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R. Wood "ryecroftwood2"

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The Crossing Places: A case for Ruth Galloway
The Crossing Places: A case for Ruth Galloway
by Elly Griffiths
Edition: Paperback
Price: 4.98

4.0 out of 5 stars Nice to meet you, Ruth Galloway!, 12 July 2014
The Crossing Places is the first in Elly Griffiths’ series of crime/thriller novels starring Ruth Galloway. Ruth is a forensic archaeologist living on the north Norfolk Coast, who in this story is called-to assist DCI Harry Nelson in the search for a missing child. As the case develops, complications arise with the discovery of human bones, the abduction of a second-child, and Ruth’s life coming under threat.

Is the killer someone she knows?

Elly Griffiths’ story is a very good one indeed, complete with genuine suspense, thrills, shocks and plot-twists. Her understanding of character is excellent, as her ability to visualise events for the reader. But what sets her writing-style apart from other detective novels is that Elly writes in the PRESENT-tense (something of a rarity in novels these days). It’s quite unique and certainly helps the reader tune-in more to the kind of stories that Griffiths likes to write.

Ruth Galloway herself is a very human protagonist. She’s single, overweight, unattractive, approaching forty, lonely and vulnerable, but this is what makes her so relatable. Amidst the fear and shortcomings, lies the heart and soul of a woman who is (above all else) brilliant, brave, compassionate and with a true sense of justice. Although this is mostly Ruth’s story, the writer wisely changes gears in shifting the focus to Harry Nelson from time-to-time. Nelson is an equally strong character with a great background and plenty of human qualities & flaws to boot.

The Crossing Places has a plot that will keep you guessing, a story that progresses and resolves quite nicely, and with enough deep supporting characters to make this a strong start to this series. Admittedly, it’s a bit lacking here-and-there, and it doesn’t quite have the same impact on me as say Robert Galbraith’s The Cuckoo’s Calling, Kerry Wilkinson’s Jessica Daniel series or Agatha Christie…BUT there are juicy ramifications leftover that entice me to check out more of Ruth Galloway. Definitely recommended.

The Light at the End (Doctor Who)
The Light at the End (Doctor Who)
by Nicholas Briggs
Edition: Audio CD
Price: 14.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Yet another winner from the chaps at Big Finish!, 25 Jun 2014
As we know, Doctor Who's 50th Anniversary was one MASSIVE party, enjoyed and celebrated through so many different medias, with the whole franchise and fanbase determined to celebrate to the fullest. Everyone and everything came together for this momentous occasion, including & especially all the different Doctors throughout history.

The Light at the End is a Big Finish audio drama that unites the Fourth (Tom Baker), Fifth (Peter Davison), Sixth (Colin Baker), Seventh (Sylvester McCoy) and Eighth (Paul McGann) Doctors in a all-star team-up (very similar to The Five Doctors and Day of the Doctor). Having enjoyed Big Finish & AudioGo's Destiny of the Doctor range so much, I was most keen to check out this particular drama, especially to see all the legends come back for this particular 50th Anniversary celebration in a brand-new setting.

The Light at the End focuses on November 23rd 1963 (sounds familiar...!), and Bob Dovie's life has been torn apart. The devastation that this innocent man has suffered, turns out to have grave consequences for the first eight of the Doctor's incarnations. The Time Lord's entire existence is threatened by arch-nemesis the Master and the mysterious `Vess'. Can the Doctor's various incarnations all work together to save themselves and all of time itself?

Nicholas Briggs (voice of the Daleks in the TV series and head-honcho of Big Finish) has written and directed The Light at the End, and (all-in-all) he should be proud of his production. With all the cast on form, rich sound-effects and soundtrack (LOVE the rendition of the Doctor Who theme used here!), The Light at the End is an audio drama of VERY high-quality. Worthy of Doctor Who's 50th Anniversary.

Tom, Peter, Colin, Sylvester and Paul's different Doctors all get sufficient time to shine through with their performances and roles within the story. And they all interact beautifully (just like Matt, David and John in Day of the Doctor), with the best team-ups being Doctors Four & Eight, followed by the exchanges with Six & Seven. Of course, companions are on hand with the likes of Leela (Louise Jameson), Nysaa (Sarah Sutton), Peri (Nicola Bryant), Ace (Sophie Aldred) and Charley (India Fisher) all providing great support and conversing brilliantly with each other and different Doctors. Geoffrey Beevers provides a deliciously malevolent turn as The Master, who is the perfect (and natural) foil for the Doctor in this audio-drama.

