Captain Scarlet Annual 1969


By various (Century 21 Publishing /City Magazines Ltd)
No ISBN:

During the 1960s Gerry Anderson’s high-tech puppet-show dramas revolutionised kids’ TV, and their comics tie-ins did exactly the same for our pictorial reading habits.

TV Century 21 (the unwieldy “Century” was eventually dropped) was patterned on a newspaper – albeit from 100 years into the future – and this shared conceit carried the avid readers into a multimedia wonderland as television and reading matter fed off each other. The incredible graphic adventures were supplemented with stills taken from the TV shows (and later, films) and a plenitude of photos also graced the text features and fillers which added to the unity of one of the industry’s first “Shared Universe” products,

Number #1 launched on January 23rd 1965, instantly capturing the hearts and minds of millions of children, and further proving to British comics editors the unfailingly profitable relationship between television shows and healthy sales.

Filled with high quality art and features, printed in gleaming photogravure, TV21 featured previous shows in strips such as Fireball XL5, Supercar and Stingray to supplement currently airing big draw Thunderbirds. In a bizarre attempt to be topical, the allegorically Soviet state of Bereznik constantly plotted against the World Government (for which read “The West”) in a futuristic Cold War to augment the aliens, aquatic civilizations and common crooks and disasters that threatened the general well-being of the populace. Even the BBC’s TV “tomorrows” were represented by a full-colour strip starring The Daleks.

Although Thunderbirds did not premiere on TV until September (with Frank Bellamy’s incredible strip joining the line-up in January 1966) Lady Penelope and Parker had an earlier debut to set the scene, and eventually the aristocratic super-spy won her own top-class photogravure magazine in January 1996.

And as Anderson’s newest creations launched into super-marionated life, their comics exploits filtered into TV21 and even their own titles.

Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons was originally broadcast from September 1967 to May 1968, sold to 40 other countries including the USA, Australia, New Zealand and Japan. In case you aren’t au fait, the series details the struggle between super-security agency Spectrum and disembodied intelligences from Mars. After an Earth survey mission resulted in the accidental destruction of a Mysteron City, the invisible aliens declared a vengeance war on humanity, using their ability to reconstruct matter and reanimate the dead.

Their prime agent is Captain Black, resurrected after he destroyed the Martian base, and their major obstacle is Captain Scarlet. The latter was killed by Mysterons too, but when he was brought back to life, he threw off the alien programming and fights for Spectrum. Thanks to the process, Scarlet can detect the presence of “Mysteron-ised” agents and cannot be killed…

Progressively multi-ethnic and considerably darker in tone, the series made a seamless jump to strip form in TV21 – under the auspices of creators such as Alan Fennell, Mike Noble, Eric Eden, Ron Embleton, Howard Elson, Don Harley, Scott Goodall, Frank Bellamy and Frank Langford.

There were three annuals during the1960s first run and this middle edition – released for Christmas 1968 – employed the company’s policy of total immersion in the subject matter. Every strip, story, fact feature and photo all worked under the assumption that the reader was enjoying a piece of journalism, not drama…

Opening with a Contents spread teeming with series stills, the thrills come quickly following as full-colour strip ‘The Mysterons Will Destroy International Engineering’s Workshops’ finds Captains Scarlet and Blue striving diligently to stop an insidious scheme to eradicate the company supplying Spectrum’s incredible vehicles, after which the first of three quizzes tests your potential as a Spectrum Agent in ‘Counterpoint 7 part 1’

Following cartoons and jokes in ‘Spectrafun’ schematics and blueprints for a new patrol jet are revealed in ‘Spectrum Research SPJ’ before ‘We, the Mysterons Will Destroy the Entire Northern Hemisphere’ finds our heroes racing against time to stop the deliberate detonation of Earth’s mothballed nuclear arsenal.

A text-&-photo profile of ‘Captain Black’ then segues into prose thriller ‘We, the Mysterons Will Cause a Germ War Throughout Earth!’ wherein the indestructible agent faces a diabolical biological weapon. Balancing the tension comes the specs for ‘Spectrum Research Saloon Car’ and an exploded cutaway technical feature on the ‘Spectrum Clam Sub’, after which colour strip ‘We, the Mysterons Will Destroy Kalipur’ results in a partial victory for the extraterrestrial aggressors…

A tense prose yarn sees the Free World’s greatest freelance spy hired to breach the ‘Security’ of Earth’s most advanced organisations including W.A.S.P. and Spectrum, after which a rapid response is called for in strip form when ‘In Six Hours Time, We, the Mysterons, Will Assassinate Colonel White!’

Faux road ‘Signs of Fun’ and details of Scarlet’s jet pack in ‘Spectrum Research SPV’ leads to photo feature ‘Operation Jigsaw’, disclosing how agents like Captain Ochre are recruited before prose yarn ‘We, the Mysterons Will Destroy World Peace!’ shows just how devious the implacable aliens can be…

More technical info follows: designs for the ‘Spectrum Research Helijet’, an exploded view of a ‘Spectrum Hovercraft’, anticipate strip thriller – and Martian triumph – ‘We, the Mysterons, Will Use Wallis Simpson to Flood the Atlantic Tunnel’ (by John Cooper) before more tests in ‘Counterpoint 7 part 2’

An exploded view of Spectrum’s ‘Radar Van’ and more ‘Spectrafun’ gags segue neatly into plans for the ‘Spectrum Research MSV’ and Mike Nobel’s enticing strip ‘Tomorrow Morning as Big Ben Chimes, the City of London Will be Destroyed’ sees Captain Scarlet perform one of his most daring feats…

More ‘Spectrafun’ leads to the job assessment concluding with ‘Counterpoint 7 part 3’ and details of ‘Spectrum Research Angel Craft’ before the future shocks spectacularly end with Cooper’s cataclysmic strip saga ‘We, the Mysterons, Will Destroy the New Houston Oil Depot!’

Crisp, imaginative writing, great characters and some of the most evocative science-fiction art of all time make this a must-have book for just about anybody with a sense of adventure and love of comics. This fabulous album is a superb example of the quality of those old British comics and there can be no greater argument of the necessity for a new and permanent collection of these strips books.
© 1968 Associated Television (Overseas) Ltd.

Logan’s Run Annual


By anonymous, illustrated by David Lloyd (Rainbow Book/Brown Watson)
No ISBN

British Comics have always fed from other media and as television grew during the 1960s – especially the area of children’s shows and cartoons – those programmes increasingly became a staple source for the Seasonal Annual market. There would be a profusion of stories and strips targeting not readers but young viewers and more and more often the stars would be American not British.

