Wednesday 5 October 2011


The A to Z of Crime
Episode 5 QRST (of 6)
[Watch it (again) on ITV Player.]

Ask Rhod Gilbert
2x02 Episode 2
[Watch it (again) in HD on iPlayer.]

5x25 (30/9/11 edition)
A special episode to mark the show's 200th edition, featuring only previous contestants who crashed out with 200 points (the highest possible score in a single round). I've seen people before who managed to exit with 400 points (i.e. the full 200 on both of the two episodes they're allowed) -- I guess they're saving those sorts for a future special...
[Watch it (again) on iPlayer.]


2000 AD #1749
Firstly, as usual, I shall direct you to the ECBT 2000AD reviews, covering both parts of Judge Dredd, Savage, Sinister Dexter and Zombo.
Secondly, my thoughts on my first ten issues since returning to the 2000 AD readership are here.

Animal Man #1 by Jeff Lemire & Travel Foreman
This is one of the surprise hits of DC's New 52, selling out quickly and garnering much praise. So it was one of the few I decided to order belatedly based on recommendations, but after my reaction to Justice League International (see below) I decided it best to read a digital copy before my 2nd printing hardcopy turned up. Fortunately, unlike JLI, this one lived up to the hype. Animal Man has a wife a two kids and a very present family life, lending a completely different feel and set of stories to the regular superhero setup. There's a good amount of story too, unlike some of the other books (and modern comics in general). Unlike Batman: The Dark Knight, say, I feel like I got a decent chunk of the story. With intriguing elements going forward, including a great cliffhanger-twist, this is definitely one I'll be continuing with. Indeed, it's probably one of my favourites of the New 52 books I've read.

Justice League International #1 by Dan Jurgens & Aaron Lopresti
I'd heard this was quite good, quite fun, so decided to give it a go. It wasn't. A squabbling team of superheroes is the kind of thing that probably works -- indeed, Marvel are banking on it -- but it helps if you've actually heard of most of them. It wasn't funny, it wasn't much fun, and it was actually kind of dull.
This was one of those additional books I'd decided to order. Fortunately, however, I read it in time to cancel my order. That's £2 saved.


The DC Comics New Reader Litmus Test: The New 52 Week 4 by Josie Campbell
(from Comic Book Resources)

Today saw the release of the first round of #2s for DC's New 52 -- this'll be where it really gets interesting, seeing whether sales can match the high level they've reached so far. It's been more successful than most expected, but the much-hyped beginning was always going to be the biggest bit -- will it carry over?

Anyway, all of that news and speculation is for the coming week. First, here's the last part of CBR's new reader test, where the #1s are given to completely new readers to see if it works for them, as was intended by DC. Unsurprisingly, results are more or less the same as in the previous three weeks.

However, there are some pretty damning conclusions right at the end. This, for instance: "When it came to those I approached to participate in this test, the news of the relaunch had not reached a single reader not already familiar with comics in some capacity. … Based on our anecdotal evidence, DC has failed to reach greater mainstream consciousness and is marketing to its existing audience of comics' readers, not to a brand-new market."

Oh dear.

The Adventures of Tintin trailer

This looks brilliant. I may even bother to make one of my rare trips to the cinema for it.

<a href='' target='_new' title='The Adventures of Tintin trailer' >The Adventures of Tintin trailer</a>

2000 AD #1749

As I mentioned when I read the last Prog, all the stories that started in my first Prog of 2000 AD all end this week (well, "this Prog" -- "this week"'s issue is about five on from that). That would seem to make it the perfect time to reflect on my re-initiation into the world of 2000 AD so far.

Judge Dredd, then, is undoubtedly 2000 AD's flagship strip. This has been an interesting one: after an opening three-parter that had some fun but was painfully light on logic, and was also a wrap-up for previous events rather than a properly new-reader-friendly jumping-on point, the story has progressed with a decently intriguing procedural. There's clearly a lot left to go in this Day of Chaos story, but it's off to a good start.

Sinister Dexter, on the other hand, was spectacularly unfriendly to the new reader. Although starting a new story, it built completely on events from the previous one, and on top of that on events going back years. It wasn't even especially entertaining to make up for it either. Apparently this one's on its way to being wrapped up for good, and by the sounds of things there aren't many who'll miss it.

Savage, then again, is brilliant. A real change from the overtly sci-fi angle of the rest of the strips, this is like a WW2 resistance comic, only set now (more or less) after a Russian-allegory occupation of Britain. Patrick Goddard's realistic black-and-white art is never less than gorgeous and Pat Mills' scripts are almost always a perfect example of how to tell a pulpy story in small but exciting pieces. Indeed, he and Dredd writer John Wagner really are the masters of the form -- even if Wagner's overall storytelling has been a bit iffy at points, his structuring is immaculate.

Zombo seems to be much beloved by 2000 AD fans, and while I wasn't sure at first I was quickly won over. This is the third outing for the strip, and while that means there's some continuity to overcome for a new reader, it's much more accessible than Sinister Dexter. It took me a Prog or two to become accustomed to Al Ewing's wit, but once there it was a hoot. Similarly, Henry Flint's art at first appeared sketchy and cartoonish, but is actually highly detailed and completely appropriate. I really want to get the collected edition of the first two tales now -- can't say better than that!

Finally, Tharg's 3hrillers (which ended last Prog) have been a mixed bag -- which you'd expect from an anthology format. The first one was passable but lost its way towards the end; the second had a good atmosphere and concept but a hurried conclusion -- it would've been good if it had been longer and more thoroughly developed; the third was an unredeemable piece of rubbish, with a weak story and pathetic art. Ho hum.

The most interesting bit has been getting back into the culture of reading the mag itself. By which I mean, reading stories in five-or-six-page chunks once a week for a couple of months at a time, five stories at once. I haven't read a regular comic for years, so not getting a whole story in one go (as you do with collected paperbacks) and not getting an apparently meaningful chunk of narrative in each portion are both adjustments.

What it highlights, however, is the differing storytelling skill set needed to make a six-page chunk satisfying, rather than the 20+ pages of a US monthly comic. Some of those writers could do with reading and learning from 2000 AD, because there are occasions where a Tharg strip can cover as much ground in six pages as a US comic will cover in 20. They'd benefit from that added speed.