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Dark Jimbo (Hampshire, England)

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Abe Sapien Volume 4
Abe Sapien Volume 4
by Mike Mignola
Edition: Paperback
Price: £13.48

4.0 out of 5 stars The Shape of Things to Come..., 24 Jan. 2015
This review is from: Abe Sapien Volume 4 (Paperback)
The Abe Sapien spin-off title continues in steady fashion, building on all the best elements of the debut run in the previous book.

The joy of this series (and what sets it apart from the main BPRD series) is the ground-level approach to the apocalypse - getting to see how a world over-run with monsters is affecting the regular joes in the middle of it all. Abe interacts with a lot more people this time out, meaning we get to see a lot more of this warts-and-all fight for survival. Scott Allie writes these supporting characters particularly well - almost any one of them could become a recurring character. Indeed, it's always a bit of a surprise when, come the end of a particular adventure, Abe leaves his newfound friends and yet again hits the road alone, Littlest-Hobo style. (If there's one thing this series is lacking it's some sort of reccuring character(s) besides Abe himself.)

Fun as these interactions are, the real unexpected joy of this series has been the baddies, a crazy little band that's consistently the best thing in the book (sorry Abe). They get a lot of screen time in the second of the two stories collected here, and every moment is a joy. BPRD agent Vaughn was killed in the last book, only to be ressurected by the enigmatic Victorian mystic Gustav Strobl and his undead mute assistant Wilkins. They make an odd trio, travelling the devestation of the Midwest in an antiquated horse and carriage, and I have no idea where this sub-plot could be going, but that's part of what makes it such fun!

To recap then, if you liked the first book of Abe's solo adventures you'll love this - but if not, there's little here to change your mind.


Voice of the Fire
Voice of the Fire
by Alan Moore
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars Angel language and November bonfires, 9 Dec. 2014
This review is from: Voice of the Fire (Paperback)
As a bona-fide fan of Alan Moore's comics work I was really looking forward to seeing what the maestro could do with pure prose, and he doesn't dissapoint. Each of the twelve chapters in Voice of the Fire concerns a different individual at different eras of time within or near what will eventually become Northampton. Seperated by hundreds (sometimes thousands) of years apiece, the characters neverthless end up subtly linked to one another in surprising ways, and a strong supernatural current undercuts most of these chapters. November bonfires, angel language, spectral black dogs, severed heads and lame feet; these motifs occur again and again in ways that often end badly for our protagonists. Despite a total page time of no more than two or three pages, the black dogs are an incredibly sinister presence throughout and work really well to tie the disparate elements together, as well as providing Moore with his rather serendipitous ending.

My favourite elements (besides the occasional cameos by previous, and sometimes future, characters in the chapters of others) was the very faithful tailoring of the language in each chapter to the character concerned. I think this put a lot of people off the book on initial publication as the first (and longest) chapter is the idiosyncratic story of a mildly retarded hunter-gatherer at the end of the Stone Age; he experiences everything in the present tense with little understanding of past or future and doesn’t make any distinction between dreams and reality; and his limited understanding and vocabulary often fail him when he encounters something new for the first time. It’s certainly a challenging read until your ‘ear’ attunes to the language, but then it becomes an extremely immersive experience, to the extent that I was absurdly disappointed when his chapter came to an end and I realised I wouldn’t get to spend any more time with him.

That’s perhaps the one real frustration here, inevitable given the format – so many of these protagonists and their stories are compelling enough to support a whole novel on their own, but no sooner are we totally invested in their lives then we have to skip forward another hundred years. It’s to Moore’s credit, though, that he can create such engaging creations in so short a time. The final chapter finds Alan Moore himself, coming to an end of his work on the very book we're reading and trying to find an ending. It's a fittingly brave/foolhardy close, depending on your point of view, for a novel that's going to utterly frustrate some and utterly enchant others.


Good-bye to All That: An Autobiography (Penguin Modern Classics)
Good-bye to All That: An Autobiography (Penguin Modern Classics)
by Robert Graves
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: £6.29

5.0 out of 5 stars Unrivalled, 1 Dec. 2014
This really is one of the best accounts of the Great War that I've read. Given all that I've heard about this book, that wasn't so much of a surprise - as someone with a great interest in the First World War it was why I bought the book, after all. What was a surprise, however, was that well before Graves joined the army about mid-way through his autobiography I was already solidly engrossed.