Plot-wise, The Light at the End is a bit tricky to follow, but coherent enough to make you want to continue. There's some nice twist-and-turns, and it juggles all the various plot-elements quite nicely. It's a major-outing that lives up to the hype, and adheres carefully to the continuities of both the Big Finish and original TV series. However, the Master's plan to undo the Doctor's life is somewhat underwhelming through the use of victimising a completely random innocent like Bob Dovie, and the Vess themselves come across as `filler' (especially when compared to the much meatier Creevix from The Time Machine). Aside from those issues, the rest of the Master's machinations are sinister and true to his brilliant scheming nature.

The only thing really that betrays The Light at the End, is its anti-climactic ending. Aside from that, this is an audio-drama that (like Destiny of the Doctor) helps celebrate 50 years of Doctor Who in style. Like the Destiny series, like Day of the Doctor and everything else, The Light at the End simply cannot be missed by Whovians. Recommended!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 28, 2014 9:55 AM BST

Steam: A Life on the Railway
Steam: A Life on the Railway
by Pete Waterman
Edition: Audio CD

5.0 out of 5 stars Remarkable collection of tales from the veterans of Steam!, 20 Jun 2014
Steam: A Life on the Railway is a remarkable two-disc audiobook, presented by music mogul and genuine railway enthusiast, Pete Waterman. It’s a collection of real-life stories shared by engine drivers, firemen, cleaners and train-spotters, with Waterman introducing each set of interviews with great clarity and emphasising all the wonderful (and NOT-so-wonderful) aspects of Steam.

A Life on the Railway lasts for two-hours, and makes for enlightening and charming listening. The stories on offer will fascinate all train lovers, due to each of the interviewees’ endearing and enthusiastic manner, and the rich variety of tales to tell. It’s all honest and upfront. The genuine romance for steam is emphasized, but so are all the negatives; problems with working with senior engine drivers, the dangers of working on the line, safety procedures, unsociable hours, work & family, accidents and triumphs, the rise of diesel and decline of British Railways, societies and preservation (which still runs today) etc. It’s all told in a genuinely captivating fashion, and the sound-effects really add to the presentation; hearkening back to when Willie Rushton used to narrate the Railway Series.

Although the audiobook is aimed at avid steam enthusiasts, I would recommend this to the casual railway lover too. Steam: A Life on the Railway is an enchanting audiobook, courtesy of the (sadly) defunct AudioGo, and superbly hosted by Pete Waterman. Must-have!

New Spider-Man 1995 - Season 3, Volumes 1 & 2 [DVD]
New Spider-Man 1995 - Season 3, Volumes 1 & 2 [DVD]

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Doctor Strange, Iron Man, Carnage, the Green Goblin...EVERYONE'S coming out to play, Spidey!, 16 Jun 2014
Ah, the golden days of superhero cartoons. The animated series of X-Men and Batman were unforgettable in the nineties, as was Spider-Man. It was a cartoon that made it essential to tune-in to BBC1’s Live & Kicking every Saturday back in the day.

THIS was the series that really got me hooked into reading Spidey comics, and made me such a fan of the character. Why? Because it captured everything that made Stan Lee & Steve Ditko’s creation so appealing, and presented it in a format that was so refreshing and sophisticated. Spider-Man: The Animated Series set a new standard for superhero cartoons, what with its life-and-death situations, moral dilemmas, domestic problems, well-developed characters, sub-plots and story-arcs, complete with voice-work and animation of the highest calibre. It was simply unmissable.

Of course, that was way back in 1994 to 1998. Having had a chance to revisit the series after so many years – and being able to compare it to the TRULY Spectacular Spider-Man series – Spider-Man: The Animated Series did have its flaws; some of them stupid overall story elements(!), whereas others were (as other reviewers have said) an over-reliance on the same music-cue (again-and-again), and Fox’s censorship (almost no punches and no real-life firearms).

But putting these issues aside, no one can deny the overall vision that John Semper had for this series, and the absolutely stellar work he and his team did for the character. Although things like X-Men: The Animated Series, Spectacular Spider-Man (arguably!), Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and the entire DCAU have more of a prominent legacy, no one can deny that this Spider-Man show is easily one of the top superhero-shows EVER produced.

And Season 3 certainly offers plentiful evidence to back up that claim. Some people say that the show’s third season is the high-point. While I personally believe that Season 1 was the best overall, this third season TRULY delivers with an insane amount of guest-stars (a who’s-who of the Marvel Universe), brilliant adaptations of classic comic-stories, major excitement and of course…one of the most DEVASTATING endings to a season that cartoon producers DARED to do!

