Saturday, February 23, 2013

RECENT READINGS 2/23/2013 = I’m Going A Little Bats Again

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BATMAN AND ROBIN #16 (DC, March 2013):  I’ve been reading here and there around the fringes of the “Death Of The Family” storyline and avoiding the main BATMAN title, preferring to read it in one fell swoop once the trade paperback is released.  Just because I’m curious I pick up a Bat-related title here and there and find most of them to be non-essential to the main story.  However, the BATMAN AND ROBINDeath Of The Family” crossover stories are really good and feel directly linked into the main plot.  You’ve got to admire what scripter Peter Tomasi has done with the son of Batman.  He’s really developed Damian in a realistic fashion well beyond the original template by Grant Morrison, and probably created a warm spot in our hearts for what was originally set up to be a completely heartless character.  Issue #16 is a prime example.  Robin goes up against a Jokerfyed version of Batman and rather than defend himself by killing him, he tries to avoid serious injury while attempting to overcome the suggestions implanted by Joker = “kill Robin.”  Robin has also been subjected to some of the Joker’s serum and tries to resist its influence by quoting Sun Tzu.  As good as Tomasi is, artist Pat Gleason is right on par.  The facial expressions he draws out of the characters and the great body language he details really help communicate the intensity of this situation.  In a disturbing side incident, is that the missing Alfred under the Joker’s makeup?  I hope not.  This is the other Bat book you should be reading.

BATMAN AND ROBIN #17 (DC, April 2013):  Events here occur following the conclusion of “Death Of The Family” although as I read the opening pages I wasn’t entirely sure of that.  I thought for a moment (with great concern) that Robin was still a captive of The Joker and experiencing delusional events while under the influence of his mysterious serum.  I’m not going to spoil this story for you by telling you that Bruce, Damian and Alfred all retire to bed after a hard day and all experience vivid realistic dreams that incorporate all the concerns and dreads that they have been experiencing recently.  But dreams of fear can also morph into dreams of wish fulfillment and hope, and the issue concludes with a very warm message.  Damian worries - - is there a dark side to my father?  The joyous last days together of the Wayne family (Thomas Wayne, Martha Wayne and young Bruce) and the tragic “death” of that family trio left a powerful imprint that is the core of Bruce Wayne/Batman.  Does Damain fill a void in Bruce’s life and bring some light to the darkness?  I choked up as I got near the end of this issue.  Wonderfully imagined by Peter Tomasi and brought to life by Pat Gleason’s illustrations, this is another Bat book that you should pick up. (I must seem like a broken record).

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BATMAN AND ROBIN ANNUAL #1 (DC, March 2013):  If you want a single sampling of Peter Tomasi’s contributions to the Batman mythos, this annual is the perfect one-shot.  There is so much put into this story I’m amazed by how smooth it is to read.  There is more character development of both Bruce and Damian, plus some insights into Alfred’s background as well as the Wayne family.  All this is wrapped around an intriguing main story involving Damian’s persuading his father to engage in a global scavenger hunt so that he can put on his modified suit and play the role of Batman during night patrols. Damian’s various encounters with thugs and armored villains, as well as his communications with Commissioner Gordon and associates = is worth the price of admission.  The only thing that could have made this even better for me would be if this issue was illustrated by the great Pat Gleason.  However, artist Ardian Syaf does a very commendable job.  Some of the panels are delightful to look at.  I’m not a big fan of Syaf, but feel that this issue may be the absolute best of his work that I’ve seen so far.  

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DETECTIVE COMICS #17 (DC, April 2013):  I’m amazed at the creative talents of John Layman on his signature book, CHEW, but thought him an odd choice to take over the scripting chores on DETECTIVE COMICS.  Forget about it!  This is great!  It’s just a stand-alone story but it’s chock full of good stuff.  We Batman fans are blessed to have Layman join Snyder and Tomasi as the triumvirate of Bat-scribes.  Layman takes a different approach - - he remembers the title of the book and actually incorporates some mystery solving and deduction by Batman into his story, as well as show us that’s he’s no stranger to deep psychological probing of characters, especially villains.  The Merry Maker and The League of Smiles are great creations.  There’s also a subtle message about hero worship of flamboyant criminals in the mix that takes a wry jab at modern society and media.  Finally, the backup story is linked directly to the main story and provides further fascinating detail on the origins of The Merry Maker.  This tale ends with an unexpected twist that I didn’t see coming and loved it.  What a finish!  Artists Jason Fabok is a good detailer and will remind readers of Tony Daniels.  Andy Clarke illustrates the “Doctor’s Orders” back-up story with some interesting line detail and great colors by Blond.  I’m going to be checking out some future issues of DETECTIVE COMICS for sure.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Advance Preview: Indie Comics TALES OF FEAR

