Thursday, December 23, 2010

Huzzah! It's the Primary Clone's Fiendish Christmas Quiz!

Or HUSSAR! as we say in this house.

Pausing first to wish Nik the happiest of happy birthdays on this, the 24th of December, 2010 - HAPPY BIRTHDAY, NIK! - let us proceed directly to the awesome sauce that is The Primary Clone’s Reasonably Difficult 12 Days of Christmas Quiz.

First, the rules. There are no rules! I laugh and throw small bits of rolled-up toilet paper at rules! Rules? Hah! Bother me not with rules!

Okay, here’s the way it works. It’s just for fun, see? Fun? Yeah? Remember that? They used to sell it by the ounce back in the nineteen seventies (ready-rubbed or shag). So this quiz is all about a bit of mind-probing fun. I’ll post the questions today, and the answers on New Year’s Day, so you can find out how clever you’ve been. BUT...there is a thirteenth question. Post your answers to that on the blog here during the course of this week (ie before midnight on the 31st of December, 2010), and I will choose three winners who will receive special prizes. Prizes! Prizes, I tell you!

Now, what that means is anyone can enter, as many times as they like, but if you sign in anonymously, I’ll never be able to identify you and send you that prize. So...when you post your answer, IDENTIFY yourself, and email the answer to the site with your name and address so I can get back to you if you’ve won.

That’s got all that out of the way. Let’s have some Christmas Inquisitorial fun! Warm yourself a nice Santa hat, put your Yule log in the upright position, pull up a mince pie and, if you’re sitting comfortably, I’ll begin.

On the First and Only day of Christmas, my true love sent to me... a Colonel-Commissar Gaunt. What was the name of the no-nonsense Major in the Hyrkan regiment who used to keep an avuncular eye on Gaunt when he was still Oktar’s cadet?

On the second day of Christmas, my true love sent to me... two Downlode sharks. 2000AD’s hitman gunsharks Sinister Dexter, of course, who are Finnigan Sinister and Ramone Dexter. But what are their middle names (hint: Ray has got two)?

On the third day of Christmas, my true love sent to me... three Ordo works. Looming on the creative horizon is the Bequin Trilogy, which will complete the cycle begun in Eisenhorn and Ravenor to form a trilogy of Inquisition trilogies (threes, geddit?). Anyway, what’s the name of Ravenor’s most famous work, and for an extra point, who’s favourite book is it?

On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love sent to me... four Mournivals. According to the Horus Heresy series, the “Mournival” of the Luna Wolves has had many different members over the years. Discounting the four that were serving during Horus Rising (Loken, Abaddon, Aximand and Torgaddon), name four previous members of the confraternity.

On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love sent to me... five War Of Kings! Well, Marvel Cosmic anyway. Springing out of the big War of Kings and Thanos Imperative events, we’ve just announced a new cosmic superteam, The Annihilators, made up of Quasar, the Silver Surfer, Ronan the Accuser, Beta Ray Bill and Gladiator. What are the alter-egos of all five members... and, therefore, which one doesn’t use a ‘stage name’?

On the sixth day of Christmas, my true love sent to me... six saucy swear words. Where do the following cuss-words come from (you may be geographically specific, or simply refer to the series or franchise): feth, funt, sprock, hjolda, gak, flark?

On the seventh day of Christmas, my true love sent to me... seven Doctors Who-ing. I have a particular soft spot for the Seventh Doctor, Sylvester McCoy, because he was the TARDIS resident when I was writing strips for Doctor Who Magazine. That early work lodged in the memories of good folk like Gary Russell fondly enough to get me an invite back to write audios and novels for Who and Torchwood in the noughties. My two Big Finish audios actually starred Sylvester and Sophie. But what was the name of the new assistant I introduced to the series in them?

On the eight day of Christmas, my true love sent to me... eight legs of badness. In Kingdom, for 2000AD, drawn by the fabulous Richard Elson, the big bad is Them, hyper-evolved insectoid horrors that have conquered the Earth. Who’s the hero standing in Them’s way, and what is he (and the others of his kind) named after?

