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Retrospective: Barbarella (1962)

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"Your hardware and my software interface perfectly!" ... so says travelling space adventurer Barbarella after making love to a robot in the original 1962 comic strip. That's after dallying with several men, women and an angel... If you are familiar with the movie adaptation staring Jane Fonda in 1968 you will already know the tone: camp titillating high jinks bordering on soft porn. The titular heroine is a sexy young hedonistic astronaut who finds herself tumbling into one compromising situation after another, invariably losing most or all of her clothing in the process. Sexploitation? Perhaps a little, but the lewedness here is too mild to be offensive, certainly by today's standards. Barbarella is an object of desire, yes, but she is also a fully autonomous agent, not a vacant bimbo. What we have here is an embodiment of 1960s sexual liberation ('free love' as a personal and political statement against a conventional Western society that frowned upon any

Review: Genma Visage

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The Floating Worlds of Shuromij in the asteroid belt are home to the Shurokiu (humanoids with reptilian ancestry). On one of these worlds, in the Tower of Silence, Governor Scorpius is conducting psychic experiments... This is BAD news. Thousands of years ago the order Nishin Genma used the same technology to cause mutations that created super warriors. These enhanced soldiers take on a dragon-like form resembling the reptilian creature called Hydra from which the Shurokiu race evolved. This fearsome aspect is the titular Genma Visage.  Attempting to harness such power is not without consequences, however. It opens doorways to other dimensions, allowing the arrival of Youkai demons which have plagued the universe ever since the first experiments.  The latest work by Scorpius to tap into this power threatens not only Shuromij but also the people of planet Earth...  Genma Visage is the creation of UK writer and artist Thomas Tuke, a series he started in 2007 that now spans several volume

Review: Akolyte

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  "Let your past fuel your future."  In a distant star system a small, nondescript spaceship sets down on a barren, nameless moon. The pilot is King Khalon, "a stranger from the stars".  The passenger is Demtri Price from Sapphire City, Earth. The two men met two years earlier, when Demetri agreed to join Khalon on a quest to unlock Demetri's destiny...  During that time, Khalon has been Demetri's tutor, training him in combat. Upon reaching their destination, the king tells the Earthman to take a moonwalk in order to enter the next stage of his journey of self-discovery.  Our hero meets a mysterious towering blue humanoid who reveals that Demetri has an awesome cosmic power locked within him. A power that is now to be unleashed...  Akolyte  by writer Lonzo Starr and artists Opi Hidayat, Michael Woods and Bruno Lima is an Afrofuturist sci-fi superhero tale with strong mythical/spiritual elements. Here we have the old 'average dude doesn't know he'

Review: Andy Starboy

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Andy Gonzalez can fly, which is pretty cool for a Mexican teenager. He's also green and looks like he fell out of a UFO...  There's a reason for that. In this version of history the flying saucer crash in Roswell, New Mexico in 1947 was just the beginning of a series of spacecraft impacts over the decades. All of the ships were unoccupied. Humanity has benefitted from reverse-engineering the alien technology, but there was also a downside...  Radiation from the ships caused people nearby to mutate. Some of these "nu-breeds" like Andy, have super powers. The radiation also mutated wild animals, some of which became very dangerous, such as the giant lizard we see Andy battling in the opening sequence (a nice little nod to the Godzilla legend).  This is not just a tale of great responsibility coming with great power, however. Andy is the star of his own reality show in which he basically shows off his fighting skills against the monstrosities that now stalk the Earth. 

Retrospective: Transmetropolitan

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Enjoying this? You like the way I describe disgusting shit happening to people you probably walked past in the street last week? Good. Your earned it. With your silence. Spider Jerusalem is a journalist. He's also a very angry person who indulges heavily in recreational drugs, habitually assaults people who annoy him and generally makes it his mission to tell people things they really don't want to hear. A die-hard cynic with no respect for authority or social niceties, he tears through anything and anyone in his way to get a story. He has plenty to vent about. His dystopian city is a hotbed of corruption, neglect, exploitation and poverty with rotten politicians, soulless transhumanist cults and a populace pacified by apathy and sociopathic perversity (Anyone for a tasty cloned human flesh burger?)... It's Western decadence to the n th degree. We join Spider as he is forced to come out of his drug-soaked hiatus out in the bondooks in order to fulfil a book deal (the advan

Review: Saga

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Hazel is special. Her young parents should be mortal enemies - they are from opposite sides of a war that has raged on for many years - but apparently love conquers all... Her mother Alanna is from the planet Landfall. Her people have wings of various kinds. Hers are like those of an insect.  Hazel's father Marko is from Landfall's moon Wreath. The people there have horns of various kinds. His are like those of a ram.  Landfall and Wreath are locked in a perpetual state of war, but in the interests of environmental conservation their war has been outsourced .... to the rest of the universe.  The destruction of either Landfall or Wreath would result in the demise of both worlds, so they have subcontracted their conflict to other planets. All the bloodshed occurs far away and mostly involves other races, so the civilian populations of Landfall and Wreath go about their lives without much inconvenience.  When private Alanna is put in charge of guarding captured enemy combatant Mar

