Sunday, March 31, 2013

Recent Readings 3/31/2013: A Mix of Old and New

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BALTIMORE: THE WIDOW AND THE TANK one-shot (Dark Horse, February 2013) Story by Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden. Art by Ben Stenbeck. Colors by Dave Stewart. Letters by Clem Robins.

          As good as Mignola’s recent HELLBOY and B.P.R.D. stories have been, he really shines on the BALTIMORE one-shots. The adventures of Lord Henry Baltimore, Thirteenth Baron Baltimore, of Boscastle in County Durham as he stalks across post-WWI Europe in search of the king vampire Haigus are as grim and determined as their protagonist. There are two stories here; and each is a masterful example of combining story and art in a magical way to tell a very engaging story.

          In “The Widow” Baltimore searches England for Lieutenant Yeardsley, whose small company of men are thought to have died in battle or roaming deserters, depending on whose version is told. The truth is they have all been transformed into vampires by Haigus and Yeardsley hides away in his home, keeping his wife semi-infected in order to maintain the ruse of his disappearance.

          “The Tank” finds Baltimore in France, where a vampire is supposedly living inside an abandoned British tank. The vampire is actually hiding inside the tank to protect himself from an even bigger threat. Baltimore forms an uneasy but short alliance with the vampire. If you aren’t reading some of these you are missing some of the best short form work in horror comics today.

CHEW #1-10 (Image September 2009 – November 2010): Written and Lettered by John Layman. Drawn & Coloured by Rob Guillory.

          Layman and Guillory are major talents and worthy of a larger audience. Layman is garnering new praises as scripter on DC’s DETECTIVE COMICS and you should check that out. Guillory may take a little more homework to locate his more recent works. I’m glad I chose to re-read the first arc again plus the rest of my stockpile (all prompted by a recent sale). I had forgotten what a gem this book is. CHEW is one of the most original (both story and art) works in recent years as well as a thoroughly engaging and amusing read. It’s a wry blend of crime, horror and satire. CHEW is an ongoing title, now up to Issue #32. You can collect all the issues up to #30 in hardcover (in 3 volumes) or trade paperback (in 6 volumes) and I highly recommend that.

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          The premise is that a massive epidemic killed millions of people in the United States and also globally as a result of what the government claimed was an avian flu. As a consequence the raising of chickens and processing of chicken ingredients in food was outlawed. The subsequent distribution of black market chicken by organized crime and others was so widespread that the government increased the power and authority of the Food And Drug Administration (FDA) to investigate and prosecute these crimes. That alone would make for an interesting storyline and subplots. But the characters that are stirred into this chicken gumbo are what really make CHEW come alive, and with bite.

          Let’s give writer Layman some time here. In Issue #1, he says: “Meet Tony Chu. Tony Chu is almost always hungry. And almost never eats. Here’s why: Tony Chu is cibopathic. That means he can take a bite of an apple and get a feeling in his head about what tree it grew from, what pesticides were used on the crop, and when it was harvested. Or he could eat a hamburger and flash onto something else entirely.” As a Philadelphia police officer, those skills often come in handy for Chu, especially when he and partner John Colby stakeout an illegal chicken carry-out operation in an abandoned storefront. Tony samples some of the chicken stew that the cook splashed some blood into from a cut finger, and that sets off his telepathic food forensic abilities. He learns that the chef is a serial killer and makes the arrest, although his partner gets a butchers’ cleaver in the side of the face during the takedown. Tony’s detective work gets the attention of the FDA, and suddenly he has a new job and a new partner, agent Mason Savoy. He also gets a new boss, the angry Mike Applebee who immediately hates Chu and tries to sabotage his job and his health.

          Savoy and Chu’s first assignment in “Tasters Choice” is to investigate the disappearance of health inspector Evan Pepper, whose detached finger turns up in a McBeefy’s hamburger. Of course, Chew has to munch on the finger to learn some of these details and the search is on, leading to an encounter with Yakuza assassins and a huge bounty on Chu’s head. Tony meets and falls in love with Amelia Mintz, a newspaper food writer who is also a saboscrivner, meaning she writes about food so accurately that the readers can actually taste it. Tony saves her as well as a newsroom from anti-chicken prohibition terrorists, but she disappears. Savoy and Chu’s trail next leads to Russia and a joint U.S. – Russian observatory that is a taxpayer financed party site for crooked politicians. This leads back to the Evan Pepper disappearance and the discovery that Chu’s partner has a criminal background, just before he takes a piece of Chu as a bargaining chip.

          It just gets crazier from there. During “International Flavor”, the second story arc, Chu reunites with his former partner Colby who now sports a bionic enhanced jaw and cheekbone. Chu goes on an unauthorized solo mission to a remote island where a strange plant/fruit has been discovered that, when cooked, tastes just like chicken. He runs afoul (a pun, if you do the improper spelling) of a secret military base, a martial arts skilled USDA agent at odds with him, a vampire, a coveted fighting rooster named Pojo, a corrupt police chief, and a local governor holding international chefs (including his brother, Chow Chu) against their will. Oh yeah, there is a murder investigation in the middle of this, and Chu finds out where the lovely Amelia Mintz has been vacationing. Great stuff. Now I need to pick up the remaining 4 trade paperbacks and continue the amusing adventure.

THE CROW: SKINNING THE WOLVES #1 – 3 ( IDW December 2012 – February 2013) Story & Breakdowns: James O’Barr. Story & Art: Jim Terry. Colors: Tom Binko.

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          Perhaps THE CROW can find a new audience in the 21st Century. Since the heights of its popularity in the late 1980’s there has been very little new material available. That’s why this mini-series is such a welcome return. There is certainly a place in horror comics for tales of revenge and redemption as lavishly depicted and illustrated as done here.

          If you’re a fan of the EC Comics / Tales From The Crypt style of art and yearn for a modern update with a splash of ultra-violence thrown in, this book is for you. On the credits page, SKINNING THE WOLVES is dedicated to Harvey Kurtzman and Jack Davis (two legends of 1950s-1960s comics art) and the style employed here is a very respectful and adept homage. The meat of the story is easily absorbed in one reading; but I keep returning again and again to admire the art, superbly highlighted by the clever coloring of Tom Binko.

         The Crow was created by writer/artist James O’Barr following the death of his girlfriend by a drunk driver. It was originally published by Caliber Comics in 1989 and dealt with an unjustly murdered victim who is resurrected by a crow and then seeks revenge. The crow speaks to the revived, acting as guide and sometimes as manipulator. After the original mini-series O’Barr returned to the character for 3 issues from Tundra Comics in 1992, and then followed up with several limited series from Kitchen Sink Press. It’s always enjoyed underground success and then rose in popularity following the release of THE CROW movie in 1994. Other authors and creators have tried their hand writing Crow stories, including John Shirley in 2012 (also IDW). The one constant in each new series has been the presence of a crow, which serves to resurrect the severely wronged and assists them in revenge.