On the ninth day of Christmas, my true love sent to me... nine
Heroes Hiring
. Marvel’s Heroes For Hire has a huge guest list and rotating cast of classic Marvel “street level” characters. Heroes are brought in - “hired” - for missions specific to their skill sets. In the first four issues alone we’ll have Falcon, Black Widow, Paladin, Misty Knight, Electra, Moon Knight, Silver Sable, Ghost Rider and... well, who will the ninth be? Actually, that’s not the question, because that would just be a guess, really, wouldn’t it? So try this: who is Control, and who’s REALLY in control?

On the tenth day of Christmas, my true love sent to me... ten battle brothers. Ultramarines The Movie is out there now, in all its glorious shooty-death-kill-in-space wonder. So, Astartes, what’s the name of the mission team’s cynical apothecary? And, for the record, “Astartes” is pronounced Az-tar-tease. Not ‘arse-tarts’. I mean, come on.

On the eleventh day of Christmas, my true love sent to me... eleven mangled lyrics. We like a mangled lyric in this house, we really do. From “Bring me an iron lung”, to “It’s all right, babies come in bags”, to “Don’t stand so colostomy”. But which Hussar-inspired jazzy Christmas lyric do we traditionally mangle in this household at this time of year (hint: Nik mentioned it on our Twitter feed this week).

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love sent to me twelve Angry Robots, eleven mangled lyrics, ten battle brothers, nine Heroes Hiring, eight legs of badness, seven Doctors Who-ing, six saucy swear words, five War of Kings! Four Mournivals, three Ordo works, two Downlode sharks, and a Colonel-Commissar Gaunt! Those splendid, if slightly irate, mechanoids at Angry Robot published my novel “Triumff: Her Majesty’s Hero” this year, and I’ve recently finished my second book for them, the combat SF thriller “Embedded”. For a brand new publishing venture, AR have enjoyed considerable success. Which (excellent) book won them a well-deserved Ditmar award in September? And, while we’re at it, which two books split the 2010 Best Novel Hugo award?

And the crucial, prize-winning thirteenth question...

Complete the following sentence: “I wouldn’t say that Magister Anakwanar Sek, whose voice drowns out all others, was fat, but...”

There you have it. I hope it titivates your brain-cells for a short while over the Christmas break. If you’re not breaking for Christmas, for whatever reason (and I know that at least one reader is a policeman rostered on over the weekend, another is a doctor on-call, and at least half-a-dozen are serving in Iraq or Afganistan), be well and be safe. To everyone, wherever you are, a very Merry Christmas, and a peaceful and prosperous New Year.

Thanks for reading.


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Hjolda! It's Big Steve!

Today was the shortest day of the year, we were snowed up the ying-yang, and the winter solstice's full moon was marked by the first total eclipse since 1638. No better time, then, to spare a thought for the Sixth Legion Astartes.

There was probably no one waiting more eagerly for the publication of Prospero Burns than Buff (formally “Big”) Steve Bissett, friend of this parish. Earlier this week, Steve very kindly sent me a review of the book, which I would like to publish here in its entirety. If you are easily alarmed by such phrases as “cock-spankingly great”, look away now.