Much of this stuff wouldn’t even be as popular in the USA as here, so whatever comic licenses existed usually didn’t provide enough material to fill a hardback volume ranging anywhere from 64 to 160 pages. Thus, many Annuals such as Champion the Wonder Horse or Lone Ranger and a host of others would require original material, or as a last resort, similarly themed or related strips. Logan’s Run was one that relied on solely British-sourced talent for both solutions…

Following a successful 1976 movie adaptation of William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson’s dystopic novel, the concept was adapted to television in a 14-episode series starring Gregory Harrison, Heather Menzies, Donald Moffat and Randy Powell.

The premise was simple and traditionally effective. When state enforcer – AKA – “Sandman” Logan discovers the shocking secret of his enclosed past atomic war city-state (all citizens enjoy a perfect sybaritic life until they turn thirty at which time they are expected to die) he escapes into the wilderness with dissident Jessica to find a mythic paradise dubbed Sanctuary.

As they stumbled from one fantastic enclave of survival to another, the “runners” were relentlessly pursued by Logan’s dogmatic and implacable former partner Francis

All of this is superbly recapitulated in duo-coloured opening strip ‘Logan’s World’ by the magnificent David Lloyd in his pre-V for Vendetta days, after which a photo pin-up and maze puzzle ‘City of Domes’ leads into prose thriller ‘All in the Mind’ (possibly written by Steve Moore, as is the rest of the book) wherein the wanderers stumble into an all-female settlement dominated by a vile male telepath…

More photos and games take us to another prose tale with Lloyd providing full colour illustrations. ‘Reawakenings’ sees the fugitives and their trusty cyborg companion Rem fall into danger after entering a long-abandoned museum and giving entirely the wrong impression to its ancient robotic Caretaker…

Photo text features follow. ‘Star File: Gregory Harrison alias Logan’ offers an interview with the show’s star whilst ‘Logan’s Forerunners’ explores previous large and small screen Sci Fi hits including Star Trek, Flash Gordon, Doctor Who, Planet of the Apes and Close Encounters of the Third Kind and wraps up with eponymous board game Logan’s Run

Drama resurfaces in full-colour strip ‘Sunrise… Moonset’ with the runners encountering a hidden sect of devout Samurai just as the relentless Francis traps his prey and forces a final showdown…

‘Depths of Terror’ is another prose-&-colour illustration escapade as the Runners are lured into a mountain cave and almost become food for some extremely unpleasant mutant pets, and is followed by fact-features ‘Rem and the Robots’ – discussing the differences between cyborgs and fully mechanical man-servants – and ‘Space Age Travel’ highlighting the vehicles of Logan’s world after which pin-up ‘Deadly Truce’ leads into ‘Logan’s Runners’ providing interviews with Heather (Jessica) Menzies and Donald (Rem) Moffat.

The action concludes with another two-colour Lloyd strip as ‘City of the Nighthawks’ finds the wanderers in peril of their lives after entering a settlement infested with vampire-like cannibals before one last photo pin-up page and another maze challenges the reader to ‘Find Your Way to Sanctuary’

Packed with monochrome stills, publicity bumph and a variety of non-comics material, annuals like these proliferated in the late 1970s and pretty much became the standard form for the following decades: combining celebrity cachet and cheap production costs in books about popstars, TV shows and even sports stars. Nevertheless, the early albums do feature strips world and illustration from young mega stars such as Lloyd, John Bolton, Paul Neary, Alan Davis and many more.

If you ever see annuals dedicated to long-gone shows like Kung Fu, Kojak, Grange Hill, The Professionals or so many others, do yourself a favour and look inside before passing on to the next back issue bin. You may be pleasantly surprised as well as nostalgically overwhelmed…
© 1978 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Star Trek: Year Four – The Enterprise Experiment


By D.C. Fontana, Derek Chester, Gordon Purcell, Joe & Rob Sharp & various (IDW)
ISBN: 978-1-60010-279-0

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: A Cosmic Christmas Cracker… 8/10

Star Trek debuted on American televisions on September 8th 1966 and pursued its declared “five-year mission” for three seasons comprising 79 episodes and running until June 3rd 1969.

Although a moderate success, the series only truly became a phenomenon after going into syndication, running constantly in American local TV regions throughout the 1970s. It was also sold all over the world, popping up seemingly everywhere and developing a remarkably passionate and devoted fanbase.

The stellar brand is probably one of the biggest franchise engines on Earth, permeating every merchandisable sector imaginable and becoming part of global popular culture and idiom. You can find daily live-action or animated screen appearances constantly screening somewhere on the planet, toys, games, conventions, merchandise, various comics iterations generated in a host of nations and languages and a reboot of the movie division proceeding apace even as I type this. There’s even a new rebooted TV series Star Trek Discovery

Many companies have published comicbook adventures based on the exploits of Gene Roddenberry’s greatest brainchild. During IDW’s control of the treasured funnybook license they revived and re-released older iterations crafted by previous licensees and combined those choice selections of vintage exploits with great new tales from every aspect of the fictive universe.

In 2012 the company began adapting, updating and retelling classic episodes of the original 5 Year Mission in the context and with the likenesses of actors from the 2008 rebooted film franchise (as re-imagined by J. J. Abrams, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman). To supplement that graphic reconfiguration IDW also initiated another strand: exploring the most fundamental aspect of the mythology by crafting new tales from the never-filmed Fourth Year of the original mission…

To be strictly accurate, the 1973-1974 animated series from Filmation/Norway Productions is considered by most fans to cover that year and indeed a few of the characters from that era have made it into this story which was originally published in 2007 as 5-issue miniseries Star Trek: Year Four – The Enterprise Experiment before being collected as this engaging paperback or eBook edition.

‘The Enterprise Experiment’ springs from the fertile imagination of Classic Star Trek television scripter Dorothy Catherine “D.C.” Fontana, who wrote ten episodes of the original series and was story editor for the first two seasons. She also wrote for the Animated Series, Next Generation and Deep Space Nine.

Here, with writing partner Derek Chester (Star Trek: Legacy) she explores that aforementioned Fourth Year, whilst revisiting her own teleplay The Enterprise Incident

With the artists utilising the likenesses of the original 1960s cast, the action begins as Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock pilot the shuttle Galileo towards the Enterprise. It shouldn’t be difficult, but the starship is testing a prototype cloaking device and is not responding as the projections predicted…

After heroic measures and deep cerebrations, the worried officers finally plot their craft aboard the Enterprise only to discover that the crew have utterly vanished. Moreover, even as Spock deduces what has happened and begins fixing the problem, the situation worsens after a Romulan Warbird decloaks to reveal an old enemy Commander who plans to reenergise her stalled career path by capturing the Federation prize, plundering its experimental technology and expiating her pent-up hostilities on the human and Vulcan who made a fool of her…

Blending tense suspense with stirring action this exploit is but a prelude to a far bigger story as the victorious Captain Kirk is plunged into another duel with Klingon enemy Kor.

After they first clashed (in TV episode Errand of Mercy) a highly advanced race calling themselves Organians used their god-like powers to enforce a détente between The Federation and Klingon Empire.

