Saturday, March 29, 2014

Book Review: STOP ME

 
 
STOP ME
by Richard Jay Parker
Trade paperback, 320 pages
Allison & Busby, publishers
January, 2010
 
 
          The premise is different.  A serial killer sends emails to family members of his victims, suggesting they forward it like a chain letter to ten recipients.  If the chain email finds its' way back to the killer, he will spare the victim.
 
          Eleven women have died.  When Leo Sharpe's wife is abducted from under his nose and he receives the Vacation Killer's email - - he gets frantic.  He turns into an obsessive compulsive as weeks and months go by and his wife's body never turns up.  Is she still alive?  Was she spared, perhaps because the chain email got back to the serial killer?
 
          This book kept me guessing right up to the end.  I was totally baffled.  It went in several directions I never expected.  Just when you think you can predict where this will go, RIchard Jay Parker puts a different spin on events.
 
          As Leo Sharpe continues to try and find answers, he encounters several unsavory characters who claim to help, but are after their own personal gain.  The ability of the Internet to link all sorts of individuals with strange tastes and preferences is explored, as well as spot-lighting those who profit from catering to the same.
 
          At times I was disgusted but never bored while paging through this book.  The ending provides a satisfactory closure.  You must read it or I will email you!   Highly recommended.

 



Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A Crashing Climax To THE OTHER DEAD

THE OTHER DEAD #6 of 6 (IDW, March 19, 2014 release date) Writer/Co-Creator: Joshua Ortega. Co-Creator: Digger T Mesch. Art: Qing Ping Mui. Art (Epilogue): Mike Shoykhet. Inks: Jose Aviles, James Lyle, and Qing Ping Mui. Colors: Blond. Letters: Tom B. Long



The good news is that you don’t have to be a regular reader of THE OTHER DEAD in order to appreciate the contents of Issue #6. In fact, if you’ve stayed on the sidelines all this time you can still get a pretty good feel for the atmosphere and tone of the mini-series by jumping on right here. What you will be treated to is an intense story of human survival against impossible odds. Issue #6 spins a grisly yarn that pits the team of seven remaining characters against one nasty obstacle after another until the final resolution some 23 pages later.

The bad news (well, for some of us) is that it ends without any explanation of the events that caused the animal epidemic to occur. There is also no indication that the contagion has been halted, or even contained. (The epilogue contains more bad news). On the other hand, there is so much more story to tell that many readers will be glad to know that a second THE OTHER DEAD series will debut later this year. Rightly so and very welcome news to many of us, as we have only seen a little cross-section of this imaginative creation (a clever spin on standard zombie tropes). There’s a much bigger world here, and I suspect an even bigger story to tell. Bring it, gentlemen!

Everything comes to a gigantic broil in Issue #6 as the intrepid band of survivors make their escape from the surrounded homestead only to end up in an even worse place. As they await the President’s extraction team to rescue them, they face an even tougher selection of raving mad berserker animals out for human blood and guts. Instead of facings squirrels, rats, birds, deer and bear they must hold out against more exotic animals, including zebras, elephants, lions, tigers, caribou, boar, and a rampaging rhino. Just as they seem to be safe, their luck turns sour as they crash their helicopter inside a wild game preserve!



This issue is a gigantic showcase for the incredible illustration skills of artist Qing Ping Mui, who doesn’t hold back and lets it all out: great detail, savage action, red-eyed rage, faces of determination, fear, despair, and also hope - - it’s all here. The rest of the art team does a superb job of highlighting his fine work and are equally up to the challenge of inking and coloring scenes that for the most part take place in the dead of night and in the middle of a hurricane force storm = dark, cloudy, gray, red and atmospheric times three!

Not to be missed are the scenes involving a crazed and determined rhino with more lives than Morris the Cat. Brave little Tommy puts a lubricated exclamation point on the end of that encounter.

Perhaps it was done so no one feel cheated, as one member of the party doesn’t survive the opening scenes. There may be some readers out there who were rooting for the animals to claim final victory and be disappointed that anybody survived. However, when the actual President of the United States gets inserted into the storyline, you should be anticipating a somewhat happier ending. Seriously, did you expect writer Joshua Ortega to kill President Obama off?

During the course of this story, there are instances of symbolism as well as the possibility of deeper meaning for readers who might want to explore further. But, there is never any indication that an actual political statement was under the surface story. THE OTHER DEAD does portray the President in a favorable light, as he responds the way American citizens expect their president to respond in a time of crisis - - with bravery, patience, leadership and determination. Sure enough, when the situation calls for balls-to-the-walls intensity and time to fight back with fury and defend humanity, he lets it all hang out. There probably won’t be a Republican Party rebuttal to the events of THE OTHER DEAD. (Besides, didn’t somebody once say that Republicans don’t read comics?)

Some may say the story ends, appropriately enough, with both a religious and then an inspirational message. No sooner does little Tommy get on his knees to pray (and joined by redneck Chet) than his prayers get answered. Then, Chet turns to the President to infer “Take it you ain’t that religious, either”. Obama responds with “Oh, no, I am . . . but I also put great faith in humanity.” After reading this series from the beginning and never experiencing even a whiff of spiritual essence up to this point, I remain skeptical that this was writer Ortega’s intent. I seriously doubt that he suddenly began to drink or wash with holy water and came up with this ending as a result. Rather, I believe the clue to the inspiration for the entire series is exhibited (and not for the first time, just much bigger here) on the very last page. There is a clever interpretation of a famous logo there (“His Master’s Voice”, the RCA Victor dog). It wasn’t holy water that kept things flowing - - it was a little sumpin’ on the order of a more adult beverage.


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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

BCC Adds: Dezago, Rosa, Rousseau, Rubinstein also to appear

From the official press release . . . . .





BALTIMORE, MARYLAND - March 24, 2014 - The Baltimore Comic-Con returns to the Inner Harbor in 2014 for its premiere inaugural three-day event the weekend of September 5-7 at the Baltimore Convention Center!


We continue to add fantastic talent to our slate of guests attending the 2014 show! This week, we are pleased to announce the addition of Todd Dezago, Don Rosa, Craig Rousseau, and Joe Rubinstein to the guest list!




Comics writer Todd Dezago has been a noteworthy contributor to Image, DC, and Marvel Comics. In addition to working on such titles as Sensational Spider-Man, Super Hero Squad, and Marvel Adventures at Marvel Comics and Impulse, Teen Titans, and Young Justice at DC Comics, Dezago's creator-owned titles Tellos and Perhapanauts, both published through Image Comics, have garnered much attention and kudos.




Eisner Award-winning Don Rosa can hardly be mentioned without evoking images of Walt Disney's Donald Duck, Scrooge McDuck, and the rest of the Duck family. Heir apparent to Carl Barks as the Duck master, he was responsible for approximately 90 stories before his retirement from working with Disney in 2006.




Craig Rousseau has spent his career as an artist working on numerous noteworthy titles and runs. He has spent time on DC Comics' Batman Beyond, Harley Quinn, and Impulse, Marvel's Captain America & the Korvac Saga, Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane Season 2, and Iron Man & the Iron Wars, and he can be seen lately working on DC Comics' Batman '66, Image Comics' Perhapanauts: Danger Down Under, and Dynamite Entertainment's Pathfinder: Goblins!



Inker extraordinaire Joe Rubinstein has had a storied career, having had opportunity to participate in the creation of works that have had lasting impacts on comics. He holds a Guinness World Record for inking more pencilers than any other inker, and worked on inking The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe for over 20 years. His contributions include Marvel's original Wolverine limited series, Micronauts, and Warlock, and DC Comics' Batman, Green Arrow/Black Canary, Justice League titles, and Superman among many, many others.

