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Showing posts from January, 2021

Review: The Last Arrival

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P lanet C'adaei is dying. Five individuals are chosen to board a spaceship and travel to a distant world to establish a colony and ensure the survival of the species.  The leader U'on is competent, official and detached. Engineer Acrock is moody and secretive. Artist Rirke is compassionate and spiritual. Aome is a playful child. Historian Olak is apprehensive and skeptical...  Their ship lands on the new, almost lifeless world and they investigate the ancient ruins. Olak and Aome find picture books (called "comics")  that tell the story of how nearly everyone died on the planet.  U'on and Acrock find a room containing a half-dead creature restrained and unconscious. Probing its brain with their machines, they discover the name of this desolate corpse of a planet: ... Earth .  And it is not a totally lifeless husk. There is danger here, an ancient force that threatens all life...  The Last Arrival by writer Daniel A. Prim and artist  Gergely Szabo is a captivating

Review: Lady Mechanika

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  Steampunk cyborg Lady Mechanika is a Victorian bounty hunter with a mysterious past and an uncertain future. Having no memories of her origins, she searches for clues in the city of Mechanika, where half-mechanical figures have been reported in the back alleys and in the nearby Darqueshire Moor... There are hints that the shady industrialist Lord Blackpool may be connected to these bizarre phenomena; his company specialises in new technology (including weaponry) from which the city benefits. Has Blackpool been conducting horrific experiments upon missing persons within dark, secret laboratory? Lady Mechanika , created, written and drawn by Joe Benitez, is a Gothic horror / sci-fi action blend, elegantly and stylishly executed. Our heroine is a cultured, educated Victorian lady by day (complete with bodice, bustle and bonnet) and a leather-clad fighting machine (sporting very effective metal limbs) by night. Think: Emily Brontë meets Robocop... This is a complex story and very well-w

Review: Gl'urk & Bo

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  Gl'urk and Bo are truckers, ferrying raw minerals from the outer solar system inwards towards Mars. It's not a bad life...  Gl'urk is an amphibious guy from the ocean world under the ice of Jupiter's moon Europa. He looks pretty cool; blue with orange tiger stripes.  Bo is a Martian human, part of the IVF-supplied colony on the red planet. He escaped the plutocratic beaurocracy of the colonial corporations after buying himself a rig and a licence to haul cargo.  Props here, on two counts: Firstly, in reality Europa does indeed have an ocean under its crust of ice and could well harbour life of some kind (the water heated above zero degrees by tectonic forces and/or thermal vents), so it is good to see someone weaving a little science fact in with their science fiction.  Prop two: a sci-fi story staring a human central character who was not born on Earth.   99% of the time, it seems, the setting of a galaxy in which humans have colonised dozens of planets for centuries

Review: Analog Missions

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Apollo wakes up on a radioactive battlefield. He remembers only his name, nothing else. Staring down at him is a group of soldiers, all wearing mechanical masks. They don't know him. Friend or foe?  Unknown. But their leader Oberon decides to give him the benefit of the doubt and they give him a mask (he won't survive without one). It looks like a robotic skull.   This is the war on planet Magna between the Technocrats and the Free State. Decades earlier the discovery of 'element X'  led to great technological advances (mostly in terms of weapons development) and its scarcity led to conflict. It also caused ecological collapse as the inhabitants excessively mined the planet's crust for more of the elusive substance. The Technocrats have the upper hand thanks to their Generals who have superior battle hardware.   Analog Missions by David Fleming is a monochrome semi-abstract work with a somewhat rough-hewn, organic style with characters who are presented as human bu

Review: Strange Skies

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  Catherine wakes up on the floor of the plane's toilet cubicle. Her pregnancy test lies nearby, reading positive. Did she faint?  Coming out of the cubicle, she discovers that something strange is going on: she was not the only one to pass out. Everyone on the plane - crew and passengers - all lost consciousness at the same time, and they are just now waking up... What caused the blackout?  How long were they out for?  Is the plane still on course?  Looking out the window she sees strange cloud formations... and no sight of land or ocean. Along with the flight marshal she gains access to the cockpit. The pilot is dead and the plane is headed towards a gigantic cloud in the shape of a vortex... So begins Strange Skies , written and drawn by Iqbal Ali, a seven-part mystery drama. The story follows the frightened, confused individuals as they try to make sense of their predicament. Outside lies the unknown, but there is danger inside also as paranoia, jealousy and prejudice threaten

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