Robert Graves writes with a real charm and gentle humour, belying an often quite scathing satirical leaning, and his account of his early home life and upbringing is beautiful, a real evocation of a time now lost forever. The fact that he's half-German heartbreakingly foreshadows later events, as he spends childhood holidays playing in teutonic fairytale castles with German uncles and nephews, men he is destined one day to try to kill on the battlefields of France. It's a pertinent reminder of how close Britain and Germany were in the late 1800's, a fact which made the later War all the more tragic.

The account of his time in France during the conflict, the greater part of the book, is simply brilliant - and considering what he goes through, it's hard to keep in mind that he was only in his early twenties, as I suppose so many of the soldiers were. The other reviews have covered these 'war years' in more detail and it's admittedly hard to find something new to say on a war memoir that's been reviewed and analyzed so often since it was first published, so I'll skip on to the less-discussed later chapters - suffice to say it's hard to find a better account of the life of a young officer on the Western Front.

Once the war ends the book does arguably lose drive and focus, but I get a sense that by this point Graves was simply weary of England and life in general - it must have been hard to find much that matched the passion and drama of the battlefield, where a generation faced things we can hardly imagine today. It does all evoke an interesting picture of how a country tries to adjust to life after such a war, however, before it starts becoming simply a list of which famous writers Graves met.

All in all, this is probably one of the best first-hand accounts of World War One that we're lucky enough to have - and if you have any interest at all in the subject, you simply owe it to yourself to read it at least once.

One final thought - I strongly recommend reading this in conjunction with Seigfreid Sassoon's 'Memoirs of an Infantry Officer'. Each book gives a whole new spin on the other. Close friends and fellow author/poets, Graves and Sassoon's stories overlap and parallel each other several times, and it's fascinating to read differing accounts of the same crucial events in the lives of these two men.


Predator vs Dredd vs Aliens: Incubus and More (2000 Ad)
Predator vs Dredd vs Aliens: Incubus and More (2000 Ad)
by John Wagner
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £19.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The most dangerous killer in the galaxy! (plus some Aliens and a Predator)., 25 Nov. 2014
The cover to this mighty tome proclaims 'Predator vs Dredd vs Aliens: Incubus and other stories!' Well, in actual fact the book collects Incubus and only *one* other story. This is the Dredd vs Predator tale, and arguably the least of the two offerings here. It's good fun but plays out much as you would expect, with few surprises along the way. A predator comes to Mega-City One to add Judge badges to his trophy cabinet, and naturally Dredd is not best pleased. I'm sure you can imagine roughly what happens next - some nice touches (like a Judge Schaeffer in the supporting cast, a descendant of Arnie's character in the first Predator film) elevate this slightly above average, but it's not too memorable overall.

Incubus is the Aliens crossover, and the meat of the book. It feels like a 'proper' Judge Dredd story, as opposed to 'just' a crossover. It's very much in-continuity, with the madman who unleashes the Xenomorphs on Mega-City One being a returning foe from an earlier story (itself a sequel to 1983's classic Cry of the Werewolf). What's great is how imaginative it is. Script writers Wagner and Diggle go to great lengths to make Dredd's encounters with the Xenos memorable and unique, such as a battle atop a speeding train, novel use of a road flare or an Alien menacing a hospital ward of newborns. A lot of thought is put into how their acidic blood would affect a firefight, which is a refreshing change. There are plenty of nice touches for long-time Dredd fans too, like an extended cameo from the Mechanismo robots. Henry Flint illustrates this one; supposedly he begged for the gig as he's such a big Alien fan, and boy does it show in his work!

Despite being named prominently on the cover, Jock and Brian Bolland only contribute a cover each, which is a bit cheeky, but the covers gallery is quite a good one. This massive hardback is a truly beautiful thing in the flesh, and a recommended - if inessential - buy for any Dredd, Predator or Alien fan.