Now however, whilst illegally raiding a human mining colony, Kor has discovered and stolen ancient technology belonging to the primal species known as The Preservers. His plan is to sunder the Organians’ chafing brake on Klingon expansion and revenge himself on Kirk, but the desperate mission to stop him makes allies out of ancient enemies and neatly ties together numerous old exploits to reveal the origins of the great races of the universe and the Great Barrier sealing the galaxy from the greater universe.

And then the Organians return to pass judgement on the Federation and Klingons…

A total treat for lovers of the original series masterfully told and weaving together story-strands every fan grew up with, this is pure Trek gold.

Augmented by inkers Terry Pallot, Drew Geraci, José Marzán, Jr., Tom Nguyen, Bob Smith & Bob Almond, colourists Mario Boon, John Hunt & Jason Jenson and letterers Chris Mowry, Robbie Robbins and Neil Uyetake, veteran Trek illustrator Gordon Purcell delivers drama and tension in his immaculate understated manner, never forgetting that we’re here for the Enterprise crew not flashy graphics.

Supplementing the stellar experience is a full cover “Art Gallery” by the Sharp Brothers & Leonard O’Grady plus Fontana’s ‘Comic Book Proposal’ for the series to complete a heady experience of newly-minted nostalgia.

This is another fabulously enticing, expansive and engrossingly epic compendium of thrills, offering wonderfully engaging stories to delight young and old, fan or casual reader alike, and well worthy of your eager attentions.
STAR TREK ® and © 2008 CBS Studios, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Star Trek and related marks are trademarks of CBS Studios, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Land of the Giants: The Complete Series


By Paul S. Newman, Tom Gill & various (Hermes Press)
ISBN: 978-1-93256-343-6

Land of the Giants debuted in America in September 1968, the fourth of producer Irwin Allen’s incredibly successful string of TV fantasy series which also included Lost in Space, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and The Time Tunnel.

The key premise was that in the then far-future of 1983 the passengers and crew of Sub-Orbital Space-liner flight 703 from Los Angeles to London fall through a space-warp and crashes in an incredible world twelve times larger than ours (mimicking the dimensions of the Brobdingnagians in Gulliver’s Travels).

To make things even scarier, the giant society closely parallels Earth in the primitive era of the mid-1960s, with crime, Cold War espionage, cultural paranoia and social injustice obsessing every anxious citizen of the Big New World…

The motley and disparate occupants of the ailing Spindrift thus have to survive and seek ways to return home whilst giant beasts, agents of totalitarian governments of that colossal planet, greedy opportunists and their own perverse natures all conspire against them.

The fact that doom is always looming above them is exacerbated by a perpetual dilemma: the ship is still space-worthy and the dimensional warp a permanent fixture but Spindrift is drained of the electrical energy needed to achieve high orbit.

Daily existence consists of staying alive and free whilst somehow scavenging – like high-tech Borrowers – enough motive power from the hulking natives to blast off forever…

The TV series generated 51 episodes and ran until 1970 with many re-runs throughout the intervening decades. It spawned a Viewmaster reel and book, a comicbook series, numerous games and toys plus a string of excellent novels by pulp Sci Fi legend Murray Leinster.

While the show aired it was the most expensive television series ever produced, but a special effects budget was no hindrance to publisher Gold Key whose five comicbook issues – released between November 1968 to September 1969 – honed in on the perilous plight of the starlost Spindrifters via the scripts of Paul S. Newman (Turok, Son of Stone, Lone Ranger) and sagely meticulous illustrator Tom Gill (Flower Potts, Lone Ranger).

Collected in this sturdy hardcover archival edition (also available in eBook editions), the miniscule voyagers’ odyssey is preceded by an effusive photo-filled ‘Introduction: Revisiting Gulliver’ by Chris Irving, covering every aspect from series production to the history of Gold Key before the graphic reverie opens with ‘The Mini-Criminals’ from Land of the Giants #1.

Behind the evocative photo-montage cover (each issue boasted one), Part I – ‘The Power-Stealers’ – sees the crew’s perpetual search for fuel sources to re-energise Spindrift lead to capture by opportunistic and imaginative thief Carlo Krogg.

In this action-oriented adventure the focus is on passengers Mark Wilson, fugitive conman Fitzhugh and he-men crew members Captain Steve Burton and co-pilot Dan Erickson who toil mightily to free hostage stewardess Betty Hamilton from Krogg’s clutches whilst pretending to burgle a jewellery store for him.

Issue #2 featured ‘Countdown to Escape’ and opens with flighty socialite Valerie Scott revealing an unsuspected talent for falconry after catching and training a giant raptor to carry the ship on ‘The Wings of an Eagle’

Sadly, the plan goes agonisingly wrong for ‘The Little Buccaneers’ after animal keepers recapture their missing exhibit, inadvertently marooning the Little People in a zoo. Although this presents them with an astounding opportunity to secure their energy-needs, the end result is another frustrating return to square one…

In ‘Giant Damsel in Distress’, Val and Betty befriend a young woman unjustly accused of a terrible crime and on the run. Colossal fugitive Linda offers to restore the stranded ship’s energy reserves with ‘Mirror Power’ but before they can benefit from the deal, the real criminals track her down, leading to a catastrophic and one-sided battle in ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade’

LotG #4 reveals a daring ‘Safari in Giantland’ as the mini-marooned break into a department store to steal super-strong power cells in ‘Assault and Battery’. Typically, however, even after purloining model trucks from the kids’ wing to transport their electrical booty, the ‘Babes in Toyland’ lose the precious batteries when a giant rat attacks…

The last issue is uncharacteristically dark and grim for comics of the period. By never signing up to the draconian overreaction of the bowdlerizing Comics Code Authority, Dell/Gold Key became the company for life and death thrills, especially in the arena of traditional adventure stories.

If you were a kid in search of a proper body count instead of flesh wounds you went for Tarzan, Zorro, Roy Rogers, Tom Corbett and their ilk. That’s not to claim that the West Coast outfit were gory, exploitative sensationalists – far from it – but simply that the writers and editors knew that fiction – especially kids’ fiction – needs a frisson of danger and honest high stakes drama to make it work.

‘Operation Mini-Surgeon’ begins with ‘The Doctor’s Dilemma…’ as juvenile Spindrift passenger Barry Lockridge – who had been travelling unaccompanied to meet his parents in London – succumbs to a deadly infection. The adult castaways determine to take the boy to a giant physician, whatever the risk, and are on hand when a diplomat from a hostile foreign power is caught in an assassin’s bomb blast…

Although under government scrutiny and initially unable to save the dying Premier Klosson, surgeon Dr. Rains is still willing to aid the Little People in curing Barry. In return Mark and Steve enter the dying Klosson’s wounds to repair the tyrant from the inside in ‘A Life in Their Hands’

Tragically, before the eternally-grateful Rains can deliver the batteries that would send the aliens home, political intrigue and expedience make him a martyr to someone else’s cause…

Stuffed throughout with cast stills and candid photos, the rocket ride down memory lane concludes with ‘Photos, Artwork, and Collectibles’, offering a bonanza of stills, production photographs, promo material, posters, cast shots, original artwork from the comics, bubble gum cards, pages from Mort Drucker’s Mad Magazine parody “Land of the Giant Bores”, box art from a jigsaw puzzle and the Aurora model kit of the Spindrift, plus a picture gallery of the show’s celebrity guest stars.