"It's so great to welcome old friends back to our show," said Marc Nathan, promoter of the Baltimore Comic-Con. "We are truly amassing an esteemed group who have brought so much to the industry."

This year's previously confirmed guests for the show include: Marty Baumann (Pixar artist); Jeremy Bastian (Cursed Pirate Girl); Dave Bullock (Batman Black and White); Greg Capullo (Batman); Bernard Chang (Green Lantern Corps); Sean Chen (Amazing Spider-Man); Jimmy Cheung (Infinity); Cliff Chiang (Wonder Woman); Frank Cho (X-Men: Battle of the Atom); Richard Clark (House of Gold & Bones); Steve Conley (Bloop); Alan Davis (Wolverine); Rachel Deering (In the Dark); Tommy Lee Edwards (Star Wars); Garth Ennis (Preacher, The Boys); David Finch (Forever Evil); Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez (All-Star Western); Dave Gibbons (Watchmen); Bryan JL Glass (Mice Templar); Michael Golden (The Ravagers); Cully Hamner (Animal Man); Dean Haspiel (The Fox); Fred Hembeck (Garfield); Adam Hughes (Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan); JG Jones (Green Lantern Corps, Batman Black and White); Justin Jordan (Luther Strode, Green Lantern: New Guardians); Barry Kitson (Empire); Aaron Kuder (Action Comics); David Mack (Shadowman); Kevin Maguire (Guardians of the Galaxy); Alex Maleev (Moon Knight); Ron Marz (Witchblade); Bob McLeod (X-Men: Gold); Tradd Moore (Deadpool Annual); Mark Morales (New Avengers); Dan Parent (Archie, Veronica, Kevin Keller); David Peterson (Mouse Guard); Joe Prado (Justice League); Brian Pulido (Lady Death); Tom Raney (Incredible Hulk); Ivan Reis (Aquaman and The Others); Budd Root (Cavewoman); Andy Runton (Owly); Alex Saviuk (Web of Spider-Man); Louise Simonson (Power Pack); Walter Simonson (Thor); Andy Smith (Superman #23.1: Bizarro); Allison Sohn (sketch card artist); Charles Soule (Thunderbolts); Jim Starlin (Thanos: The Infinity Revelation); Ben Templesmith (The Memory Collectors); Peter Tomasi (Batman and Two-Face); John Totleben (Swamp Thing); Herb Trimpe (GI Joe: A Real American Hero); Billy Tucci (Shi); Rick Veitch (Saga of the Swamp Thing); Mike Vosburg (Lori Lovecraft); Mark Waid (Daredevil); Bill Willingham (Fables); Renee Witterstaetter (Joe Jusko: Maelstrom); Thom Zahler (My Little Pony); and Mike Zeck (Secret Wars).




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Monday, March 24, 2014

Advanced advance preview: THE AUTEUR #2 is outrageous fun

 

THE AUTEUR #2  (ONI PRESS, April 16,  2014 release date)  Written by Rick Spears.  Illustrated by James Callahan. Colored by Luigi Anderson.  Lettered by Sick Rears (ha!)  - - - Publisher’s Disclaimer = The Shocking Scenes You Are About To See Are Not Suggested For The Weak Or Immature.

AUTEUR_2_4x6_COMP_FNL_WEB

(Editor’s Notes:  It’s rare to find a comic that combines humor and satire and does it well these days.  The list is very short - - say, just THE AUTEUR and TODD, THE UGLIEST KID ON EARTH.  I can’ think of anything else that hits the mark like these books.   For that reason I want to give lovers of good satire a heads-up notice to get their order in today for THE AUTEUR #2 before the opportunity ends this week.  Issue #1 is close to selling out in stores, and since smaller publishers determine their print runs based on advance orders, we need to get the word out about this book so everyone who might enjoy it gets their chance.  The kind folks at ONI PRESS provided me with an advance copy so I could write this review. However, my request for a bag of money was never even acknowledged. I’m doing this strictly for the love, like all the other reviews you read here.) 

DECEPTION IN MODERN MARKETING NOTIFICATION:   Please note that this is not a new issue of KING OF THE MONSTERS.  Godzilla does not appear in this story anywhere and his image on the cover is purely coincidental.  Rather, it is meant to symbolize the train wreck of a jury trial that occurs in Issue #2.  It’s as if Godzilla traded places with that blind folded armless lady statue who holds the scales of justice.  You appreciate the symbolism, don’t you? 

          It’s good that I was alone at home while reading THE AUTEUR #2, so nobody had to see or hear me laughing out loud in a hysterical fashion.  However, the family dog did look at me funny and then quietly stole off to the secure confines of her pet crate. 

I previously wrote about THE AUTEUR #1 on these pages and you can re-read that review here if your memory is short or your recall just escaped in the bubble of that last mind-fart . . . . . .

http://www.bcrefugees.blogspot.com/2014/03/is-mild-word-for-auteur.html

In ISSUE #2, desperate film director Nathan T. Rex follows through on his brainstorm idea that ended the last issue and seeks to hire a noted serial killer as a “murder consultant” on his upcoming slasher exploitation  flick called “President’s Day.”  The issue opens with two quick satirical looks at satanic cults and college sororities (do you see the link there?).   That segues into a flashback scene depicting the gruesome murder that led to the arrest of the X-faced serial killer Darwin. 

  This leads to a prison meeting between Darwin and T. Rex, where he is persuaded to allow T. Rex to represent him when his case comes up to trial.  Meanwhile, the news media is already having a field day with the latest developments on the President’s Day film.

    Obviously, the prosecution objects to the sudden interjection of T. Rex in a funny scene that just gets more ridiculous and hilarious as it moves on, and will remind many readers of the mechanisms of the modern justice system.

Prosecutor: “Objection!  He’s not even a lawyer.”

Judge:  “Let’s see.  Mr. Rex . . . we have  a law degree from the Legal Eagle Online University and a State Bar license dated . . . yesterday.  However unorthodox, these look legitimate.”

T. Rex: “They better be.  Cost a fortune!”

  The defense employs a classic theme from the other celebrity named Darwin (“Survival Of The Fittest”) and also does a fine job of pointing out the detrimental character flaws of the murder victim in order to sway the jury to his point of few.   I never thought I would be persuading someone to purchase a comic book by telling them that the biggest part of the issue is a court trial.  How exciting can that be?  (When you stop laughing you can tell me.)   There’s also a gratuitous fantasy/dream sequence thrown in the middle to placate the other side of our brains, where we learn another cool meaning for the acronym ATM. 

   As you might suspect, Darwin is freed and begins his new role as murder consultant on the film.  Of course, from his point of view everyone and everything is visualized as his next bloody victim. His first piece of advice makes a lot of sense - - get rid of the mask.

Darwin:  “It’s stupid and limits your vision and hearing.”

T. Rex:  “Okay, sure.  But obviously we need the mask.  It’s kind of a genre thing and it looks great on the poster.”

Pure Hollywood, and very accurate.

The art by Callahan is as bold and brilliant as ever, and this issue his style reminds me of both Mike Wolfer and Geoff Darrow - - both very appropriate influences considering the subject matter here.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Noteworthy First Issues and Debuts, part two

 

all-new-invaders-1

ALL-NEW INVADERS #1 – 3  (Marvel, March through May, 2014)  James Robinson: Writer.  Steve Pugh: Penciled.  GURU-eFX: Colorist.  Cory Petit: Letterer.