This is a 2-Disc DVD set (courtesy of Clear Vision), collecting all 14 Episodes from Season 3. What can fans expect? Well, after all the turmoil Peter Parker faced in Season 1 and Season 2’s ‘Neogenic Nightmare’, he FINALLY learns of the Kingpin’s presence, Doctor Strange, Daredevil, Iron Man and War Machine all take turns to lend Spidey a hand, Venom and the Hobgoblin return, and (FINALLY!) Carnage and the Green Goblin rise! All thoroughly exciting stuff, and there’s a rich set of episodes to sink your teeth into.

‘Doctor Strange’ is a fantastic opener (ALWAYS love Spidey/Strange team-ups in the comics), ‘Make A Wish’/‘Attack of the Octobot’ is a touching adaptation of the poignant ‘The Boy Who Collected Spider-Man’ comic-tale, strong episodes like ‘Tombstone’ focus on Spidey’s supporting cast and ‘The Spot’ is a tale I’ve personally always enjoyed. The fact that it paves the way for future-events makes it a really important episode, also.

Of course, it’s not all good. This is the season where the infamous Madame Web arrived, and thus began the VERY long sub-plot which would eventually culminate in the series finale itself. Although said-finale WOULD deliver, Madame Web herself is a character that borders on unlikeable, and the radical path the series would take as a result of her arrival has certainly divided fan opinion. Other characters like the supremely unlikeable Anna Watson debut (here the complete opposite of how her comics-counterpart is written), and of course there’s perhaps the worst-episode ever in the form of ‘Rocket Racer’.

But the high-points of Season 3 truly make up for things like that. ‘Venom Returns’/‘Carnage’ is an awesome two-parter which (at long-last) saw the return of Venom/Eddie Brock and subsequent origin of Carnage/Cletus Kasady; both of whom criminally underused in this show, but certainly leave their mark in one of the most exciting treats of the show (especially for Carnage’s animation!). Then of course, there’s the long-awaited arrival of arch-nemesis The Green Goblin, who is truly done justice here, with Neil Ross really capturing the insanity & malevolence of Norman Osborn’s alter-ego with his portrayal. ‘Enter the Green Goblin’ is not just a superb debut, it’s one of the show’s BEST episodes, with follow-up episodes being even better.

‘Goblin War!’ is another exciting affair to drool over, which finally sees the Green Goblin lock horns with the Hobgoblin (impeccably voiced by Mark Hamill), with the only downer being that John Semper let his ill-feelings toward the Hobgoblin character get in the way, and ultimately make the Hobgoblin come across as a cheap knock-off (which of course, he was anything BUT!).

Then…there’s ‘Turning Point’, as shocking & powerful a season finale you could expect to see, but also manages to masterfully adapt several legendary Spidey/Goblin stories from the comics into one half-hour episode. It’s Spider-Man and the Green Goblin with MJ’s life in the balance, and things will NEVER, EVER be the same again. Many fans regard it as this show’s single greatest episode…and it’s hard to disagree. It affected me so much as a child, and the impact hasn’t lessened after all these years. ‘Turning Point’ is essential for fans here.

While Season 1 of Spider-Man: The Animated Series is the epitome of the show’s quality, Season 3 certainly offered a terrific amount of joy for fans. And its one DVD that is certainly highly recommended.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 28, 2014 9:56 AM BST

Scooby-Doo: Wrestlemania Mystery - Original Movie [DVD] [2014]
Scooby-Doo: Wrestlemania Mystery - Original Movie [DVD] [2014]
Dvd ~ Ryan Shore
Price: 7.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Scooby-Doo and WWE?! ZOINKS! It actually works!, 25 May 2014
Scooby-Doo, one of the greatest cartoons of all-time. One of the many genius creations of Hanna-Barbera.

World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), the most prominent organization in sports-entertainment. A truly larger-than-life phenomenon.

But surely, though?! An actual crossover feature-film featuring these two diverse franchises?! I couldn’t believe it! The mere idea would be dismissed as impossible!

And yet here we are! WWE Studios and Warner Bros. have actually joined forces to produce Scooby-Doo! WrestleMania Mystery. And the final result…is incredible. It’s actually quite good!

So what mystery has actually drawn the crew of Mystery Inc. to the mad & wild world of WWE? Well, Shaggy & Scooby have won tickets to WrestleMania, and convince Fred, Daphne & Velma to come along. So off they go to ‘WWE City’, and (naturally) they find themselves at work; a mysterious ‘Ghost Bear’ threatens not just WrestleMania, but World Wrestling Entertainment itself! With the likes of John Cena, Sin Cara and other WWE superstars aiding the Scooby-Doo Gang, this utterly mad-caper defies all logic and turns-out to be rather enjoyable.

It’s the same old Scooby-Doo theme – teenagers and their dog going round, investigating monsters and unmasking criminals with sinister motives – presented in the WWE Universe. The format of Scooby-Doo has always been a winning-formula that will doubtless continue to stand the test-of-time, and the plot for this direct-to-video movie is actually pretty decent. The film avoids taking itself seriously, and allows the WWE Superstars to just have a good time with the voiceovers.