Even more tantalising treats include Leinster’s novel covers, the View Master packaging, colouring Book covers and the cover of the British TV21 1971 annual…

TV themed compendia of screen-to-page magic were an intrinsic part of growing up in Britain for generations and still occur every year with only the stars/celebrity/shows changing, not the package. The show itself has joined the vast hinterland of fantasy fan-favourites and is immortalised in DVD and streamed all over the world but if you want to see more, this sparkling tome is a treat you won’t want to overlook.
Land of the Giants® is © 1968, 1969 and 2010 Irwin Allen Properties, LLC and 20th Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved throughout the world.

S.H.I.E.L.D volume 1: Perfect Bullets


By Mark Waid, Carlo Pacheco, Humberto Ramos, Alan Davis, Chris Sprouse, Mike Choi, Chris Renaud & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-0-7851-9362-3

Just as the 1960s espionage fad was taking off, inspired by the James Bond films and TV shows like Danger Man, war hero Nick Fury “re-debuted” in Fantastic Four #21 as a spy.

That was December 1963 – between issues #4 and 5 of his own blistering battle mag – and the perpetually grizzled warrior was re-imagined as a cunning CIA Colonel lurking at the periphery of big adventures, craftily manipulating the First Family of Marvel superheroes into taking on a racist demagogue with a world-shattering secret…

Fury was already the star of the little company’s only war comic: Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos, an improbable and decidedly over-the-top, wild WWII-set series similar in tone to later movies such as The Magnificent Seven, Wild Bunch and The Dirty Dozen.

When spy stories went global in the wake of The Man from U.N.C.L.E., the veteran’s elder iteration was given a second series (from Strange Tales #135, August 1965), set in the then-present. Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. combined Cold War tensions and sinister schemes of World Conquest by hidden, subversive all-encompassing enemy organisation Hydra – all gift-wrapped with captivating Kirby-designed super-science gadgets and explosive high energy. It was set firmly in the heart of the slowly burgeoning Marvel Universe…

Once iconic imagineer Jim Steranko took charge, layering in a sleek, ultra-sophisticated edge of trend-setting drama, the series became one of the best and most visually innovative strips in America, if not the world.

When the writer/artist left and the spy-fad faded, the whole concept simply withdrew into the background architecture of the Marvel Universe, occasionally resurfacing in new series but growing increasingly uncomfortable to read as the role of spooks “on our side” became ever more debased in a world where covert agencies were continually exposed as manipulative, out-of-control tools of subversion and oppression.

In 1989 a six issue prestige format miniseries reinvigorated the concept. As a company targeting the youth-oriented markets, Marvel had experienced problems with their in-house clandestine organisation. In almost all of their other titles, US agents and “the Feds” were usually the bad guys. Author Bob Harras used this theme as well as the oddly quirky self-referential fact that nobody aged in comic continuity to play games with the readers…

Fury had discovered that everybody in his organisation had been “turned” and was now an actual threat to freedom and democracy. With his core beliefs and principles about leading “the Good Guys” betrayed and destroyed, he went on the run, hunted by the world’s most powerful covert agency with all the resources he’d devised and utilised now turned against him.

As part of the resolution SHIELD was reinvented for the 1990s: a leaner, cleaner, organisation, nominally acting under UN mandate, and proactive throughout the Marvel Universe. The taste of betrayal and seeds of doubt and mistrust never went away though…

Following numerous global crises – including a superhero Civil War – Fury was replaced as SHIELD director. His successor Tony Stark proved to be a huge mistake and after an alien invasion by Skrulls, the organisation was mothballed: replaced by the manically dynamic Norman Osborn and his fanatically loyal H.A.M.M.E.R. project. As America’s top Fed, he was specifically tasked with curbing the unchecked power and threat of the burgeoning metahuman community.

Osborn’s ascent was an even bigger error. As America’s Director of National Security the former Green Goblin and not-really-recovering psychopath instituted a draconian “Dark Reign” of oppressive, aggressive policies which turned the nation into a paranoid tinderbox.

This spectacularly poor choice was, however, also directing a cabal of the world’s greatest criminals and conquerors intent on divvying up the planet between them. The repercussions of Osborn’s rise and fall were felt throughout and featured in many series and collections throughout the entire fictive continuity. His brief rule also drastically shook up the entrenched secret powers of the planet and his ultimate defeat destabilised many previously unassailable empires…

Fury, a man driven by duty, fuelled by suspicion and powered by a serum which kept him vital far beyond his years, didn’t go away. He just went deep undercover and continued doing what he’d always done: saving the world, one battle at a time. Even after Osborn was gone, Fury stayed buried, preferring to fight battles his way and with assets and resources he’d personally acquired and built…

Since the concept became an integral part of Marvel’s cinematic and TV universe, the comics division has laboured to find a way to rationalise their two wildly dissimilar iterations of SHIELD. In 2015 scripter Mark Waid and a rotating squad of illustrators finally settled on a way to square that circle…

S.H.I.E.L.D. – now standing for the Strategic Homeland Intervention Enforcement Logistics Division – is still a major player in defending humanity from the unimaginable, but movie icon Phil Coulson, his core TV team of Melinda May, Leo Fitz and Jemma Simmons, plus hybrid versions of print-turned-screen stars such as Bobbi (Mockingbird) Morse have been deftly hived off into their own niche of comicbook continuity with Coulson in charge of an official sub-agency where – supplemented by SHIELD resources – his own geekishly vast and deep knowledge of metahuman trivia and contacts with the entire super-heroic community combine to tackle unnatural crises on a case-by-case basis…

The result – written by the master planner Mark Waid and illustrated by a rotating roster of star artists – is a fresh and supremely appetising blend of spies, sinister secret villains and super folk that is a joy to behold…

Collecting issues #1-6 of the breakthrough series (technically S.H.I.E.L.D. volume 3, spanning February to July 2015, if you’re keeping count) this volume commences with the eponymous ‘Perfect Bullets’ (illustrated by Carlos Pacheco, Mariano Taibo & Jason Paz, with Dono Sanchez Almara providing the colours) as SHIELD Special Ops Supreme Commander Coulson is forced to rally his barely wet-behind-the-ears unit to tackle a middle-eastern terrorist who has somehow latched onto a magic sword allowing him to summon all the monsters of mythology to batter the Earth.