          It’s so good to see the wonderful work of artist Steve Pugh on a monthly basis.  This new series intends to bring the World War II team of The Invaders to the modern world and base their new adventures there, with some occasional flashback sequences.  And James Robinson, the man who brought the formerly bland Justice Society to invigorated life at DC, will most likely achieve the same thing with this veteran team.  There’s already some nice developments and insights into the character of Jim Hammond, the original Human Torch.  I can’t wait to see what he does with Bucky Barnes before he turns to Cap and Namor, as well as the secondary characters that will certainly be part of this book. (He’s already introduced Major Liberty and Aarkus, the original Vision with more to be added later.)

         The first story arc, titled “Gods And Soldiers” centers around the Kree and a plot to obtain a device that would make immortal gods submissive to their beck and call.  Namor gets kidnapped.  Everyone assumes the Kree want to enslave the Asgardians, but there’s a surprise in store.  Pugh’s art is worth dwelling on, and Issue #2 features a spotlight on Bucky Barnes that will recall some of Jim Steranko’s best work on Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.  There is also a new character introduced that bears promise - - Tanalth The Pursuer, a female version of Ronan The Accuser who may be even more powerful and ruthless.

THE FUSE #2  (Image, March 2014)  Written By: Antony Johnston.  Illustrated by: Justin Greenwood.  Colored by: Shari Chankhamma.  Lettered by: Ed Brisson.

THEFUSE2_cover_ROSSMO-1_web

          Issue #2 continues the murder investigation/police procedural on an outer-space station/community/city.  As suspected, there is a lot more to this title than a standard police procedural / murder investigation, albeit one that takes place on a space colony. There is a strange dichotomy developing between the two detectives as well as several sharply defined contrasts: old/young, white/black, female/male, veteran/newcomer.  Just to keep it interesting, the veteran female sergeant goes by “Klem” and she refers to her male detective partner as “Marlene” (last name is Dietrich – fans of 1940’s black and white cinema will get the connection).

          The duo continue to investigate the serial killing of “cablers” (homeless) and some clues begin to materialize that lead them to the Mayor’s office and staff.  Politics rears its ugly little head, just to complicate matters.  Yes indeed, this book is getting interesting. There is a lot of story here.  It’s very well told, engaging, and beginning to get more intricate and complex. A real mystery worth following.

MARVEL KNIGHTS: HULK #1-4 mini-series  (Marvel, February through May, 2014)  Joe Keating: Writer.  Piotr Kowalski: Artist.  Nick Filardi: Color Artist.

marvel knights hulk        

The very first thing that grabs your attention is the captivating art by Piotr Kowalski. He’s a real talent whose development should be fun to watch and appreciate.  Every issue has an awesome super-large panel stretching across two pages that really highlights what Kowalski is capable of.  The opening scene in Issue #1 of night-time in Paris along the river is stunning in its details, and perfectly shaded/colored.  Issue #1 ends with an equally effective, two-page mind-numbing-in-its’-brilliance explosion with colors that clearly indicate how much heat must be involved.  Issue #2 showcases a cool aerial view of a helicopter surveillance of a bomb crater.  And, you still haven’t seen everything until a massive version of the Hulk rushes headlong at you, the reader, as well as a swarm of hapless A.I.M. troops in the ending two-page spread.  Issue #3 opens up by zooming in on the ending scene of last issue where you can see the steam rising from the fury burning inside the Hulk’s head.  Issue #4’s imaginary sequence with Hulk standing triumphant over some mighty prominent heroes is poster ready.  And it all ends with a two-pager as equally impressive as it began.  I’m reminded of the classic Hulk work done by Herb Trimpe, imaginative and captivating.

          The art alone is enough reason to pick up this mini-series.  However, the script by Keatinge is original, clever, and just as engaging.  This story gets my attention the same way as the best scripts of long-time Hulk scribes Peter David and Greg Pak.  The only gripe I have with MARVEL KNIGHTS: HULK is that the covers are so boring.  They only feature art on the top third of the page.  When you scrunch it down that much, it loses its effect.

         The story starts out as a mystery with a bewildered Bruce Banner lost in Paris, France.  Dyane, an engaging young woman (great character, too bad there wasn’t enough of her in the following issues) rescues Bruce from a near-death situation, nurses him back to health, and then gets embroiled in a search for Banner by dark forces.  I don’t want to give away the details but you can look forward to some gamma-enhanced gargantuan killers, as well as a cool sub-plot by some ingenious upstarts within the A.I.M. organization. Naturally, the Hulk fits into their plans - and you will see him utilized in new ways.  The story is grim and gritty, as befits the Marvel Knights template.  You won’t be sorry if you pick up this series.

TOMB RAIDER #1  (Dark Horse Comics, February 2014)  Script: Gail Simone. Pencils: Nicolas Daniel Selma.  Inks: Juan Gedeon.  Colors: Michael Atiyeh. Lettering: Michael Heisler.

tomb raider

          The Lara Croft character portrayed in this new series reflects the same changes made to the video game version of her: younger, less confident and all-knowing, and more accurate in physical proportions.  She’s still a babe, but not with exaggerated endowments and also minus the extra-short shorts.

          Writer Gail Simone introduces escapist-type action right from the get –go and doesn’t let up at all.  During the proceedings she manages to insert enough back-story to build suspense, hold interest, and also reveal more character depth.  We learn that the new Lara Croft is a real team player who tries to look out for her comrades and cares deeply about their welfare.

          Lara and the other surviving members of an ill-fated expedition to the island of Yamata are plagued by disturbing dreams that revisit the site.  When one of the members, Jonah the cook, reaches out to Lara she comes to his hideaway in the American desert only to find that no one can hide from the otherworldly inhabitants of the island who want their tokens back.

          The art by Selma is clean and crisp, uncluttered by excessive background detail, which allows him to focus on the characters.  However, his action scenes are very well done and he utilizes white space between panels to good effect.  TOMB RAIDER is a good debut effort.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

ONI Press unveils plans for 2014 and beyond

from the official press release . . . . . .

To put it mildly, we ARE FLIPPING OUT about what 2014 holds for Oni Press and its creators, so we decided to let it (almost) all out!   We've got a lot of awesome things on the docket, so without further ado, here's a chronological look at many (but not all) of the new things fans and retailers can expect to see hitting shelves in the coming months.

THE LIFE AFTER
July 2014

In an infinite city fueled by despair, there is one man capable of breaking free.  The Life After tells the story of Jude, a unique man who will fight good, evil, and bureaucracy to escape purgatory and save humanity.  Kicking off in July after a special preview issue at WonderCon in April, this dazzling, unique, new ongoing series comes from the deft hands of writer Joshua Hale Fialkov and artist Gabo and features covers by The Manhattan ProjectsNick Pitarra!

I WAS THE CAT
August 2014

To Burma, having nine lives means having nine chances to conquer the globe.  Written by Paul Tobin and illustrated by Benjamin Dewey, I Was the Cat is an original graphic novel that tells the tale of an aspiring feline despot, present for many of the modern world’s pivotal changes, but perhaps playing a more active role than anyone would suspect…

THE PEOPLE INSIDE
August 2014

Ray Fawkes, creator of the Eisner-nominated One Soul, has created another groundbreaking, wholly unique take on the graphic novel.  16 people travel through the stages of life, love, and death, changing the page with each new step they take.  Joining together, being torn apart, burning bright, fading away—each stage of life becomes an indelible change to the storytelling format.   Simply put, The People Inside is not a book to read, it’s a book to experience.

THE SIXTH GUN: DAYS OF THE DEAD
Summer 2014

Comics supergroup Cullen Bunn, Brian Hurtt, Mike Norton, and Bill Crabtree spin a prequel yarn to the ongoing The Sixth Gun series, uncovering how the villainous Pinkerton Jesup, and Sword of Abraham priest Brother Roberto became embroiled in a race to thwart the awakening of the monstrous god Yum Kimil in this spin-off to the critically acclaimed fantasy-western saga!

