowing, either. Way back in her own series Mephisto was shown taking an interest in Shevaun.

I think you could quite easily construct a case for Mephisto having planned this all along...

Gillen always writes a really strong and interesting Mephisto. Which helps a lot. The fact that he has him insisting on calling Shevaun by her former name of 'Hell's Angel', the banter between the two, is something I truly hope other writers pick up on.

Mephisto talks about Karmic Debt in the Age of Austerity.

There's a sentence I never thought I'd find myself typing...

It's true to say that in times past Mephisto did indeed invest a lot of time and effort in all things British. From Mortigan Goth to the Sect of Chadism he made a good many deals for British souls. But in this age of Austerity, with the hearts and minds of the British people beaten down by governmental cuts and coalition politics... well, as the Devil seems to suggest, British souls apparently just are worth as much as once they were. :)

And who WOULD you sell that karmic debt on to...?

Thes theme of Debt, and the need for the current generation needing to pay for the excesses of a previous one, run throughout this story. They're a nice a nice touch. 

Darkmoor is now a fully fledged Village

And it's being invaded by Psycho-wraiths. But we'll get to that...

We here at this site are big fans of the locality of Darkmoor. Enough to borrow it's name, as I'm sure won't have escaped your notice... ;)

The fictional locale of Darkmoor, in the real world area of the Cheviot Hills, goes right back to very beginnings of Marvel UK. It debuted in the very first issue of Captain Britain and it's popped up, from time to time, ever since.

In its first appearance we saw that (as the name suggests) it comprises of a moor, a Stone Circle (with a entrance to The Siege Perilous), and also a scientific research facility. Later on, in Dark Angel's series we saw the introduction of the Castle, and also a Police Station in the locality. But this is the first time we've actually seen any evidence of a larger settlement.

And weirdly this might be one of the things which I was most stoked about from the entire issue.

Gillen describes Darkmoor as a 'New Age Tourist Trap' - similar, I suppose, to places like Glastonbury. It appears to be a small market town, filled with the kind of stores which sell crystals, herbs and 'white magic' ingredients. A hots spot for spiritualists, clairvoyants and healers. Mysticism is something Marvel's Britain does so very well. Why not make it a Tourist site! I really love this idea, and again I hope this forms a basis for future stories.

And the Psycho-wraiths?

Oh. Yes! 

So, there's more of these. Just like we saw in the Alpha issue. They look a little different, and they arrive via some kind of tunneling vessel, but  they're the same type of creatures.

What is perhaps more interesting is that Gillen highlights just what these creatures actually are. We've seen that their bodies are tank bred, but beyond that what's actually inside of those bodies is a little darker. 

In a word 'Soul's.

Lost human souls.

Conjured by Mys-Tech, given a second chance of life in an engineered body. 

And they claim that they want to to be put out of their misery. Something Shevaun foolishly agrees to.

Foolishly, because it expends almost the entirety of her power. Just in time for an unpleasant surprise...

Meet Psycho-Wraith Prime. 

Yes. Prime. A more advanced, more powerful variant of the Psycho-Wraiths.

And that's one hell of a plan.

The Prime claims that Ranulph Haldane came up with this scheme. And Shevaun is central to it. The void inside her, the portal in her chest, is apparently the key to Mys-Tech's route back into this dimension. Something Daddy Haldane planned for just this kind of eventuality.

One might theorise that this is very reason he had her kept alive all these years.

That would be a bit messed up, no? :)

Is that what the vision was about?

Yes. Kind of.

A woman made of electronic parts, rising from a grave. "Miss Tech - Rising from the Grave". Get it!

Yeah... a bit tenuous. But that was what it was all about! :)

Always read the Small Print!

Yes! Really do.

Wiping out the other Psycho-Wraiths left Shevaun with a big problem. Power almost expended she used the last of it to fly the injured Doris out to a hospital. With her power so low she knew that the Psycho-Wraith Prime was following her, and that she had no way of defeating it when it arrive, without waiting for those powers to recharge. Which would take a degree of time which she simply did not have.

So, what's a girl to do but to call in a favour? 

And that seems logical, right? If Mephisto takes her power away then Mys-Tech can't access the void inside her. And if they cannot access the void then they don't get to come back.

Only this is Mephisto. This is the nearest thing Marvel comics have to the Devil, himself. And entering into a Pay Day loan scenario of the Soul is not something you should ever do lightly.

Because even if the Big Bad has just touched down behind you, reaching for the pen without checking what you're signing...

Can only ever end badly...

And you might get to spend eternity trapped inside the terms of a legal document. In this case quite literally and physically. 

One-Sixth of what they're Looking For?

Oh, yes. 

It seems that Dark Angel is the first of six souls required for whatever Mys-Tech have planned.


Wasn't there Six individuals shown in the vision which the Un-Earth projected last issue?

Why, yes there was!

Just a coincidence?

What do you think? :)

And that is Revolutionary War: Alpha. If we're to follow the Un-Earth vision Mys-Tech's agents on Earth now have Dark Angel, and through Death's Head II they may shortly have Captain Britain. They may of course also require Death's Head II. Wonder how he'll feel about that if it turns out to be true? :)

Wednesday (29th January) brings us Revolutionary War: Knights of Pendragon to stores. The Pendragon who we saw in the Un-Earth vision was Peter Hunter - the WW1 costumed hero known as Albion. So I'd imagine he'll be playing a significant part in the upcoming story.

Wonder what he's been up to in the intervening years? He was a teacher by trade. Maybe he's working at Braddock Academy or something? That'd be an interesting idea. One with no evidence to support it or anything, but who knows? :)

Until the next time, make sure you order your copy, and I'll be back to chat about the issue a week later.