          Since I’ve learned of the Indie Comics business model that shares printing costs while providing independent creators a showcase to a much larger audience, I’ve gained further appreciation for the titles released by small Aazurn Publishing.  I’ve had several email exchanges with editor/publisher Gary Scott Beatty and was given the opportunity to preview this latest endeavor, available now for pre-order through the February issue of PREVIEWS and Diamond Distribution:

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Indie Comics Magazine Presents Gary Scott Beatty’s TALES OF FEAR #1 ( Aazurn Publishing, Spring 2013, $4.75)  Story and Art: Gary Scott Beatty.  Suggested for Mature Readers.

          Described by its’ creator as “classic horror modernized for today’s comic readers”, TALES OF FEAR is “six tales of dread that push the boundaries of good taste.”

          “TALES FROM THE CRYPT (1950’s EC Comics) was groundbreaking, but that was over 60 years ago,” Beatty explained.  “I set out to break away from the mindset that a comic book has to be a CREEPY clone to be a horror anthology.”

          TALES OF FEAR contains 6 complete short horror stories, all shaded in black and white and most between 6-8 pages.  After a quick set-up, each vignette cuts to the chase immediately with an anticipated twist or punch line.  Some may produce a chuckle; some may produce a cringe or shiver. Some push the envelope a little bit, depending on your expectations.  What’s absent is boredom or mediocrity.  This is a very good debut; and I’d welcome another issue or two of the same.

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          The most outrageous and darkly humorous story is the very first offering, “Zombie Porn”.  In a time when zombies are everywhere as well as an age of exploitation, it was only a matter of time before some scheming entrepreneur came up with a way to make money from the living dead.  Zombies can be subdued somewhat, and lose their urge to bite after downing some cough medicine.  Since undead males have already passed through the rigor mortis stage, this leaves them with an eternal erection.  So they become the star attractions in a new style of pornography.

          What caught my attention immediately upon reading this story was the different look to the art. I was reminded of the rotoscoping technique that looks like photographs were traced over. Rotoscoping was employed more frequently in cartoon movies of some decades past (Ralph Bakshi’s The Lord Of The Rings 1978 animated feature, for one).

          The second story, “Giants Fishing”, about fishing with some unusual bait owes some inspiration to a classic Twilight Zone episode involving a group of people trapped in a cylinder.  The art is similar to the first story, but just a little bit different.  Is this original art by Beatty that was then doctored to make it look like rotoscoping?  This continued to distract me as I read further.  Maybe it is the inks or shades used to make it look like photos?  Curiosity got the better of me, and I decided to contact Beatty by email.

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          He replied: “When I first started writing a horror book, I realized I needed to develop a more realistic illustration style to present the gore in the over-the-top way I envisioned.  I ditched the 50’s album cover style I’ve been working in since my “Jazz: Cool Birth” (2008) and leaped in with photos, CGI software, and Photoshop techniques to build what I think is a completely different look.”

          “I think modern CGI cartoons are too slick, and I didn’t want that plastic effect.  I piece together references from different sources on a page and work them over in software for a rougher, painterly feel.”

          “I think the illustrations in TALES OF FEAR #1 set the book apart, with no brushstroke in sight and no India ink blacks.  I’m going for a “video game in watercolor” look.  Readers can decide if they like it or not.  I think it adds some gravity to the gore.”

          The experienced artist in Beatty has never been content to follow the crowd.  His Xeric Grant winning “Jazz: Cool Birth” featured art inspired by 1950’s album cover design.  Unlike that Jazz style, the illustrations for TALES OF FEAR are computer brushed, nearly photo-realistic.  “I returned to my painter training, said Beatty.  “I use today’s computer tools to come up with an in-your-face look well suited to the crime scene documentation demands of grim horror.”