Sledgehammer 44 Vol.1
Sledgehammer 44 Vol.1
by Mike Mignola
Edition: Paperback
Price: £13.48

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lightning War!, 22 Nov. 2014
This review is from: Sledgehammer 44 Vol.1 (Paperback)
Sledgehammer '44 collects two stories. The first is a two-parter with art by Jason Latour, which is a bit of an introduction to the character and the set-up. The Sledgehammer is a one-man robot combat suit powered by mystical vril energy and almost impossible to take down by conventional means, and he's spearheading the Allied advance across Nazi-occupied Europe in 1944. The character and concept were first introduced in the Lobster Johnson series The Iron Prometheus, so this two-parter acts mainly as a re-introduction for those who missed that. It's good fun but nothing special.

It's the second (three-part) story that I suspect most Mignola-verse fans will be interested to read, though. Lightning War sees the return of mystic Raimund Diestel, last seen on a gangster's payroll and causing trouble for Lobster Johnson in downtown Manhattan (the story collected in The Burning Hand TPB.) Recruited by the Third Reich at the start of the story and given a new purpose in life as Nazi super-villian the Black Flame, it's his interuption of a test flight for a new aircraft that sees him come into contact with the Sledgehammer. The story is arguably one extended fight scene, but what a fight scene it is! Artist Laurence Campbell knocks this one out of the park - the fight happens takes place in the night sky, during a rainstorm, and is the sort of filmic-quality scene that comics can do so well when everything works.

So you may want to seek those Lobster Johnson series out for all that extra backstory, although everything's explained well enough here that you shouldn't have any trouble diving right in. A fun, but not yet essential, addition to the Mignola-verse that's well worth buying for the Black Flame story.


Lobster Johnson Volume 3: Satan Smells a Rat
Lobster Johnson Volume 3: Satan Smells a Rat
by Tonci Zonjic
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.78

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Face the Lobster's Claw!, 22 Nov. 2014
When I get a new BPRD book that's a collection of shorter tales rather than one sustained narrative, I tend to sigh a little bit. Such books never feel as consequential as the main 'arc' stories, as though the stories were only produced to plug a gap in schedules and give the artists working on the main stories more time to hit the deadlines. When I got this third Lobster Johnson book though - a collection of three short tales rather than one long story like the first books - I cheered.

I don't think the Lobster was created as a particularly serious character - he's the Hellboy universe's answer to the Spirit and the Shadow, and other similar pulp heroes of the 1930s. As such, his only real purpose is to look cool running along benighted Manhattan rooftops; he's got no real backstory other than 'mysterious crime-fighter', and the character doesn't really have a lot to say for himself. As such, I thought he often struggled to carry the sort of multi-part stories that Mignola and company kept putting him into; stories that seemed better suited for Hellboy himself, or the BPRD characters.

In this third book of his solo adventures the Mignola team give the reader exactly what they want from the Lobster - short, sharp, exciting tales of crime-fighting in the '30s, with of course a healthy dose of the supernatural. And it works like a charm. The stories are succint, snappy and suitably zany, and never outstay their welcome. It's arguably the sort of book that should have kicked off the Lobster's solo series, working as a perfect introduction to the character. So there's not much in the way of continuity, and you know more or less what to expect going on, and arguably it's not very memorable material - but it does what it does very well. It's just darn good fun, and hey, sometimes that's all you really need from a comic.


The Daily Dredds: v. 1 (Judge Dredd)
The Daily Dredds: v. 1 (Judge Dredd)
by John Wagner
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £20.40

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Definately definitive Dredd!, 20 Nov. 2014
In 1981 the Daily Star started printing a weekly Judge Dredd strip. It was written by John Wagner (the character's co-creator) and Alan Grant, the same team who were then writing Dredd in 2000AD and almost single-handedly creating his entire world - including Mean Machine, the Angel Gang, Death and the Dark Judges, Otto Sump and the Kleggs. The artist was Ron Smith, a British comics veteran who had pencilled many of those same defining Dredds.

The Wagner/Grant team have done more than anyone to define Dredd and Mega-City One, so they were the natural choice for this strip - and at no point was there any sense of the team saving their best stuff for the prog. The newspaper strip is every bit as dark, satirical, hilarious and clever - and if anything, because most stories were self-contained to only eight panels or so, they are even tighter and snappier. As a result the whole thing works as a really great introduction to the wider world of Dredd - the best possible way for a newbie to discover why the Judge has dominated British comics for more than 37 years.