As all the planet’s heroes wage a losing war against the invasion of gargantuan terrors, Coulson’s team rapidly identify the true owner of the blade and deploy the two ideal superheroes able to counter its threat…

Sadly, however, when the sword is restored to its rightful wielder, a hidden extra-dimensional presence is unleashed, forcing Coulson to improvise a final solution…

Then, adding funny to the fast and furious, a brace of comedic shorts follows. Crafted by Joe Quesada and starring boy-genius Fitz and his digital avatar H.E.N.R.Y., these strips were originally concocted to amuse the cast and crew of the TV show…

The all-comics action resumes with ‘The Animator’ (art by Humberto Ramos, Victor Olazabo & Edgar Delgado) as Xenobiology specialist Simmons is sent undercover to a High School in Jersey City to crack a smuggling ring. Of course, being a SHIELD Special Ops mission, the contraband being sought is not drugs of guns or something equally mundane, but rather weapons and tech stolen from super-villains.

Things instantly go bad when a Wizard power-glove stashed in a locker spontaneously activates, causing a riot. Thankfully fresh new Ms. Marvel Kamala Khan is a student at the beleaguered institution and steps up, impressing Coulson in the process…

Sadly it’s not the only crisis on campus as bio-plasm from genetic meddler Arnim Zola infects the cafeteria food, turning hungry kids into ravenous monsters…

With that catastrophe stomach-churningly averted, Fitz and H.E.N.R.Y. make another mirthful appearance before Alan Davis, Mark Farmer and colourist Matthew Wilson make the pictures for ‘Home Invasion’ as Coulson, Spider-Man and mystic parolee Mr. Rasputin break into the bewitched citadel of Doctor Strange to battle mystic mercenaries hired to raid the storehouse of magical wonders.

The thieves think they had it covered but their meddling unleashes forces that imperil the entire Earth. Moreover, in the aftermath Coulson sees something which sets him thinking that one hand might be behind the many threats his team has recently tackled…

After another delightful Fitz and H.E.N.R.Y. escapade, Chris Sprouse, Carl Story & Almara illustrate a deeply disturbing tale as Invisible Woman Susan Richards is seconded to the Special Ops unit to save a reluctant Hydra informant from a radioactive prison five miles underground. Sadly as ‘Fuel’ unfolds she discovers the truly vicious duplicity of her opponents and endures cruel whims of fate as the Mole Man attacks everybody and Coulson is forced to intervene before atomic Armageddon ensues…

The fifth instalment starts drawing disparate plot points together as the world’s mystics and supernatural champions are systematically gunned down by an assassin firing purpose-built ‘Magic Bullets’ (with art by Mike Choi and colourist Rachelle Rosenberg)…

With his resources reduced to the Scarlet Witch and professional sceptics Fitz and Simmons, Coulson uncovers a connection to Asgard and a mystery magical mastermind, only to have his team supernaturally suborned as the hidden manipulator makes his long-anticipated move…

This immensely entertaining epic concludes as Earth is afflicted with an arcane plague transforming humanity into mindless monsters compelling Coulson to assemble a squad of intellect-deficient atrocities – zombie Simon Garth, the Living Mummy, Frankenstein’s Monster and Man-Thing – into an all-new unit of Howling Commandos to invade the ‘Dark Dimensions’ (illustrated by Paul Renaud & Romulo Farjado, Jr.) and stop the contagion and its creator at the source.

And because he’s the sneaky bastard he is, Coulson also takes along a secret weapon: the last villain anyone might expect to save the universe…

Fast-paced, action-packed, imaginative, thrilling, funny and superbly illuminated throughout, Perfect Bullets offers fantastic enjoyment for any Fights ‘n’ Tights fan with a smattering of Marvel history in their heads, but will particularly reward any TV aficionado willing to peek into the convoluted comicbook universe the SHIELD show sprang from.
© 2015 Marvel Characters. All rights reserved.

Star Trek: Year Four


By David Tischman, Leonard O’Grady, Steve Conley, Gordon Purcell, Joe & Rob Sharp & various (IDW)
ISBN: 978-1-62302-515-1

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: A Cosmic Christmas Cracker… 8/10

Star Trek debuted on American televisions on September 8th 1966 and pursued its declared “five-year mission” for three seasons comprising 79 episodes and running until June 3rd 1969.

Although a moderate success, the series only truly became a phenomenon after going into syndication, running constantly in American local TV regions throughout the 1970s. It was also sold all over the world, popping up seemingly everywhere and developing a remarkably devoted fanbase.

The stellar brand is probably one of the biggest franchise engines on Earth, permeating every merchandisable sector imaginable and becoming part of global popular culture and idiom. You can find daily live-action or animated screen appearances constantly screening somewhere on the planet, toys, games, conventions, merchandise, various comics iterations generated in a host of nations and languages and a reboot of the movie division proceeding apace even as I type this. There’s even a new rebooted TV series beginning in 2017…

Many companies have published comicbook adventures based on the exploits of Gene Roddenberry’s greatest brainchild. Currently IDW have the treasured funnybook license and have combined choice selections of older exploits from other publishers with great new tales.

In 2012 the company began adapting, updating and retelling classic episodes of the original Five Year Mission in the context and with the likenesses of actors from the 2008 rebooted film franchise (as re-imagined by J. J. Abrams, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman). To supplement that graphic reconfiguration IDW also initiated another strand: exploring the most fundamental aspect of the mythology by crafting new tales from the never-filmed Fourth Year of the original mission…

To be strictly accurate, the 1973-1974 animated series from Filmation/Norway Productions is considered by most fans to cover that year and indeed a few of the characters from that era have made it into this book…

This full-colour collection – also available as an eBook – gathers tales from July-December 2007, comprising the first six issues of Star Trek: Year Four plus material from Focus on… Star Trek. It begins with a scene-setting recap from series scripter David Tischman & visiting illustrator Leonard O’Grady who reintroduce the cast via the ‘Captain’s Personal Log’

Tischman & Steve Conley then get boldly going as the Enterprise encounters a bizarre syzygy of planets, moons and asteroids forming a double helix. Beaming down to The Strand, Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock and Dr.McCoy meet flamboyant geneticist Dr. Othello Beck who has appropriated the millennia-old abandoned medical facility and its wealth of data.