          A street gang that likes to break into meth labs and steal the drugs finds trouble when they enter the wrong basement laboratory in “Crack”.  A disgruntled former employee with murder on his mind uses text messages to terrorize his prey in “TXT”.

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          “Rays List” features a robber using social media to locate his sites and find out when homes will be empty.  All six stories are introduced by a skeletal narrator/host, who wraps up with “Door”, a story of his own demise.  An explorer of dark arts studies the ancient “Aazurn” texts and discovers a special key that unlocks a gateway to various dream worlds.

          “Readers can see if my illustrations are to their taste,” said Beatty.  “I’m sure I’ll get snubbed by traditionalists, but I’d get pretty bored playing it safe, and I’m betting there are comic book readers out there who agree mine is a great style to creep you out.”  (Yes, Gary. We agree! )

          TALES OF FEAR #1 is only available through pre-order using February 2013’s PREVIEWS comic book catalog, listed under Aazurn Publishing. Contact your local or online comic shop to get a copy.   http://indiecomicsmagazine.com/

Friday, February 15, 2013

Recent Readings 2/15/2013: samplings from various publishers

 

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ALL STAR WESTERN #16 (DC, March 2013): The mix-up between JONAH HEX and Mr. Hyde apparently concludes here, and it ends in style. The TOMAHAWK back-up feature also wraps up. If you want a nice short set to help you get a feel for what this title has to offer, pick up ALL STAR WESTERN #13, 14, 15, and 16. Mr. Hyde visits the Arkham estate, which sits high on a hill overlooking Gotham. He wants to check up on his efforts to transform Amadeus Arkham and/or kill him. Dr. Arkham is still in re-hab but Jonah Hex is there, wheelchair bound, sober and still recuperating under a nurse’s close supervision. He needs to fight dirty to get the upper hand on Hex. We also meet Amadeus’ mother, who is quite mad and living a fantasy life through classic novels. Hex shows a little compassion. The best thing about TOMAHAWK is the fabulous art and colors, as well as the great attention paid to historic details. Tomahawk has a final confrontation with the British Colonel Lancaster, who betrayed the Indian tribes. Tomahawk remains defiant and seems to be the catalyst for uniting the fragmented tribes in their defense against westward and northern expansion. Historically interesting, but emotionally lacking due to weak character development. Next issue begins a new back-up - - the western equivalent of the STORMWATCH team. That should be more interesting.

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BLEEDING COOL MAGAZINE #2 (Avatar, January 2013) The second issue focuses on all ages comics, including the major success of MY LITTLE PONY at IDW and ADVENTURE TIME at Boom! as well as rising asking prices due to back issue demand among collectors. Anyone with children to read to or using comics to help develop their children’s reading and vocabulary skills will want to pick this up for a good list of recommended titles. For the rest of us, there is Part 2 of a lengthy, detailed interview with Alan Moore that explores further his interest in bringing the concepts and mythos of H P Lovecraft into the modern era. With scholarly (but not boring) entries like this, BLEEDING COOL MAGAZINE more than earns its keep, and sets itself more in the company of the late lamented COMICS BUYERS GUIDE rather than hang with the fan-boyish WIZARD, HERO, etc. For those who can’t get enough of the scuttlebutt and gossip that Rich Johnston built his reputation on, he offers an article on “Comic Book Feuds”. This issue wraps up with a preview of what are expected to be the highlights of 2013 and a price guide to recent books with highly rising values.

 

DEATHMATCH #2 (Boom!, January 2013) I kept looking DMatch 2_cvrat this book, marveling at the art, and wondering where I had seen Carlos Magno’s work before. It was in the superb PLANET OF THE APES series for Boom! That gives me another good reason to keep picking up this book- - - to see what Magno is capable of when drawing a superhero title. So far it’s been dynamite! Paul Jenkins deserves a lot of credit too - - just two issues into this title with brand-new characters and he quickly sets them apart, gives them personality and life, and makes you care about some of them. So far, I’m rooting for Dragonfly, Sable (like a female Batman detective), Rat (creepy but cool, in a Rorschach way- who he also resembles) , George Truman (a patriot who cried when he had to kill a super-dog in the first round) and Manchurian (a super-intellect who defeated his opponent by a mathematical demonstration that it couldn’t possibly exist). More secrets and details get revealed this issue, but there are still several layers that Jenkins hasn’t unraveled or explained yet. Suspense builds as more heroes are eliminated (permanently) and bickering and suspicions take center stage among the survivors. If you passed up this book because you figured it would be just a Hunger Games rip-off – you still have time to check it out. It’s definitely worth your time. I’m pleasantly surprised and enjoying this.