“Lets have this out straight now this is an excellent book. This book goes above and beyond the call of duty. It would be wrong of you to assume that this Account of events leading to the Fall of Prospero is an exact and opposite retelling of Graham McNeill’s Thousand’s not. The telling of this saga starts out with roots like a great Fenrisian oak and ends up blossoming into full on 30k warfare, brought to you as only Dan Abnett and the Sixth Legion Astartes can. When I heard Dan was going to cast his lot with The Wolves I thought HELL YES! It would be fair to say that Dan had some concerns when approaching this subject matter: the Space Wolves of 40K can seem extraordinarily larger than life, sometimes more comic characters than Astartes. Dan’s worries about “Vikings in Space” were wholly justified, even the name “Space Wolves” in my eyes has always seemed a little jovial. With this in mind, and the added weight of responsibility to the dedicated and very loud and verbal Space Wolf fans, Dan sunk his Fangs into this challenge.
But trust in Dan! He has taken the Wolves and grounded them in his own particular way. He has rebuilt this legion from the ground up, his research has been impeccable. They are the Wolves we know but different, professional but different, darker, more sinister, cunning and, dare I say it... Scary! Yes, they are scary, all right, the kind of scary that worries even the Custodes and other Astartes. He has taken them and turned them ...well, Gothic. Even the Fang and its architecture is darker and more foreboding more like a Wolf’s lair, beautiful still, a miracle of engineering yes...just darker, we are talking.
The plot is intense. This book should come with a warning: many threads are sown in this book, and many are cut (LOL). Do not expect it to give you all its answers straight away. Like Dan said, stand with it and all will unfold to you in time. Dan has played to one of his greatest strengths: he has taken a story which could have been basically a 350 page book of drinking and bloodletting, and turned it into a story of conspiracy, intelligence, counter-intelligence, what you see you can’t see, what you know you don’t know. You would be just at home reading Eisenhorn or Ravenor when reading this account. Still it is an Account of the Wolves so there is still plenty of warfare: battle, stealth, vicious violence and slaughter in the way only the Wolves can do it and Dan Abnett can write it.
Of Primarchs and Legions, the Sixth, have now officially been given their place in the game. Questions have been asked and answered, and more have arisen. Leman Russ is ferocity and aggression personified. All Primarch’s are strategical and tactical geniuses: Russ’s place in the rankings has now been given and it is exceptional. He is lethal, loyal and he is FEARED! This is a curse as much as it is a blessing and there is a certain sadness about it, as he and his brothers know his place in the pantheon of Primarchs. Dan has really put himself into the mindset of the Wolves and things have now changed forever. So to all my Wolf Brothers (and Sisters) out there it’s time to take our place in the Hunt and, though it may alienate us, The Rout never wavers! We are sanction, and sanction must come to PROSPERO! HHHOOOWWWWWWWLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL

It is my understanding that Steve liked it a lot. Thanks, Steve.

I’d like to leave you today in the embrace of Gideon Ravenor, with this picture of the ”The Chair” by the peerless Nic Giacondino. Merry Winter Solstice, one and all.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

It's beginning to feel a lot like...

... Fenris. It's snowed all day. Very festive, unless you're out in it. I've spent the afternoon sitting under the tree signing a consignment of Prospero Burns that will be despatched to the four corners of the kingdom. I'm very excited that PB is out there at last, and I'm delighted by the great notices it's getting. I'm also delighted that Ultramarines is shipping, and the response is terrific. I'm also chuffed to pieces by this (thanks, IGN readers!), and by this announcement.

It's been quite a week, all round. Quite a year. I've now finished Embedded, and it's something I've very proud of. I'm knee deep in Salvation's Reach, the next Gaunt (though I'm pausing for a few days to write a cock-spankingly great*, Mournival-oriented Horus Heresy short story). Heroes for Hire and The Annihilators are keeping my comic hand in, as are Kingdom and Sinister Dexter for 2000AD, and Insurrection for the Megazine.

And now it's a busy final week, with the last few pre-Christmas deadlines to hit, and the last bits of preparation to do (on top of Christmas, it's my father-in-law's birthday, and then Nik's on Christmas Eve).

Anyway, the girls went out and got a tree...

Naturally, putting up the tree and decorations required some considerable 'help' from Pilgrim. The boxes to the right are the consignment of PB I mentioned earlier.

But it was worth it in the end.

Everybody may now say aaaahhhh.

Watch out for the mistletoe ;)

If you want to post this week (and please do), why don't you tell us all what's on your Christmas list? Or what your favourite Christmas song or carol is? Or which Primarch you'd most like to spend Christmas with, and why? Or what your favourite movie for Christmas Eve is? Something festive, okay?

Finally, the by now traditional Saturday peek in the notebook:

Idea for a one panel cartoon #568
A traditional nativity scene. Everything is normal scale except for the wise men, who are the size of action figures.
Caption: Wee three kings.