There’s genuine suspense/excitement, the mystery will keep you guessing, and there’s plenty of good humour throughout. Admittedly, it’s a bit hokey in places, the pacing stalls here-and-there, and some of the film’s final moments are just outright bizarre. But when the final product could’ve been so much worse, you’ll end up being thankful for this.

The best thing about WrestleMania Mystery is that it pays equal respects to both franchises, emphasizing the appeal of both Scooby-Doo and WWE, underlining just how much FUN they are for all fans (young-and-old alike). The animation is great, as is the soundtrack – blending Ryan Shore’s original score with the various WWE Superstar themes (as composed by Jim Johnston). Things like the chase sequences, wrestling scenes, the glitz & glamour of WWE and the trademark antics of the Scooby Gang are all beautifully brought to life here, and the wrestlers themselves have such presence in this cartoon.

The likes of John Cena, the Miz, Kane, AJ Lee, Triple H, Brodus Clay, Santino Marella, Sin Cara, Michael Cole and Vince McMahon himself(!) all have their fun in the spotlight, eliciting genuine laughs and splendid entertainment throughout. Each of the superstars deliver outstanding & distinctive voice-work, except Sin Cara (obviously) who compensates through perhaps the most brilliant form of sign-language I’ve ever seen. Kids will definitely love this, and wrestling fans will surely get a kick of spotting all the cameos from various wrestling legends throughout.

Special-features on this DVD include subtitles, the ‘Wrestle Maniacs’ episode from the old A Pup Named Scooby-Doo series, and an excellent featurette ‘Behind-The-Scenes with Scooby-Doo and the WWE Gang’. Rather nice, indeed.

Now, obviously there’re people out there who will dismiss the wrestling aspect of this film on the grounds that it’s ‘fake’. And there are wrestling purists who will preach that their favourite sport should never EVER blend with Scooby-Doo. Really, I say to both parties to just give this thing a chance. Scooby-Doo! WrestleMania Mystery is perhaps the unlikeliest crossover of all-time, and one that somehow manages to succeed. You maybe pleasantly surprised.

Superior Carnage
Superior Carnage
by Kevin Shinick
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.69

2.0 out of 5 stars O, Carnage...what have they DONE to you?!, 20 May 2014
This review is from: Superior Carnage (Paperback)
Sigh...things haven't been looking that good for Carnage lately it would seem. After SUCH a superb return to form via Zeb Wells and Clayton Crain's mini-series (Family Feud and Carnage: USA), we had something of a disjointed crossover in Minimum Carnage and now for the latest Carnage mini-series, Marvel have decided that the so-called `Superior' treatment is in order.

The end-result is something that feels like a waste of time.

So how did we - or rather Cletus Kasady - get to this point? Well, the climax of Minimum Carnage saw Kasady lobotomized by the Scarlet Spider. Cletus (barely) survived his wounds but was rendered completely catatonic, with the Carnage symbiote now left fully in control of its host...a reversal of the usual Carnage dichotomy. Now rotting in an asylum for the criminally insane, Carnage is once again waiting to explode.

But on this occasion, the time-bomb has now been usurped by the Wizard, who has his own dark designs for Carnage in his new `Frightful Four'. But what horrors will arise because of the insane venture?

On paper, this story had promise. I didn't bemoan Kasady's fate at the end of Minimum Carnage...instead, I was intrigued by the latest development for the character and the new creative opportunities awaiting him. The Wizard's idea of creating an `Agent Carnage' (parallel to the tremendous success of Flash Thompson as Agent Venom) is brilliant, and that's what encouraged me to check this book out.

But the creative-attempt here is like trying to fix something that wasn't even broken. Contrary to what critics say, Carnage has ALWAYS had plenty of personality, motive and substance, all of which (along with his charisma & prowess) make him the fan-favourite he deserves to be. The only real problem with him is that there are writers who either don't know how to portray him properly, or Marvel have used him far too much for the sake of sales.

To be fair to writer Kevin Shinick though, he was given a VERY difficult situation for the character. And his writing is rather good when it comes to the Wizard and Klaw, their relationship, emphasizing Carnage's sheer destructibility & value etc, and his plot does progress just fine.

So what exactly is wrong with Superior Carnage? It's not a story about Kasady as much as it's a story about the Wizard. This is really the first time I've been subjected to this long-time rogue of the Fantastic Four, and I DO like the character, particularly his circumstances. His dementia affecting his genius, his desire to prove himself in the eyes of his son, his resolve to be more than just a super-string loser; it makes the reader somewhat sympathetic towards Bentley Wittman. The same can be said for Klaw, the villain who's so hopelessly loyal & devoted to the Wizard and his ambitions, that he'll suffer his abuse and failures due to his duty and familial bond with him.