METEOR MEN
September 2014

On a summer night, Alden Baylor sits in a field watching the largest meteor shower in human history. What began as teenage adventure becomes something more--the celestial event brings travelers who will change the world completely, and Alden discovers a connection to one of them.
How does a young man who had to grow up fast handle the invasion of his planet?  Can Alden keep humanity from oblivion?  From writer Jeff Parker (AQUAMAN, HULK) and artist Sandy Jarrell (BATMAN 66) comes this original graphic novel about adolescence, friendship, and hard decisions.

MERMIN BOOK 3: DEEP DIVE
September 2014

Joey Weiser’s all-ages hero, the prodigal merman returns!  No one knows much about Mer, the underwater kingdom where Mermin the merman was born, but due to a rising conflict with the people of Atlantis, Mermin is needed back home immediately.  Which means that his human friends get to accompany him and see all the aquatic wonders of Mer.  But once again, Mermin is tight-lipped about his past – even when it’s swimming right in front of him.  And there are enemies lurking in the seedier depths of Mer, who’ve got their sights set not only on Mermin, but on Pete and his friends!

STUMPTOWN
September 2014

Dex Parios is  back in action and she’s sticking around!  This September, Portland’s favorite beleaguered P.I. stars in a brand-new, ongoing Stumptown series written by Greg Rucka and illustrated by Justin Greenwood with colors by Ryan Hill and letters by Crank!

BRIDES OF HELHEIM
October 2014

Cullen Bunn, Joëlle Jones, and Nick Filardi return to their smash hit Viking horror/fantasy series Helheim!  Alone in the wilderness and living in seclusion, the Viking warrior Rikard is confronted once again by black magic and arcane monstrosities.  But this time, Rikard seeks vengeance against the warlock who was once master to the witches who wove our undying hero's bloody fate.

HELLBREAK
October 2014

Not black ops. The blackest of ops.  A group of elite soldiers has been recruited by the shadowy Kerberos Corporation for a series of special missions—breaking souls out of Hell and returning them to their bodies... and replacing the evil demons possessing their mortal shells here on Earth.
A gothic, action-packed vision of Hell in a new ongoing series that evokes Inception and Aliens by way of John Carpenter from the creative forces of writer Cullen Bunn, artist Brian Churilla, and colorist Jordie Bellaire!

CIUDAD
December 2014

Created by acclaimed writer Ande Parks and Joe and Anthony Russo, the directors of the upcoming Captain America: The Winter Soldier, with art by Fernando Léon, Ciudad is a brutally violent, action-packed thriller about a world-weary mercenary hired by a powerful drug lord to pull off an impossible retrieval mission in one of the world’s most dangerous locales while battling warring factions, a corrupt police force, and an city full of hired killers.

ORPHAN BLADE
December 2014

From the team of late, great writer Nick Almand and artist Jake Myler comes a manga-tinged graphic novel that tells the classic tale of a boy and his sword.  Hadashi is a simple boy with simple dreams, but his life changes when a horrific accident maims his hand.  Unable to hold a sword, he's kicked out of the dojo he once called home.  But the Orphan Blade is no ordinary sword.  When Hadashi finds it abandoned in a marsh, he finds that not only is he able to wield it -- the sword seems to be wielding him!  Too bad Hadashi isn't the only one interested in the Orphan Blade, and his ownership draws the attention of the Five Fingers of Death -- a legendary and deadly group of mercenaries who have their own magical weapons.

JUNIOR BRAVES OF THE APOCALYPSE
Early 2015

After a camping trip out in the mountains with their grizzled old scoutmaster Padre, a troop of scouts, the Junior Braves, discover that the world has been wiped out in an apocalyptic disaster, and overrun with bloodthirsty mutants.  all their scouting skills and knowledge, these young boys try to survive on their own, while searching for clues to the whereabouts of their evacuated families.  It's The Goonies meets The Walking Dead, in this first in a new young adult graphic novel series by writers Michael Tanner & Greg Smith, and artist Zach Lehner.

ARES & APHRODITE
2015

A new original graphic novel by Jamie S. Rich and Megan Levens!  Will Ares is a successful divorce lawyer -- which means, invariably, that he's always pissing someone off.  He's also a hopeless romantic (go figure).  Gigi Averelle is a wedding planner who's seen enough failed marriages to know that true love doesn't exist.  And with their respective clients -- movie producer Evans Beatty and Hollywood starlet Carrie Cartwright -- getting hitched, Will and Gigi are about to see a whole lot more of each other.  As Beatty's ex-wives come out of the woodwork and cause mayhem for the upcoming marriage, Gigi proposes a bet -- should Evans and Carrie go through with the wedding, Gigi will go on a date with Will. Should they break up, as Gigi suspects, Will must put a full-page ad in the paper revealing the number of marriages he's ruined.  Is Will a fool for love, or is this the start of a beautiful relationship?

Friday, March 21, 2014

Old school entertainment: CHRONOS COMMANDOS

 

CHRONOS COMANDOS: DAWN PATROL #1 – 5  (Titan Comics, August 2013 through December 2013)  Created, Written and Illustrated by Stuart Jennett.  Logo Design and Lettering Assists by Donna Jennett.  Also available March 2014 in a 144 page hardcover collection with additional material = ISBN: 978-17982760061

Chronos_Commandos_02_Cover_web_jpg_size-600                 Chronos-Commandos-Dawn-Patrol-4

        What’s in store for readers who pick up CHRONOS COMMANDOS?  A quick, entertaining read.  Pure escapism with no frills.  Dynamic artwork that pulls no punches when it comes to vivid, graphic violence and bloodshed.  No complicated side plots.  A main story that proceeds at a straightforward pace until its conclusion, without trying to explain its outlandish premise with elaborate details or diagrams.  Just check your rational analytical mind at the door and unleash the inner child to frolic at random. 

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          Ever read any 1960’s or earlier comics?  Remember how they always told a rapid-fire pace story in 32 pages or less, never getting into character development beyond the surface details and never-ever introducing a complicated secondary plot or theme?   Just 15 or 20 minutes of fun, depending on how long they took to read to the finish.  Well, here is a great example of that kind of fun, nicely divided up into five chapters.   Do you recall Sgt. Rock and Easy Company, Sgt Fury and the Howling Commandos, and The Land That Time Forgot?   Put them all together in a blender, and voila!   Drink up some CHRONOS COMMANDOS.

        U.S. Army Combat troops.  Opposing Nazi forces.  Time machines.  Plenty of dinosaurs and giant spiders.  Plus a genius egghead who looks remarkably like Albert Einstein, and goes by the same name.    World War II played out on a new and different battleground - - the distant past, accessed via time-traveling equipment possessed by both sides.   The Nazis, led by Captain Richter want to steal the Chronosphere core, the essential component necessary for time travel.  Without it, Allied forces would be powerless to stop the Nazis from traveling back in forth in time to alter the outcome of crucial battles and all of history as we know it.  Sarge  (no other name, just Sarge) leads a small force of Chronos Commandos (similar to the original Suicide Squad) dedicated to chasing the Nazis through the past and stopping them from turning the war in Axis favor.  A half-chewed cigar is never out of his mouth, as he shouts orders to his soldiers in typical drill-sergeant fashion: “Okay, you maggots! Time to leave the apple!” barked out as the force disembarks from the grenade-shaped time travel machine. . . .  or  “Now, we got a ten-click walk ahead of us, through stinking, lizard-infested jungle.  What are you ladies waiting for?”

