Saturday, 9 August 2008

And... We're Back!

Greetings, one and all, and welcome back to It Came from Darkmoor – the Blog on all things Marvel - providing that they're also a little bit British.

It's been a while, but contrary to popular believe I certainly haven't called it day, decided to emigrate to the USA or indeed gotten myself a job as a web journo with Marvel (As one slightly surreal congratulatory email I received a few weeks back seemed to believe). Interesting though that would be I remain a Videogames QA guy, here in the UK, and as dedicated to this Blog as time will allow me. ;D

A few pressing things, on several fronts, in the last month have kept me from updating the blog as I might have planned. Some of you may be aware of more than others. But I’d like to say ‘thank you’ to those of you who either emailed or passed words of condolences on through CBR and Comixfan's forums to me. I have passed those on to my better half, and she would very much like to thank you for those.

Normal service now resumes. So... last I bothered you all I was on the other side of the Atlantic, in New Jersey, where I discovered rare (Well, okay, probably not SO rare) nuggets of Marvel UK goodness in racks and later longboxes on the Boardwalk. Further to my Warheads discovery I later located a copy of #1 of Cyberspace 3000, complete with its glow-in-the-dark cover (Remember that one?) and a few issues of Nikki Doyle: Wildthing. So they're still out there! In lesser appreciated places, maybe, but the memory has not died.

I DID eventually find myself a local Comic Book store, over there. It took a while, and a trip into another State, but I found one. I did feel more than a little guilty over dragging my girlfriend and her parents around Philadelphia, in my hunt. It was our final day, and we were flying out of Philadelphia that evening, but everybody was kind enough to oblige me.

I think I should point something out. While I doubtless DO bore my better half with the excessive talking on all things Marvel UK and Captain Britain, she certainly doesn't mind comics herself. It was actually her copy of the first Gaiman Sandman Library volume that got me hooked on reading those, and in exchange I got her hooked on reading Ellis' Transmetropolitan. We often swap stuff. She’s recently added last year's Wisdom series to her reading list.

So, anyway, I had a great holiday. Caught more sun than I think I've ever had in my life, chilled the hell out, ate well, walked a couple of hours every day, and couldn't really have asked for more. Good times. Of course, while I was away, a few things which I'd normally have blogged about came up. So now I've got the time, let's talk about them!

Firstly we had the final 2 issues (Though hopefully only for the time being) of Alan Davis' ClanDestine series. This is always going to be a series I have a heck of a lot of time for. For those of you who weren’t aware ClanDestine was originally planned for the 90s Marvel UK imprint. It was part of the bold new direction, with Alan Davis’ big return to Marvel UK with this new project – Written, drawn and created by him.

Unfortunately, while the series did eventually see print it wasn’t for Marvel UK. The folks across the pond had axed the imprint by then. But it still remains a rather good series. If you never read it first time around then I would really recommend that you pick up the Hardcover that was released earlier in the year. This collects all of Davis' original issues, a preview story and also the X-Men crossover they did. It’s good stuff.

I’m sure it won’t have passed you by that in the early 90s there was a real vogue for artists to try their hand at writing books as well. Most notably when guys like Jim Lee, Erik Larsen and Todd McFarlane formed Image Comics. The actual overall quality of these endeavours has often proved to be quite patchy, mostly a case of style over substance initially, and very few creators have actually succeeded in getting acknowledged as being the full package.

Alan Davis is one of those few. Anybody who’s ever seen his work on books from 2000 AD right through to his work on X-Men will know how accomplished (And versatile) an artist he is. But his work as artist and writer is something special. Many Excalibur fans consider his run to be the definitive run of the book, and anybody who has ever picked up JLA: The Nail or Killraven, will know that when given the freedom to control both duties, and with Mark Farmer inking, the results are almost always something very special. ClanDestine, though, is something which is probably a bit more personal to Davis. It was a book he created, characters he shaped from scratch. It’s very much set within Marvel’s collective universe, but it’s got a very specific continuity of its own – one which expands with each new story to form a larger whole. Because after all these guys aren’t just superheroes – there a family. And one hell of a long lived and extended family at that! Seeing how their lives intermingle with Marvel history, and the events of their own lives, is fascinating.

I plan to do a more specific entry for this blog on the Destine family soon (They more than deserve it) but in the meantime I'd like to say just how much I’ve enjoyed this latest series, and that I dearly hope that Marvel approve some more. With the sheer scope this series has it did seem a shame that it was only limited to five issues. The final issue did seem a tiny bit rushed in terms of forcing it to a conclusion, and that’s a shame. This series could run and run, given the chance, and the changes brought by the end of the series bring even more possibilities. That final panel pleases me greatly…

We also had another two issues of Captain Britain and MI:13. And they were bloody good, as well. Messrs Cornell and Kirk are doing a fantastic job with this title. It has been a fairly heavy criticism of Marvel’s Secret Invasion event that after 3 issues of the main series there still hadn’t really been much happening. It’s hard to believe there’s an actual Skrull invasion going on, when mostly all we’ve seen is a small Skrull battle taking place in the middle of New York (And let’s be honest, battles in the centre of New York? Not really that rare in the Marvel Universe…) There hasn’t really seemed that much actual threat, and Skrulls don’t really come across as being genuinely menacing.