          SKINNING THE WOLVES takes place in a German concentration camp, where a mysterious figure hangs behind as the imprisoned Jewish families leave the cargo hold of the prison train. When soldiers attempt to remove him from the car, he furiously dispatches them in a bloody wave of murder equal to the cruelties of the soldiers upon their captives. He is a former prisoner of this same concentration camp, now revived by the crow and seeking vengeance on the sadistic commandant who killed his wife and daughter during a mandatory life or death game of chess. Time and again he is put down by the German forces, only to revive later and inflict more punishment and death on the entire encampment until he makes his way to his former persecutor and achieves redemption. The reader will easily figure out where this is going after reading the first issue. The magic is in the depiction of events. It’s an artistic achievement and a proper tribute to two legends of the form. This is clearly a case where the dialogue is used to enhance the art as opposed to the art embellishing the storyline.

FLASHPOINT: BATMAN KNIGHT OF VENGEANCE #1-3 (DC, August – October 2011) Written by Brian Azzarello. Illustrated by Eduardo Risso. Color: Patricia Mulvihill. Letters: Clem Robins.

Flashpoint Batman

          I’ve been reading a lot of Batman titles recently, both new and old. This particular mini-series really stands out as the cream of the crop. If you missed it the first go-around, try and find or borrow a copy somewhere. It ranks in the Top 10 Batman stories of all time (my subjective opinion only), even though it’s an Elseworlds type (so it never really happened, at least not on Earth One, right?) As far as “Dark” Batman stories go, it makes the Top 5. Azzarello keeps it grim and gritty throughout. Risso’s work has never looked better. It’s so atmospheric and equally dark. A different Wayne is Batman. He’s aggressive and tough-minded and has a totally different plan for controlling crime in Gotham. Harvey Dent is mayor. Jim Gordon is still a close friend, but a partner in a police-force for hire. Oracle is different, but serves the same function. Batman fights dirty. Joker is crueler than ever, especially when it involves young children. There is a huge shocker at the end of Issue #2. Please take my word on this and read this series.

MY LITTLE PONY MICRO-SERIES #1: TWILIGHT SPARKLE (IDW, February 2013) Story, Art & Letters by Thomas Zahler. Colors by Ronda Pattison.

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          The MY LITTLE PONY books from IDW have been a runaway success. After hearing that many adult males have been seen purchasing these books at Captain Blue Hen Comics I became very curious and joined their ranks by picking up this one-shot. I don’t have any grandchildren to read this to, but I could see how an adult would enjoy sharing this with a young daughter. It’s a good book and conveys a lesson about friendship at the same time. Under the capable hands of Thomas Zahler (LOVE AND CAPES) the story is a fresh and colorful adventure of the purple hued pony with the bangs and matching tale ( indigo, with some red hued stripes). Twilight Sparkle has to put off her studies for the magic test so that she can assist an injured librarian organize the book collections. The librarian is crabby and testy and hard to get along with until the two discover a shared interest in books and a particular author. If you have young daughters or granddaughters I recommend sharing this with them. (Not that I’m biased - - if your son or grandson likes this type of thing - - why deprive them?)

THE SIXTH GUN #7 – 11 (Oni Press, December 2010-April 2011) Written by Cullen Bunn. Illustrated & Lettered by Brian Hurtt. Colored by Bill Crabtree.

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          It is almost two years later before I finished reading the second story arc. That’s got to be a record for me, and an indicator that I may be stockpiling more books than I really should. What prompted me to finish this is an interested buyer. I’m glad I returned. I’d forgotten how great this book is. Now I’m going to be hunting down those trade paperbacks to catch up.

          Writer Cullen Bunn is doing some interesting work over at Marvel. But, if you want a better indication of how close he is capable of flirting with epic masterpiece storylines, then THE SIXTH GUN is the best example of his creativity. It’s a perfect blend of classic western with supernatural elements. If I had to choose between this book and ALL STAR WESTERN/JONAH HEX, then THE SIXTH GUN wins hands down. The art and color are dynamic and a delight to view.

          Things have gotten even darker and mysterious in the second story arc. For those who aren’t familiar with this title, the contents page sums it up nicely: “During the darkest days of the war, an evil man came into possession of six powerful pistols. The Six, as they were called, could bring forth fire, strike with the force of a cannon shell, spread disease, raise up the spirits of the dead, and grant ever-lasting life. After the Razing of Devil’s Forks, the most powerful of the guns vanished only to resurface in the hands of an innocent young woman, following a harrowing escape from the clutches of an undead madman. Becky Montcrief, Drake Sinclair, and Gord Cantrell have holed up at the Velvet Dove in New Orleans as they plot their next move. But Drake wants nothing to do with the magic weapons that have now fallen into his hands.”

          The five-part “Crossroads” story arc marks a turning point as the characters reflect on their situation and make some critical decisions. While they contemplate the next step, evil spirit forces in New Orleans do their best to obtain the power of the pistols. The story occurs in the Louisiana swamps and Orleans cemeteries and also introduces the western equivalent of the Knights Templar plus a likeable gunslinger antihero, adding even more layers of depth to this engrossing setting. Good stuff.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

What’s New? = week of March 25, 2013

 

A & A

MARCH 25: Valiant Entertainment has announced a new story arc beginning in ARCHER & ARMSTRONG #0 (release date May 08) featuring the top secret story of history’s first epic fail. Armstrong will journey into the past in a special standalone tale of dinosaurs, robots, mad kings, and mortal combat that sets the stage for “Far Faraway”, the next four-part arc beginning in June. The epic of Gilgamesh is intertwined with the tale of three immortal brothers (Armstrong, The Eternal Warrior, and Timewalker) on a quest to recover the Boon.

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MARCH 25: Steve Conley, writer/artist of BLOOP, the space monkey has recently wrapped up drawing all pages for the first BLOOP book and is now coloring and lettering them. This is targeted to be at the printers in early April. You can check out the web adventures of BLOOP right here . Steve will also be appearing this Saturday 3/30 at Cards, Comics & Collectibles in Reistertown, Maryland. He’ll be signing the cover he did for Adventure Time comic book. More information and driving directions can be found here .

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MARCH 25: Bluewater Productions releases a new comic book STARLEX featuring Playboy cover model Jenny Poussin on March 27. Co-produced by Dead Bride Comics, STARLEX is written by Dan Barnes, former professional wrestler (“The Metrosexual” Danny Devine). Main character Alexis Starling was a photography student at Los Angeles University. While taking photos of a meteorite shower, a shooting star fuses with her body and she absorbs its power. Digital copies are available for $1.99 from ITunes, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Google Books, Drive Thru Comics, Wowio, and iVerse.

Monday, March 25, 2013

In Search of Shivers: get double CROSSED

 CROSSED:BADLANDS #25 (Avatar Press – March 13, 2013 release) Garth Ennis: Story. Raulo Caceres: Art. Digikore Studios: Color. James Reed: Letters. (Intended for Adult Readers)

Reviewer’s notes: CROSSED: BADLANDS marks my first return to the world of the Crossed since the initial nine-issue story arc a few years back. It didn’t seem possible to me that other writers could duplicate the volatile blend of extreme violence and serious drama that Ennis has such a knack for. After Ennis left the book, and fearing that those who followed in his footsteps would focus on the exploitation elements and disregard the rest, I opted not to continue. However, after returning to these books and also enjoying a twisted but respectful story from a different author (CROSSED ANNUAL 2013) my curiosity is prompting me to explore further into this strange, cruel apocalyptic world. It’s time to check out the Trade Paperbacks. I’m also wondering now if any of the later stories have explained the origin of the Crossed virus or affliction (if that’s what it truly is.)

crossed badlands 25

At first it seems odd to begin this story with a four-page summation/history of the rise of the British Empire. It’s a soldier/mercenary’s reflections on his country as well as his interpretation of events as he contemplates the early British exploration in terms of “trade or steal, to befriend or to murder, to civilize or to subjugate.” As he rests on his back on the grassy knolls at the White Cliffs of Dover, he gazes skyward and partly justifies Britain’s pursuit of “blood for gold” by recognizing that other countries pursued similar quests - - “the division of the spoils.” He ends his restive interlude by recalling the WWII air battle fought over the same skies: “. . . perhaps in recognition of the debt we owed the peoples of the world . . . we fought a battle in the sky to save them all.” Then, on the fifth page he declares his own remorse: “This is England, it’s history written in its’ earth and air and currents . . . And now my men and I will write its end.”

