Category Archives: Features

Underrated: Red Thorn: Glasgow Kiss

This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way.

This week: Red Thorn: Glasgow Kiss


I had completely forgotten about Red Thorn until a copy of the first trade came into the comic shop the other day, and I remembered how much I had enjoyed the series. I don’t know if I ever finished it, for some reason I think I stopped picking up the comics around the 8th or 9th issue, but that’s something I’m happy to look into and fill out the remaining issues for my collection.

What’s the book about? Well, the blurb is copied below:

Although she grew up in America, gifted artist Isla Mackintosh is a Scot at heart. Both of her parents were born in Glasgow, and 25 years ago her older sister Lauren vanished during a visit to the land of her ancestry. Now, Isla is following in her sister’s footsteps, hoping to discover the truth behind her disappearance.
 
The secret she’s about to unearth, however, is far older and more dangerous than she ever could have guessed.
 
Something has been waiting for Isla, deep beneath the moors. A pagan demigod has been trapped there for millennia, caged inside the bones of ancient gods. He smells of the blood of a thousand enemies and the sweat of countless lovers. His name is Thorn, and Isla’s art is the key to his freedom.

Red Thorn is one of those comics that has something special about it. Whether it’s in the way David Baillie has crafted this issue, Meghan Hetrick‘s art work or the coluring of Steve Oliff, there’s something about this comic that draws you in.

With any comic I read, I always hope it’ll be good, but especially when picking up the first issue of a new series; if the first issue doesn’t grab you in some way then the chances you’ll be willing to pick up the next issue aren’t great. Thankfully, there’s something about Red Thorn that grabs a hold of  you and pulls you through the streets of Glasgow on wild ride that begins to edge onto the mythological history of writer David Baillie‘s native Scotland.

The story here is mostly fluid, with Baillie taking his time about delving too quickly into the mythology side of things that the series will undoubtedly feature strongly across later issues. It’s a smart choice, because by focusing less on the mythology he allows us to become familiar with Isla Mackintosh, the young American in Scotland with an unusual talent that I’m sure Baille will have some fun with as the series goes on.

The art from Meghan Hetrick is brilliant; I’ve never been to Scotland myself, but her scenery has a distinctly Scottish flavour (admittedly I’m basing that statement on the few images, movies and television shows I’ve seen set in and around the country). One of my favourite scenes in the opening issue is when we’re given a glimpse inside Isla‘s sketch book. It’s a jaw dropping double page spread that really highlights Hetrick‘s abilities and, combined with the colours of Steve Oliff, is an excellent window into the kind of person Isla is.

Red Thorn #1 is a brilliant example of the talented creative team working with a synchronicity that you wouldn’t ordinarily expect from the first issue in a series, and it only becomes stronger throughout the rest of the trade. 


Join us next week when we look at something else that is, for whatever reason, Underrated.

Underrated: Batman: Blink

This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way.

This week: Batman: Blink


When you think of great Batman comics, stories like Hush, The Long Halloween and Court of Owls come to mind fairly quickly for most of us, and depending on what the person giving you recommendations has read you may also see The Dark Knight Returns, War Games, Knightfall, Bruce Wayne; Murderer and No Man’s Land pop up at various points in the conversation, too. All of which are fantastic choices and well worth reading – indeed, all of those tend to be pretty high on my own recommendation list when talking to customers at the comic shop. But what happens when you’ve read all the main stuff? Well, that’s where something like Batman: Blink comes into play.

This trade collects two stories, Blink and Don’t Blink about a blind man who can see through the eyes of anyone he touches. The first story has him helping Batman track down a killer, and the second explores what happens when the government finds out he can do these things.

Originally presented in Legends of the Dark Knight 156-158 and 164-167, the story is set during the early days of Batman’s career – there’s no specific year, but judging by the framing device of the story being read from Batman’s journal and the Dark Knight’s confidence and lack of technology I’d put it within the second or third year (at latest) which means that we’re seeing a Batman stripped of a lot of what we’re used to seeing of late. There’s a lot more detective work in this story, with writer Dwayne McDuffie allowing the process to be shown on panel rather than as a one off comment or so.

