Copy of Phoenix 86 2

The Phoenix Weekender

Published On August 24, 2013 | By Richard Bruton | Comics, Comics For Children, Reviews, The Phoenix Weekender

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It’s Saturday, and that means just one thing; time for a quick run through the best bits of this weeks Phoenix Comic…

It feels a little like The Phoenix is stuck in a holding pattern right now, established and known, some 18 months into publication, and settling to a format and a roster of dependable artists. This can be good (those we like) or not so good (those we don’t), but at least it does mean that there’s invariably something to love. In fact there’s usually lots to love, and very little that doesn’t do much.

But one thing I think it’s missing right now is the Phoenix Feature that it started out with; 4-pages, a simple done-in-one strip, maybe from an established name, maybe from someone new. It meant there was always a sense of intrigue about what would be coming, whereas there’s something bordering on familiarity setting in here.

Oh, hark at me, ‘you know, it’s a real pain, this weekly dose of predictably great comics for children‘. I shall stop moaning now. But it is just a thought, maybe we need a little infusion of regular new blood?

However, great stuff this week…

Patrice and John Aggs’ Zara’s Masterpiece opens the comic with yet another fast, fast, fast episode, with Zara and the gang pulling off yet another audacious robbery, this time under orders from MI5. Zara’s on a clock, onboard the Eurostar and needing to take possession of the stolen masterpiece before the train hits the Channel Tunnel. If this wasn’t the girl who successfully managed to steal the crown jewels last year you wouldn’t rate her chances. As it is… this episode she’s thinking on her feet, although it’s pretty obvious Chloe and Tom aren’t entirely convinced she’s doing the right thing…

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Loved Zara’s Crown, loved The Boss, loving Zara’s Masterpiece. No surprise really, but the Aggs’ are crafting something beautifully worked here, fast and fun, and a perfect lead. Congratulations. Now, how about collecting Zara’s Crown?

Next up, more silliness with Jamie Smart’s Bunny Vs Monkey, and this week the wood is crawling with those human types. ‘The human’s are coming! The human’s are coming!‘ Except they’re not, not yet anyway, it’s just one bloke, not that the wood idiots care, they’re already fully into defensive counter measures, although how effective that chicken cannon is going to be, I’m really not sure…

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You know, somewhere out there in comicland there are probably people criticising Jamie Smart for being too silly. Then again, somewhere out there in comic land there are probably people who enjoy hitting themselves in the face regularly. Silly when done this well, silly when it’s this clever. Oh, I’ll go for more of that please.

Back to the educational side of The Phoenix for a moment (well, aside from the fact that anything engendering a love of reading in our children is a great educational tool) … Adam Murphy’s excellent Corpse Talk returns to interrogate the inventor of immunisation Edward Jenner. Murphy’s consistently able to <ahem> breath life into any subject he tackles (I’m sorry). And thus it is with Jenner, simply and easily laying out the defining moments of the invention of vaccinations, although just as now, certain backward looking types still viewed the whole vaccination thing with distrust and fear. Sadly for the modern world, back then scientists could rely on fatcs overtaking fears as Jenner/Murphy put it. If only that were the case today, if only the anti-science movement didn’t have so many friends in big media, corporations and government (Jeremy Hunt – Minister for Magic).

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Next up, a strip that grows on me every time I see it, Laura Ellen Anderson’s Evil Emperor Penguin. Simple enough setup, a little emperor penguin has dastardly plans he never seems to be able to carry out, complete with minions and trusted squid assistant Number 8 (well, sort of trusted, if you don’t count the microchipped monocle EEP installed!). Anyway, it’s an old , familiar story, think Pinky & The Brain and Despicable Me, that sort of thing.

Anyway, this episode finds EEP wondering where Number 8 is, as it’s EEP’s special ‘hatch day’and normal practice is a foot rub for his b’day…

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Little touches such as that ‘don’t touch me’ are littered through the 4-pages, and Anderson’s getting better and better at them, her timing improving, and her gags all the funnier for it.

Finally this issue, someone whose gags are pretty much always spot on; Gary Northfield returns for another of his Gary’s Garden episodes. It’s nighttime in the garden, and Monroe and Boris are on the prowl once more…

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Lovely, lovely work from Northfield once more. The sequence after this, seeing Boris in action is just perfect cartooning, a great action sequence laced with comedy. Nothing extravagant, just beautifully done.

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About The Author

Richard Bruton
- Started in comics retail aged 16 at Nostalgia & Comics, Birmingham. Now located in Yorkshire, he's written for the Forbidden Planet International Blog since 2007. Specialising in UK Comics and All-Ages comics, Richard's day job in a primary school allowed him to build the best children's graphic novel library in the country.

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