          Stuart Jennett is a veteran of comics work, now returning to chronicle the adventures of the Chronos Commandos.  He previously worked on several Marvel UK comics titles during the days of their short-lived popularity.  His digital artwork features some beautifully painted backdrops, which are shown to best effect in the larger panels.  Issue #5 leaves open the possibility of a sequel, which would be welcomed by all fans of great action and escapist entertainment.

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          ISSUE #1 HIGHLIGHTS:  A big battle with dinosaurs, especially a hungry T-Rex. Guess who wins?  Although he’s just Sarge to his men, for some reason the enemy commander calls him by Sergeant Vale.  And Sarge knows his foe’s first name – Dieter.  Apparently there is some history between this two, maybe to be told in a future story. 

ISSUE #2 HIGHLIGHTS:  The visual details of the Project: Watchmaker installation are stunning and wide-screen in scale and scope.  Even though the Nazis stole the main component, there is a way for Sarge to assemble a new squad and get back in time after them. (Thank heaven for those tesla conductors. Must work similar to dylithium crystals!)  The explanation of how this is possible is elaborated upon by the resident genius (Einstein) in several large dialogue balloons.  It’s best just to go with the flow and not read them a second time.  They will fall apart, thereby ruining the suspension of belief needed to get maximum benefit from this story.  There is some great use of shading and bright but monotone colors put to good effect here during the journey through time.

ISSUE #3 HIGHLIGHTS:  Raptor fight!  Nuff said.  What could be better?  Maybe giant spiders with acid like venom.

ISSUE #4 HIGHLIGHTS:  If you could, would you utilize a time machine in order to team up with yourself?   Is such a thing even possible?  Remember, don’t think too long about anything here.  By the way, the super-crocodile is awesome.

ISSUE #5 HIGHLIGHTS:  The confrontation between Sarge and Richtor is worth waiting for.  Plenty of firepower here.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Valiant announces upcoming line of role-playing games

 

from the official March 17 press release . . . . . .

VALIANT and CATALYST GAME LABS Partner for New Line of Comic Book-Based Tabletop Games

Artwork by Tom Raney

          Valiant Entertainment is proud to announce that it has partnered with Catalyst Game Labs to produce role-playing and tabletop games featuring Valiant’s award-winning library of comic book superheroes.  The partnership will lead off in mid-2014 with the release of the Valiant Universe RPG—Valiant’s first-ever role-playing game, designed for the Cue System (the Origins and ENnie awards-nominated system first published in Catalyst’s 1950s Rockets/Rayguns/Robots RPG, Cosmic Patrol).  Subsequent releases, spotlighting a wide array of Valiant properties, will follow in 2015 and beyond.
The edge between superhero and villain has never been sharper.  In the Valiant Universe RPG, players will immerse themselves in a dark and gritty world where every mission and every battle has deadly consequences.  Whether playing X-O Manowar, Bloodshot, Shadowman or even the all-powerful Toyo Harada—or any of dozens of characters—Valiant’s most fearless heroes will unite for the first time in a roleplaying game, allowing you to join their stories and create new ones.  Whether you’re a longtime fan or brand new to the Valiant Universe, this is the only source you’ll need to bring Valiant’s leading characters to life in a fantastic superheroes setting.


          “This is really a dream come true,” said Randall N. Bills, Managing Developer for Catalyst Game Labs.  “I’ve always been a comics fan—as are most of Catalyst’ employees—and getting the chance to publish great games within a fantastic comics universe is spectacular.  The fact that it’s Valiant, with its brilliant combination of heroic action and gritty realism, makes this all the more enjoyable.”

          Valiant is a leading character-based entertainment company with a library of over 1,750 characters, including X-O Manowar, Bloodshot, Harbinger, Shadowman and many more.  Established in 1989, Valiant has sold over 80 million comic books, and today its characters continue to be forged in publishing, licensing, film, video games, and beyond. Since its summer 2012 re-launch, Valiant has returned to the fore as one of the most highly regarded publishers in comics, winning a 2012 Diamond Gem Award for Comic Book Publisher of the Year.  Just last month, the publisher announced Valiant First—a brand new publishing initiative primed to unleash a major #1 new series debut monthly throughout 2014, beginning in May with RAI #1—the first issue of an all-new ongoing series from New York Times best-selling writer Matt Kindt with fully painted interiors by superstar artist Clayton Crain.


          “Catalyst is exceptional at what they do, and we couldn’t be happier to be working with a games publisher of their caliber on Valiant’s very first RPG.  With such a skilled an enthusiastic team at the helm, we have every faith that Valiant’s first foray into the world of role-play and tabletop gaming will live up to the expectations of our fans around the world,” said Russell A. Brown, Valiant’s President of Consumer Products, Promotions & Ad Sales.  “Catalyst is dedicated to doing these characters justice, and we look forward to giving our biggest heroes the gaming debut they deserve when the Valiant Universe RPG arrives later this year.”

          Look to www.catalystgamelabs.com in the future for more details surrounding these coming games.  For more information on Valiant’s award-winning library of characters,visit Valiant on Facebook, on Twitter, on Tumblr, and at ValiantUniverse.com.

About Catalyst Game Labs

Catalyst Game Labs is dedicated to producing high quality games and fiction that mesh sophisticated game mechanics with dynamic universes-all presented in a form that allows beginning players and long-time veterans to easily jump into our games and fiction readers to enjoy our stories even if they don’t know the games.
Catalyst Game Labs is an imprint of InMediaRes Productions, LLC, which specializes in electronic publishing of professional fiction. This allows Catalyst to participate in a synergy that melds printed gaming material and fiction with all the benefits of electronic interfaces and online communities, creating a whole-package experience for any type of player or reader. Find Catalyst Game Labs online at
www.catalystgamelabs.com.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

"Different" is a mild word for THE AUTEUR

THE AUTEUR #1 of 5. (ONI Press, March 2014). Adult content suggested for mature readers.

What catches attention immediately is the eye-popping cover, done in a glaring vivid style that evokes memories of the underground comics of the 1960's.



Coincidentally (perhaps) "auteur" is a French word originating in the 1960's and used to describe "a filmmaker whose individual style and complete control over all elements of production give a film it's personal and unique stamp." (Definition courtesy of www.dictionary.reference.com/). Indeed, THE AUTEUR is the story of a "dirtbag" Hollywood producer out of fresh ideas and seeking out fringe remedies to start his creative juices flowing once again. The creative team on this book is all-out in its efforts to gain your attention. THE AUTEUR is outrageous, over the top, and in your face.
Writer Rick Spears (also lettering the book as "Sick Rears") details his main character (producer Nathan T. Rex) in broad, bold strokes that manage to evoke a little empathy due to the extremely pathetic nature of his situation and his efforts to reclaim his damaged reputation in Hollywood. After a string of hit movies his last production "Cosmos" (an epic space opera similar to Star Wars) fell to the bottom of the toilet bowl.
The studio that funds him gives T. Rex one last chance to pull out of the tar pit he's mired in and prevent extinction. He's desperate for ideas to use in his new film, a slasher pic titled "President's Day", and looks for inspiration.
His search brings him to The Vatican (the strip bar, not the Pope's home) where he looks to a nun (the pole dancer, not the holy woman) for ideas and is told to have faith. He finally turns to charlatan/guru Doctor Love, whose psychedelic-laced elixirs transport Rex to "idea space" (wonderfully depicted in bold, vivid colors and wild hallucinatory images). After several journeys, Rex gets the inspiration to add an unusual expert as consultant on "President's Day".