This is Batman as he was before he became the caricature of himself where he could easily defeat Galactus with enough prep time (yeah, I know, different universe, but I’m making a point with extremes), where he’s more a man than a god. You see him get hit by chairs, make mistakes and still push through regardless. This Batman is fallible, and the stakes seem higher because of it in a way that Batman verses a giant monster doesn’t; it’s the human touch, the smaller scale of the threat and the consequences of failure. Plus, the way McDuffie frames the story through Batman’s journal also allows the perspective of an older Batman critiquing his earlier self which adds in both a sense of foreboding and the odd wryly funny line. I also want to highlight the choices of letterer Kurt Hathaway here because the font choice he went with is brilliant; one can easily read the cursive handwriting whilst understanding exactly what it is you’re seeing. Cursive can be tough to penetrate for some folks at times (and I am one of them despite my own writing being hard to read), and when there’s no impediment to the story because of the narration and stylistic choice then you can’t help but become immersed in the narrative.

As you cans see above, the art has a very moody feel to it, with the colours trending toward the blues, greys and other muted hues for the majority of the book – which only serves to make the brightness that much more striking. The story was penciled by Val Semeiks with inks by Dan Green and colours by James Sinclair, and despite the first issue in the book being published almost twenty years ago, the art still has that fresh and vibrant feel. Yes, there’s a sense of classic comics art to the pages, but given the flashback nature of the story, it works in a very meta way as your own sense of “back in the day” creeps into your perspective when reading this trade.

Granted that might just be my old man eyes and memories, and younger readers may not have the same experience (not kids, but folks who haven’t been reading comics since the 90’s; y’all likely won’t have the same perspective, and that’s okay – it’s not a deal breaker for this story).

The main reason I bring up this trade is because until I saw it on the shelf for the price of a single issue, I’d never heard about the story. While it won’t make it into my Must Read section of Batman recommendations, it’s going to be closer to the top of the “oh, this ones really good, too” section. It’s an underrated story, and one that can be easily overlooked when on a shelf among the other great Batman stories.


Join us next week when we look at something else that is, for whatever reason, Underrated.

Underrated: Asterix Omnibus #1

This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way. This week: Asterix Omnibus #1: Collects Asterix the Gaul, Asterix and the Golden Sickle, and Asterix and the Goths.


It was the 90’s. A time before the world had seen Tobey Maguire in red and blue spandex, a place where baggy jeans were still the height of fashion, and I had yet to find my first comic shop. But I knew I loved sequential art all the same, because I was a dedicated reader of Asterix. The plucky Gaul and his village the lone holdouts against the indomitable Roman Empire because their druid had created a magical potion. I loved Asterix, Obelix, and the rest of the ix’s in the village as a child, and so when a man closer to forty summers than he’d like to think about saw a pair of omnibuses in a comic shop when on vacation… well it was aa no brainer. I had to get them.

Now, I hadn’t read an Asterix book in three decades until I found this one. That may be an exaggeration by omission, because I might have been ten years old the last time I read a volume of Asterix, or I may have been slightly older, but that is still nearly thirty years ago so three decades is still true enough. The question as to whether I had wasted money on the two omnibuses (omnibi?) containing the first six volumes of the French comic was swiftly put to rest.

Asterix holds up. Hell, I’d even go so far as to say it’s better now as an adult than it was as a kid.

Asterix is celebrating 60 sensational years as an international comics superstar, and in the first collected edition from Papercutz, the stories are newly translated into American English for a new generation of fans! The story of Asterix starts here. These are the first three adventures of Asterix as he defends his tiny village from the overwhelming forces of the Roman Empire. Join the short, spunky, and super-powerful warrior from Gaul and his faithful friends–including the boar-eating delivery man Obelix and the ecologically-minded canine, Dogmatix–as they battle to protect their village against impossible odds. Asterix Omnibus volume one collects “Asterix the Gaul,” “Asterix and the Golden Sickle,” and “Asterix and the Goths.” Three classic adventures in one great volume.

