FCBD: What About The Books? Part Three
(For an explanation of my FCBD book rating system, see my article from Sunday, May 09, 2010 titled "FCBD: What about the books? Part One".)
RADICAL FCBD 2010 (Radical Comics)
previews of DRIVER FOR THE DEAD, TIME BOMB, AFTER DARK, and THE RISING
If you are unfamiliar with the works of Radical Comics this is a great place to start for a good overview of their current offerings - - - and you can't beat the price - - - FREE! - - no risk to you other than the time spent. In their short history RADICAL has earned its reputation (with me at least) for high quality works with gorgeous (usually painted) art and production values. Rather than publish ongoing monthly series, RADICAL concentrates on limited series in various genres: fantasy, science-fiction, horror, crime, western, etc. The FCBD issue covers one horror tale and three science fiction stories. Each of the four limited series previewed in RADICAL FCBD 2010 is worthwhile - - and I'll be following two of them for sure (DRIVER FOR THE DEAD + TIME BOMB), and at least trying out the first full issues of the other two (AFTER DARK + THE RISING).
Lead-off position is held down by an engaging 13-page preview of DRIVER FOR THE DEAD written by John Heffernan (Snakes On A Plane) with remarkable illustrations by Leonardo Manco (various Vertigo and Marvel works).
I have long admired Manco's work and am absolutely astounded and amazed by his work here, which surpasses anything I have seen before and raises expectations to even greater heights. The art even ventures beyond the trademark Radical style of painted imagery and into what I'm describing as photo-realism. The backgrounds look like actual photos, yet they don't appear to be trickery in the form of tracing or rotoscoping but something new entirely. There is an opening panel of a sunrise over a lavish home development in Shreveport, Louisiana that is just perfect. And the full page image of healer Moses Freeman approaching the front entrance of a high-columned mansion enshrouded by overhanging tree branches and moss is a real beauty. There is a lot of scenery to admire here, including some very sharp detail on the featured automobiles (and hearse!) in the story. Colors and inks are perfect as well, with varyings shades of gray, brown, red and gold to add to the gloom.
In the first issue preview, DRIVER FOR THE DEAD offers not one but two equally compelling characters, and devotes the majority (10 pages) of this short preview to Moses Freeman who is not the major player here. Freeman is a hoodoo/black magic exterminator of sorts, and is called by a newly arrived family to their home to help their apparently possessed and comotose young son recover. Moses Freeman's name may seem familiar to you, and that is probably because of a same-sounding association with actor Morgan Freeman (and the facial close-ups by Manco definitely were influenced by Morgan's features). The suspense builds as Freeman sets up shop inside the Connors home and prepares to engage in a mystical duel with whatever is immobilizing young Billy.
It's a nice relief from the tension of the opening pages to cut to the humorous captioned narration of the main character, Alabaster Graves, in the final two pages.
But his situation is just as dangerous considering his occupation is to drive a hearse and take on assignments that other drivers won't. While transporting the presumed dead body of a newly converted vampire, Graves sums up his situation nicely: "The mom called the cops. The cops called the coroner, and the coroner called me. Unfortunately, it being New Orleans, everyone took their time. . . . . Now I gotta cut his head off, cross his legs, bury him upside down, and get the hell out of there before sunset = which is in exactly four minutes. . . . And the nearest cemetery is fine minutes away." Oh, I'm sure I'm going to like DRIVER FOR THE DEAD.
Writer Heffernan gets your attention early and moves this story along at a rapid pace. I also appreciate the use of the seemingly appropriate and cryptic names (Moses Freeman, Alabaster Graves) including the title of the story = "Go Down Moses." The story summary on the credits page reveals the link between Freeman and Graves, which will make up the major conflict/resolution of this series. I don't want to spoil your fun by telling you about it now. Highly recommended.
The second 10-page preview is of TIME BOMB written by Jimmy Palmiotti & Justin Gray with illustrations by Paul Gulacy. That is a combination that is hard to resist. Palmiotti & Gray have done such good work with JONAH HEX at DC, which will make it interesting to see what that can do with this time-travel tale. And Paul Gulacy will never disappoint and always gets my attention. He's one of my favorite artists.
Judging from the preview, TIME BOMB looks to be a mix of science fiction, WWII action, modern spy intrigue, and time travel. During an archeological dig in Berlin a hidden city is discovered beneath the modern streets - - a hidden refuge for the Nazi party and location of a doomsday weapon, which has now been triggered by the recent activity. We are introduced to several agents of the "New World Order" (NWO), one of whom will remind you of James Bond with his manners. And before the preview ends, you'll see another alleged "agent" (but maybe not NWO) in Bond-like action.
The opening pages summary informs that an elite team will be sent back in time to the day before the bomb triggered to try to correct the activities that caused it to begin the countdown. A glitch occurs, and they transport back to the actual days of Hitler's reign in Germany.
The concept of AFTER DARK was developed by director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day) and actor Wesley Snipes, and then scripted by Peter Milligan with illustrations by Jeff Nentrup (concept artist for several films). The story takes place in the future on a different planet following a major disaster. Prior to that, Solar City was beset by various gangs of rebels and anarchists trying to avoid the highly militant and vigilant government. Two interesting characters are revealed but not enough details provided to get a clear idea of their motivations or what role they will play in the story to come.
For a twelve-page preview there is not a lot of content. However, the situations are intriguing and I'm going to be a little more patient when I know Peter Milligan is involved in the scripting. He's always quirky and off-beat but delivers some interesting works every time. And the art is worth the price of admission and a great example of the colorful painted style I see in Radical books.
The final preview, THE RISING, also features a creative team new to the comics medium. It's scriped by writer E. Max Frye (Band of Brothers) and drawn by artist J.P. Targete (an illustrator at Pixar Studios). This apparently takes place on a future Earth which has been conquered by an alien race. With the human population greatly reduced, the survivors seem complacent to accept the rule of their new oppressors with the exception of a group of freedom fighters. It's hard to tell how complex or developed the story will be from this preview, which concentrates on depicting a skirmish. However, the art is very dynamic, with the best use of colors and inks of all the titles in this preview. It's definitely worth a look at Issue #1 when it comes out.
COVER APPEAL = 2 POINTS. Maybe a little too dark, but if you want to grab the horror fan it's extremely effective. STORY = 3 POINTS. A lot to like here. ART = 3 POINTS. Ditto. YOUTH APPEAL = 0. Not suggested for young readers. NEW READER APPEAL = 3. Four lengthy previews. Great art. 45 pages!! If you can only get a few FCBD titles this would surely be one of them. PROMOTIONAL CONSIDERATIONS = 3 POINTS. Gives a nice overview by example of what Radical Comics are all about. Plus a detailed text piece about the company on the inside cover and back cover teaser ad with web address, phone applications, and an toll free number! BONUS POINTS = 2. If I could only personally recommend a few FCBD books, this would be one of them.
GRAND TOTAL = 16 POINTS. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. This represents the industry proudly!