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REPOSSESSED #1 of 4 (Image, January 2013) Like a cross between GHOSTBUSTERS and THE PUNISHER, REPOSSESSED relates the adventures of a trio of demon-busting bounty hunters who aim to rid the world of the monstrous creations of the devil that inhabit us. It’s pretty funny (to me, anyway) to see three rugged, hard individuals (including one tough female) dressed as bikers and gang-bangers spouting phrases you expect to hear more from cloaked, mystical figures (Iike Doctor Strange), such as: “I constrain thee, O thou spirit by all the names aforesaid and in addition by these seven great names bound thee: Akalai, Magnamaton, Preyai, Inessenfatoal, Anaphaxeton, Pathtumon, and Itemon! I bound thee!” Scripter JM Ringuet seems to be having a lot of fun creating demonic/magical sounding names and incantations and his dialogue is loaded with them - - so much so, that at one point one member exhorts the other: “Clay! Less talking more shooting!” The art, also the responsibility of JM Ringuet, is similar to the style seen in most Vertigo, crime and mature titles (just something I noticed) and pleasing to the eye. Ringuet is also the inker, letterer and colorist and uses some unusual combinations, particularly lots of blue and red. Sometime I felt like I was looking at a 3-D comic book without the benefit of the glasses. REPOSSESSED is a nice diversion from the more serious horror books and deserves some recognition.

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SON OF MERLIN #1 of 5 (Image/Top Cow, February 2013) As long as publishers are willing to offer the debut titles of new books for one thin dollar, then I’m going to risk it and check them out. Most of the time, I’m rewarded with an entertaining read - - even when I decide not to follow up on later issues. SON OF MERLIN is a good read, reminding me of some of the better issues of another Top Cow series – WITCHBLADE. This new series deals with classic Arthurian legends and gives them a contemporary 21st century update. It takes that long for witchy enchantress Morgana La Fey to catch up to ancient Merlin in New York City and neutralize him. Just long enough for his associate Gwen to find and convince an M.I.T. fusion scientist that he’s the son of Merlin and needs to carry on in his absence. Good script. Accessible characters. Engaging art. A nice debut.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentines Day = Share the Superhero Love

Superhero window cleaners cheer up children at Pittsburgh hospital

 . . . . . as published in the Pittsburgh PA METRO NEWS free press . . . . .

By Mark Molloy Wednesday 6 Feb 2013 12:37 pm

 

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Grime fighters: The superhero window cleaners (Picture: Barcroft)

After clearing the streets of crime, these kind-hearted superheroes decided to tackle the dirty windows of a US children’s hospital.

Stunned patients at the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh were treated to the unusual sight of Spider-Man and Captain America washing their windows.

Batman and Superman also joined in the clean-up, with the grime fighters on a mission to brighten the day of children battling illnesses.

Organizer Edward Matuizek, president of Allegheny Window Cleaning, said his superhero employees received a hero’s welcome from the surprised kids.

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The superhero window cleaners in action (Picture: Barcroft)

‘All the guys had tears of joy in their eyes behind the costumes – it was very touching and overwhelming how excited the children were,’ he explained.

Children rushed to the windows to see the experienced high-rise washers abseiling across the building attached to safety harnesses.

The firm, which spent around £500 on the costumes, has made the scheme a cornerstone of their community work and has more superhero jobs planned for the future.

Last year, a caped crusader known as the ‘real-life Batman’ hit the headlines after giving up his time to visit sick children in hospitals across Montgomery County in a Batmobile. 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

In Search Of Scares: Enter the DARK UNIVERSE

 

The last five years have seen a renaissance in quality horror and dark fantasy entertainment in comics. That comes as a welcome respite from the avalanche of superhero titles that threaten to bury us under. (“Cut one head off, and several more shall take its’ place!”)  Those who are willing to do a little extra hunting and explore the darker corners of the comic book world shall be rewarded, as I was the day the DARK UNIVERSE entered my inbox.