– the blurb on the back.

This book is 152 pages of pure joy for me, with three standalone stories told by Rene Goscinny and Albert Uderzo that don’t rely on you having read the previous volumes (while that’s kind of a moot point given this collection has the first three volumes, there isn’t much chance for you to have read any book released previously as there weren’t any), but instead tells a complete tale that is packed with comedic encounters, of both the dry subtle kind and the more intentional physical pun. I fucking love Asterix, I won’t lie.

This book, or any of the omnibuses released by Papercutz featuring the Gaul, are perfect for new readers to comic books. There’s not a lot of complexity to the story, but there’s a lot going on all the same; it’s the closest to the comic version of a Pixar movie that you can get, and it’s glorious (this isn’t rose tinted glasses or nostalgia pulling at my heart strings either – of the four collected editions of Asterix I have, I’ve enjoyed each one far more than I expected.


Join us next week where there will doubtless be another movie, series, comic or comic related thing discussed that is, for whatever reason, Underrated.

Underrated: Lake Of Fire

This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way. This week: Lake Of Fire


It is 1220 AD, and the gears of the Albigensian Crusade grind on. When an alien spacecraft infested with a horde of bloodthirsty predators crash-lands in the remote wilderness of the French Pyrenees, a small band of crusaders and a Cathar heretic are all that stand between God’s Kingdom and Hell on Earth.

When the owner of my LCS not so subtly recommended this to me by putting it in my pull box, I figured that she’s never steered me wrong yet, so why not give it a go? A few hours ago I opened the cover to the five issue collection, unsure of what I’d be getting beyond the notion that it was essentially aliens verses knights, and I didn’t stop reading until the story was done.

I devoured the entire tpb in one sitting and immediately wondered why I hadn’t read about this somewhere before. Why had nobody told me about this before the owner of my LCS told me to read it?

Published by Image, Lake Of Fire was written, coloured and lettered by Nathan Fairbairn with art by Matt Smith (no, not the guy who played Doctor Who), the comic does have a fairly straight forward knights verses aliens feel to it – not that that is a bad thing as it allows the characters, action and art to really pop.

Yes, there are the fairly standard typical characters within the story, but while Fairbairn does tread familiar ground with the characters, the major players all feel as though they have a weight about them. You have the grizzled old warrior, the naive young knights and the dark priest all present and accounted for, and yes they are popular fantasy archetypes, but they’re well written archetypes which goes a long way in my book. I’d rather a well written archetype than a shallow character for the sake of originality.

That being said, rather than having the characters face off against a supernatural threat Fairbairn instead pits them against a horde of alien predators. I’ve always been partial to seeing how our ancestors would fair against an extraterrestrial threat, and the collected edition of Lake Of Fire scratches that itch remarkably well.

Matt Smith‘s art couldn’t be better suited to the past-meets-future story; the action sequences are easy to follow and once the comic reaches the midpoint the atmospheric art really amps up the threatening feel of the story itself in a case where Fairbairn’s colouring melds so well with Smith’s line art that it’s hard to believe that two people were involved in creating the visuals for the story.

It may seem as if I’m being a little harsh on the story for being relatively straight forward, and that’s not my intent. Lake Of Fire is a fairly easy tale to follow from start to finish, but there are a more layers to the characters than you’d initially expect from the story – such as the relationships between some of the characters – and there’s an underlying theme about acceptance and tolerance in a time when neither of these were encouraged or widely practiced.

As far as recommendations from my LCS go, this is one of the more surprising ones; I didn’t expect much more out of this story than to be able to just pop my feet up with a cup of tea and just relax with a half the story before moving on to something else. Instead I ended up finishing the entire trade in one go and immediately start writing this column. Lake Of Fire is a really enjoyable story that surpasses a lot of the comics currently on the racks – and it’s also entirely self contained.