Five years have passed since the outbreak of the Crossed in Great Britain as the powerful opening serves to introduce us to the forces at work in this story. Without making any actual references to the Crossed, a comparison/contrast is laid out in front of us. How different is the mission of the Crossed to envelop the continents in an endless mass of senseless depravity and bloody genocide from the exploratory missions of the Empire? Is it not just a more extreme version of the same thing? And, just as England made amends for its past sins through a decisive air battle, the main character in this story makes his intentions clear to apologize for mankind’s latest transgressions through a total cleansing. After five pages, we want to know more of who, what, when and where and are prepared to spend three more issues in search of those answers. Garth Ennis is bloody brilliant - - and still capable of surprises.

In the next three pages, we learn that the philosophical but also authoritative and decisive strategist Harry (an Englishman?) is the apparent leader of the company of four heavily armed militants that include an Irishman, a Scotsman and A Welshman. There’s the tall Paddy, always wearing a grim expression; the bearded, bald and short Taff – a foul-mouthed master of scatological references who Paddy suspects of Tourette’s syndrome; and Jock the huge, red-bearded longhair with a short tolerance for stupidity among survivors. Once the introductions are complete, the pace picks up as the party spots a wandering band of the Crossed on the grassy plains below.

Just when it seems like the group can easily avoid confrontation, Paddy spots a priest trying to conceal a group of schoolchildren under his care who are directly in the path of the oncoming madness. Rather than endure the sound of young children being slaughtered, Harry’s company decide to intercede and help delay the inevitable a bit longer. They later learn that the priest and children were turned out by his own parishioners - - just another example of survival instincts bringing out equal measures of unkindness among the remaining uninfected.

During a night chat with Harry, the priest learns that their rescuers are not part of a mission to locate survivors, but independent agents on a mission of their own assignment. They seek to locate a former Ministry of Defence biological and chemical warfare centre, “to find out what they’ve got down there and set the whole lot off at once.” It will be interesting to see if Harry’s company accepts the excess baggage as they continue on or simply offer them some survival advice and leave them to fend for themselves.

The art by Raulo Caceres is extremely expressive and suited to the task of depicting the extremes of slaughter, torture and sexual cruelty detailed in Ennis’ grim world. The colors by Digikore Studios are equally vivid and paint a horrific canvas in bright, bloody dashes of red. Stay away if you are squeamish or disturbed by graphic images, even though you will probably miss an enthralling story with a deep message on human society buried in the details.

CROSSED 2013 ANNUAL (Avatar Press – January 2013) Simon Spurrier: Story. Gabriel Andrade: Art. Digikore Studios: color. Jaymes Reed: letters. (Intended for Adult Readers)

Reviewer’s notes: Simon Spurrier is the writer of the free weekly web comic Crossed: Wish You Were Here , which features a group of survivors defending an island against the Crossed. This serialized tale is also known for strong character depiction as opposed to gratuitous bloodshed. After reading the excellent story by Spurrier in CROSSED 2013 ANNUAL, it’s another site I plan to catch up with.

CROSSED 2013 ANNUAL can serve as the perfect jumping on point for new readers curious to see what is holding the attention of a growing legion of comics fans. It will also help those new readers determine whether or not they have the stomach for more, as this issue (unlike the apparently less bloody web comic, also by Spurrier) contains bright red splashes of every heinous act that could possibly be imagined capable of a murderous horde of infected psychopaths. Is it any wonder that the uninfected would not also be driven to madness simply from being eyewitness to these events? Who could blame them for equally insidious acts of cruelty in defense of their sanity?

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CROSSED 2013 ANNUAL focuses on one of the main characters in the weekly web series, Andrew Frazer Jackson, a Scottish soldier-of-fortune with three decades plus of experience in Special Boat Service of M-Squadron (like Navy SEALS), Marines, Infantry, and Covert Ops. Jackson narrates this story to three captives secured to chairs, and in a strong Scottish brogue (perfectly phrased by Spurrier) we learn of his adventures, misfortunes, love and romance, and how he frequently crossed paths with the edges of the infection that later became known as the Crossed affliction. Jackson has become critically unhinged by these events and driven to madness, as he is reputedly depicted in the web series.

He admits to his condition and blames his captives in his introduction to them: “Ah was born in Glasgae, Scotland. Ah’m 58, proudly hetero, prefer salt in m’oats t’sugar, never got along wi’ haggis in spite ‘o the cliché, an’ up til fair-recent times every cunt I kil’t was in uniform. . . . . Alas: intae last month ah murdered somethin’ in the region ay two hundred civilians, an’ ah consider aw mah woes t’be basically your fault. . . . . Awso: . . . . ah’m profoundly an’ conspicuously mental. . . . And tha’s yer fault ‘n all.” Artist Andrade indicates the most manifest moments of his madness by depicting all manner of horrific wraith-like creatures that seem to shadow him like an aura. If the images in this Annual don’t sufficiently disturb you, the events certainly will.

On the surface it may seem that mad Jackson has identified the source of the Crossed infection, tracing its formative years back to the 1980’s when he began his on-again, off-again relationship with a sultry chemical weapons specialist (Magda) on a sinister covert mission. Just when it seems like Jackson has figured it all out, he (and we) get new information that enshrouds everything in a fog of doubt. Who can trust the words of a madman? Spurrier teases the reader with these hints and the possible grim implications as well as condemnation of several nations should they turn out to be accurate. It’s never resolved, and that’s as it should be since the Crossed is the creation of Garth Ennis. He should be the one to write the origin story of the Crossed.

While Jackson blames his madness on a specific incident, there are instances in his past that indicate his problems began much earlier, but perhaps intensified by later events. As early as 1982, those ghastly images seemed to surround him during the Falkland Islands invasion. But we also hear of events that make us suspicious, such as during a 1985 hostage situation when the smoke bombs supplied to Jackson’s covet ops team turned out to contain some other ingredients. Those bombs were conveniently supplied by Magda, who later interviews Jackson asking to describe the effects of the gas and explain the rashes that developed on the terrorists’ faces. He runs into the mysterious woman yet again in 1990 in the company of a known gun-runner, receives new direction from command to provide discrete escort through British waters. This time he gets what he’s been craving – a sexual encounter. Following a moment of passion, Magda reveals the secret mission but Jackson is confused by the plethora of information and can’t sort it out: “chemical weapon”, “smokescreen for the oilgrabs in Africa”, “secret alliance”, etc. In 1992 his task force looks for a secretive research compound in Iceland and receives search-and-destroy orders. Surprised by finding his one-time lover there (and with young children) he’s driven to commit an act considered treason after Magda sprays something in his face. He later claims this is the defining moment when he became mad. Was the spray the prototype for an earlier version of a weaponized Crossed infection, or just a simple steam mist meant to distract him long enough to escape? Jackson’s mistake resulted in a dishonorable discharge and following some years of criminal occupation and his first encounters with the Crossed, Jackson makes his way back to the Iceland compound in search of answers or resolution. The story takes some twists that cast doubt and suspicion on everything that’s been related up to this point. Spurrier has managed to confuse us readers a measure at a time until we can only wonder. It’s a magnificent piece of writing that deserves repeated readings.