Ron Smith was for many years somewhat neglected when it came to the great Dredd artists of the classic era, overshadowed by megastars Brian Bolland, Mike McMahon and Carlos Ezquerra. Thankfully, Rebellion's excellent graphic novel range has allowed for something of a reappraisal of the great man's work in recent years. Never has his talent been more obvious than here. The book reproduces one three-tier strip per page, and each one is crammed to the rafters with detail. His citizens in particular are a joy - all buck teeth, goofy expressions, big ears and bizarre facial hair, he never seemed to draw the same one twice! The detail is even more impressive when you consider how small these were published originally (the reproduction here is lovely and big).

After Ron's mighty run of the Saturday strips, we get one apiece by Steve Dillon, Brett Ewins and John Higgins, then 14 by Ian Gibson, who took over the reigns from Smith. The first pair of the daily strip stories are collected here too - multi-part adventures that allow for narratives with a bit more depth. It's a ridiculously comprehensive collection - this is the first time every single early strip has been reprinted thanks to some sterling detective work on the part of fans worldwide. This huge and lavish hardback has a detailed contents page listing creative teams, when all the original strips were published and whether/where/when they have been reprinted since - it's an attention to detail that's carried to all aspects of this superb book.

There's basically nothing whatsoever to fault here. Comics perfection!


Science Fiction Funko Mystery Minis Blind Box
Science Fiction Funko Mystery Minis Blind Box
Offered by Game Dealz
Price: £9.58

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great little figures, 15 Nov. 2014
Great little figures. Averaging 2.8 inches tall (obviously E.T, for instance, is somewhat shorter) and made of sturdy vinyl, there are some great and dynamic designs of sci-fi favourites. The variants are a great idea, too, like a glow-in-the-dark Tron and clear vinyl Predator. They don't have any moving parts or the like but at the end of the day they're only a it of fun to brighten up a desk, computer screen or shelf.

The only caveat is the price. Currently they're selling for £10+, which is frankly a lot of money for such small figures. I recommend shopping around - you can get them for about £7 if you know where to look.


Jvc Haeb75b Sports Ear Clip Headphones with Adjustable Clip - Black
Jvc Haeb75b Sports Ear Clip Headphones with Adjustable Clip - Black
Offered by Price Grabber
Price: £6.50

4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent value for money, 15 Nov. 2014
There are surely only so many things to say about headphones, but here goes. Firstly they look great - very stylish. I was a little worried when I first put them on, though - I don't know if I have particularly small ears but even at their smallest setting (the adjustable clip is a big selling point for these) they felt fairly loose. I needn't have worried though. They were snugger than they felt and even worn on a run they were never in danger of slipping off. The last thing to note is the excellent sound quality. They're designed primarily for exercise, so outside sounds are deliberately audible (car engines, for instance, for obvious saftey reasons) and yet if you turn the volume up loud enough then they never intrude on the music.

There are undeniably better headphones out there, but for what they cost you these are hard to fault - and that's really the point, here. For the price these are exactly what you want.


Tannhauser Single Miniature Pack: Hoss
Tannhauser Single Miniature Pack: Hoss
by Fantasy Flight Games
Edition: Toy

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great character for Tannhauser and the Reich faction, 5 Nov. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
A great character for Tannhauser and the Reich faction. Hoss Harbinger is- quite literally - a Titan in human form, second only to the Kaiser in the Reich's heirachy and a bitter enemy of the Occult division's Hermann von Heizinger (which gives great scope for some Reich on Reich battles, if you also have the extra set of troopers!)

Hoss is a hero character, but so overpowered in some respects that he can feel a bit like an Epic hero instead. He can 'dodge' any attack made against him, sidestepping to another circle when theattack is declared and forcing the attacker to choose another target; he can leech health from friend and foe alike to replace his own; he can give bad dice rolls to other characters; and after a succsessful mental duel can switch places with any other player on the board, so that he appears right in the middle of an enemy squad - and leaving an enemy suddenly outgunned in the midst of your Germans! As might be imagined he's a delight to have on your own team but can be a bit of a nightmare to face. His weaknesses are robots (Ramirez's Hound Dog, for instance, or the Matriarchy's Voivodes) and the few characters who can near-as match his mental value (Von Heizinger, for instance).

The figure is excellent, probably one of the best produced so far - very detailed, and for once the paintjob doesn't let the sculpt down. He comes with all the usual bits and bobs, plus a few new tokens for the base game and other characters - the Trench Gun is a particularly good addition.


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