Review: Genecy

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An extremely feared and militaristic nation, proudly recognised as the Grunnod, has stolen freedom, joy and fortune from an entire galaxy. They are in search of an ancient artifact from a long, forgotten time. It is believed to unlock a door to an immense and immeasurable power...  Kaizaxx is from the planet Tanaan, a world that fell to the despotic Grunnod empire. He and his entire race are enslaved by the invaders, lost without hope until intervention by the mysterious robed figure Geshemah, who leads a massive rescue. The plan to evacuate forty thousand Tanaanian slaves is brutally crushed by the Grunnod, who shoot the ships out of the sky. There is only one survivor...  As their ship dies, Geshemah passes Kaizaxx a glowing green staff saying "It is the reason why your people are shackled..."  In that moment, Geshemah is revealed to be one of the Grunnod. Why is he working against his own people? Kaizaxx has no time to ponder this question, however: no sooner does he take

Review: Hybrid Zero

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Zoe Artemis Chithuri Able is a very unusual girl. Her father Ian is human, clone son of Dr Jacob Able, owner of at least three worlds. Her mother Arealea is Quterion (horned humanoid), a race that serves as soldiers for the State. But Zoe's unconventional nature is more than just her mixed heritage. Her body is heavily augmented with military technology, powered by an energy crystal embedded in her neck. Augmentation is nothing new to Quterions; Arealea has ludicrously enlarged breasts because she was originally designed as a paramour (to make walking possible she also has a tail and a reinforced spine). Not to be outdone, Ian is also upgraded as a hypertrophic hulk. Dr Able summons them to his home on Eridanos, a world contained within a vast planetship that he owns. Ian's sister Case is trapped within her automated laboratory following an experiment to open a gateway into a new universe. Entering the lab will be dangerous due to the defensive systems that have come online in

Review: Planetary

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"It's a strange world. Let's keep it that way." A woman walks into a diner... She gets a frosty reception from the sole customer, the cool customer Elijah Snow. A white-haired man who looks a lot younger than he should... The woman, Jakita Wagner, is also far from average, in her figure-hugging onesie and with hidden strengths. She invites Snow to join her organisation, Planetary, which seeks to uncover "... what's really been going on this century. The secret history." Lulled by the promise of a huge paycheck - plus some existential ennui and a niggling curiosity - Snow joins her at Planetary HQ and meets the third member of their team, The Drummer. Never without his drumsticks, he has an affinity with information in all its forms. Planetary by writer Warren Ellis and artist John Cassaday is a high-tech, high concept action/thriller with a 20th century noir-pulp vibe. It combines fresh ideas with nostalgic elements aplenty: fans of 1960s sci-fi TV

Review: Invisible Kingdom

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"The emptiness you feel is normal.  After all, it's only by emptying ourselves of falsehood that we make room for the truth." Grix is captain of the Sundog , a freighter transporting cargo between the four planets of  the Duni system. Her employer is Lux, a company that has a monopoly on trade. The Lux name is emblazoned everywhere, selling goods and entertainment to the populace. Vess is an initiate of the Renunciation, a contemplative religious order that seeks to rise above the base materialism of the system's consumerist culture. Having made her way, blindfolded and barefoot, from her home world to the prime planet Duni, she enters the floating monastery to begin her new life as a None (sic) seeking to transcend the material universe and enter that of the spirit, the 'Invisible Kingdom'. Following a near crash, Grix discovers discrepancies in the cargo manifest that indicate financial irregularities by Lux... Following her induction as bookkeeper for the

Review: Horizon Zero Dawn

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  Based on the highly popular game, Horizon Zero Dawn follows the stories of principal characters Aloy and Talanah immediately following the end of the events in the game. The premise of the Horizon Zero Dawn world is an Earth one thousand years from now in which a once-ruined ecosystem has been rebuilt by a range of animal-shaped robots. A greatly reduced human population lives in separate tribes with very little technology. When the robots (referred to simply as machines ) suddenly become hostile for no apparent reason, warriors have to fight back using specially adapted versions of pre-industrial weapons. The warriors' armour is made from the irregular metal components of machines they have slain. They have a kind of cyberpunk Plains Indians style to them. What you have here is a mix of sci-fi with mythological heroic legends. The design of the machines - many of them resembling semi-organic mechanical dinosaurs - is a striking feature of the world: a Terminator/Jurassic Park

Review: Orisha Exos

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Beni is top of her class, that class being young people training to pilot Orisha - giant military space robots defending the Earth from her enemies.  This is Afrofuturism at its finest, though, so Earth is now called Yoruba (!) and the Moon is Mawu , names from African culture.  Giving Earth's Moon an actual name (which it badly needs, being not the only moon in the universe) is something I heartily approve of.  "Earth" is a pretty dull name too (as noted in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy) ...  In Orisha Exos by SoVereign Comics (who also brought us Ayanmo Stigmata ), written by Tyrone Jackson with art by Demone Amerson, the world - once dying from environmental neglect - was abandoned by the wealthy elite who flew off into space in search of new planets to colonise. The common herd was left to fend for themselves which, after long hardship, they did. Many years later the survivors prospered and began to colonise the solar system.  Excellent! But then the des