There are a lot of reasons why I wanted to spotlight the comic this week, but chief among them is that I haven’t heard anything about it anywhere – and that’s why it’s Underrated.


That’s all for this week folks. Join us next week when we talk about something else that falls under the Underrated banner in the comic book world.

Underrated: Radiant Black (Not So) Secret Origin

This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way. This week: Radiant Black: (Not So) Secret Origin.


I’m not the biggest fan of the Power Rangers, but I’ve always thought about picking up a trade or two to check out the comic series, but I never quite think of doing that when I’m actively looking for something new to read at the shop. A week or two ago, when I was reorganizing the backstock trades in the basement, my eye was caught by the cover of Radiant Black: (Not So) Secret Origin, and I quickly spun the book to check out the blurb, and the price. As it turned out, the book is one of those that Image publishes and prices low to encourage a person to check out the book (I mean at $10, you can’t really argue the value of getting six comics for the price of three or so). Now, I’m not going to regurgitate the blurb on the back of the trade, or write a summary in slightly different words, but I will just copy it directly from the publisher’s website because who doesn’t love to be efficient?

Visionary writer KYLE HIGGINS (Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, Ultraman) and artist MARCELO COSTA reinvent super heroes for a new generation! Nathan Burnett has just turned 30, and things aren’t great—he’s working (and failing) at two jobs, his credit card debt is piling up, and his only move…is moving back home with his parents.

But when Nathan discovers the ethereal, cosmic RADIANT, he’s given the power to radically change his fortunes…unless the Cosmic Beings who created them succeed in taking them back by any means necessary. Oh, and did we mention there’s a RED RADIANT who wants Nathan dead? The next must-read comic book series STARTS HERE.

Cloaked, on the surface, reminded me of the heroes that inspired Batman; the Shadow, the Spider and the Black Bat. Men who were mostly powerless and used handguns to dish out justice to criminals to varying degrees of lethality. This story takes the form of a man trying to discover the legacy of the city’s masked hero by hiring an ex-cop private eye to find out why the hero disappeared. It’s through this lens that we get glimpses of the hero’s activities during the years he was active, told through the people who knew him the most (which, given that he kept his identity very close, isn’t many).

The book is very much what it says it is; something that fans of Invincible and the Power Rangers will find enjoyable (or at least, those were the vibes I got most from the pages of the trade, but since I’ve not really read much of either of the names inspirations, I can’t really confirm or deny the statement). The only downside to the book is that it doesn’t really end… the final chapter is very much an origin story for one of the characters and not a final chapter which feels a little less than satisfying. If nothing else it encourages you to pick up the next book, and ultimately that’s what we’re looking for in a book; do I want to read the next book? And the answer is “oh yes.”


Join us next week where there will doubtless be another movie, series, comic or comic related thing discussed that is, for whatever reason, Underrated.

Underrated: Pride Of Baghdad

This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way. This week: Pride of Baghdad



Prideofbaghdad.jpgPublished by Vertigo  in 2006, Pride of Baghdad is graphic novel that tells the story of four lions who escaped the Baghdad zoo after an American bombing in 2003. Although the tale is based on a true story, the points of view it is told from trend further toward fiction than truth. Written by Brian K Vaughn, with art by Nico Henrichon the graphic novel actually won IGN’s “Best Original Graphic Novel” award the year it was released, but there has been very little chatter about the book since – though my benchmark for that is the fact I found the book in a thrift shop for $5 and had never heard of it before, and so twelve years after it was released, I wanted to let you know about the book.

I’m a little behind.

Pride of  Baghdad can be enjoyed on multiple levels, making it the rare book that can provide a different story each time you read it depending on what you want to take away from it. If you’re looking for a family’s tale of survival in a strange and barely familiar world then you will find that here. If you want a questioning look at the nature of freedom, war, family, captivity… then you will also be able to experience that. Vaughn and Henrichon were able to deliver a multifaceted book that offers an astoundingly deep story juxtaposed against a survivalist tale that works even if you don’t want to delve further into the commentary on the deeper aspects of the tale – it’s also possible that you simply didn’t pick up on that commentary – no judgement here. I didn’t the first time I read it, which leads me to my final point: the more you read this, the better it gets.