Idea for a one panel cartoon #39
A ventriloquist act, performing on stage. The vent's puppet is a large seagull.
Caption: Speaking out of tern.

Idea for a one panel cartoon #261
Several Ultramarines, in full armour, are enthusiastically grooving to a kicking bass drum and cutting edge synth in a eurodance club.
Caption: "We march for Macragge, and we shall know no no no no no no no no no no no there's no limit!"

I'll be here all week. Don't forget your waitress.

* copyright 2010 Buff Steve.

Friday, December 10, 2010

From the Sublime to the...Differently Sublime

Friday afternoon, Marvel announced The Annihilators, which is a project Andy and I have had to force ourselves to remain schtum about for, like, ages. Four issues of mega-level Cosmic goodness, which is also being printed double-header with the to-die-for Rocket and Groot mini.

Who says we don't treat you right?

Read this link right here to get the full lowdown in the form of mighty blurbation from's friendly neighbourhood Ben Morse, but suffice to say this is... well, some might call it the Cosmic Avengers. If Guardians of the Galaxy was a team of misfits and mavericks desperately trying to save space and time from dangers that always fundamentally outclassed them, this is the other end of the scale: the most powerful Cosmic heroes in the Marvel cannon in one premier division team standing ready to protect and serve... the Universe. Safe to say this is probably the single most powerful team ever assembled. Okay, various Avengers or JLA line-ups might give them a tough time, but, seriously dudes, can you think of a superteam that could take them, no question about it?

So just imagine the threats Andy and I are dreaming up to make this star cast worthwhile.

Quite fun to be going from the sublime of The Annihilators to the... other end of the scale with Rocket and Groot. Very, very awesome compared to very, very silly. Also, for us, imagine the creative luxury and delight of being able to move from the super-cosmic, star-snuffing huge-osity (actual word) of Surfer and the Annihilators to the nitty, gritty, human vigilante street action of Heroes for Hire. Contrast: it exercises all sides of the imagination without ruining your appetite.

Speaking of the sublime to the something else, I want to thank Nik for her blog last time. I'm delighted that so many people loved her inside view of my passive aggressive, diva-like antics and--- kidding, I have no idea how it made you revise your estimations of me, but it was a great piece of writing and I'm glad you all dug it. If you haven't dug it yet, go dig it.

The deadline? Oh, that was for Embedded, which I am seriously pleased with. I am now eyeballs deep in Salvation's Reach, the next Gaunt, which should delight some of you (though I have a rather tasty Horus Heresy short story to finish first).

Speaking of the Heresy, a few dates have been announced for Prospero Burns signings in January. See the BL site here. PB is now shipping (as is Ultramarines, hooray!), so I look forward to defacing your copy in a store near you in the New Year.

Enough of my yakkin'. I know why you're really here. You can't hide it. I can see it in your eyes. God, you're so transparent! It's the weekend. It's "take a peak in the notebook" time.

Idea for a one panel cartoon #27
A wise and rather beautiful young carpenter's son from Galilee lathers up in front of the bathroom mirror.
Caption: Jesus shaves.

Idea for a one panel cartoon #631
A TV cooking show co-hosted by Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. In the lavish kitchen, they are just adding chipolata funnels to a ship-shaped cut of beef that's sitting in a casserole full of stock.
Caption: Braise the Titanic.

Idea for a one panel cartoon #88
Young padawan Obi Wan and his Jedi master Qui-Gon Jinn glare dismissively in the direction of the eternally irritating Gungan Binks, who is staggering around, knocking things over, and generally talking shit.
Caption: "There's whiskey in the Jar Jar."

Idea for a one panel cartoon #191
Several Chaos Anarchs, whose voices drown out all others, are partying down so much the club can't even handle them right now.
Caption: The Joy of Seks.