And the tale is complex enough that in spite of all the detail provided in this review, much more awaits. Efforts have also been made not to spoil any of the plot turns. As Andrew Frazer Jackson himself puts it: “Life’s just full ay surprises when ye’re aff yer nut.”

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

WHAT'S NEW?: CROSSED Bleeds Out!

I picked up my copy today. You may expect a review posted here once I finish reading it.

. . . . . From the official press release . . . . .

CROSSED #25 BLEEDS CASH AS STORES SELL OUT
C-Day Parties bring Crossed fans out in force

Rantoul, March 13, 2013

Horror comic book readers are celebrating the triumphant return of Garth Ennis to the grim world he created in Crossed: Badlands #25. The issue marks the landmark first year of the bi-weekly series, which gives high profile creators an opportunity to step into what many are calling “the most extreme survival horror story being told.” And the response to this anniversary issue has been incredibly strong with nearly all editions selling out at the distribution level from Diamond Comic Distributors, with only a handful of some covers still available. Avatar Press produced a significant overprint on the regular cover edition [JAN130884] and has ensured that copies are on hand for retailers to obtain via reorder immediately. "We expected a strong response to (Crossed) Badlands #25, due to the return of Garth to his signature creation, but we were amazed at the overwhelming show of support by Crossed Nation fans," said William Christensen, owner of Avatar Press.

Today is "C-Day," the event celebrated in comic shops which embraces the readers of Crossed and introduces new fans to the ultimate in grueling horror. Parties are being enjoyed around survival kits that included exclusive merchandise and promotional products branded with the unique Crossed theme. In addition to themed events and festivities, many retailers are using the return of Ennis to Crossed: Badlands as an entry point for new readers to this extreme celebration of survival horror. Crossed: Badlands #25 features the first installment of "The Fatal Englishman," a story in which Ennis provides yet another unique look at a band of rebels determined to not only outlive the Crossed, but to strike directly at them with lethal force. The issue featured a host of special limited edition covers to give collectors many choices in determining which to add to their growing collection of Crossed comic books. Among those selections was the special Leather Cover edition, for those seeking a unique piece in their collection, and the Collector's Boxed Set, featuring all of the covers produced in one collectible package. Both editions were strongly supported by fans and retailers alike, leading to distributor pre-sales exceeding the available supply. In order to make sure diehard Crossed fans receive the sought after Collectors Sets, Avatar has supplied copies of the super-rare “Platinum” edition collections to fill the excess initial orders placed through Diamond Comic Distributors. The Platinum sets, which normally sell at a higher retail price, include an additional Platinum Foil Leather edition that is not available anywhere else and have been randomly distributed to ordering customers. Each set is clearly identified with as Platinum on the front box sticker branding so that customers can check their set for the enhanced editions.

Diamond Comic Distributors estimates the Crossed #25 boxed sets will reach retailers for the April 10th on-sale week and to be immediately sold out from their warehouse. The Leather Edition, which had a longer production cycle due to the exotic cover stock, is estimated to be in stores on April 3rd, and is similarly sold out at the distribution level. Avatar would like to thank retailers and fans alike for making the second annual C-Day a tremendous success and for continuing to support our line of comic books!


Avatar Press is a groundbreaking independent publishing company which produces a wide variety of cutting-edge comic books, graphic novels, and original web content. Their high-quality publications include the work of such industry luminaries as Garth Ennis (Crossed, Chronicles of Wormwood), Warren Ellis (Freakangels), Christos Gage (Absolution, Crossed), Kieron Gillen (Uber), David Lapham (Ferals, Caligula), and Alan Moore (Neonomicon). They also produce a diverse range of licensed projects including the classic zombie epic Night of the Living Dead and George R.R. Martin’s Fevre Dream and Skin Trade. For more information about Avatar Press, their publications, and creators, please visit www.avatarpress.com.

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Sunday, March 10, 2013

Recent Readings: March 10, 2013 = Spaced Outré II

 

GOTG detail

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #0.1 (Marvel, April 2013) Writer: Brian Michael Bendis. Penciler: Steve McNiven.

          When I heard the initial announcement that GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY would be the next Marvel property to be adapted to movies, I thought it a very odd choice.  Surely, there were plenty of other (and more popular) Marvel comics titles that could be adapted for movies before this?  I thought Ant-Man could be cool, even a Hawkeye movie or re-boot the Fantastic Four or Daredevil again - but the Guardians?  (And the Rocket Raccoon version, to boot! Never really felt warm about this character. Hate to think how bad and cartoony a movie version of this critter may be.)  I just could not conceive of a way that this property could be adapted into a film that would hold an audience’s attention the same way that The Avengers movie did and get filmgoers excited enough to produce another box-office success.  Now I think I see an answer.  It’s going to come down to the writing and scripting, with a healthy dose of well-developed characterization  And Brian Michael Bendis has just laid down the template in GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #0.1.

GOTG cover

          This prequel issue certainly reads like a movie script with storyboards.  Regular readers know how skilled Bendis is at realistic and engaging dialogue in the Marvel titles he writes. He is certainly putting on a show here.  Heck, this could be his audition to get a bigger role in the actual film script So far, the official press releases just say that he is trying to stay closer to the tone (“thematically similar”) of the film in this new comic series.  I know that director James Gunn often has a large role in scripting his films but we’ll see. I also read that former GUARDIANS scripters Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning were consulted during the early stages of movie production.  That’s also a real good sign.  If the movie is anything like the comic I just finished reading - - I will be in line to buy a ticket.

          Issue #0.1, written by Brian Michael Bendis and visually realized in dynamic fashion by artist Steve McNiven, tells the origin and beginnings of the Guardians’ team leader Peter Quill a.k.a. Starlord. It’s a love story, family story, and character building drama.  You will feel warm towards Peter Quill in the same way that everybody has compassion for Steve Rogers a.k.a Captain America.  I never expected to enjoy this so much.  Just get a copy for yourself and see!  As an extra bonus for Shellhead fans, it appears that Iron Man is going to become a member of this team.  Wow.  Imagine the possibilities.

STAR WARS: DARK TIMES - FIRE CARRIER #1 of 5 (Dark Horse, February 2013) Story: Randy Stradley. Art: Gabriel Guzman.

          Sometimes I unintentionally contradict myself.  How?  Well, just last review I commented that I may  have read too many Dark Horse STAR WARS comics some decades back and lost my appreciation for them.  Yet, here I am picking up another one.  However, considering that Disney (who owns Marvel) just acquired Lucas properties (including comics and books), how much longer will it be before they take the rights away from Dark Horse?  Sure, I understand that Dark Horse has done a better than marvelous (pun) job with the STAR WARS titles, so why not leave well enough alone?  Well, I can recall BOOM! Studios doing an equally marvelous (touché!) job on Disney properties some years back and sometime later Disney took the rights away and gave them to Marvel. So, I’m just getting a refresher before it’s too late.  Yeah, Dark Horse really does know how to do STAR WARS right!

