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The Phoenix Comic – Issue 1: The Phoenix takes flight!

January 22, 2012

Issue 1 is here!

The Phoenix - Issue 1 is finally here!

Yesterday I finally got my copy of Issue 1 in our “nearest” Waitrose – when I say nearest I mean quite far away…

I began with Issue 1 – it seemed appropriate really.

Here’s the content of this thing of beauty:

PG 1: Front Cover (starring Pirates of Pangaea) – Neill Cameron

PG 2: Welcome! (with supported illustrations by Matt Baxter)

PG 3: Pirates of Pangaea – Neill Cameron NEW!

PG 7: The Big News! (with more supported illustrations by Matt Baxter)/Plant of the Shapes – Ricardo Tangle NEW!

PG 8: Bunny VS. Monkey – Jamie Smart NEW!

PG 10: Tale Feathers: Ash Mistry and the Savage Fortress – Sarwat Chadda

PG 12: Meet the Team!  (with more supported illustrations by Matt Baxter)

PG 13: Long Gone Don – The Etherington Brothers NEW!

PG 16: Puzzle: What Will Happen Next?! – Patrice Aggs NEW!

PG 18: How to Make Awesome Comics! – Neill Cameron NEW!

PG 19: Readers’ Page: The Fanfare (with more supported illustrations by Matt Baxter)

PG 20: The Lost Boy – Kate Brown NEW!

PG 22: The Little News (with more supported illustrations by Matt Baxter)/Lucie – Simone Lia NEW!

PG 23: The Phoenix Feature Special: The Legend of the Golden Feather – Garen Ewing ONE-OFF!

PG 27: Corpse Talk – Adam Murphy NEW!

PG 28: Star Cat – James Turner NEW!

PG 30: Puzzle: The Dangerous Adventures of Von Doogan – The Etherington Brothers NEW!

PG 31: Elsewhere – Chris Riddell/Next Week!

PG 32: Back Page: Subscription Page

The first thing that caught my eye was the beautifully-drawn image by Neill Cameron on the front cover (artist of Pirates of Pangaea and How to Make Awesome Comics in the Phoenix and Mo-Bot High in the DFC) – the dinosaur looming over the comic – catching your eye immediately.

But that’s enough about the front cover – I’m sure you’re all dying to know if what’s inside as as good as on the outside, so I’ll just get right on with it.

Inside your eyes are greeted to a relaxing, neat ‘Welcome’ page including some fantastic illustrations by Matt Baxter. The only thing I felt the page was missing was a contents – for some reason, comics no longer feel right without a contents page… There was one awkward thing about this page, it strangely has a ‘: )’ in the ‘Letter from the Editors’

Neill Cameron and Daniel Hartwell’s Pirates of Pangaea comic serial is first in the comic – Neill’s beautiful art-style with Daniel’s brilliant storytelling makes up for an exciting read – it took me a while to get through the story as I was too busy marvelling at the beautiful illustration on pages 2 & 3. How is it even humanely possible to create something so incredible?!

Next up is The Big News page – a page I honestly feel isn’t needed in the slightest is actually less important than the Little News page. The one thing I love about the page is Matt Baxter’s brilliant pictures to accompany the stories. The Planet of the Shapes certainly deserves a mention – it’s one of the funniest strips in there with simple yet brilliant illustrations by Ricardo Tangle. the story despite having no words is clear and “laugh-out-loud” funny.

Bunny VS. Monkey is next up – seeing Jamie Smart’s artwork within this comic immediately makes it ten times better – his humour and artwork is both inspiring and hilarious. However after a fairly poor prologue story – things weren’t looking too good –  but this story changed my opinion immediately. It’s full of Jamie’s humour, cute and loveable animals and  little rogues equalling a brilliant comic strip!  I also can’t help but love that little monkey appropriately named “Monkey”!

Tale Feathers is an interesting one – a double page spread of text. “What? In a modern comic?” I hear you say – yes, there really is a 21st century comic with a text story accompanied by one or two illustrations. After Issue Zero’s brilliant “To be a Cat”, I felt a bit let-down by Issue 1’s story, Ash Mistry – I found it quite dull and lost interest many times. But I still find the Tale Feathers pages a very good idea as it’s something no other 21st century comic has done – good on you, Phoenix!

Meet the Team is a nice bit of filler and has even more beautiful artwork by Matt Baxter – he has a lovely style which works perfectly for the Editorial Team.

Long Gone Don was definitely one of the highlights for me – I love the first page, the clockwork storyline which causes poor Don Skelton to drown in his oxtail soup – certainly a nasty way to go… The zaniness of the next two pages is incredible – lots of shouting and confusion (for both poor Don and the reader!) – I love the ironic humour that Don falls into a large bowl of oxtail soup. Plus, you’ve got to love Castanet!