Pride of Baghdad is a phenomenal work, and it’s featured here because I had never heard about it until I saw it in the thrift shop – that’s why this is Underrated.


Join us next week when we look at something else that is, for whatever reason, Underrated.

Underrated: Wolverine Stories

This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way. This week: Wolverine Stories.


I’ve mentioned a couple of times in the past, both at Graphic Policy and Ramblings Of A Comics Fan that were it not for Wolverine then there is a very good chance I would never have picked up a comic book. Whether it was X-Men: The Animated Series, Wolverine Unleashed #8 or even just regular old Wolverine #118, the one common thread that brought me in to each of these things was the clawed Canadian mutant.  Over time I would  come to realize that Wolverine is so much more than just a violent claw-fisted mutant, and so this Underrated will (hopefully) shine a light on some of the stories featuring Wolverine that may not be thought of as highly as others. With Logan hitting theaters, I felt that now would be a good time to look at some of Wolverine’s more underrated stories.

Tales such as The Japan Adventure, Weapon X and Old Man Logan are thought of in many ways as classic stories, and while some of the tales he’s featured in are somewhat terrible, there are some very underrated gems out there, and these are the ones I wanted to look at today, focusing on a handful of my favourites.

A few things before we start; firstly, these comics are all currently being published in an ongoing series. Secondly, I’ve got eclectic taste so these may not be for everybody so be prepared for some potentially foolish claims. Thirdly, this isn’t a complete, or inclusive, list and it is completely subjective.

  • Not Dead Yet (Wolverine Vol. 2 #119-123)
    This is quite possibly one of my favourite Wolverine stories. Written by Warren Ellis and drawn by Leinil Francis Yu, the story is set during the time Wolverine had no adamantium in his body, it is told both in the present and the past by use of flashbacks. Wolverine is being hunted by one of the best, a man who has planned for years to be able to take down the nearly unkillable Canadian mutant with adamantium bones, but what he doesn’t know is that Wolverine‘s bones are no longer coated with the metal, and Logan is suddenly much more vulnerable than he used to be.  I keep coming back to this story every few years, and I have mentioned it several times on this blog, too.  It’s available in trade paperback format, and I highly suggest you pick it up.
  • Bloodlust (Wolverine: Bloodlust one shot)
    A one shot by Alan Davis, this is an absolutely beautifully constructed comic that explores the internal conflict of Wolverine‘s soul;  a recurring theme in many of the comics he has appeared in. Davis asks whether Logan is more of a man or beast at his very core, and delves deeply into Wolverine’s psyche to do so. But the question isn’t as simple as it first seems, and Alan Davis is at his very best here when he combines Logan‘s internal dialogue with the backdrop on the final few pages. For a more detailed review you can check out this link, but suffice it to say that this is easily one one my most treasured comic book stories.
  •  Wolverine #43
    I reviewed this when I reread it [a few years] or so ago (the curious can find that here) for another feature. Although it wasn’t as great as I remembered it being, this is still a really interesting story as we get to see Wolverine engage with his more noble animal side when confronting a run of the mill, all too believable, villain.
  • Wolverine And The X-Men Volume #1 (collects issues #1-4)
    Although there are numerous story arcs within the first full volume of this series, and I feel that I could honestly include the entire forty two issues from the first series, if you’re going to read the entire series then you should start here. Another Jason Aaron story, with numerous talented artists, this series was one of the best on the racks every week during it’s original run. Juxtaposing brilliantly with the equally amazing Uncanny X-Force by Rick Remender, this series focused on the one X-Man least suited to running a school does exactly that, frequently with disastrously hilarious results. There’s a lot more heart in this series than you’d initially expect, and it’s well worth tracking down the entire run.
  • The Apocalypse Solution (Uncanny X-Force #1-#6)
    Rick Remender
    opens his seminal run on Uncanny X-Force (and if you can read the whole run, please do) with a story that finds X-Force, led by Wolverine, tasked to take out the reborn Apocalypse. This is the story that sets the tone for the entire series, and without giving anything away, is absolutely worth your time. Gritty, dark, and violent, this is a series that deals with the dark underbelly of the X-Men, and shows just how far they’re willing to go to protect mutant kind.