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          This latest title is Part 1 of five-part story and occurs a few months after the events in Star Wars: Episode III- Revenge Of The Sith.   Dark Horse has always included a contents page that features background material as well as a timeline so readers can jump in and still follow the story.  Otherwise, I know I’d be completely lost without a map!  (This is Number 23 in the Dark Times Saga, just so you know.)

          Just after the clone troopers turn against their Jedi generals and the Dark Empire begins to gain more control over Imperial forces, a massive Jedi manages to gather a group of younglings (all with Jedi potential) together and escapes before crash-landing on planet Arkinnea.   Long-haired and long-toothed with a large protruding horse-like snout and a lion-like brow and gaze, the Jedi Master K’Kruhk is an imposing and intimidating figure with a gentle disposition and a rational manner.  They are rounded up by a group of planetary militants who have a strong resentment for newly-landed refugees, especially if they suspect they have separatist sympathies.  It seems that the Imperial troops have more compassion for outsiders than the local forces, and their intercession prevents K’Krunk’s group from getting entangled in serious trouble.

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          Most of the issue revolves around the orphans settling into a holding camp, trying to avoid drawing attention to themselves and hoping to get transferred to the open lands in the North.  They are joined up with K’Krunk’s mentor/master Zao, another long-toothed but shorter (and horned) alien Jedi.  We are introduced to some of the orphans, (but not all yet) and get a feel for these characters.  Writer Randy Stradley does a fine job of juggling all the information that needs to be conveyed to the reader while still moving the story along pleasantly.

          Meanwhile, Darth Vader is gaining in reputation as Emperor Palpatine’s second-in-command just after putting down a coup attempt by General Gentis In between trying to wear down the resolve of a Rebel prisoner, Lord Vader gets new marching orders to locate a certain ship which may be connected to our friends on Arkinnea.

          Just like most of the Dark Horse -produced STAR WARS tales that I read so long ago, DARK TIMES – FIRE CARRIER continues the trend of high quality story and art that thoroughly immerses the reader in this rich world of George Lucas’ founding.  The art in this issue by Gabriel Guzman is up to the task of enhancing the sense of wonder and is creative and engaging.  I suggest you grab some Dark Horse STAR WARS titles while you still can.

Monday, March 4, 2013

“Doctor My Eyes”: BLOODSHOT – only remedy is to read it

Last week, the first trade paperback edition of BLOODSHOT was released. It’s a great way to get introduced to this fascinating character for just $9.99. I’m now going to try and persuade you to go out and buy it . . . . . . . . . .

          I can still recall my fascination with the original Valiant line of comics which began in 1988 with licensed properties. They made a minor impact on the comics market, but really took off with their original creations in 1992. What I appreciated most was the strong sense of story, although they had a pretty good roster of artists as well. The first issue of BLOODSHOT in 1992 made history by selling close to 1 million copies. In spite of its popularity, I wasn’t following the book back then. I was trying to manage my costs and would try to budget my monthly comics expenses. I was heavily into the X-MEN books at Marvel during this time, and after adding Valiant title after title to my reading list, I had to make some cuts. Two books that I previewed and then decided not to follow were BLOODSHOT (I dismissed it as a Punisher meets Terminator plot) and HARBINGER (I thought it was going to be Valiant’s lighthearted teen book). I was wrong about both back then. Now, I’m determined to give them a second chance in their 21st century versions. It’s funny that HARBINGER has moved up to the top ranking of my favorite Valiant titles in the present day. And, before I forget the subject of this review - - let’s turn our attention back to BLOODSHOT in 2013, a very entertaining book with a huge potential.

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          Reading this book brings on a warm wave of nostalgia. It’s not that it reminds me of the early days of Valiant. What it reminds me of are several iconic and classic characters that I have enjoyed reading in the past. Steve Rogers (a.k.a. Captain America) was the product of the best science the Army could fund, the super-soldier of the future. He received his enhanced skills and longevity through the serum injected into his bloodstream and circulatory system. Bloodshot (a.k.a. take your pick of several names) is the product of modern science, developed away from the watchful eye of the federal government and just another property owned and developed by a powerful covert paramilitary organization (funded by who?). What’s been put (injected?) into his bloodstream are incredibly tiny machines (nanites) that give him incredible strength, speed and reaction times. Logan’s (a.k.a. Wolverine) bones have been replaced with an adamantium skeleton, the most powerful metal known. He possesses the ability to heal and regenerate after severe injuries that would cause death in others. His background and history are often confusing, as overlapping and contradictory back-stories continue to plague him, implanted memories that seem real but are falsifications. The nanites in Bloodshot’s system help “reconnect torn skin, arteries, muscle tissue and nerve fibers; rebuild bone; and repair and reconstruct damaged organs”. He’s been given so many different false memory implants that he’s thoroughly confused and subject to extreme suggestions (all in the service of Project Rising Sun’s devious designs). He’s not sure of his name, his family, or his actual origins. Reading the current issues of BLOODSHOT also brings to mind favorable memories of Deathlok The Demolisher, Robocop and The Punisher. I could go on but I won’t. Bloodshot is like an amalgam of all those characters - - not a copy cat, just a fresh original blend that will pull out some favorable memories.

BLOODSHOT #1 – 4 (Valiant, July 2012 through October 2012) Writer: Duane Sweirczynski. Pencilers: Manuel Garcia with Arturo Lozzi. Inks: Stefano Gaudiano (#1), Matt Ryan (#2, #3), Matt Ryan and Arturo Lozzi (#4). Colors: Ian Hannin (#1, #2, #3), Ian Hannin and Moose Baumann (#4). Letters: Rob Steen.

There is some incredible detail in the art of these four issues, which comprise the first story arc of BLOODSHOT, that bears repeated viewings. I keep picking up extra things that I didn’t catch the first time around, like the awesome shading of the sky in the background or the use of shadows to get more dimensionality to the image. BLOODSHOT is a great book to look at, especially the fight/action scenes. But the dialogue and pacing reflect a mature approach that helps us tolerate/accept the unbelievable nature of these events and digest it readily. It’s a great job all around by the whole creative team.

Bloodshot is sent into Afghanistan to save an old war buddy. Project Rising Spirit (PRS) has kept him in the dark about their real purpose, which is to kill a young agent with apparent super-powers who is working with terrorists. Double cross and double crossed again. A former PRS scientist really wanted to lure Bloodshot to Afghanistan in order to pirate away some of his downloaded information and use it against PRS.

Learning of the deception and now back in the U.S.A., Bloodshot tries to conduct his own investigation and learn of his actual identity and background. Meanwhile PRS agents are hunting him down with instructions to terminate/shut him down to avoid any more information leaks. At the conclusion of the first story arc, PRS tracks him down with the assistance of an imprisoned young girl with equally dangerous and powerful abilities.

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ISSUE #1 HIGHLIGHTS:

          Bloodshot has the ability to shape-shift, but not forever. This must be how he appears to his faux family as a normal human being while in their company. From time to time Ray (real name of Bloodshot?) sees his son John appear to him during times of crisis, convey a message and then vanish. Is Ray/Bloodshot pulling this from his own memory or is this just another form of manipulation (by whom?). If you’re going to be reading this title on a regular basis you’ll need to get used to seeing the main character completely torn apart and reassembled later. When Bloodshot needs to utilize his powers, he apparently appears to everyone as a gray skinned, metallic looking macho man.