Idea for a one panel cartoon #42
A giant Cthulhoid lolcat with tentacled mouth studies his cook book.
Caption: The Necronomnomnomicon.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

A matter of life and deadlines (by Nik)

Today is the day that Dan is due to finish writing a book. Yes, it’s deadline day. These crop up at regular intervals, but I don’t have very much to do with many of them. For comic book and short fiction deadlines, there’s really nothing much for me to do, in fact, I’m rarely even aware of them; they simply fit into the normal ebb and flow of office life. Today is different. Today sees the final sentence added to the latest novel, a book that might have been in the system for years, from the first ideas to the title, from the first pitch to the contract being signed, from the delivery of the first chapters to the receipt of the first advance payment.

Day zero, the day a book begins, generally gets lost in the mists of time. Who remembers when that idea first got jotted down in a notebook? Who remembers when it bubbled to the surface as the possible basis of a possible plot for a possible novel that no one had commissioned, yet? Day zero doesn’t go down in the annals of history, not in this house, anyway. Day eleven-hundred-and-forty-seven, (or whatever it is), deadline day: the day on which the last sentence is given its full-stop, and the first draft of the manuscript is delivered up to the publisher is a day that most certainly goes down in the record books.

We are approaching our fortieth deadline day, and we have evolved coping strategies for making sure they pass smoothly... Well, I have, at least.

Dan sleeps less well the last few days before a book is due. He rolls about and snorts and gets up in the night. So, on the eve of deadline day, I try to be totally relaxed, and let him fall asleep next to me while we’re sitting in bed watching some rubbish on DVD. He wouldn’t be terribly good company if he were awake, so why should I stop him sleeping? He wakes up on deadline day early, certainly as early as any other day. I roll over in bed to ask if he’s okay, and then he’s gone.

A couple of hours after Dan gets up, I make a random noise down the stairs to let him know that I’m about. Something along the lines of “Coo-oo”. Then I wait. It’s winter, so I sit in bed with a laptop and go through my in-box, which will invariably contain several e-mails from Dan. Some of them will have little paperclip doohickeys where he’s sent chunks of the work in progress. Others will include instructions, like, “haven’t finished, read don’t edit”, or “read part two first”, or “look out for compound words”, or “can you find out who carried out the first successful blood transfusion”, or whatever it might be.

Then he appears with a cup of tea, Earl Grey, thank you very much. To be fair, Dan brings me a cup of tea every morning, but some mornings, I meet him in the kitchen when I hear him moving about. Not on deadline day. On deadline day, I let him get on with it. I don’t deviate from the routine at all on deadline day. He brings my tea and hands it to me from his side of the bed, and he stands there for a minute. He isn’t really in the mood to talk, so I say thank you and ask how it’s going in an airy sort of way. He mumbles something, and off he goes again.

And that’s it. I stay where I am. I begin to go through the chunks of manuscript he’s sent, doing a simple line edit, and following his basic instructions. There are lots of reasons for staying upstairs. Our bedroom is big with a reading corner and a table and chairs, so there’s plenty of room for me to find somewhere comfortable to work. If I go downstairs, I have to go through the kitchen, and that’s Dan’s space when his head is full. I could go through it into the wendy house where I usually work, but he’d hear me, and I don’t want to disturb him. The stairs to his office are also in the kitchen, (and yes it is a weird house).

Less than an hour passes, and Dan’s back with a cup of coffee. This is very early for him, it’s usually me that makes the second cup some time around ten. I take the cup from him and say thank you. He slopes off again.

He’s not miserable you understand, or difficult, or moody, he’s just in the zone and there isn’t room for two.

The door bell rings, and I realise that’s it’s Tuesday. Groceries get delivered on Tuesdays, and Dan always has a chat with the delivery dude. He’s got his Christmas list handy, as well, so there’ll be no interference from me on that front. I hear happy talking noises, but no actual words, and then the sound of the front door closing, and he’s off again, into the bowels of the house, to get on with things.

For the next little while, I check Twitter and Facebook. Dan has updated his status on FB, but hasn’t done anything on Twitter, so I do something. Something always comes up, and, today, it’s reviews of “Prospero Burns” and “Heroes for Hire”, the two most recent projects to come out of the office. I sort out some links and Twitter some, and send some to Dan via e-mail to enjoy when he gets a chance. I flag a couple of other things for him, and get back to reading the latest bits of manuscript.