TALES FROM WILLIAM F. NOLAN’S DARK UNIVERSE #1 (Bluewater Productions) William F. Nolan & Jason Brock: writers.  Scott Boyce: Art, Halloween Man.  James Bolton: Art, Heart’s Blood.  Warren Montgomery, Letterer.  Mike Dorman, cover.  http://www.bluewaterprod.com/

That cover is so eye-catching!  It may just be the best “infinity” cover to drop in recent times, and is definitely award-worthy. The only audience member (matinee, perhaps?) of a spacious old-time movie theatre turns his back and flees after seeing his image repeated on the screen, ad infinitum. What makes this extra memorable is the fact that he appears to be hurtling over the seats with a look of absolute terror on his face. Artist Mike Dorman ramps up the visual effects by placing this scene within a rotated, angular/diagonal view. Magnificent!

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DARK UNIVERSE is meant to showcase graphic adaptations of stories contained within the DARK UNIVERSE omnibus, a collection of short works by author William F. Nolan.  Nolan writes across various genres and is most noted for co-authoring science-fiction novel LOGAN’S RUN with George Clayton Johnson.  He shares scripting chores in Bluewater’s DARK UNIVERSE with Jason Brock, his editing partner on several dark fantasy anthologies. (The Bleeding Edge, The Devil’s Coattails, etc.)

The overall feel after reading and viewing several pages of Issue #1 is that of entering the world of The Twilight Zone television series, which is a welcome feeling indeed.  The art in first story “The Halloween Man is colored in gray and sepia tones with subtle washes of color in select panels.  It gives the story an unnatural feel and brings up nostalgic memories of classic Twilight Zone episodes.  This story ends with a twist as many of those early black-and-white thrillers did as well.

An adult neighbor scares inquisitive young little Katie with tales of The Halloween Man, who carries a big sack to collect children’s souls.  The image he creates in a young imagination is so frightening that Katie’s school grades begin to suffer and her parents seek psychiatric counseling.  But it doesn’t help, and things progress in a downward fashion culminating in events occurring the evening of October 31st - - which you may guess and wonder at.  I saw it coming but it still entertained me, especially as portrayed by artist Scott Boyce who knows when to exaggerate human features at the appropriate times.

Second story Heart’s Blood centers on a Hollywood screenwriter and director who returns to his Missouri hometown to scout locations for a film depicting a high school shooting.  An eerie feeling develops early in this quirky little town, devoid of young people who have “gone to the big cities” as the mayor dismisses the details.  The art by James Bolton, with its distorted caricatures of individuals in brownish and muted tones also lends to the uneasy mood.  The director must resort to bringing in busloads of Los Angeles students to make up his cast, an addition that is much welcomed by the local townsfolk who are equally delighted to learn that the young director and his wife are expecting a newborn very shortly.  The suspense builds along with the suspicions and the tension builds quickly to an ending at a very unexpected point.  The story just stops, leaving it to the reader to resolve whether what just occurred was imaginary or real.  As debut issues go, this one doesn’t fully satisfy but leaves a craving for more.

TALES FROM WILLIAM F. NOLAN’S DARK UNIVERSE #2  (Bluewater Productions)  William F. Nolan & Jason Brock: writers.  Steve Wands: art,  Boyfriend.  Michael Dorman: art, Him Her Them.  David Hopkins, letterer.  Steve Wands:  cover.

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DARK UNIVERSE Issue #2 contains my favorite of the four stories so far.  “Boyfrienddetails how love finds an isolated and abandoned immature young girl and brings a new world to her doorstep. The main character relates past events as they occurred via a letter to her runaway father, which she is composing as the story moves forward.  The setting is an isolated cabin far back in the woods of what may be Appalachia, based on the lack of spelling skills and phrasing seen in her letter.  This is communicated most effectively in the captions, which are lettered as if they actually were being composed in primitive font on an ancient worn-out typewriter.  The art by Steve Wands beautifully conveys the backwoods feel, as every panel appears as if painted, reminiscent of the old Grumbacher tubes of oil color splashed across canvas.  The young 18-year old, now part of an unlikely couple, does her best to convey through words how different and quirky her boyfriend is, including his strange diet. There is no big twist to this ending, as the entire story is twisted and darkly delightful.

