My own personal shelf porn
Running down the Goon collection in TPB
A look at Marvel’s trade design and features for new Marvel NOW releases
Tribute to Trades made right: Locke and Key
Tribute to Trades made right: Locke and Key
My new blog focused on reading, collecting, cataloguing, reviewing and enjoying Trade paperbacks
Check out my latest article Paper Back Corner on The Big Glasgow Comic Page
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag
The game takes place prior to the American Revolution, in the early part of the 18th century. In the Caribbean where piracy is rampant. We’ll play as Edward Kenway, father of Haytham and grandfather of Connor, in what Ubisoft is calling the “Kenway saga” of Assassin’s Creed games.
Edward Kenway seems designed, as a complete opposite to Connor. While Connor was more stoic, serious, and predatory, lacking the roguish charm of his ancestors, Edward is more charming, clever, reckless, and swashbuckling. Almost as if to highlight this, when Black Flag starts, Edward is already a pirate.
Black Flag director Ashraf Ismail stressed that his global team was focusing on placing Edward into a more historically accurate take on this era of piracy. So no talking parrots or Krakens. This isn’t Pirates of the Caribbean after all. He wants it to be true to the grittiness of the period. Ismail references the gritty and edgy t.v. show Sons of Anarchy when describing his vision for a cast of characters that include the legendary pirate Blackbeard among others. The tone of the trailer makes this pretty clear.
The goal is to make the “first true naval overworld.” Black Flag aims to mesh its land and aquatic portions seamlessly, to the point where Edward can simply dive off of his ship, swim to the shore of any of 50 or so locations in the Carribbean, and explore. With no loading times. These locations will provide a great deal of variety as well, ranging from jungles to Mayan ruins to exotic islands. The three major population hubs are the cities of Havana, Kingston, and Nassau. Ubisoft says the land portions of the game will comprise roughly 60% of Black Flag’s core missions.
As gamers know a huge world, even one filled with exotic locations, means nothing if a game’s gameplay doesn’t work and / or are not fun and intuitive. It should ease concern a bit that many of the developers from Far Cry 3 have joined in with the Black Flag crew. As with other AC games, Edward can upgrade his equipment in a variety of ways, but Ubisoft is now adding the ability to do the same with his ship, the Jackdaw, and its crew. Boom! Pimp my ride pirate edition.
Ismail’s team want to make Black Flag’s ocean combat deeper and more complex than ever before, adding more weapons, enemies, and challenges to accomplish this. Kenway uses a spyglass to view ships and islands from a distance, from which he discerns intel on a destination or foe before any sort of Confrontation. Players will also be able to exploit their surroundings such as weather, to their advantage.
But naval warfare isn’t just a long distance affair. As seen in the trailer, you can board your enemy’s ship. Your main goal with any ship vs.ship fight is to kill the other captain. How you do this is entirely up to you. Edward could fire a cannon or use one of his pistols to simply fire a headshot. Another possibility is leaping from mast to mast and performing an air assassination, or charging into the fray in true swashbuckler style, sword in hand.
Ismail described his approach as being less about hand-holding and more about providing basic objectives with flexible conditions for satisfying them. The process of eliminating major targets, Ismail says, will be more open to planning and improvisation and less reliant on scripted events and big battles. “This is a philosophy we’re really pushing hard in the missions and the assassinations.”
The team say part of their new philosophy is to get rid of what doesn’t work. The best example of this is the the notoriety system. Previous games would base enemy awareness on how discreet or blatant you were in terms of city travel and combat. In Black Flag, this system has been discarded, because traveling the ocean from location to location makes this sort of system moot. The mere fact that they understand some of the flaws of previous games and are determined to improve them is a good sign.
The modern gameplay is back but we don’t know much. You don’t play as Desmond Miles but a modern day Templar sent to research the enemy. Multiplayer is back too, with details yet to be revealed.
This is a tricky time in the Assassin’s Creed franchise, they want to come out with a new title every year, but must both bring new ideas and refine old ones. As this game which is actually the sixth installment begins to make the transition between this gen and next gen. They say the pirates that lasted the longest were the ones improved and adapted. Let’s hope Ubisoft take this to heart.
Written by Garth Ennis
Art by Mike Wolfer
Here we go again, Garth Ennis, Avatar press, zombies…. blah blah blah. Do I really need another book like this in my life? Short answer, YES! Stitched isn’t just another zombie survival book. Full of stupid people aimlessly stumbling around in the dark trying to escape being bitten by the undead. Imagine Black Hawk Down meets Gravel and your a lot closer to the premise than “just another crossed.”
US Marines and a translator are on a mission to retrieve a squad of SAS soldiers stranded in Afghanistan. Before they even have a chance to start looking their helicopter crashes and most jump to safety. Almost immediately they are set upon by the mysterious stitched. Supernaturally reanimated undead, controlled by an ancient cult of Islamists, not that their fussed about the war or who they kill.
The way the Stitched are controlled makes things a little more difficult than just chopping off heads with an axe. Even for the battle hardened soldiers. After meeting up with the remnants of the SAS squad the book focuses on the Soldiers trying to make their way across ravaged desert in a desperate attempt to contact HQ and get evacuated. Although shortly becomes a hunt for an infamous human trafficker and takes more than a few twists by the superb ending.