Dan appears about an hour after the last time with the central heating thermostat in his hand. He gives it to me, without a word, and reaches for the cardigan he keeps draped over the footrail at the end of the bed. I’m not sure why he doesn’t know how to work the thermostat, but it doesn’t matter. I adjust it and give it back to him, and he puts it on top of the wardrobe nearest the window, the coolest part of the room. Clearly he’s cold. He asks if I want a cup of tea; it’ll be my third and it’s barely ten in the morning, but that’s what happens with displacement activity. I tell him to put the kettle on and I’ll see to it. He goes away. A few minutes later he’s back with a cup of tea for me.

“I was there,” he says, handing it over.

The kettle is a ‘thing’ in our house. Due to a condition that is too boring to talk about, albeit it’s rare, and a bit weird, my hearing is now pretty crap. There’s nothing wrong with my ears, per se, it’s just that other things prevent them from functioning. That doesn’t sound like it has anything at all to do with our choice of kettle, but you’d be wrong. We have an old-fashioned kettle that stands on the gas ring, back right, of our cooker. It has a flip down lid in the spout that whistles. It has a glorious sound, one that I can actually hear. I use it! I can be on the other side of the kitchen with the kettle boiling like buggery and not hear it if the whistle isn’t in the correct position.

The whistle is shrill, which is why I can hear it. It is also why no one else uses the whistle. They can all hear the kettle boiling without it, and, to a man, and woman, they find the noise the whistle makes excruciatingly unpleasant.

Clearly, this morning, Dan really didn’t want to listen to that whistle. I’m glad that I made the decision to stay upstairs, it was clearly the wisest course of action. Again, let me reiterate that Dan is not fussy or moody or difficult in these situations, he’s just... Well, he’s just Dan, only to a greater degree than normal: Dan squared if you will, or Dan to the power of deadline.

I hear a very satisfactory thud as the mail hits the bare boards downstairs. If I can hear it, it’s got to be heavy, so, probably that book I ordered for a friend’s birthday. I stay where I am. Dan appears a few minutes later with a cardboard parcel from Amazon, which he drops on the bed.

“It’s for thingy?’ he asks. “E-mail me a note for her and I’ll print it off and find an envelope.”
“Her address is in the rolodex,” I say, without thinking, and then cover, quickly, “so don’t bring it back up. I’ll sort it out later.” This is not the time to go thrashing about in Dan’s office, or on Dan’s desk, where the rolodex lives; there could be anything on there: scads of strategically positioned post-it notes, books cracked open at very important places, a carefully positioned action figure or two. In fact, the rolodex might be doubling as a piece of heavy artillery or a small vehicle, or the entrance to a bunker, or something.

Dan’s back a few minutes later. Clearly, he’s looking for displacement activity. The note is printed, folded and inserted into the book, which is in a manila envelope, addressed with the correct information to get to my friend. What’s more, the book is a second hand copy of “Fell Cargo” that I’ve tracked down, and he’s signed it and put a nice message in it. He doesn’t say “Ta-dah!” but I know he’s thinking it.

Eventually we sit down to lunch. I don’t eat much in the middle of the day, so it’s mostly about Dan eating and us catching up. He’s very quiet, so I pick up my laptop and continue with the line-edit. It’s deadline day, and I hate to get behind, so I do what arrives in my in-tray as soon as I possibly can.

“That’s an odd choice,” he says, reading my tracked changes to his manuscript over my shoulder. I explain why I made the choice, but it’s deadline day, and he’s not sure. I remind him that’s why I track changes and make suggestions, to give him the thinking room to make final choices. The truth is, when push comes to shove, he invariably goes with my suggestions, but that doesn’t make me right; it only makes me very used to his ways and his work, and useful to him as a first reader and editor... some of the time.

I follow him downstairs after lunch and there is the evidence, if ever I needed it, that this isn’t just deadline day, it’s ‘crunch day’. Dan has left the door to the dishwasher open.