ISSUE #2 HIGHLIGHTS:

          Visions of son John and now wife Ashley help Bloodshot revive quickly and take down his PRS captors before they can put another bullet in his head and render him unconscious. Soon he is getting him from all kinds of ghosts from his imaginary past. Ray/Bloodshot has genuine fighting skills and can certainly handle guns with either and/or both hands. (I’d love to see him go up against Frank Castle/Punisher.) One of the best lines this issue is uttered by PRS head honcho Simon Oreck as he gives direction to henchman Dodge: “You can’t put toothpaste back in the tube, Dodge. I want them both dead.” Following a brutal crash landing Bloodshot enlists the help of a female EMT to try and find his family.

ISSUE #3 HIGHLIGHTS:

          Ray/Bloodshot finds his family, but there’s not the young wife and infant son he left behind when he began this mission. Ashley is beyond middle-age with graying hair, and son John sports a full beard and looks like a college student. Meanwhile, the former PRS scientist Kuretich is uncovering some of the devastation that Bloodshot caused through PRS misdirection, including an entire demolished city under the desert in Nevada. Dodge and the girl with electromagnetic powers catch up to Bloodshot in an awesome car chase and crash finale.

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     ISSUE #4 HIGHLIGHTS:

          The best cover so far is right here, showing a   tormented Bloodshot besieged by multiple memories of family members in miniature swarming all over his face and head. Inside the pages, we witness a flashback to a former Nevada PRS research site gone wrong and find out what a one-man containment team can fatally achieve. A double-spread panel of art only speaks for itself. My favorite line this issue is: “You just shot an unarmed man in the head and you’ve got a teen-aged girl on a leash. So tell me . . . who’s the psychopath here?”

Are you convinced yet? You just don’t want to miss what Valiant is doing. It’s exciting and the time to jump onboard this crazy ride is right now.

Recent Readings March 04, 2013: Spaced Outré

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STAR TREK COUNTDOWN TO DARKNESS #1 (IDW, January 2013) Story: Roberto Orci and Mike Johnson. Artist: David Messina.

          The cover notes that this is “The Official Comic Prequel To Star Trek Into Darkness” (movie set to be released May 17, 2013).  STAR TREK COUNTDOWN TO DARKNESS certainly reads like a movie script, and not in a bad way. It has a real cinematic feel to it, in the presentation and the pacing.

          Things begin with a disturbing and reoccurring nightmare that keeps Spock uneasy. Simultaneously Captain Kirk is having trouble sleeping but not for the same reason = he’s having a conversation with ship’s computer which allows him to express his loneliness at the top, just part of a captains’ frustrated feeling that as much as he gets along with his crew - -his position and rank still isolate him. There is a warm flow to this book that gets the reader comfortable quickly through the familiarity of these characters and settings. It feels just like watching the television show or watching the last STAR TREK movie. The art reminds me of the old Gold Key Comics version of the original STAR TREK television show that I watched in the late 1960’s. The style is very functional and soothing in a subtle way, only bursting forth with some artistic flair in a few panels throughout the story.

           The crew find themselves on a short mission to perform a scientific study on the rings of Phaedus, a seemingly backward planet with technology only advanced enough to be equivalent to the former Roman Empire on Earth. When an unusual high energy field interferes with the Enterprise broadcast system, Captain Kirk decides to investigate on site. To no avail, Spock reminds him of the Prime Directive not to disrupt the natural course of the planet’s evolution by mingling with the natives. They encounter the native life-forms in possession of primitive communications equipment and weaponry. The big surprise occurs when they find out who the benefactor is at the conclusion of the first issue. This seems like a good way to pacify STAR TREK fans that can’t wait for the official release date of the movie. By publishing a prequel, IDW avoids any spoilers (I assume).

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STAR WARS #1 (Dark Horse, January 2013): “in The Shadow Of Yavin” Part One of Three written by Brian Wood with art by Carlos D’Anda.

          I guess collectors didn’t pay enough attention to the PREVIEWS advance notice on this book and comic book stores didn’t pre-order enough copies. The value of a first printing of this book has already shot up to $16, according to Comics Price Guide. Who knew a return to the original classic STAR WARS characters and settings in all-new stories would still be so popular?

           Events here occur shortly after Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope. Based on what occurs in Issue #1, this is already much better (both story and art) than what Marvel attempted to do back in the late 1970’s with their between-the-movies storylines. Luke, Leia (you really don’t need their last names, do you?) and Wedge are piloting X-Wings and searching the edges of the Outer Rim for a new home base for the Rebellion. They are soon met by a large Star Destroyer and Tie Fighters. The dialogue free panels that show a desperate Leia crash landing her X-Wing are gorgeous to view.

          After escaping and returning to The Redemption (the Alliance’s battle cruiserr) she is given a secret assignment and dispatched to assemble a team. Guess who she invites?  Before this ends we are re-introduced to the familiar and welcome faces of Han, Chewbacca, and 3PO.  She’s not the only one getting a new assignment. Darth Vader gets new marching orders from an angry Emperor. The images of Lord Vader are equally imposing and intimidating.

          I’m not really excited by all of this, but I can’t fault the story or the art. Maybe I over-dosed on a big fix of Dark Horse STAR WARS comics back in the 1980’s and 1990’s and can’t believe they are still doing this. Guess I’m a little jaded by it all. This is a good beginning for the rest of you who don’t share my sentiments. I suggest you try and find a reasonably priced copy, or just wait for the first trade paperback.

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THRESHOLD #1 (DC, January 2013) “The Hunted” by Keith Giffen, writer and Tom Raney, artist. “Nine Tenths Of The Law” by Keith Giffen, writer and Scott Kolins, artist.

          If you are looking for a new DC book to explore, this is not a bad place to start. THRESHOLD is a replacement for one of the four NEW 52 books that DC discontinued recently. THRESHOLD is meant to become a showcase for DC’s galaxy of spacey characters like Space Ranger, Tommy Tomorrow, Stealth and even the new Blue Beetle (his new home, perhaps).

          Issue #1 begins with two multi-part stories featuring the newest Green Lantern (Jediah Caul) and Orange Lantern Larfleeze. So far, THRESHOLD seems more of a super-hero book than a science-fiction title with one big exception: the settings are definitely otherworldly. Also, the tales could be considered space-themed even though they feature cosmic super-heroes and probably would not work in other backgrounds. Future issues also promise new versions of second-tier DC characters like Star Rovers, Star Hawkins, Space Cabbie (I kid you not!) and The Omega Men. So far, the concept engages me more than the actual stories. With the imaginative Keith Giffen at the helm and some less-important DC characters to work with, the potential for a book where DC releases more artistic control and gives the creators more freedom is exciting. The art team surely doesn’t disappoint. Both Raney and Kolins do stellar work here.

