The Phoenix Weekender – Issue 233

Published On June 25, 2016 | By Richard Bruton | Comics, Comics For Children, Reviews, The Phoenix Weekender

This issue’s cover is by Fred Fordham, a suitably moody atmospheric piece from The Adventures Of John Blake: The Mystery Of The Ghost Ship.

Inside, the John Blake strip by Philip Pullman and Fred Fordham finally answers the question of “where the heck is John Blake anyway?” Unsurprisingly it turns out he’s one of the time-lost crew of the ghost ship, The Mary Alice. Again, not unsurprisingly Blake’s the one who pulls the girl out of the sea after she fell overboard from her family’s sailboat last episode. The Mary Alice is crewed by a diverse cast, with costumes immediately showing the reader that they’re from all points in time.

Not too much happens each episode of John Blake, but that’s to be expected, as Pullman and Fordham’s tale is obviously designed for collection (something which is happening next year by all accounts, and also the reason that you don’t get to see any images from the strip!) However, despite the slow pace, there’s still a tension and excitement in here, it’s reading very well, and Fordham’s art is a delight to see. But if you want an idea of what it looks like there are images in these pieces: The Guardian, The Telegraph.

Now, on with the rest of the comic….

And we’ll start with the funniest thing in the issue, Jamie Smart’s Bunny Vs Monkey, of which I’ve long been a huge fan. There’s just a sheer delight in what he does, the big headed inhabitants of the woodland the very definition of madcap and wacky. Take this week, where Pig and Weenie are recruiting for their (not so secret) society The Order Of The Moose (and yes, it’s a reference to Smart’s excellent Moose Kid Comics project, which you should all be reading!)

It gets very silly, very quickly…. as they set about rescuing a baby bird fallen from its nest….

“Anyway, we can put the ladder against the tree, so the bird can climb up!”
“You’re being ridiculous, a bird can’t climb a ladder!”
“No! The Order Of The Moose is powerful. All hail the Moose!!”
“AWOOGA! AWOOGA!”

But of course, with this lot and a ladder, there was no way Smart was going to resist the classic gag….

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Oh yes, sublime.

And whilst we’re talking sublime, Neill Cameron’s Mega Robo Bros is in for a long run in The Phoenix right now with the Mega Robo Celebrities storyline seeing poor Alex really suffering when Freddy decides to start milking his new found fame, and what better way than a Vu Tube channel? The relationship between the two robo boys is perfect, the slightly older, shier brother completely at odds with his younger sibling. And as always Cameron gets so much emotion across in the robo faces…

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Neill Cameron’s also involved in Tamsin and the Dark, this time writing whilst Kate Brown provides some incredible artwork. It’s a pleasure to see Cameron mix a really rather mature tale referencing teen pregnancy and the troubles of being a teen boy growing up with a perfect bit of Cornish mythology. And as I say, Brown’s art is a delight.

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Jess Bradley’s Squid Bits is one of those brilliant strips that should have become so tired but thanks to Bradley’s invention, she manages to deliver continued smiles each time she graces the pages…

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There’s a lot of the Tales From HQ strip this issue, which is written (as far as I know) in house and drawn by Lee Robinson. It’s a clever way to integrate the editorial side of the comic with the comics, this issue’s strip very cleverly making a good point about the trouble with drawing a set dividing line… politics and the Euro Referendum get everywhere don’t they?

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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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