THE AUTEUR is indeed, as it's editor claims, gritty and hyper-violent and very original. The images would frighten but they simply surprise us in guilty pleasure fashion due to the skills of artist James Callahan. Editor Charlie Chu aptly describes Callahan's style as "Looney-Tunes-on-PCP artwork that's is one part skater hooligan and one part Geoff Darrow. His artwork makes me think he's only read Jack Kirby comics while hoarding Garbage Pail Kids cards." The color work by Luigi Anderson is so bright and bold it looks flourescent.
Where this five-part story will end and the path it will take is anybody's guess. The fun will be in the journey, so board the magic bus and let's go for a wild ride!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Wednesday, March 12, 2014: New and Noteworthy, Part Two




MAGNUS ROBOT FIGHTER #1 (Dynamite, March 2014). Fred Van Lente, writer. Cory Smith, artist. Mauricio Wallace, colorist. Marshall Dillon, letterer.

This is the second of the Gold Key properties to be re-booted into the Dynamite universe. While it's not as interesting as TUROK, DINOSAUR HUNTER (which debuted last month) it also holds much promise and merits a close watch.

Writer Fred Van Lente has made some changes since the last version. As the issue begins, Russell Magnus (is that first name a tribute to original creator/writer/artist Russ Manning?) lives with his pregnant wife in a quiet country village called Maurey's Peak in the year 2045. He makes his living as a history teacher. Robots perform menial tasks and serve the humans, all monitored and controlled by the 1A operating system which appears on video screens as a grandfather type presence. Apparently it's the only place where robots and humans live together in co-operation.

Magnus escapes an attack on Maurey's Peak by mercenary robots and discovers a modern city complete with flying cars and many more robots, almost exclusively. He gets into a fight with police robots and discovers he has previously unknown abilities. Leeja, his love interest in the original series, is portrayed here as a "human hunter".

Cory Smith's art is a little rough in spots but his action scenes are well done, and his cityscapes of the future are very imaginative.




THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN, SEASON SIX #1. (Dynamite, March 2014). Jim Kuhoric, writer. Juan Antonio Ramirez, art. Fran Gamboa, colors. Joshua Coziness, letters.

Fans of this popular 1970's television series about a government cyborg agent will want to pick this up for a fun trip down Memory Lane. This has the feel of the series and the story could easily have been a working script from that era. Writer Jim Kuhoric does a fine job of recreating the techno magic from the time before CGI special effects and keeps it simple and true to form, very respectful of the source material. The art style by Ramirez reminds me of those old Gold Key/Dell comics based on TV series.

A space rocket probing the atmosphere of Venus picks up a strange substance around its shell during it's return to Earth. Bionically rebuilt Steve Austen is dispatched to intercept it when it hits the Atlantic Ocean near Florida. Steve joins the diving team just in time to be attacked by great white sharks. Meanwhile back in Washington D.C., a new breed of enhanced android is impersonating Austen and making a case for replacing him. Ahh, sweet nostalgia! Good old school story with classic art.

Baltimore Con adds Zeck, Golden, Wittenstaetter . . . . .

from the official press release . . . . . .

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND - March 10, 2014 - The Baltimore Comic-Con makes its annual return to the Inner Harbor the weekend of September 5-7, 2014 at the Baltimore Convention Center for its first 3-day event!

In addition to adding the much-requested Friday to our pop culture weekend of comic book goodness, we are excited to welcome back Michael Golden and Renee Witterstaetter to the show, and present the premiere appearance of Mike Zeck at the Baltimore Comic-Con!

Mike Zeck began his storied career in comics with Charlton Comics with their animation-related line of titles before moving to Marvel Comics to leave an indelible mark.   Zeck provided art to unforgettable characters and titles such as 1987's "Kraven's Last Hunt" in the Spider-Man titles, "Circle of Blood" in The Punisher, and the classic Secret Wars featuring Zeck's design on the classic black costume for Spider-Man (and later adopted by Venom).  Zeck's work has graced the pages and covers of Aquaman, Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight, Green Lantern, G.I. Joe, G.I. Joe: Special Missions, Lobo, Deathstroke The Terminator, The Eliminator, and too many titles to mention here.  His creator-owned project Damned , recently appeared from BOOM! Studios. And a new sketchbook is in the works from Eva Ink Publishing.

Artist/writer/creator Michael Golden is a legend in the comic book industry, but one that has never stopped adding to his legacy as a storytelling professional.  -creator of the X-Men's Rogue character, Spartan X, and Bucky O'Hare, Michael is known worldwide for his groundbreaking work on Marvel's The 'Nam, Micronauts, G.I. Joe Yearbook, and Dr. Strange, and is counted as one of the best cover designers and illustrators in the business.  Golden's work can be seen on the covers of Spawn, Nightwing, Iron Man, Heroes for Hire, Exiles, Demon's Regret, Spider-Man, Vampirella, Captain American, The Punisher, and The Hulk.  Recent books covering the colorful life and amazing art of Michael Golden include a Manga version of the Bucky O'Hare series, as well as the top-selling art retrospective Excess: The Art of Michael Golden, written by Renee Witterstaetter, which sold out and has gone into a second printing, as well as his recent sketchbooks Heroes and Villains, MORE Heroes and Villains, and Michael Golden: Alchemy.  His upcoming book is entitled Michael Golden: Dangerous Curves.
           Renee Witterstaetter, author of Excess: The Art of Michael Golden, Tex: The Art of Mark Texeira, the critically-acclaimed Nick Cardy: The Artist at War, and Nick Cardy: Wit-Lash, began the comic phase of her career working on such titles as Superman at DC Comics and Silver Surfer, Conan the Barbarian, and Conan Saga at Marvel, and then went on to spearhead the reintroduction of She-Hulk at Marvel.  She then moved over to Topps Comics where she was the editor on X-Files, Jurassic Park, Xena and Hercules, and the co-creator (with artist Michael Golden) of the successful series, Spartan X.   In addition, Renee has also been the colorist on hundreds of comics from The Avengers to Spider-Man to Captain America, among many, many others.   Her newest books include Santa Confidential, by Hagar the Horrible artist Chris Browne and the sketchbook James O'Barr: Uncoffined.

"We're so pleased that Mike Zeck has opted to join us in a rare convention appearance," commented Marc Nathan, promoter of the Baltimore Comic-Con.  "Along with Michael Golden and Renee Witterstaetter, we have some titans of industry coming to our show this year, and we're excited to present them to their fans!"

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Film explores the inspirational power of BATMAN . . . . .

 

LEGENDS OF THE KNIGHT is a documentary film that tells the story of various individuals who have overcome great challenges and obstacles through the inspiration provided by their love of Batman.  Just as a young and devastated Bruce Wayne became inspired to become a dark knight for justice in the Batman stories  - - - “each one of us has the ability to overcome our own challenges and to make a positive difference” (information obtained from the official website).

http://www.wearebatman.com/

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For one night only, a special screening of the film benefits AUTISM DELAWARE.  Running time is approximately 80 minutes.  The film is not rated, but is appropriate for all ages.

LEGENDS OF THE KNIGHT will be shown this Thursday, March 13 at 7:30 p.m. at the Penn Cinema Riverfront, located at 401 S. Madison Street in Wilmington, Delaware 19801

Reservations are required. Tickets will not be available at the door.  Tickets are $11.00 and can be reserved at . . . . .

http://www.tugg.com/events/8099

memphis01                  tampa01

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Noteworthy First Issues and Debuts, part one

 

THE FUSE #1  Image, February 2014)  Written by Antony Johnston. Illustrated by Justin Greenwood

Look, what I’m trying to say is that THE FUSE  is a big mash-up of a lot of things I  - - - love.  Detective stories;  dirty, lived-in sci-fi;  American cop shows;  and, duh, comics.”                                       Antony Johnston January 2014

         image-the-fuse-issue-1

           That is exactly what readers will find within the pages of THE FUSE.  All good detective stories use their opening chapter or chapters to set the stage, introduce the main players, and reveal the conflict or problem.  Everything is devoted or concentrated on getting the reader engaged, eager and willing to keep turning the pages to find out what happens and how everything gets resolved.  That is exactly what Johnston has done within Issue #1, subtitled The Russian Shift, Part 1.