          “The Hunted”  is reported to spin out of events in GREEN LANTERN: NEW GUARDIANS ANNUAL #1 and is a little hard to follow if you haven’t read that first. ( I didn’t, and haven’t.) At least the rules of The Hunted game are explained over the “Glimmernet” as the story begins. Green Lantern Jediah Caul is on the loose on the planet Tolerance (nicely named!) and is the prey. Predators are expected to bring him back dead. There’s a giant payout and anybody on the planet can join the game and be a bounty-hunter. Some will say this is loosely based on the popular “Hunger Games”, but it owes more to Stephen King’s “Running Man” (a much better story also). You would think that cropping his long white tresses and ditching the mask and costume would make Caul harder to spot, but apparently not as every single person on the street seems to recognize him. He’s not sporting the tell-tale green ring on his finger since that is embedded in his chest. (That must hurt!) He’s saved from early termination by a slim and agile young woman who might be Stealth but isn’t identified (seems appropriate, considering the name).

           After a one-page Glimmernet commercial the scene shifts and we meet two more characters including the actual identified-by-name Stealth, a former military commander presumed M.I.A. and D.O.A. She locates Ric Starr of the Space Rangers, another person on the run, and finds him just before a pack of bounty-hunters surrounds his place of hiding. So there are two “The Hunted” games going on at the same time, as the caterpillar –like Glimmernet media mogul (reminds me of Marvel’s Mojo) talks about needing more promo to focus on this unprecedented event, yadda, yadda. Lots of explaining to do here. I’m sure Giffen will sort it out in the next few chapters.

           I’ve never met Larfleeze before, the major character featured in “Nine Tenths Of The Law”. Fortunately, through a clever plot device his origin is re-told albeit briefly (and perhaps falsely, considering who the narrator is). Larfleeze begins by dictating his biography to scribe using a most unusual writing device. We learn that Larfleeze is pretentious, pompous, greedy, arrogant and selfish. I’m already annoyed by this character, who came by the Orange Lantern power because he’s also a thief, and hope he gets embarrassed mightily before this story ends. A media story rubs his vanity and sends him off on a wild goose chase, resulting in embarrassment on his return. Oh, good! Now I hope he gets his ass kicked righteously. I may have to return to this title just to find out.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Ghastly Awards February 2013 Update

It's a good time to be a fan of horror comics, a sub-genre of our favorite hobby that is getting more of my attention of late. I appreciate the work that the judges of the Ghastly Awards are doing, especially this new recommendation of titles. I'm already reading some of these and may post some reviews later.
. . . . . From the official press release . . . . . .

Ghastly Awards February 2013 Update
Horror comics are becoming more and more frequent in our reading culture, and the Ghastly Awards are here to recognize, through Horror Comic submissions, those that shine the brightest. We encourage all Comic Creators to take the time to head over to www.ghastlyawards.com and submit your work for 2013 Ghastly Award Nomination consideration.

Creators please remember that you can submit your Horror Comic work through out the calendar year! For the month of February 2013 the judges are recommending you take a look at:

Colder #4 (Dark Horse) - Who knew you could get a contact buzz off of insanity! When Declan wants his long time caretaker, Reece to understand what he has been going through all those years when he was in a frozen coma. He decides to take her on a trip of pure insanity. Declan transports Reece to a world only crazy people can see and in this world is the craziest of them all Nimble Jack who is the reason that Declan is colder. Declan does his best to shield Reece from the insanity she witnesses, but with Nimble Jack on their backside time is running out to keep Reece sane and Declan colder. I really enjoyed this comic and will probably wish that it extended past its 5 issue run. I also enjoy a different take on crazy and using random crazy people as a portal to another world is pretty unique. The art is wonderful and the story is fast paced. The villain Nimble Jack feels like a character that only Stephen King could create. You will want to warm up to Colder. - Spaced (http://www.facebook.com/NerdGirlsEyeView)

Baltimore: The Widow and The Tank (Dark Horse): Captain Lord Henry Baltimore has been busy since his debut in Baltimore, or the Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire. Haigus, the vampire that destroyed his family, has eluded our driven hero, but that doesn't stop Baltimore from ending as many vamps as he can come across. In The Widow and The Tank, readers get two short tales that deal with things outside his usual hunt for the Red King. In "The Widow", Baltimore visits a woman whose husband died in the war...but if the rumors are true he came home nonetheless. In "The Tank", Baltimore discovers a vampire in hiding. But what could a vampire be scared of? As usual, Mignola and Golden deliver the creepy goodness, all the while staying true to the overall story arc. A special shout-out to colorist Dave Stewart for the faded sepia tones juxtaposed with bright pops of color. With this one-shot it helps to know the very basics of Baltimore himself -- his passionate search for the vampire that ruined his life -- but even if you don't this one-shot is dark fun. (BTW, I read this particular issue on my phone thanks to the Dark Horse app and a nasty cold that kept me from my local comic shop. The digital images are absolutely gorgeous!) - Denise Dutton (atomicfangirl.com)

Lot 13 (DC Comics): Just when I think I've figured it out, Lot 13 keeps pulling the rug rudely from beneath me--keeping me on my tippiest of tippy toes. Issue #4 picks up right after Ron, the patriarch of our protagonist family is sledgehammered in the head by a dead (dead like over 100 years dead) henchmen to an also dead Judge. The crime? Trespassing in the world of the dead. Rewind. When a family makes the deadliest decision of their lives and stay overnight in a crummy rent-a-room-by-the-day apartment building, they inadvertently cross over into the land of the dead. Several horrific deaths have occurred on that plot of land... and as a young dead boy says, quite profoundly, "Evil stays where evil dies." Issue #4 continues with wrongs being righted and ends on one hell of a cliffhanger. Like I said. Rug. Pulled. Go back and catch up on this horrifying series by Steve Niles, which if you ask me was an incredibly bold choice for DC Comics. Issue #5 (final issue) comes out mid March. – Bree Ogden (agentbree.wordpress.com)

Haunted Horror #3 (IDW): IDW / Yoe Comics horror hosts Forelock the Warlock and Mr. Karswell return with the third installment of repulsive pre code reprints, this time featuring tales about vengeful spirits, slimy sea monsters, vicious vampires and eerie eyeballs-- with knock-out artistic talent from Myron Fass, Sheldon Moldoff, Ross Andru, Jack Cole, Rudy Palais and more! 45 story pages in full color and a classic torture / bondage cover by Tony Mortellaro! $3.99. – Steve Banes (http://thehorrorsofitall.blogspot.com/)

Bedlam #4 (Image): After the first issue of Bedlam, I wasn't sold. It felt like a decent Joker story that was too controversial for DC to publish. However, Nick Spencer and Riley Rossmo have spun it into something else altogether and issue #4 is the best yet. Fillmore Press takes the term "homicidal maniac" to a new level. He's truly demented and Rossmo's art brings out his red hot insanity. – Lonnie Nadler (www.Bloody-Disgusting.com)

Creepy #11 (Dark Horse): Imagine my joy when I saw that the new issue of the Ghastly Award-winning Creepy was going to meld together my two favorite comic genres; horror and romance! Aside from the text-heavy cover by Chrissie Zullo (which looks more like a Disney poster than a horror comic), this issue pretty much delivers the goods. Gilbert Hernandez's artwork is even more primitive than usual (but still bold and animated) in his tale "Two Faces Have I" and his script is great; he gets horror comics. There is more excellent artwork by Amy Reeder (on a J. Torres story) and Joëlle Jones, and Chrissie Zullo really shines with her artwork on “Curse of the Moon Maiden”. Add to this three Peter Bagge gag pages (he is the Sergio Arogones of the title!) and you have a nice little package, well worth your money. There is also a Johnny Craig/ Archie Goodwin reprint, which is, of course, gorgeous but not needed, in my opinion. I realize that the reprints are advertisements for Dark Horse's Creepy and Eerie archive books, but I still would love to see an "ALL NEW!!" on the cover one day. - Mike Howlett (http://eeriepublications.blogspot.com/)