It’s not much, is it, an open dishwasher door? Dan is master of the dishwasher. I didn’t want it, and I’ve never learned to stack it properly. I’d rather wash-up in the sink, and on the rare occasions when I do need to use it, I can’t get nearly as much in it as I’d like. Dan has taken to the bloody thing with gusto, it’s as if it belongs to him, somehow. I leave it to him. It seems fair enough. Today, Dan has left the dishwasher door open. The dishwasher has clean dishes in it. Dan has loaded and run the dishwasher. Dan doesn’t usually do this during the day. This is his evening job.

I take my cue, and I unload the dishwasher.

That sounds like it’s passive aggressive on his part. It isn’t. It’s just deadline day.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Are we for hire, or what?

Hello, heroes everywhere! Are you for hire?

With Heroes For Hire #1 hitting the shops this week, the interweb has been a-buzz with lovely feedback. I thought we might share some.

“Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning and Brad Walker's Heroes for Hire #1 does a fine job introducing its central premise and cast in an energetic, stylized manner, rolling along at a fast clip before arriving at a powerful and very unexpected cliffhanger. In this first installment, the team accomplishes a lot, but more importantly hints at even more exciting surprises to come. In other words, it's a wholly successful debut from a talented creative team that has already proven an ability to revitalize stagnant properties with their work on Marvel's cosmic line.

This being DnA's most significant venture into the grounded, Earth-based Marvel Universe since catapulting the cosmic properties to phenomenal heights, it's not at all surprising to see the pair take such a measured, meticulous approach to introducing this relaunch's new direction and cast of characters. The issue follows the new lineup's first adventure as Misty Knight, under her new guise as an Oracle-esque tactical leader codenamed Controller, passes the first mission from one operative to the next like a baton. Falcon and Black Widow start things off with an assault on a drug-running tractor trailer, Moon Knight follows the drugs to their distributor, and then Elektra carries out the mission's endgame in a way the others wouldn't. All the while, more operatives are hinted at and a familiar face makes his presence felt.

DnA and Walker inject enough personality and style into the mix to keep things lively, and it's plenty entertaining just to watch this new team in action. The writers have clearly put thought behind the inclusion of each cast member, allowing Misty to tailor "payment" to each individual. Like many aspects of this relaunch, there's a lot of great potential to the way Misty's new team operates.

Walker is arguably sharper and more impressive here than he's ever been, with panels that pop off the page and barrel along with a kinetic energy. Between the animated sense of movement between each shot, a palpable noir atmosphere appropriate to the book's street-level scope, and some fantastic figure-work, Walker outdoes his past work with DnA and proves himself the right choice for this title.

And then there's the issue's killer cliffhanger, which definitely had me clamoring to read issue #2. If that wasn't enough, the book also includes an eight-page prose Heroes for Hire saga identical to the ones Marvel usually publishes before one of these relaunches. Coupled with the book's high quality main story, this back-up makes this issue well worth the $3.99 price page, especially to those new to the property. Overall review: Great!” –

“Sure, it’s a crime story, but it’s a flashy crime story with superheroic snippets and super powered subplots…Abnett and Lanning caught lightning in a bottle with Guardians of the Galaxy, providing the comic-reading public with a critically-acclaimed darling of a comic that starred a whole bunch of nobodies who evolved into fan favorites. It would only make sense, then, to have the prolific duo try to ply their craft at Marvel’s collection of former Knights and some other street level heroes…Collectively, this combination of heroes should draw in a large number of comic buyers. After all, it got a Falcon fan to pick this book up…Joining his writers from Guardians, Brad Walker draws a tangible, impressive real world…Quite simply, Walker’s art is great, and this book really gives him a chance to show what he can do with characters that are more grounded in reality…Abnett and Lanning close out this debut issue with a stunning final page surprise. The way this book ends calls the entire story into question. That, moreso than the characters or the art, is the major reason I’ll be checking out the second issue of this series. It’s rare that such an enticing book erupts from seeming mediocrity, but this is definitely a fun read, the type of read that comic books were invented for.” –

“The cast is awesome and contains some of the best of Marvel's non-powered or street level characters…With DnA behind the wheel, and their Guardians of the Galaxy buddy Brad Walker on art, I'm expecting big things.” –