There we have it – a mere handful of underrated Wolverine stories. There are so many more stories featuring the Canadian mutant that are worth reading, so there’s a good chance there will be a second (or third) part to this list eventually. In the mean time, Underrated will return to highlight more comic book related stuff  that either gets ignored despite it’s high quality, or maybe isn’t quite as bad as we tend to think it is.

Until next time!

Underrated: Ether Vol. 1: Death Of The Last Golden Blaze

This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way. This week: Ether Vol. 1: Death Of The Last Golden Blaze.



ether vol 1.jpgSomehow Ether slipped through my radar back when the first issue was released in November of 2016. It wasn’t until the comic shop I frequent had a copy of the trade paperback on the counter that I noticed it. I asked the clerk what the book was about, and he spent a good twenty minutes selling me on it. He could have saved himself nineteen minutes a forty odd seconds with the words “Matt Kindt wrote it.”

It’s usually a safe bet that anything written by Matt Kindt (and Jeff Lemire, honestly) I am going to try. So what’s Ether about?

Taken from Dark Horse’s website, the blurb for issue one reads: “A science-minded adventurer gets mixed up in the mysteries of a fantasy world in this charming new adventure from an award-winning creative team. Boone Dias is an interdimensional explorer, a scientist from Earth who has stumbled into great responsibility. He’s got an explanation for everything, so of course the Ether’s magical residents turn to him to solve their toughest crimes. But maybe keeping the real and the abstract separate is too big a job for just one man.”

If that sounds cool, well, that’s because it is. Using modern science to explain magic provides a wonderful story idea, but it is the human story beneath the fantastical exterior that will pull you in. Boone Dias is a man who has devoted his life and professional career to the magical place known as Ether, but his scientific background gives him an almost godlike reputation among the less scientifically inclined denizens of the Ether. The driving factor of the plot in the first volume is a murder mystery within the Ether that only Boone seems capable of solving – despite the fantastical elements of the world, there’s a relatablility to the detective work and the process that’s followed. This gives the book a wonderful dichotomy that is further enhanced by David Rubin’s near psychedelic mindfucking attack on your eyes.

Ether is the rare book that exemplifies the comic book medium. It is a murder mystery story, a genre that could, and has been told in a multitude of mediums,  and adds a special dash of comic book magic that makes this ideally suited to the sequential art style of story telling.

There’s a reason Matt Kindt got nominated for an Eisner this year. It wasn’t for this book, but you can get a great feeling for his talent with Ether. It doesn’t hurt that David Rubin is also fantastic.


Join us next week when we look at something else that is, for whatever reason, Underrated.

Underrated: Slaine: Time Killer

This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way. This week: Slaine: Time Killer.



slainetkSeveral years ago when I was over in the UK I was searching for a graphic novel or trade paperback to buy that originated in Britain. I ended up in a comic shop without much selection in that area, so picked up the only trade they had, which was Slaine: Time Killer, without knowing anything about it. Once I got back to Canada, the TPB still unread, I popped it on the bookshelf without thinking and promptly ignored it for the best part of five years. Yesterday I decided to read it, and today I decided to write about it. So what’s the story about? Well according to the blurb on Goodreads…

“2000 AD’s ever-popular Celtic hero returns in a deluxe collectors’ hardback edition Before the events of ‘The Horned Go”, a group comprising of Slaine; Ukko, his faithful((if evil-smelling) dwarf; Nest, a trainee priestess who knows the secrets of the Land of the Young; and Slaine’s vast, voracious dragon steed, the Knucker, wander Tir-Nan-Og in search of the fortress of the Ever-Living Ones, arch-druids who may hold the key to the final defeat of the evil forces oppressing Slaine’s people. But a chance encounter with a demonic alien race who are besieging the fortess, hurls Slaine and his allies through time… to ever-greater battles, threats, and challenges.”