          However, there is a lot more to THE FUSE than a simple crime story in an outer-space setting. The opening issue raises many questions that make it worth following this book to learn the answers.  I also sense that there is more depth to this story than Issue #1 can indicate.

          For example, what is the main purpose of this huge space station (shaped like a boom box) floating within Earth’s orbit?  It’s described as a tourist destination as well as a refuge / final destination for those down on their luck or looking to get away from something from their past.  Are all projectile weapons banned from use because the outer layer of the station is vulnerable to puncture, or is there some other reason?  Why are the homeless (yes, this stzfuse1ation is like a large city and some citizens are below poverty level) referred to as cablers? (Is it because they dwell among the pipes and power conduits that run through utility tunnels behind the scenes?)

  Will the newly-formed team of detectives bond or fragment?  There certainly seems to be a lot of discord, tension and doubt lurking beneath the wise-cracks and insults that they exchange back and forth.   Veteran detective (and also past retirement age) and Russian migrator Klementina Ristovych already has a hard-nosed reputation as an aloof member of the meager police force that prefers to work alone.  She also looks more like a man than a woman, with dark, drab clothes, no make-up and stringy hair.  Contrast her with new partner, Dietrich, a black 28-year old male with a good track record on the German police force who actually volunteered for the homicide assignment in space. When Klem questions his motives and probes for a reason, he gets sensitive and quiet when she implies it’s a problem with a woman.    Cablers keep turning up dead on the streets, and there seems to be a mysterious shadowy gunman behind it More mystery, crime and detection to follow.  This book has some promise, and shouldn’t be so readily dismissed.     

JUSTICE LEAGUE #28  (DC, April 2014)  Geoff Johns, Writer.  Ivan Reis, Layouts. Joe Prado & Scott Hanna, Finishes

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          In the early days of my discovery of super-hero comics,  there was one title in particular that really stood out in the drugstore comics spinner rack, and that was SHOWCASE #38 (1962)  featuring The Metal Men.  I was hooked, and tried to pick up every issue I could find.  That was not an easy task in those days for two reasons 1) I wasn’t old enough to drive yet and depended on car trips with Mom or Dad, and 2) There were no comic book stores, just the stray drug store or supermarket news stand to find your comics.

          That three-issue run led to the METAL MEN title debuting in 1963 and publishing 56 issues on an irregular basis until the final issue in 1978.  I had stopped following the title long before that.  There were no further Metal Men stories until Volume 2 in 1993, which lasted just one year.  A mini-series in 2007 also failed to revive the team.

          This issue of JUSTICE LEAGUE is a tie-in to the Forever Evil crossover event, and is dedicated to introducing the Metal Men to a New 52 audience.  Writer Geoff Johns is respectful of the original characters, and they are just as much fun as I remember them being.  The work of the art team is gorgeous to look at, and they do a great job of detailing the team in action.  The colors are vibrant, as you might expect from characters formed from various metals = Gold, Tin, Lead, Iron, Mercury and Platinum (the sole member in feminine form).

justice-league-28-metal-men

        Cyborg attempts to enlist the help of Dr. Will Magnus, creator of the Metal Men, to replace the missing-in-action Justice League and help stop the grid that took them out. Dr. Magnus, is reluctant to do so as his creations went down in action on their very first mission, which is retold in flashback.  Naturally, Cyborg is persuasive and Issue #29 promises to feature them in the conclusion of this side-story.  With any luck and a favorable reader response, this may be the beginning of a new tenure in the DC universe for the Metal Men.  More than just robots, the Metal Men are living, emotional and responsive forms of metal given life (and heart) through a “responsometer” that also allows their forms to become flexible, fluid, and malleable.  With federal funding, Dr. Magnus created them to “perform search and rescue missions in toxic environments too dangerous for human beings.”  However, as he soon learns, the military “paid for the Metal Men because we need a team that can go in and out of dangerous environments, whatever those may be and for whatever task is at hand.”

Big Announcement from Comixology at SXSW 2014

NOTE: The South By SouthWest (SXSW) Convention is an annual gathering in Austin, Texas where indie music artists from all over the globe converge for a week of concerts on various stages throughout the city. In recent years, a film festival has also EDITOR’S run in conjunction with the music festival. It has opened up this year to embrace all the arts.  ComiXology made a big presence there with some special events plus a booth at the SXSW Gaming Expo.  And now, they make a crazy generous offer like the one outlined below.  I recommend you take them up on it- - that’s only 10 cents per book.

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

Comixology’s Submit Self-Publishing Platform Celebrates One-Year Anniversary With Special Offer: 100 Books For 10 Bucks

ComiXology SXSW 2014 Submit Bundle

March 8, 2014 - New York, NY, /Austin, TX  –  Celebrating the one-year anniversary of comiXology Submit at SXSW today, comiXology co-founders David Steinberger (CEO) and John D. Roberts (Director of Submit) announced the availability of the top 100 books from the Submit program for only $10 – a savings of over $300.  The announcement was made from the Geek Stage at the SXSW Gaming Expo, where comiXology officially unveiled Submit last year in 2013.  (Note: click the link above to go to the offer.)

          “ComiXology Submit lets readers experience a broad range of content from creators who deserve exposure but may not be able to get the attention of print publishers, and what better way to celebrate our first anniversary than to make the top 100 Submit books available for only 10 bucks?” said John D. Roberts, Director of Submit & Digital Storytelling and comiXology co-founder.  “SXSW has long been known as the place to discover new indie music and films, and today fans can now discover indie comics and graphic novels as well.”

          ComiXology’s Submit platform has transformed the comics industry by allowing independent creators and cartoonists to upload their comic book and graphic novels for sale at no cost.  Once approved, comiXology does the rest, from transforming the work with comiXology’s immersive Guided View™ reading technology to making it available on comiXology’s buy once, read anywhere cloud-based digital comics platform, which includes an top grossing apps on iPad and iPhone, Android, Kindle Fire and Windows 8, and the web at www.comixology.com.  “Submitters” and comiXology equally split profits, with submitters maintaining full ownership of their work.

          In addition to debuting the promotion on the panel, comiXology revealed some key metrics behind the Submit platform from its first year (March 6, 2013 - March 6, 2014):

  • #3 in overall content released for the past year
  • #6 in all downloads released for the past year
  • #10 in gross revenue among all releases for past year
  • 1007 submission available for sale
  • 47,347 in pages released
  • 26 countries represented
  • 6 out of 7 continents represented; including Africa, Europe, Asia, North America, South America, & Australia except Antarctica.

          “It speaks volumes to the hunger readers have for diverse content that – when viewed in aggregate like a single publisher – Submit content ranked #10 in gross revenue among new releases in its first year,” said Chip Mosher, comiXology’s VP of Communications & Marketing who moderated the panel at SXSW.  “We look forward to the day we finally get that submission from Antarctica!”

          Also during the panel, Steinberger and Roberts were joined by native Texan submitter Fabian Rangel, Jr., creator of Doc Unknown – a new hit comic that debuted this year on Submit – who spoke to the benefits of the Submit platform.  Rangel’s appearance follows a tradition of spotlighting Texas-based comic creators that started last year with the appearance on stage of Shannon Wheeler, who created his seminal indie comic hit Too Much Coffee Man in Austin and which was part of Submit’s debut.