But if you're going to write a story about THEM, at least title it `Wizard & Klaw'! Not only that, but the Carnage symbiote is just used as a plot-device and nothing more. Plus the attempt to revamp Carnage is just so rushed, hideous, unnecessary and forced that long-time fans will not accept it. It reminds me of Mark Millar's Spider-Man: Marvel Knights saga where they took the symbiote of Eddie Brock and decided to make Mac Gargan the new Venom. That method of reinvention didn't work there, and it doesn't work here.

Of course, there's the guest-appearance of the `Superior Spider-Man' AKA Doctor Octopus' mind inhabiting Peter Parker's body. Being one of the fans who did NOT approve of Dan Slott's controversial `Dying Wish' and the direction to take the character, I haven't read a Spider-Man story since. This being my first-exposure to the `Superior Spider-Man', I found Ock somewhat (surprisingly) effective & unique in the role. I will concede that the idea is refreshing but certainly not `superior' to the Spider-Man I grew up with and prefer.

Stephen Segovia's art is the high-point, I'd say. There's some great work on offer here (particularly when it comes to the montage recapping Carnage's history), and the mind-games between Ock/Spidey and the Wizard & Carnage are brilliantly written. Carnage's spirit and legacy DO also come into play at times, and the ending is nice, sinister and ambiguous (if somewhat predictable) as well. But this doesn't really FEEL like a Carnage story should. It feels like they've taken too many steps back from all the sterling work Zeb Wells & Clayton Crain did with the character. Perhaps a refresh was in order, but this wasn't the right way to go about it.

So while Superior Carnage isn't exactly the lowest ebb in the character's career, it's not exactly something to go ballistic about either. I dare say that Minimum Carnage was better than this. Still, with the promising Deadpool vs. Carnage mini-series sure to be released in trade-paperback form, and Carnage set to be a major-part of the upcoming `Axis' event, things are starting to look up for Cletus Kasady and his fans. For now, though...hmm...I really don't know...

Top Gear: The Great African Adventure [DVD]
Top Gear: The Great African Adventure [DVD]
Dvd ~ Jeremy Clarkson
Price: 7.00

5.0 out of 5 stars They're off to find the source of the Nile...and it's an adventure that's TRULY GREAT!, 16 May 2014
After the lads’ absolutely rubbish India Special back in 2011, I was hoping that Jeremy, Richard & James would come back in winning form for their next ‘Great Adventure’. Thankfully, my hopes were justified. Top Gear: The Great African Adventure is a true return to form for the show, and proof that while the series has stumbled in recent years, you can STILL rely on it to provide such essential entertainment when it really matters.

This time round, Clarkson, Hammond & May are given 1500, told to buy second-hand estate cars, and use them…to find the ‘true’ source of the River Nile.

Now, this adventure was broadcast as a two-parter back in March 2013. So instead of another Great Adventure Box-Set, the BBC and 2Entertain have instead released just the two-parter as a single-disc feature. No Director’s Cut treatment, just the two-episodes combined into one. And the release is perfect as it is.

The problem with the India Special was that it just felt forced and too staged. Unlike their legendary trips to (say) the North Pole or the U.S., the lads’ expedition to India was just them outstaying their welcome with little-to-no-reason. In Africa, they once again have an actual mission. Along the way, there’s PLENTY of discovery, hilarities, historical insights, fascinating culture, beautiful shots and edge-of-your-seat dangers, but Jezza, Hamster and Captain Slow also take turns to show each of their own ingenuity with the inevitable modifications to their cars, which are genuinely refreshing this time, as they’re actually useful to their own survival out in the wilderness.

Needless to say, all the highlights are unforgettable (particularly the haunting visit to Entebbe Airport, the brilliant car-ferry and the thrilling final moments), but like Top Gear’s most famous moments, there’s also a real sense of achievement and triumph when all is said & done. Of course, the discovery of the ‘true source’ of the River Nile is bound to be argued over fiercely, but it’s irrelevant at the end of the day. The quest is genuinely inspired, and it’s fascinating and unforgettable all the way; just like Top Gear at its BEST.

There’s a rich assortment of deleted scenes for the extras (over 20 minutes’ worth), and the new material is the icing on the cake for fans. They’re so good indeed that nothing else is needed for this DVD. Top Gear: The Great African Adventure features the lads back in winning form. Fans and completists have nothing to worry about. The next thing to look forward to now…is the Burma Special.