“Him, Her, Them”, the back-up story is depicted in very effective black and white by artist Michael Dorman.  The opening full page of the main character strolling down an unidentified town, surrounded by high buildings and highway overpasses helps to convey his solitary-by-choice nature.  He’s not a nice or likeable person who manipulates and abuses others especially women, who he fatally discards when finished with.  He appears to meet his soul mate and ends up in a different style of Mexican stand-off. There is a twist ending here that is also unsatisfying, similar to the end story in Issue #1.

However, this may just be a faithful adaptation of the source material.  William F. Nolan is a master of the concise yet powerful short story.  Like many of his works, he hooks readers quickly through scene-setting, gets you interested as the action picks up, and then ends it abruptly.  That will leave most of us wishing for more.  Here’s hoping the first two issues merit several encores.

DARK UNIVERSE is not available through the conventional means of distribution, namely via Diamond Distribution.  It can be easily obtained in digital format via numerous sources including ITunes, Amazon and Comixology. Print copies are available through EBay and  http://www.comicfleamarket.com/servlet/StoreFront.   Comic book stores can expect the standard wholesale discounts (similar to Diamond) when ordering through Comics Flea Market.

Friday, February 8, 2013

The 2012 GHASTLY AWARD Winners announced

from the official press release . . . . .

The Ghastly Award Judges are proud to announce the Winners of the 2012 Ghastly Awards.  Nominees were chosen from entries nominated by their professional peers: Comic Book Artists, Writers, and Publishers.   Winners were chosen by the Ghastly Awards Judges, Comic Book Creators and the Fans.

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The 2012 Winners are:

Best Ongoing Title:      The Walking Dead (Image)

Best Mini-Series:     Deadworld: War of the Dead (IDW)

Best One-Shot:     Edgar Allan Poe’s The Conqueror Worm (Dark Horse)


Best New Series (Fans Decided the Winner):     Mars Attacks (IDW)

Best Anthology:     Creepy (Dark Horse)

Best OGN:     Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse Book 1 (Heavy Metal)

Best Archival Collection:      The Chilling Archives of Horror Comics: Zombies (IDW/Yoe Books)

Best Writer:      Steve Niles
(Criminal Macabre, 30 Days of Night, Transfusion, Frankenstein Alive, Alive, Lot 13)

Best Artist:      Simon Bisley
(Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Hellblazer)

Best Inker:     Bernie Wrightson
(Frankenstein Alive, Alive)

Best Letterer:     Nate Piekos
(Creepy, The Goon, Ragemoor)

Best Colorist:     Dave Stewart
(B.P.R.D.)

Best Web Comic:     Crossed: Wish You Were Here
(www.crossedcomic.com)

Hall  of  Fame  Inductees:                                                                                                                                                            Al Feldstein & Bill Gaines
Bernie Wrightson

Named for acclaimed comics creator "Ghastly" Graham Ingels, the Awards are in their 2nd year. Created to honor excellence in Horror Comics, every comic creator had a say in who the nominees were by nominating their favorites throughout the year.

The submission process is now open for the 2013 Awards!   For more information on the Ghastly Awards, or to submit your horror comics for the 2013 Award season please go to www.ghastlyawards.com.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

HARBINGER 2: A Valiant young Harada

The new VALIANT books are all worthwhile, combining engaging story and intriguing art. The best of the bunch is HARBINGER, which recently supplanted X-O MANOWAR as my favorite of the new titles based on recent issues. Get them both - - but if you’re on a tight budget then pick up HARBINGER. Issue #0, which drops in comics stores today (2/06)  is a great starting point.  Just in case you’re not a regular reader of this website, HARBINGER was named my PGHHEAD PICK FOR THE BEST REBOOT OF 2012 and you can read more about the first story arc in our Blog Archive for January 8, 2013.

HARBINGER is a thoroughly entertaining look at the seemingly unlimited power of the mind as exhibited by various characters and epitomized by the two main protagonists - - the wealthy “humanitarian” Toyo Harada and Peter Stanchek the extremely powerful but uncontrollable rebellious student who didn’t last long before breaking out of Harada’s school for mentally gifted.  They are two defined opposites.  Consider careful planning versus spontaneous reaction.  Harada is a character you admire but don’t trust, and therefore have a hard time liking. Stanchek is an unstable, unpredictable, disturbed character who also happens to be in possession of super-powers and uses them improperly - - and is even harder to really like.  But because of the scripting talent of Josh Dysart you become fascinated and can’t get enough of either one of them.