Taking centre pages is Patrice Aggs’ ‘What Will Happen Next?!’ – a double page-spread puzzle about the clumsiest town ever – Blimpville! The idea is genius and will keep kids sitting at it for ages trying to figure out what will happen next.

How to Make Awesome Comics is probably one of the greatest ideas I’ve heard of to get readers involved in comics – teaching them how to make them! Neill Cameron takes centre-stage drawing the comic-craft strip introducing us to Professor Panels and his primate chum, Art Monkey with his great sense in hatwear. I love the made-up comic covers Neill draws – they look like they could easily become comic strips – maybe an idea for the future, ‘eh Phoenix? 

The Fanfare didn’t actually feature anything being the first issue of course – I love the idea that they actually mention this in a Dear Phoenix letter from one of the Phoenix Editorial Team – certainly made me chuckle!

The Lost Boy sticks out like a sore thumb in this comic – except not in a bad way. After Kate Brown’s Spider Moon serial in the DFC – I thought I was going to hate The Lost Boy. Spider Moon seemed too long with barely anything happening and I was expecting the same from The Lost Boy – except I was wrong. Boy, was I wrong. The story is fast-paced – there’s no dawdling, by the end of the second page he’s already off on his adventure. Kate’s colouring really takes the biscuit though – the humid colour choices are superb and make the strip feel like it’s actually set on a hot island. I also immediately warmed to the lost boy himself – he seemed to be a lot more normal than the characters in Spider Moon who I never actually warmed to – what were their names again, ‘Kay’ and ‘Becca’? – hopefully The Lost Boy stays at this impressive level because so far it’s brilliant.

The Little News page was a good page – it was far more interesting than the Big News page and also made me laugh – the reason for this was because not only was Simone Lia’s Lucie on this page but also the brilliant interview between Scoop Yapski and Neill Cameron. In the small interview, Scoop asks Cameron about his new, secret project named “Awesome-O-Tron 3000” and they soon begin discussing about fights between robots and T-Rex’s. Brilliant. Simone Lia was one of my favourite artists in the DFC – I loved Sausage and Carrots so I was pretty sure Lucie would also be good – needless to say, it was. There’s not a lot I can really say except I found it very funny and that Simone’s simple art style worked perfectly with the storyline. Nice one, Simone!

It’s the first of the Phoenix Feature Specials this week! (Well, actually it’s the second if you include ‘The Apprentice’ in Issue Zero)  The Legend of the Golden Feather is a brilliant four page story about a boy who witnesses the death and birth of a phoenix – the story being beautifully illustrated by Garen Ewing and equally beautifully-written by Ben Haggarty. I loved the ending to it – not a lot actually happened but for some reason it worked really well.

Corpse Talk is one of my favourites – I love the idea of crossing a chat-show with history and zombies plus Adam’s artwork is incredible. Something that’s really impressive about this one page comic strip is that it manages to contain 22 panels (including title panel) on it – it’s almost like a 21st century ‘Jonah’!

Okay, this one’s definitely my absolute favourite – the best of the bunch – the highlight. Okay, I’ll stop now… But really, it’s genius. What am I on about? James Turner’s Star Cat – that’s what! I love everything about it – the humour, the adventure and of course, the pilot! James Turner is a comic genius and deserves to be more well-known than he actually is.

Page 30 is taken up by the first (or is it second?) of Von Doogan’s “dangerous” adventures (although I really wouldn’t call being unable to unlock the front door as dangerous!) – Lorenzo’s puzzle pages are a stroke of genius – the time and effort put into each one is unreal and I’m sure they’ll prove a real hit for the younger readers!

Oh no! We’re nearing the end! Only time for one more comic strip and it’s Chris Riddell’s fairytale-land, Elsewhere – a strange yet wonderful one panel piece in which anything can happen. Riddell’s artwork is a thing of beauty – the care and detail put into every little bit is incredible.

Next Week be sure to read the latest in Long Gone Don and The Lost Boy’s adventures – more “high-seas”, prehistoric adventure with the crew in Pirates of Pangaea and the debut of Gary Northfield’s comic strip, Gary’s Garden – plus Dave Shelton’s Phoenix Feature Special story – Ghost Ant!

Be sure to subscribe to the Phoenix for only £10.00 for five issues or pop down to your “local” Waitrose and get all three copies (available until the 28th January – so hurry!) for only £2.99 each!

That’s all for now, folks! Coming soon: A review of The Phoenix – Issue 2!

– Harry Rickard

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