Captain America: Winter Soldier Dossier Edition: (Marvel Captain America)
Captain America: Winter Soldier Dossier Edition: (Marvel Captain America)
by Ed Brubaker
Edition: Paperback
Price: 13.59

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quite possibly the greatest Captain America story EVER told, 7 May 2014
Captain America has always been one of Marvel’s most prominent heroes, and although the character has never been an absolute favourite of mine, I’ve long admired and respected all Cap was, is and symbolizes. His back-story is certainly one of the most creative for any character, and it’s one that’s made him distinctive and interesting.

Over the last few years, though, Steve Rogers has been exposed to a worldwide audience through films like Captain America: The First Avenger and the masterpiece that was The Avengers. The recent Winter Soldier movie…WOW. It had such an impact on me, changing everything in the Marvel Cinematic Universe forever. And because of all this critical reception and box-office success, Cap has surely become a household name.

Which is why this Winter Soldier Graphic Novel immediately caught my eye.

Basically, THIS is the story that inspired the cinematic Captain America sequel of the same name. It’s story-telling excellence that’s full of intrigue, tension, suspense, and all the fundamentals you’d expect from a classic tale.

At saga’s beginning, the Living Legend is perhaps more vulnerable then he’s ever been in his life. Fighting on the front-line in World War II and the modern era, losing family and friends from both past & present, the disbanding of the Avengers etc…it’s ALL taken its heavy toll on the seemingly unbreakable Steve Rogers. And his greatest foe, the Red Skull…is back to finally finish him off once and for all.

But perhaps a more-worrying issue is the arrival of the mysterious ‘Winter Soldier’. Who is he? And what will his arrival mean for Cap and his entire world?

The entire Winter Soldier saga is the brainchild of Ed Brubaker, a writer who has produced fantastic work during his memorable runs on Catwoman and Daredevil. But Ed’s work on Captain America may quite possibly be his crowning achievement. This is the first Captain America story I’ve ever read that has made me GENUINELY care and feel for the character.

What Brubaker does for Captain America is similar to what Geoff Johns did for Green Lantern in the essential Rebirth. Winter Soldier is much more than just an exceptional saga; not only is it a triumph for showcasing the Living Legend in such winning form, but for introducing this remarkable character to a new generation of readers. If you’ve know little-to-nothing about Captain America in the comics, or have never even heard of him, then this is the PERFECT story for newcomers. Brubaker captures the essence of Captain America and uses his origin & past to drive the character and tale brilliantly. Flashbacks, the malevolence/threat of the Red Skull, his relationships with Sharon Carter, Nick Fury, S.H.I.E.L.D., being out-of-time, the loss of partner Bucky etc…ALL of this not only explains to new readers the richness of the character, but STRESSES how important it is. It’s ingenious story-telling of the highest level.

As I said before, Steve Rogers is a character I’ve always liked (especially in major Marvel events like Avengers Disassembled, Secret War and Civil War) but have never really loved. How Winter Soldier is able to make me truly appreciate the Living Legend like never before, is that Brubaker takes time to provide rare insights into Steve’s mind and his private life. We’ve always come to expect Captain America as this wise, stoic, inspirational figure; constantly coming up with brilliant battle-plans, superb motivational speeches, throwing his indestructible shield around and not only being a super-soldier, but proving himself as the LEADER that the rest of the Marvel Universe look up to.

Here, Ed emphasizes just how difficult it is being such a perfect figure. The struggles Steve Rogers constantly faces in being Captain America are beautifully underlined, along with his inner-turmoil and his past clashing with the present. Stuff like that, along with the grave challenges he faces here – and his entire world being turned upside down as a result – evoke such sympathy for him. And in the eyes of the reader, makes him even more inspirational and heroic than ever before.

But of course, it’s not JUST Steve Rogers/Captain America that makes this graphic novel one of the best I’ve ever read. The Winter Soldier himself is supremely enigmatic, efficient, deadly and essential in the Captain America mythos. And between him and Brubaker’s masterful, intelligent plot that incorporates politics, terrorism, espionage, WWII, the Cold War, freedom and humanity…the result is just impeccable. There are shocking revelations, plenty of great drama and action, heart & soul, and enough history of Cap’s career for lifelong fans to appreciate, and newer fans to fill-in-the-gaps. From start-to-finish, Winter Soldier is an essential read. It’s no wonder why this was adapted for the big-screen. It’s a tale that demands such treatment!

In terms of art, Ed Brubaker’s writing is done justice by Steve Epting & Michael Lark, who provide the perfect dark, gritty visual for this saga. It reminds me of Metal Gear Solid, and I love it. John Paul Leon & Tom Palmer take their turn to illustrate one chapter (part 7), and the cartoony-style does offer a contrast, but I do prefer Steve & Michael’s to John & Tom’s. It’s simply ideal.