Seemingly benign and welcoming, Beck is happy to show them his recent successes such as subservient, recreated alien lifeforms, both alluring and ferociously aggressive. However, when a security officer is butchered and McCoy’s technical questions start to hit home, a dreadful secret is uncovered and Beck’s actual motives are revealed. It’s not long until the shooting starts…

Conley then illuminates a tale of civil strife as the Enterprise stops at ice world Aarak 3 to replenish her stores of Dilithium Crystals and finds the kingdom riven by rebellion and terrorism. Whilst King Marak welcomes the technological advancement trading crystals brings, many of his subjects still worship the mineral and consider bartering it to offworlders as blasphemy and sacrilege…

Of course, once Kirk and his crew begin to investigate and both sides try to kill them a different picture begins to emerge…

Veteran Trek artist Gordon Purcell illustrates the next mission as a stopover on colony world Phi-11 reveals that the entire population died suddenly of brain trauma. When the crew start acting oddly, it becomes clear that a lethal virus has invaded the sterile corridors of the USS Enterprise. Unfortunately for Nurse Christine Chapel, the truth is far stranger and soon she is battling her mind-controlled comrades to return a lost sentience to its place of origin…

Social commentary was a key part of the original TV series and here manifests as the Federation ship begins a cultural exchange mission on Viden – a world where the entertainment industry is the planetary government.

Tempers fray and Kirk’s landing party are arrested when an extra is killed on the set of a popular show, and soon the “spacemen” visitors are involved in a ratings war. If rival networks cannot outbid each other to own the Federation sensation they are ready and willing to eradicate them in a wry romp by Tischman and artists Joe & Rob Sharp.

In issue #5 Conley returned to depict the horrific results of a deep space experiment. Gemini was intended to prove the existence of Quark Gluon plasma, and went ahead despite the warnings of Enterprise helmsman Arex who predicted the unleashed energies could create an uncontrollable gravitational anomaly that would cause incalculable harm.

Of course the doomsayer is correct and the resulting phenomenon sucks in the Gemini Station, all its scientists and visiting supervisor Spock…

With the Quark Gluon cloud rapidly becoming a black hole, the entire region is endangered and to make matters worse a communication is received demonstrating that somewhere inside the anomaly the Vulcan is still alive…

Happily, both the time-dilated Spock and his shipboard replacement Temporary Science Officer Chekov have simultaneously and separately concocted a desperate last-ditch survival plan…

Wrapping up this volume of untold voyages, Tischman & Purcell reunite to detail a doomed rescue mission with the Enterprise systematically scanning the third planet of the Gobi system for signs of lost hospital ship USS Pasteur.

What they find instead is an automated horror-factory where an ancient robotic nursery system strip-mines visiting life for DNA and other elements to create a new generation of trans-species babies for sterile clients who have long since died out…

With a full covers-&-variants gallery by Kelsey Shannon, Conley & Joe Corroney, this is another fabulously enticing, expansive and engrossingly epic compendium of thrills, offering wonderfully engaging stories to delight young and old, fan or casual reader alike, and well worthy of your eager attentions.
STAR TREK ® and © 2008 CBS Studios, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Star Trek and related marks are trademarks of CBS Studios, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Star Trek: Gold Key Archives volume 5


By Arnold Drake, John David Warner, George Kashdan, Allan Moniz, Alfredo Giolitti & various (IDW)
ISBN: 978-1-63140-598-3

Star Trek launched in the USA on September 8th 1966, running until June 3rd 1969: three seasons comprising 79 episodes. A moderate success, the show only really achieved its stellar popularity after going into syndication; appearing in all American local TV regions perpetually throughout the 1970s and beyond.

It was also sold all over the world, popping up seemingly everywhere and developing a fanatically devoted fanbase.

Comicbook franchising specialist Gold Key produced a series which ran for almost a decade beyond the show’s cancellation. Initially these were controversially quite dissimilar from the screen iteration, but by the time of the tales in this sturdy full-colour hardback collection (reprinting issues #25-28 and #30-31 from July 1974 to July 1975), quibbling fans had little to moan about and a great deal to cheer as the series was the only source of new adventures starring the beloved crew of the Starship Enterprise.

Following an Introduction – ‘Discovering New Tales’ by Trek writer expert Bjo Trimble – the exploratory escapades resume with a fast-paced thriller written by Arnold Drake and illustrated as always by Alberto Giolitti.

Here the USS Enterprise arrives at a planet which seems recently deserted, only to discover aberrant solar radiation is causing planetary matter and objects to shrink into non-existence. With the landing party captured by the diminishing natives, Chief Engineer Scott investigates the sun itself and gets a major overdose of the radiation. In a desperate race against time, Mr. Spock and Dr. McCoy must pull out all the stops to save the incredible shrinking man and the ‘Dwarf Planet’

John David Warner scripted and Angelo Todaro assisted Giolitti in crafting ‘The Perfect Dream’ for the next issue as the Enterprise crew face a Starfleet board of inquiry after their last mission ends with the obliteration of a planet.

As the testimony unfolds the bemused officials hear the incredible story of an unstable world-sized ship, a utopian culture chillingly reminiscent of Earth’s feudal Shogunate of Japan, a deranged geneticist using clones to build an impossibly idealised and stratified society and a mad scheme to repeat the experiment with Vulcans grown from Spock’s stolen DNA…

In ‘Ice Journey’ (Warner & Giolitti) the Enterprise is conducting a highly suspect population survey on sub-arctic world Floe I which soon drops Captain Kirk, Spock and evolutionary specialist Dr. Krisp into the middle of a eugenics-fuelled race war…

‘The Mimicking Menace’ – written by George Kashdan – pits the veteran starmen against deadly duplicates of themselves on a bleak volcanic asteroid before they discover the attacks and bizarre energy drains are the result of First Contact with a radically new form of life…

Star Trek #29 was a reprint of the very first issue so we skip here to #30 and ‘Death of a Star’ (scripted by Allan Moniz) with the Enterprise on site to observe a star going nova and catapulted into calamity as sensors pick up a planet full of life-readings where none should be. Moving swiftly to evacuate the endangered beings they are astonished to discover only one creature: an old woman who claims to be the dying sun…

Warner then concludes the entertainment with ‘The Final Truth’ with the Starfleet vessel officiating as new planet Quodar officially joins the Federation. The mission goes dreadfully awry after Captain Kirk’s shuttle – full of crewmembers and a Starfleet Admiral – crashes on pariah world Tristas where the survivors are captured by sadistic scientists obsessed with discovering the secrets of life. As Spock organises a rescue mission the embattled Kirk uncovers a staggering cosmic secret the Ministers of Science have been carefully concealing for eons…

Rounding out this compelling compendium are cast photos, a gallery of painted covers and a picture-packed historical feature highlighting ‘George Wilson: Gold Key Reprints’. Stunning sci fi thrills and dashing derring-do abound in this thrilling collection of comics classics which will delight not just TV devotees and funnybook fans but also any reader in search of a pictorially powerful grand adventure.
® and © 2016 CBS Studios, Inc. Star Trek and related marks are trademarks of CBS Studios, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Star Trek Gold Key Archive volume 4


By Arnold Drake, John David Warner, Gerry Boudreau, Alfredo Giolitti & various (IDW)
ISBN: 978-1-63140-449-8

Star Trek launched in the USA on September 8th 1966, running until June 3rd 1969: three seasons comprising 79 episodes. A moderate success, the show only really achieved its stellar popularity after going into syndication; running constantly in American local TV regions throughout the 1970s.