Crow: Skinning the Wolves #3 (IDW): The Crow series is always hit or miss for me. I either really love the story presented or I hate it. This particular mini by O'Barr and Terry was knocked out of the park. Taking place in a Concentration Camp, I really saw that loss that brings about the Crow character. The first 2 issues were a great build to the final reveal of what had happened. This was a true story of revenge, and the fact that it took place within actual events made it hit home better. Amazing mini series. I will not be surprised to see this one up for an Award or 2 at the end of the year. - Decapitated Dan (www.decapitateddan.com)

Creators and Publishers please make sure to go over to www.ghastlyawards.com to submit your books for 2013 Nomination consideration! More informaiton on how the submission process works can be found here http://ghastlys.blogspot.com/2010/10/submit-your-horror-comic-to-be.html
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2013 Ghastly Award Submissions Now Open!
Submit your Horror Comic Work to be considered for the 2013 Ghastly Awards
In 2013 we are going to make a slight to change to how you and your work can be considered to be nominated for a Ghastly Award. We are now introducing a system that is more like the Eisner Awards, in which we we take submissions throughout the year. Your work will be read by the Ghastly Award Judges and they will choose the 2013 Nominees. This will allow more work to be considered throughout the Horror Comic industry. So if you would like to submit your work for consideration please go to www.ghastlyawards.com and click on the 2013 Submissions link for more info.

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Founded in 2011 by Decapitated Dan with the help of Steve Banes, Mike Howlett, Lonnie Nadler and Mykal Banta, the Ghastly Awards recognize outstanding achievements in Horror Comics over a range of 15 different categories. The nominees are chosen by other horror comic book professionals and winners are chosen by a panel of judges. Since the start of the awards, 4 more judges have been added into the group.

Named for acclaimed comics creator “Ghastly” Graham Ingles, 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.

Starting in 2013 the Ghastly Awards switched over to a Submission based process. Comic Creators can submit their books for nomination consideration throughout the calendar year. The top five nominees in each category will be chosen by the Judges, and will then be voted on by the Judges, Creators and Fans to decide the winners.

The Ghastly Award Judges work strictly on a volunteer basis. There is no paid staff and the awards are completely funded from the generous donations of its sponsors.

For more information on the Ghastly Awards, or to submit your work for the 2013 Award season please go to www.ghastlyawards.com.
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Friday, March 1, 2013

Breaking News: Gail Simone is Dynamite

Red Sonja - Fiona Staples

from the official press release . . . . . . . . . 

March 1st, 2013, Mt. Laurel, NJ  -  Dynamite is delighted to announce that the one and only Gail Simone is taking on RED SONJA with a brand-new #1 issue launching this July - in time for San Diego Comic Con.   Gail Simone - one of the premiere writers in the comics industry, is best known for DC's Birds of Prey, Secret Six, and especially Batgirl. Walter Geovani will join her, as the interior artist. Covers will be drawn by some of the top female artists in comics today. Dynamite considers themselves also fortunate to have Nicola Scott, Colleen Doran, Jenny Frison, Stephanie Buscema, and Fiona Staples on covers, with more high profile female cover artists to be announced.

          To help kick off the celebration of Gail's take on The She-Devil with a Sword, Dynamite is proud to give away, to all Emerald City fans, limited edition prints featuring art from the upcoming Nicola Scott covers.  These limited edition, high-end prints are sure to be highly sought after collectibles, and are being given away to fans for free, as premium prints, to be signed by Gail herself at Emerald City Comic Con, to rev up for the launch in July.

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     "It's like this...even most of the best female heroines when I was a kid were pretty polite.  What I love about Sonja is that she isn't polite. She says what she means and if you give her any lip about it, hello, sword in the gut.  She's smart, she has a heart, she has some compassion.  But when it's go time, she's a hell raiser, a mad general, she's a sword edge virtuosa, she's death on wheels.  She is the woman you never want to mess with.  I can relate, Sonja.  No offense to all her guy writers, but THIS Red Sonja is about sex and swords!  It's everything you love about Red Sonja, except with more monsters getting stabbed in the eye."

         "Words can't even express how excited I am to have Gail Simone, one of the premiere writers in all of comics, write RED SONJA, a character she was born to work on.  Fans will see in the first issue that she really cuts in to the heart of the character " says Dynamite Entertainment CEO/Publisher Nick Barrucci.   "I have wanted to work with Gail for years, and it's incredibly exciting that her first choice in working with us is Sonja.  A strong-willed female with fiery red hair writing about a strong-willed female with fiery red hair - AND A SWORD!  It is a dream come true that this project has finally come to fruition. Gail and Sonja's will be the blades that cut the deepest to her enemies chagrin!"

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          Gail Simone got her start in comics writing for Bongo Comics, home of The Simpsons. Following her time there, Simone entered the mainstream comics world with a run on Marvel Comics' Deadpool, and later, Agent X.   Gail is best known for known for runs on DC's Birds of Prey, Secret Six, Welcome to Tranquility, Wonder Woman, and Batgirl.

          Red Sonja, the She-Devil with a Sword, is a fictional character, a high-fantasy sword and sorcery heroine created by Robert E. Howard, and adapted for comics by Roy Thomas and Barry Windsor-Smith.  She first appeared in Conan the Barbarian #23 (Marvel Comics).  Red Sonja has become the archetypical example of the fantasy figure of a fierce and stunningly beautiful female barbarian who typically wears armor resembling a bikini or lingerie.  For nearly a decade, Sonja has had many successful series with Dynamite Entertainment, and she now appears monthly, as well as in mini-series and one-shots, all published by Dynamite Entertainment.

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          DYNAMITE ENTERTAINMENT was founded in 2004 and is home to several best-selling comic book titles and properties, including The Boys, The Shadow, Vampirella, Warlord of Mars, Bionic Man, A Game of Thrones, and more.


          Dynamite owns and controls an extensive library with over 3,000 characters (which includes the Harris Comics and Chaos Comics properties), such as Vampirella, Pantha, Evil Ernie, Smiley the Psychotic Button, Chastity, Purgatori, and Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt.

           In addition to their critically-acclaimed titles and bestselling comics, Dynamite works with some of the most high profile creators in comics and entertainment, including Kevin Smith, Alex Ross, John Cassaday, Garth Ennis, Jae Lee, Marc Guggenheim, Mike Carey, Jim Krueger, Greg Pak, Brett Matthews, Matt Wagner, and a host of up-and-coming new talent.

          Dynamite is consistently ranked in the upper tiers of comic book publishers and several of their titles - including Alex Ross and Jim Krueger's Project Superpowers - have debuted in the Top Ten lists produced by Diamond Comics Distributors. In 2005, Diamond awarded the company a GEM award for Best New Publisher and another GEM in 2006 for Comics Publisher of the Year (under 5%) and again in 2011.  The company has also been nominated for and won several industry awards, including the prestigious Harvey and Eisner Awards.