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HARBINGER #6 -8 (Valiant November 2012 – January 2012) Writer: Joshua Dysart. Penciler: Phil Briones (#6). Art: Barry Kitson with Lee Garbett and Khari Evans (#7) Art: Lee Garbett (#8) Inkers: Andrew Hennessy with Phil Briones (#6). Colors: Ian Hannin (#6). Color Art: Ian Hannin with Dan Brown (#7). Color Art: Moose Baumann (#8). Lettering: Rob Steen.

There is one character that I can muster a little more warmth for = Kris Hathaway, Stanchek’s childhood “friend” who was telepathically manipulated to love him. She was later freed from Peter’s mental control, leaving her feeling betrayed, angry, empty and used in the worst way. Issue #6 shows her recovering from her mental funk and coming to terms with her situation. She’s very smart and totally bored with school, but these are just “normal” mental powers that she developed through her own personal readings. I’m reminded of Spider-Man a little bit by her situation. She’s not living with relatives like Peter Parker did, but her family situation is shaky. Her father is unemployed, uninsured and recovering from a stroke. Her mom tries to manage the rising medical bills, hang onto their home while keeping the debt collectors at bay and hopes for spiritual support to get by. Peter Parker used his super-powers initially to try and make some money to help his family. Kris is a powerless Peter Parker. Instead she uses the abilities of others to try and make/obtain some money and aid her family. She opts to become the manager of Peter Stanchek’s life, help him plan his comeback/revenge on Harada, and grab some money (bank-robbing, etc.) as compensation for her efforts. Okay, maybe she’s not totally righteous and proper but I’m still rooting her to come out on top.

The other character to keep an eye on is Faith (who names herself Zephyr so she can realize her superhero fantasies). Faith is an eternally optimist overweight high school misfit whose psiot powers are activated by Peter. In gratitude for her feats of flight, she rescues a badly beaten Peter from what could have been a fatal confrontation with Harada. My second favorite line of Issue #6 is a thought caption from Kris: “Faith is a good name for this woman.” (You’ll need to read it in context to fully appreciate it.) My favorite line is also a thought caption from Kris regarding Harada: “This man can do anything. Kill anyone. Affect everything. And I ask myself, why is it considered heroic when a person with great power decides what’s right for the rest of us?”

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The resourceful and becoming admirable Kris also gets the better of Harada while avoiding the next confrontation, and obtains the list of “rogue” psiots not under the protective umbrella of the Harada Foundation. She then helps Peter start to form a group of Renegades so that his side will have a better chance next time. She seems to be the brains of this loose group and Peter begins to act a little more stable and less chaotic after allowing her to pull his strings.

In Issue #7, the other secret organization interested in Peter and other psiots - the militaristic Project Rising Spirit – returns. We meet some new latent psiots which Peter and Kris recruit and then activate. There’s pole-dancing Flamingo with incendiary abilities. Her initial meeting and back and forth trash-talking conversation with Kris is funny and not to be missed. In Issue #8 we meet Torque, the dumb but strong and powerful protector of his crippled, bedridden brother. Oh, wait - - the muscular guy may just be a projection made physical by the mental abilities of the guy with the useless legs. This should be interesting.

OK. I’ve caught you up with events without giving away too much. Remember to check out this next issue, which debuts February 6. I was lucky enough to get an advance preview.

HARBINGER #0 (Valiant, February 2013) Writer: Joshua Dysart. Artists: Mico Suayan & Pere Perez. Color Art: Brian Reber. Letters: Dave Lanphear with Rob Steen.

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Which brings us to this issue, and a great place to begin as well as a great place to continue. “Few know the events that put Harada on the road to save the world from itself . . . and fewer still know why that mission is so personal” - - - and this issue gives us the details and background.

Hiroshima, Japan August 1945 is when Harada’s powers were activated by the atomic bomb devastation during which he lost his family. This issue flips back and forth between a very young and alone Harada finding his way (and his powers) where selfishness and corruption bloom anew amidst devastation. These events probably turned Harada perceptions enough to help determine his future mission - - - however he learned way too early the power of violence and fear. This background story contrasts with the present when an also young Darpa gets his first mission from mentor Harada and uses his powers to influence events in modern Syria. It’s a dark little one-shot story that’s sure to make you want to look further within HARBINGER.