Wonderful variant covers are the icing on the cake here, making purchase of this all-the-more essential. Captain America: Winter Soldier is truly one of the most outstanding graphic novels for fans to own. With Cap’s popularity greater than ever, and the Winter Soldier film really taking the world by storm, you have every reason to check out the masterpiece that inspired the hit-film itself. Truly one to own.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 9, 2014 9:04 AM BST

WWE: Ultimate Warrior - The Ultimate Collection [DVD]
WWE: Ultimate Warrior - The Ultimate Collection [DVD]
Dvd ~ Ultimate Warrior
Price: 23.27

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The power of the Warrior will ALWAYS prevail!, 5 May 2014
Yet another of wrestling’s greatest and most-beloved legends has departed for that glorious ring in the sky. When I heard about the Ultimate Warrior’s untimely & premature passing, I was like every other wrestling fan; absolutely shocked and deeply saddened.

What made the death of Jim ‘Warrior’ Hellwig so unfathomable was that the weekend prior FINALLY saw him take his rightful place in the WWE Hall of Fame, make his heroic return at WrestleMania XXX, and then address the WWE Universe (or rather his ‘Warriors’) the following night on Raw, delivering a heartfelt (and eerily ironic) speech, thanking his fans and saying that the spirit of the Ultimate Warrior would live forever.

One thing to take solace from this heartbreaking loss is that after years of fighting, Vince McMahon and Warrior were finally able to make peace and the 2014 Hall of Famer’s legacy has been honoured and celebrated the way it SHOULD be. The Warrior’s story has received the happy ending it deserved, so it’s with that content attitude (and desire to pay my respects) that I too purchased Ultimate Warrior: The Ultimate Collection.

Now, everyone doubtless remembers the LAST DVD based on this man; 2005’s infamous Self-Destruction of The Ultimate Warrior. It was without doubt one of WWE Home Video’s most shocking and controversial releases, certainly its most shameless, which saw Vince, Jim Ross, Ted DiBiase and Bobby Heenan (among others) tear down Warrior with such profanity it was unbelievable! However, the DVD was one of my favourites due to its presentation, special-features and summary of Warrior’s career accomplishments. Yes, it was NOTORIOUSLY one-sided, but nevertheless outstanding.

THIS TIME round, Warrior was finally given the chance to tell his side of the story, and before & after the main-programme, he addresses his fans in typical Warrior character. Throughout the feature itself, Jim Hellwig recounts his life & career in a humble, respectful & (ultimately) grateful tone; certainly NOT as the psychotic, disrespectful & self-centred rogue DiBiase and Heenan (for example) labelled him several years back!

The presentation, format and insights from Warrior himself, certainly make this Ultimate Collection feel MUCH more honest & gratifying than its ‘Self-Destruction’ counterpart, but what makes the experience truly positive is that Warrior takes the time to praise all those who worked with him to help get the Ultimate Warrior over; not just legends like Rick Rude, Andre the Giant, Macho Man Randy Savage and (of course) Hulk Hogan, but all the various jobbers who were fed to him to build-up his character. The level of Warrior’s gratitude to those who helped him, his honesty regarding his limitations and the remarkable thought-process behind the development of his character…it all speaks volumes about Jim Hellwig as a person, a talent and a creative genius.

One of the concerns I had about this 3-Disc DVD (admittedly) is if there would be enough material to spread out across the entire set. Warrior being the kind of performer/wrestler he was, technical fanatics obviously won’t find the same depth of rich viewing you’d expect from Ric Flair/Bret Hart/Shawn Michaels DVDs. But while this Ultimate Collection isn’t an overall masterpiece (compared to say the CM Punk and Chris Jericho sets), this production has nevertheless been very well compiled. You’ve got a variety of Warrior squashes, some thrilling matches, some classic ones, all interwoven with some fantastic Warrior promos and segments (amidst the discussions with Jim Hellwig himself). The balance & structure is superb overall, making this set not only a positive portrayal of the Warrior’s legacy, but a worthy one as well.

Matches range from terrible-to-enlightening-to-thrilling-to-legendary. There are many squashes included here (the majority being against jobbers to build-up the Warrior), but the most prominent of these is a fascinating UWF Tag Bout featuring the Bladerunners Tag Team (with Sting) and the spectacular domination of Intercontinental Champion, the Honky Tonk Man (from SummerSlam 1988). Of course, there are much meatier bouts which showcase the potential the Ultimate Warrior had, and how awesome he could compete given the right opponent.