“This I can get…this very subject of well-networked folks hits the Marvel Universe a la the new incarnation of the Heroes for Hire, and what once felt like overactive extroversion becomes a force of justice…Getting paid for vigilantism may seem a little less noble than usual, especially for proven heroes like Elektra, Falcon and Black Widow, but even the most heroic can benefit from trade, even if it isn’t from currency. In short, for some passion is a reward, for others, intel. What’s going to surprise a lot of readers, including myself, is Heroes for Hire introduces not a new team (especially not the one on the cover, the majority of heroes totally absent from the issue inside) but a new system, and a seemingly effective one at that. Instead of having heroes standing about a myriad of tables discussing a myriad of directions, the first issue focuses instead on the problem, the crime, and the web of heroes who punch it into oblivion…Jay David Ramos is doing a very nice job on colors, letting things in the nightglow much like how you'd see in a city refusing to sleep…Also, there's a constant visual allusion to The Warriors strung throughout, and that's easy brownie points from me…The end of the issue reveals a bit of a shocker, something that could rip this concept wide open.” –’s Best Shots

“I love that Abnett and Lanning are doing a monthly book that is set on Earth for a change (though I do continue to miss Guardians of the Galaxy). I also love the fact that this isn’t going to be a “team” book but rather individuals whose powers are needed for that particular mission will be used…That the entire issue is woven into a story using several different characters in this way is fun, refreshing and well down right expertly told…this is genius in itself as now I am hooked on that little mystery as well…Joining the dynamic writing duo on pencils is the incomparable Brad Walker (the three of them make a terrific trio!) he in turn is assisted by Andrew Hennessey on inks and Jay David Ramos on colors. This team does a fantastic job on the visuals and giving it that special feel to the book that I am at a loss for words to explain but fits perfectly…Overall, folks, this was a grand slam first issue and if it’s on the bubble for you, then let me pop it ‘cause everyone should be giving this a go.” – Reading With A Flight Ring

“The issue ends with a fine cliffhanger, one beyond the bounds of fair-play spoilerage. All I'll say is that it guarantees I'll be around for awhile…Abnett & Lanning shake off the space dust and remind us that they can cut the mustard in any corner of the universe. The interaction between Misty and her colleagues is a joy. The lads give their characters distinctive voices, with Black Widow especially benefiting, gaining speech patterns straight out of James Bond…Brad Walker's pencils are excellent. Superbly drawn characters move fluidly through action packed scenes, with plenty of variety in compositions. He tells a story very well, and inker Andrew Hennessy makes the most of Walker's layouts, resulting in some sharp storytelling. Colorist Jay David Ramos and letterer Joe Caramagna also turn in sterling work, helping to give Heroes For Hire an all-round accomplished debut…There's a smashing wee bonus, too - a recap of the Heroes For Hire concept since Luke Cage came up with it as an ongoing business…So, issue #1 of a book that didn't sound like my cup of tea, and I'm in for the duration. Methinks Marvel has good hires in Abnett, Lanning, Walker and Co.” – Too Dangerous For A Girl

Thank you, all.

Also, in the midst of all this snow and ice, let us think of Fenris for a moment, and enjoy this link from Black Library

It's the weekend, so let's close with the now traditional peek in the note book.

Idea for a one panel cartoon #103
A giant gorilla dressed in a Santa Claus costume sits on top of the Empire State Building and waves cheerily at the looping fighter jets.
Caption: King Kong Merrily On High.

Idea for a one panel cartoon #4
In a faded, sepia tint image, two aviation pioneers in jodphurs, goggles and flying jackets innocently sidle up to a double winged airplane.
Caption: The Wrong brothers were biplane curious.

Idea for a one panel cartoon #211
A giant advertising hoarding displays a Budweiser advert. It is evening, and stars gleam in the night sky. Beneath the hoarding, we can see a traditional nativity scene: Mary, Joseph, the baby in the manger, the shepherds, the donkey, the wise men.
Caption: Born under a bud sign.