It was also sold all over the world, popping up seemingly everywhere and developing a fanatically devoted fanbase.

There was very little merchandising but an inevitable comicbook – from franchising specialist Gold Key – which ran for almost a decade beyond the show’s cancellation. The initial comics tales were controversially quite dissimilar from the screen episodes in many details, but by the time of the tales in this sturdy full-colour hardback collection (reprinting Star Trek #19-24 from July 1973 to May 1974), most inconsistencies had been ironed out and Italian superstar illustrator Alberto Giolitti had hit a peak of creativity.

Following Introduction ‘Where No Star Trek Comic Had Gone Before’ from Trek merchandising expert Paula M. Block, the trans-galactic trips resume with ‘The Haunted Asteroid’ – written by Arnold Drake and offering a rare Stateside inking job by Sal Trapani over Giolitti’s pencils – as the Starship Enterprise is despatched to investigate uncanny events at the universe’s most romantic tourist spot: a glittering space tomb built by an ancient ruler as a tribute to his lost love.

Before long the crew too are experiencing bizarre visions and seemingly supernatural visitations, leading Captain Kirk and his team to uncover an even more amazing solution and proof that true love is eternal…

Drake & Giolitti then detail how the odious task of escorting spoiled brat Crown Prince Raviki home to take up the reins of government becomes a deadly affair after planet Nukolee becomes ‘A World Gone Mad’. Moreover, whatever poisoned the minds of the boy’s subjects soon starts affecting the crew of the Enterprise…

John David Warner scripted ‘The Mummies of Heitius VII’ as Kirk and Company are ordered to escort an archaeological find to a research facility. When the body in question comes to life and shanghais the ship, the Captain, Mr. Spock and Dr. McCoy are drawn into a terrifying struggle against ancient automatons programmed to turn organic beings into slave cyborgs…

‘Siege in Superspace’ – written by Gerry Boudreau – sees the Enterprise drawn through a black hole into a higher realm and sucked into a war between humanoid refugees and ghastly war-machines grown by a marauding artificial intelligence from the flora and geology of their homeworld…

‘Child’s Play’ (also by Boudreau) follows a desperate SOS to a planet wracked by plague and devoid of adults. Infected by a disease which kills in days, the starship crew’s search for a cure is hampered by bellicose kids indulging in full-contact war games and well used to seeing everybody die before their thirteenth birthday…

This cosmic compendium concludes with another Drake & Giolitti collaboration as ‘The Trial of Captain Kirk’ finds the bold hero back on Earth to answer charges of bribery, corruption and collusion with pirates.

Subject of a most assiduous frame-up, Kirk happily acts as a stalking horse while Spock, McCoy and Engineer Scott ferret out the real traitor: a trail which leads into the highest echelons of Star Fleet…

Rounding out this compelling collection is a gallery of painted covers and a remarkably scanty biographical feature ‘George Wilson: About the Artist’; a man of immense imagination, prodigious talent and prolific output, but one about whom precious little is known.

Straightforward sci fi thrills and dashing derring-do pack this thrilling and astoundingly compelling collection of comics classics which will delight not just TV fans and comics collectors but also any reader in search of a graphically superior good time.
® and © 2015 CBS Studios, Inc. Star Trek and related marks are trademarks of CBS Studios, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Star Trek Gold Key Archives volume 3


By Len Wein, Arnold Drake, Alfredo Giolitti, Giovanni Ticci & various (IDW)
ISBN: 978-1-63140-231-9

Star Trek debuted on American televisions on September 8th 1966, running until June 3rd 1969: three seasons comprising 79 episodes. A moderate success, the series only really became super-popular after going into syndication; running constantly in American local TV regions throughout the 1970s. It was also sold all over the world, popping up seemingly everywhere and developing a fanatically devoted fanbase.

There was some merchandising, and an inevitable comicbook – from Gold Key – which ran for almost a decade beyond the show’s cancellation. However, at the start neither authenticity nor immediacy were paramount. Only six issues were released during the show’s entire 3-season original run. Published between July 1967 and December 1968, those quirkily enticing yarns were all gathered in the first Star Trek: Gold Key archive collection.

The reason for the inaccuracies between screen and page was simple and a clear indication of the attitude both studio and publisher held about science fiction material. Initial scripter Dick Wood had seen no episodes when commissioned to write the comic, and with Italian artists Nevio Zaccara and Alberto Giolitti, received only the briefest of outlines and scant reference materials from the show’s producers. The comics craftsmen were working almost utterly in a vacuum…

Nevertheless, by the time of these interstellar exploits – reprinting Star Trek #13-18 from February 1972 to May 1973 – most of the well-intentioned contradictions of established Trek lore were long gone, thanks to better reference materials and familiarity with the actual show. These printed Enterprise incidents and missions are far closer to canonical parity with the TV phenomenon.

Following entertaining Introduction ‘Let’s See what She’s Got’ from educator and Trek scholar Joseph F. Berenato, the extra-solar explorations resume with ‘Dark Traveller’ (by Len Wein & Giolitti) which sees the Enterprise taken over by a shadowy being of incredible power who boosts its capabilities to send the crew hurtling across the universe.

Nomad shares his story of a world that grew too perfect and fell into cultural stagnation, and how he abandoned it for more primitive, questing races, before concluding that now his energies are fading his time to return home has come…

However, when he and his unwilling travelling companions reach Utopia, they find no paradise but a ruined world wracked by bloodshed, with mechanical killers everywhere, intent on eradicating the organic population.

Stranded far from home, the Federation crew have no choice but to join Nomad’s brutal war against an old friend driven to madness and mass-murder if they are to have any chance of seeing familiar stars again…

Star Trek #14 from May 1972 reveals how a diplomatic mission goes lethally awry after James Kirk is injured during a landing party excursion. Subsequently tasked with feting an unaligned dignitary whose civilisation and political allegiance is also being courted by Klingon emissaries, the Captain seemingly goes crazy and provokes ‘The Enterprise Mutiny’.