The Pat Mill‘s scripted stories in this TPB  originally appeared in the weekly British magazine 2000 AD in three separate serialized runs. Dragonheist (with Massimo Belardinelli providing the art), in 2000 AD #361–367 from 1984, and The Time Killer  (with art by Glenn Fabry, David Pugh and Bryan Talbot), in 2000 AD #411–428 and 431–434 from 1985. Those original stories were all black and white, and that’s how they’re reprinted in the 172 page collected edition, which means that the art has a high level of detail and line work packed into each page.

time_killer_02 page

The compact nature of 2000 AD‘s publishing style (anaverage of three to five pages of the story are in each issue of the magazine) mean that the story moves at an incredible pace, with something interesting happening every other page or so. When it comes to a story published nearly thirty five years ago in a weekly anthology style magazine, it’s surprising how well it continues to hold up. The nature of the short bursts of story across multiple weeks means that there are very small recaps at the beginning of each of the reprinted weekly stories mean that there’s never, ever, a danger of losing what’s happening. Unfortunately, the preview text on the back also dictates almost the entirety of the first half of the book (which I have kindly placed up above for you with slightly different wording).

So why is this underrated? Have you ever heard of the character, let alone this specific trade?

Don’t go into this expecting a deep and soul searching journey. This is a Conan the Barbarian style yarn mixed with some fantasy science fiction and a lot of rather gruesome action. The science doesn’t always work, and there are some flaws along the way, such as some hastily explained concepts mere moments before or after they occur in the story. But the second person narrative from Slaine’s companion is enjoyably dry, and the visuals show just how good black  and white art can be (and remember, these strips were published weekly).

That’s all I have for this wee, but next week there will doubtless be another movie, series, comic or comic related thing discussed that is, for whatever reason, Underrated.

I’ll see you then.

Underrated: Cloaked

This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way. This week: Cloaked.


Another series I had been eyeing up while at the shop, Cloaked always had the kind of covers that drew my eye – which in retrospect is quite impressive considering that the covers were all very dark and blue; whether it was their similarity to each other which served to give the series a sense of familiarity and permanence to me (the way our inventory system works, there was always an issue on the racks, and the design of the cover meant the books were recognizable).

I’m not going to regurgitate the blurb on the back of the trade for a summary in slightly different words, so instead I’ll just copy it directly from the publisher’s website:

From Mike Richardson, creator of The Mask, comes a superhero vision as dark as the night. Twenty-five years ago, a genuine masked crimefighter came out of nowhere to declare war on crime. All of America celebrated the exploits of the black-clad vigilante . . . and then he disappeared. But when down-on-his-luck investigator Jake Stevens is hired to find the long-missing avenger, his inquiries threaten to expose the myth behind the mask.

Cloaked, on the surface, reminded me of the heroes that inspired Batman; the Shadow, the Spider and the Black Bat. Men who were mostly powerless and used handguns to dish out justice to criminals to varying degrees of lethality. This story takes the form of a man trying to discover the legacy of the city’s masked hero by hiring an ex-cop private eye to find out why the hero disappeared. It’s through this lens that we get glimpses of the hero’s activities during the years he was active, told through the people who knew him the most (which, given that he kept his identity very close, isn’t many).

The story in the book is interesting; part commentary on Batman, and part noir detective story, this is a fantastic hardboiled detective story with a vigilante/super hero backdrop – though admittedly it’s not one I’ll read again anytime soon, it’s still very enjoyable.

At this point you can find it in trade, so it’s worth at least looking out for it.


Join us next week where there will doubtless be another movie, series, comic or comic related thing discussed that is, for whatever reason, Underrated.

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