Not so in the pages of Captain Britain and MI:13. They’re really nasty malevolent bastards, here – stealing all the magic and invading the collective conscious of the whole Country through Otherworld. And it’s brilliant!

It’s always amazed me that characters like Cap, Spitfire and the Black knight haven’t properly wound up on a team together, before. The Black Knight has almost joined Excalibur – twice, for God’s sake! And the interaction between Spitfire, with her sense of duty, and Pete Wisdom with his is a pairing I’d never have thought of before, but really seems to make such logical sense, here. Bonus points also to Mr Cornell for get mentions of Digitek, Knights of Pendragon and ICFD favourite Mortigan Goth within the first 3 issues!

This is just such a brilliant line-up, and with the addition of Blade shortly (Yes – Blade IS British. I bet a few of you didn’t realise that.) pretty much any comics fan can find something in this book to pull them in, far beyond the Secret Invasion issues. As for what will follow those? Well, anybody who has also picked up this issue, we may have a bit of a glimpse into the book’s future direction on page 11. Wisdom may well have done the right thing in many respects, but if you look at just which entities appear in that larger panel, now running around free inside the minds of every Man, Woman and child in Great Britain… well, there’s going to be some fallout from that!

Top Marks to Paul Cornell, for bringing us a book with such a broad appeal, and successfully reintroducing Cap to people who probably wouldn’t have given him a second thought six months ago. And also a major thank you to penciler Leonard Kirk, who really makes this series come alive in panel. His style here provides a very pleasing balance between modern hero comics and that British war comics style, which just seems to fit this book this book perfectly in tone.

He has also drawn some the best Marvel hero combinations for Warskrulls I’ve ever seen! The expression on the face of that Classic Avengers Skrull from #1 (with the body of the original Iron Man, Hulk arms, Thor’s Hammer and the Wasp’s wings)cracks me up every time!

Captain Britain and MI:13 #4 is out next Wednesday (Thursday in the UK).

And finally some other big news for two Marvel UK favourites. I don't know just how many of you out there paid attention to Marvel's cosmic character events f the past couple of years - Annihilation and Annihilation: Conquest? Well, the greater driving force behind these events, and the relaunch of Nova also, were none other than Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, who are now also writing the successful relaunch of Guardians of the Galaxy. It was announced back at the end of June that Abnett and Lanning have now signed an Exclusive with Marvel Comics. Having pretty much been given a free reign over Marvel’s cosmic characters and properties they’ve practically got a whole Universe to play with there, in its own right. It’s a really great opportunity.

Their work to date on Nova has been great and I’d strongly recommend Guardians, also. The new line-up is mostly made up from characters who gained a fair amount of coverage through Annihilation – Adam Warlock, Drax the Destroyer and the new Quasar. Fans of the UK Transformers comic might also recognise Rocket Racoon on that cover. Yup, he’s on the team as well. It worth a look in, certainly. Early issues sold out, much as Captain Britain did, but I’m sure a trade will be forthcoming.

And as it’s Abnett and Lanning seemingly now in charge of all things Space at Marvel, who knows, maybe we might get to see the real Death’s Head some time, maybe some other Marvel UK cosmic entities, popping up? Dark Angel’s still out there and available guys… ;D

For more info on the Abnett/Lanning/DnA exclusive there was a Newsarama interview a month or so back, which you can find here:

Well, that kind of wraps things up for the immediate moment. I’ve got plenty stuff on the horizon, so hopefully updates will occur more frequently from this point onwards. I’m planning some stuff on Dark Angel shortly, and I also still owe a few people that rant on Captain Britain’s continuity – so there’s something to look forward to!

In the meantime if you’ve got anything you want to talk about, or think there’s something you might like to see covered, feel free to make a comment or drop me a mail at the address on this page.

Speak soon!

Mark (The Sword is Drawn)


  1. Welcome back - looks like you've hit the ground running!!

    I see you've picked up on the Dragon's Claw collection but I thought you'd be interested in some others, connected with the above:

    CB&MI13: ISBN 1846534070 - collects #1-4

    GotG: ISBN 0785133380 - collects #1-6

    ClanDestine: ISBN 0785127402 - collects the 5-issue mini-series

    The last one has been floating around for a bit, but I've been keeping an eye open for the others so they may have just popped up - and are still a way off (Jan 2009).

  2. Thanks very much, Emperor. Much obliged.

    I would certainly recommend these volumes to anybody who wanted to catch up to speed with these titles. You wont regret it.

  3. And as you mention Annihilation and Annihilation: Conquest is also worth checking out (especially for 2000 AD fans too) - I think the latter is only in hardback but if the former is anything to go by there will be paperback versions following.

    Lots of great things going on at Marvel and it seems to be the current destination for the 2000 AD creators (the next generation are popping up, but especially as Abnett and Lanning have now signed exclusive deals with them).

    We live in interesting (and expensive!!) times ;)