However, canny Mr. Spock deduces there is another explanation for his comrade’s sadistic and erratic behaviour…

August found Enterprise propelled beyond reality by a cosmic maelstrom and latterly becalmed in a region where physical laws don’t work properly. Invited to visit the ‘Museum at the End of Time’ by its uncanny Curator, Kirk, Spock and Dr. McCoy meet explorers from many worlds and eras who have long ago lapsed into immortal indolence. Typically the newcomers cannot reconcile themselves to the fact that there is no escape from the timeless limbo that holds them…

The situation escalates into bloody warfare when Klingons from a battle-cruiser also caught in the cosmic storm invade the museum. As chaos erupts, the time-lost denizens of limbo finally regain their old verve and fight back, just as Spock discovers the timeless realm is dying. The imminent end, however, does present one perilously slim chance of returning to their original plane of existence…

In November an Enterprise shuttlecraft suffered a catastrophic accident and crashed on a primitive, feudal world where the Federation crew had to hide their alien natures from a superstitious, theocratic cult tyrannising the primitive populace. To stand any chance of rescue Kirk, Spock, McCoy and their subordinates had to ally themselves with a resistance movement to escape torture and death on the ‘Day of the Inquisitors’

With #17 (February 1973), Arnold Drake replaced Wein as scripter and Giolitti split his illustrative duties with studio-mate Giovanni Ticci to solve the riddle of ‘The Cosmic Cavemen’.

On a distant world shared by dinosaurs and stone-age humans, Kirk, McCoy and Chief Engineer Scott are captured and paraded before telepathic priestess Lok. Their shock and disbelief go off the scale when they are taken to an idol which is the spitting image of Spock…

The immediate crisis seems over after the Vulcan beams in to rescue his crewmates, but wily Lok has a plan to place her tribe beyond the reach of all rivals and subtly steals the death dealing weapons of the starmen to further her aims…

The cosmic comic cavalcade then concludes with an interstellar crime caper from Drake, Giolitti & Ticci as planet Styra – threatened with imminent destruction – digitises and records its entire population on bio-magnetic tape, entrusting the Enterprise to transport and restore them to life on a new world.

Sadly, comely castaway Allura has already inserted herself aboard ship and begins vamping Spock whilst her partner – deranged showman and magician Anzar – purloins the tape and holds ‘The Hijacked Planet’ hostage.

The crazed genius believes he has every avenue covered but has never faced anyone as clever as the Vulcan or as foolhardy as James Kirk…

Rounding out this compelling collection is a gallery of painted covers by elusive but brilliant George Wilson and an in-depth, fact-packed biography and assessment of the phenomenal strip illustrator in ‘Alberto Giolitti: About the Artist’.

Fun, thrilling and astoundingly compelling, these are comics classics not just for devoted TV fans but a prime example of graphic storytelling at its most engaging.
® and © 2015 CBS Studios, Inc. Star Trek and related marks are trademarks of CBS Studios, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Serenity: Firefly Class 03-K64 volume 3 – The Shepherd’s Tale


By Joss Whedon, Zack Whedon, Chris Samnee & various (Dark Horse Books)
ISBN: 978-1-59582-561-2

For those far too few people who actually saw it, Firefly remains one of the best science fiction TV shows ever created.

It was cancelled after one season. Buy the box set or seek it out from an on-demand/streaming media outlet as soon as you possibly can.

The select dejected fanbase were eventually delighted by the superb Serenity – one of the best science fiction movies ever released.

Rent it, buy it, watch it however you can.

Once you’ve done those things you’ll be properly primed to enjoy this superb and lavish full-colour hardback which offers long-awaited details into the troubled life of enigmatic preacher Book who joined reluctant freedom fighter Malcolm Reynolds and his oddball crew of reprobates aboard an independent trader starship of the Firefly class, under the most peculiar of circumstances…

If you aren’t au fait with “the ’Verse” yet – and did I mention the live action iterations are readily available and extremely entertaining? – here’s a little background.

After they used up Earth, humanity migrated to the stars and settled another star-system packed with hundreds of more or less hospitable planets and satellites. Now it’s the 26th century and mankind is living through the aftermath of a recent punishing internecine conflict known – by the victors – as the Unification War.

This still-sore and rankling clash saw the outer Colonies crushed after attempting to secede from the authoritarian Alliance of first-settled inner planets. Reynolds fought valiantly on the losing side and now spends his days eking out a living on the fringes of an increasingly repressive and dangerous universe: taking cargo and people from world to world – and hopefully avoiding the ever-expanding Alliance representatives – as a free agent skippering a small Firefly class cargo transport called Serenity.

It’s hard, risky work: often illegal and frequently dangerous – especially as the outer regions are where the insane cannibal berserker savages dubbed Reavers restlessly prowl.

Life changed forever after Serenity gave passage to Alliance doctor Simon Tam who was on the run after stealing his seemingly-psychic sister River from a top secret research project.

The Government spared no effort or expense to get her back and hounded the fugitives from pillar to post until Reynolds and his crew finally decided to push back.

At the cost of too many friends, the reluctant rebels uncovered the horrific secrets the Alliance were so desperate to keep hidden and broadcast them to the entire ’Verse …

During their TV voyages the Firefly crew was supplemented by a wise and gentle cleric of the Shepherd religion on a pilgrimage to who knew where. He offered moral guidance (mostly ignored), philosophical debate and emotional support as required, but every so often something Derrial Book said or did gave hints of lethal capabilities and a dangerous past the holy man always deftly avoided discussing…

Written by (series creator) Joss Whedon and Zack Whedon, illustrated by super-star in the making Chris Samnee (Daredevil, Thor: The Mighty Avenger, The Rocketeer: Cargo of Doom) and sporting colours from Dave Stewart and letters by Steve Morris, this compelling book of revelations finally exposes the secrets and tells the life story of the show’s most intriguing character…

The episodic saga is told in flashes and snippets from end to beginning; starting with his eventual glorious passing and working backwards in dramatic instalments to the way and why it all began…

Along the road we see his turbulent time aboard Serenity, before moving into unexplored territory at placid Southdown Abbey where after much soul-searching he elected to rejoin the dangerous, tempting outer world…

From then it’s a jump back a full decade to when a drunken derelict near death received one more well-deserved beating and awoke to a moment of holy clarity in a bowl of soup…

From then a time-cut slashes back to the moment when Alliance high-flyer Officer Book personally oversaw the military’s greatest defeat and was cashiered out of the service with extreme prejudice…

Years prior to that another scene shows how far ambitious cadet Derrial would go to further his career before a further flashback reveals that the man we’ve been reading about was never Derrial Book at all, but instead a murderous sleeper agent planted within the Alliance.

And even further back we travel, learning what makes a boy into the kind of man who would endure mutilation and worse; contemplate constantly betraying everything he cares for in a dark yet redemptive tale exploring the most basic and abiding aspects of human nature…

With narrative tones reminiscent of Christopher Nolan’s Memento, this powerful testament to the force of personality, the bondage of upbringing and man’s infinite capacity for change is accompanied by an incisive and heartfelt Afterword – ‘The Journey is the Worthier Part…’ from scripter Zack Whedon, detailing the inspirations which fuelled many of the story’s most memorable scenes.

Poignant, compelling and explosively engaging, this is a tale no devotee should miss and a comic experience well able to stand apart from its live action roots.
Serenity © 2010 Universal Studios. Firefly™ and Serenity: Firefly Class 03-K64™ and © 2014 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All rights reserved.