Ennis is a big fan of military history and you can tell with this book how much he researches every detail of active service duty to bring you an ultra realistic view of modern soldiers, techniques and equipment. The characters are given plenty of room to breathe in the first few issues and you get to know them individually and really root for them as a rag tag team. The supernatural elements are fantastically written, even after all these years of zombie books the Stitched are really creepy and effective bad guys.
Was not familiar with Mike Wolfer’s art but can’t find a single fault. A lot of time has went into creating backgrounds and villages and the characters are instantly recognizable after introductions. He has done a superb job of capturing emotions, whether it’s terror on a local Arab Shepperd or the gritty determination in the soldiers faces.
If your a fan of Horror, Military or just good comics then pick this up, Ennis delivers yet again!
Batman & Robin: Batman Reborn
Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Frank Quitely & Philip Tan
How do I admit the following without opening myself up to ridicule for being a moron? The truth is that when it comes to this comic I simply just don’t get it. Which is a crying shame as I genuinely am a big fan of both creators, not least because they are Scottish :)
I’m not the worlds biggest Batman fan so I am probably always going to be more critical of it than a character I love but I honestly went into this with an open mind as it’s been a bit of a cult hit. That’s the first reason I picked this book up with the second being just how damn nice the trade looked. I’ll buy almost anything if it is presented well. The only other positive thoughts I have towards it are that the art while Frank Quitely is in charge is superb. Dynamic chase sequences around a beautifully crafted Gotham and characters showing genuine emotions are just two of the highlights from Frank.
So what didn’t I enjoy about this book? How much time do you have? It’s like Grant wrote it drunk, the dialogue and character interactions are just awful. People seem to burst into sentences in the most unnatural way and conversations seem to just trail off with little explanation. Dick Grayson’s inner struggle between wanting to do Bruce proud while thinking he isn’t good enough to wear the mantle is beyond cliche and gets boring by page 3. I find Damien a little less offensive as at least he has the tiniest but of mystery to him, despite his actions almost always being fairly predictable there is still that element of the unknown.
These character portrayals are nothing compared to the villains. How could guys like The Pink Flamingo and Dr Pyg (that’s not how you spell pig, silly!) exist in a modern comic?It’s not like these are ridiculous, obscure villains reinvented for a modern age, they’re just ridiculous. Can’t work out if Pyg is just an all out insane bad guy with no motivation like the Joker etc. Or is he meant to be a crazy mad scientist e.g Doc Ock stylee? The script, bouncing all over the place like it does, unfortunately makes little effort to explain it either way. I don’t have the energy to start ranting about the Pink Flamingo, just google image him and try not to die inside.
Someone told me that it is an example of a “pop” comic. Which admittedly I had to google and research just what this entailed. Basically awful dialogue and everything camped up to the max. To be honest if I had known this I obviously wouldn’t of picked the book up and your eyes wouldn’t be bleeding reading all this. I suppose a giveaway should of been the best/worst blurb I have ever seen on the back of a trade. Simply the following. “Clever”
One more boot into this arc has to be Philip Tan’s art from issues #4 onwards. Only made worse by coming after Frank’s pages of beauty. He’s obviously tried to copy Frank’s style in an effort to keep the book fluid but it just comes across as a poor imatation.
Definitely going to take some grief over this review, I imagine the word “iconic” is going to come into play, but sorry guys. This is the worst comic I have read in 2013 and will be astounded if something manages to beat it.
Scalped volume 1.
Writer. Jason Aaron
Artist. R.M Guera
Been a big fan of Aaron’s work at Marvel for a few years now but was reluctant to pick up Scalped as I hadn’t heard a thing about it. Although in fairness the fact that it’s Vertigo and lasted 10 volumes should of been a giveaway to its immense quality.
So I always thought Noir stories were set in depression era America. But Scalped, possibly the finest example of Noir work i’ve read, is set on an Indian reserve in the modern day. I find that fascinating. Out with the main plot and characters Scalped acts as an incredibly detailed social study of the Native Americans and the role they play in todays modern, colonized US. Long story short, it’s depressing!
The book centres around Dashiel Bad Horse and his return to the “Rez” after more than a decade away. Having been sent away by his mother for his own good. Upon return he’s deputized by tribal leader Red Crow. A brilliant narrative device by Aaron as we get to know the Rez, its inhabitants and their quirks alongside Dash.
It would be far to spoilery to go into more of the story. It’s action packed to say the least. A heartbreaking story of family, poverty, corruption and racial divides. And if you see the final twist coming then I doth my cap to you as you’re much smarter and more handsome than myself.
Art is provided competently by R.M Guera although can be hard to distinguish characters from each other at times. More because of the messy Noir style as a lot of time has been spent on individual character design.(pretty much fixed by v2) Coloured with a very muted pallet that suits the story perfectly.
Please go buy Scalped so I have other people to talk to about it. I bought v1 last week and I’m on v6 already. It just keeps getting better!!!