A rare match against Harley Race is a fine example of this, and then the first Warrior classic comes in the form of the fantastic Intercontinental Title Match from SummerSlam 1989 against Rick Rude. Other legendary wars include the epic Career-Ending Match against Randy Savage (perhaps Warrior’s greatest in-ring rival) from WrestleMania 7, and (of course!) the Ultimate Challenge against Hulk Hogan from WrestleMania 6; a spectacular battle-of-the-titans which sees Warrior become the only man to hold both WWE and Intercontinental Championships.

Other highlights include an absolutely thrilling WWE Title defence against Ted DiBiase from Main Event, a lively brawl against Sergeant Slaughter, a hilarious/effective ‘Weasel Suit’ match against Bobby Heenan and some rare, interesting bouts against Andre the Giant and the Undertaker. With regards to promos & segments, some of Warrior’s finest moments are here-to-be-found. Such as Warrior’s intense ‘Crash the Plane’ promo, his shocking WCW Nitro debut, ending Brother Love’s career with decimation, a sinister (and now doubly disturbing) appearance on Paul Bearer’s Funeral Parlour, and absolutely terrific segments with Goldust and Jerry Lawler from 1996.

Alas, it’s not all good. The infamous WrestleMania 12 squash against Hunter Hearst Helmsley (Triple H) is somewhat unnecessary, and the Jerry Lawler bout from King of the Ring 1996 is unfortunate in that it’s a lacklustre affair that fails to live-up to such brilliant hype. A return bout against the Honky Tonk Man drags badly, the classic WWE title match against Savage from SummerSlam 1992 is missing, and it’s disappointing that Warrior doesn’t go into detail over certain issues (i.e. his departures and falling-outs with Vince).

Although a notably flawed release, Ultimate Warrior: The Ultimate Collection remains a terrific collection for fans, and a positive tribute to a man who will be sorely missed. To Warrior’s family, I give my deepest condolences for their loss. To Warrior fans old and new, purchase of this DVD is essential.

Rest in Peace, Ultimate Warrior. Your spirit will indeed live forever.

Carnage: Family Feud
Carnage: Family Feud
by Zeb Wells
Edition: Paperback
Price: 14.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "I'm plannin' my comeback.", 22 April 2014
This review is from: Carnage: Family Feud (Paperback)
Once upon a time, the Spawn of Venom bonded with Eddie Brock’s cellmate; unrepentant serial murderer Cletus Kasady. And Carnage was born. More powerful than Venom, savage & virtually unbeatable, preaching that chaos was the ultimate freedom, the threat of Carnage was so great that it actually united hated-enemies Spider-Man & Venom together.

And throughout his career, Carnage would find others who’d share his crimson dream; a family (Shriek, Doppelganger, Demogoblin & Carrion) to call his very own. His threat would only grow and grow, and a deep insight into this God-awful childhood, along with his warped philosophies and dark reflection of both Spidey & Venom…would provide many a classic tale.

Sadly, too many writers just didn’t know (or even care) what to do with Carnage so long as he was just there to sell comics. One bad story led to another, and Brian Michael Bendis wrote the character off when Sentry tore him in half in Earth’s orbit in that 2004’s ‘Breakout’ in the New Avengers.

(STUPID move…!)

Anyway, fast-forward to 2011, and Carnage FINALLY returned, bigger, badder & better than ever in Zeb Wells and Clayton Crain’s Family Feud; an absolutely terrific mini-series that received much acclaim and restored Cletus Kasady back to his rightful place as a terrifying, virtually unbeatable super-villain and awesome character.

Now, this mini-series was published in graphic novel format before (by Panini back in 2011), but with THAT version long out-of-print, fans can still pick up the same story HERE. Three years on, Family Feud still remains dark, deep, masterful…and absolutely brilliant.

Zeb produced a gripping, intricate plot that benefitted from his ‘less-is-more’ approach. The way he manages all the established characters (Spider-Man and Iron Man), introduces and writes newcomers (Michael Hall and Doctor Tanis Nieves) and paces all the various story elements is pretty much perfect. Cletus Kasady’s return (as well as Shriek and Doppelganger’s) is handled in shocking, plausible and brilliant fashion. And it’s all done justice by Clayton Crain’s gorgeous painted visuals. NOTHING is wasted here! Only utilised with complete creative genius.

Think I’m exaggerating? I assure you I am not. Family Feud is intense without being overdone, horrific and nightmarish without being crude, and boasts plenty of intelligent writing, sharp humour, gross corporate antics & corruption, and exciting groundwork laid out for the equally superb & original Carnage: USA. Carnage: Family Feud is purposeful, excellent and really, we owe both Zeb Wells and Clayton Crain a world of thanks for restoring Carnage back to his rightful place as one of the Marvel Universe’s deadliest and greatest villains, and doing so in ingenious fashion. Essential.
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