          "Self-publishing is a constant struggle.  But now, thanks to comiXology Submit, that struggle has gotten a lot easier,” said Fabian Rangel, Jr. best known for writing and creating the series Doc Unknown.  “Submit is one of the newest and most effective weapons a comic creator can add to their arsenal.  People from all over the world are now reading the adventures of Doc Unknown.

          ComiXology Submit enables independent comics creators and cartoonists, from promising new talent to established veterans, to reach a global audience of comic book and graphic novel fans for whom comiXology already created the first viable digital marketplace for leading publishers.

Creators and cartoonists interested in submitting works for approval can visit http://submit.comixology.com.

Comic book and graphic novel fans interested in finding works by independent creators and cartoonists now available on comiXology are invited to visit http://www.comixology.com/submit.

About comiXology
ComiXology has revolutionized the comic book and graphic novel industry by delivering a cloud-based digital comics platform that makes discovering, buying, and reading comics more fun than ever before.  ComiXology’s Guided View™ reading technology transforms the comic book medium into an immersive and cinematic experience, helping comiXology become one of iTunes top grossing iPad apps in 2011, 2012 and 2013.  Offering the broadest library of comic book content from the top 75 publishers, and including independent creators as well, comiXology will not stop until everyone on the face of the planet has become a comic book fan.  A privately held company, comiXology is based in New York City, with offices in Los Angeles and Paris.  For more information, visit
www.comixology.com.

Last Son

Just in time to ride the hype from the upcoming Superman movie, DC has published two classic Action Comics arcs in one big trade.  Collecting ACTION COMICS #844-846#851, 866-870, and ACTION COMICS ANNUAL #11, this trade covers some of Geoff John’s best arcs from his time on the title. The first arc covers the escape of General Zod from the Phantom Zone with Richard Donner co-writing and drastically re-imagining the second Superman movie. The second arc reinvents the Brainiac character as he attempts to destroy Earth.
Although I’m not a fan of Big Blue, Geoff Johns teaming with Richard Donner is not to be missed and when paired with Kubert art, you know the book is going to be gorgeous.
The storyline in the first arc begins with the appearance of a starship crash landing to Earth.  The only occupant of the small ship is a young child who seems to be Kryptonian in origin. Superman barely has time to put glasses on the child to hide his identity before he learns that this kid is actually a pawn being used by those in the Phantom Zone to enable their escape. The story seems to jump a bit with a flashback issue in the middle (likely collected out of order) but otherwise does a good job of re-purposing the basic plot of Superman II for an exciting arc.
The second arc was my favorite with a total re-imagining of the Brainiac character, implying that he was responsible for the destruction of Krypton.  Always an intelligent character who lacked brawn, this Brainiac gives Superman a run for his money on all fronts. The tail end of the story comes with an epilogue that leads directly into a major life event for Superman and is sure to tug at even the most jaded fanboy’s heartstrings.
The art in this book is clean and detailed. The ugliness of how Bizarro is drawn compliments the main character well. Brainiac also looks great sporting a totally new character model.
The only major issue I had with the book (primarily the first arc) was that the panels often crossed pages making the art on the crease very difficult to see without breaking the spine of the book. This seemed unnecessary in most instances and made the book harder to read. Jimmy Olson’s head also occasionally looks like the Joker when his face is absurdly elongated but that’s a rare departure for the book which seems to pay attention to scale in all other aspects.
Although the second story outshines the first, both are excellent arcs that even a Superman novice can pick up and enjoy. The art is beautiful throughout and the emphasis on facial expressions reminds you what separates the A-list artists from the rest of the pack. Despite some small missteps, this trade is definitely worth picking up in time for the movie and very reasonably priced given its heft.
Final rating (out of 5): 4 stars

Friday, March 7, 2014

“ . . . It was a double-shot of my BLOODSHOT love . . .”

 

BSCORPS_019_COVER_CRAIN                    BSCORPS_019_VARIANT_SEARS

BLOODSHOT AND H.A.R.D. CORPS #19  (Valiant, February 2014)  Writers: Christos Gage & Joshua Dysart.  Art: Bart Sears.  Flashback Art: ChrisCross & Victor Olazaba.  Color Art: Matt Milla.  Letters: Dave Sharpe.

          So impressive is this issue that I offer BLOODSHOT AND H.A.R.D. CORPS #19 as Exhibit A evidence in answer to the question “Why should I read any Valiant books?”  The answer is that they consistently pack a full load of story and character development into every issue and accompany that with very good art.  It’s a one-two punch that satisfies without pain.  All the Valiant titles are reader-friendly enough that you can pick one up at random and find an engaging story to follow without confusion.

          Following up from the events in Issue #18, deposed Project Rising Sun director Simon Oreck’s Specialists team beats current CEO Morris Kozol’s H.A.R.D. Corps team in a showdown and snatches co-leader Charlie Palmer, Genius and Flatline.  Oreck’s game plan is to harvest a brain implant from Palmer and build a private army.  Genius offers his younger body/brain in exchange for the others’ freedom, and the story takes off from there in several very big ways.

          The remaining H.A.R.D. Corps members plus Bloodshot are much more organized that the divisive Specialists team who are attempting to track them down.  The Specialists team of psiots (natural powers) has dissension in the ranks, and Chernobyl is isolated since no one wants to work beside him.  H.A.R.D. Corps (downloaded powers) are unified through their objectives, and separate to divert the Specialists while some members try to sneak into the building and rescue their CEO and team partners.  Bloodshot is confronted by Sharpshooter and Big Boy, and has to resort to cheap tricks and dirty fighting.  Vagabond meets the highly toxic and radioactive Chernobyl.  Instead of fighting it out, Vagabond contacts the Lifeline program and has some unusual powers downloaded into his brain.  Chernobyl is sedated and subdued not by force, but through smoking a joint while exchanging sad life stories where we learn the back-story of both of these characters.  are equally interesting power downloads occurring in this story as one team seeks to out-think the other.

          There is similar character insight throughout this issue, as more is revealed regarding Vagabond, Simon Oreck, and Charlie Palmer.  I am very impressed by the writing team of Gage and Dysart.  The writing and the pacing is crisp, engaging and extremely revealing.  It’s hard to believe how much detail and background gets crammed in around all the action.  They are quite the team.

          Make no mistake; there is plenty of action in this issue.  Bart Sear’s art is very dynamic, and the use of overlapping panels without dialogue ensures that none of the battle action gets overlooked.

          Some readers who have been following this title since the early issues may be wondering why they should keep following Bloodshot after recent events.  After all, he’s regained access to his memories and a lot of confusing history has been cleared up, while he seems to have his current situation under control.  Yet, he still appears conflicted and at his core he remains a loner motivated solely by self-preservation more than anything else.  He’s given an option here and may surprise you with the choice he makes.  Don’t be surprised if he defaults from H.A.R.D. Corps at some point, in spite of the title on the cover of the book.  As the book says - - “Get Some” of Bloodshot and current company now.

BSHC HARD Corps 0 Cover.indd     BSHC HARD Corps 0 Cover.indd     BSHC HARD Corps 0 Cover.indd

BLOODSHOT AND H.A.R.D. CORPS #0  (Valiant, March 2014)  Writers: Christos Gage & Joshua Dysart.  1970’s Art: Valentine De Landro.  1980’s Art: Joseph Cooper with John Livesay.  1990’s Art: ChrisCross with Victor Olazaba.  Color Art: Ian Hannin.  Letters: Dave Sharpe

          Fans of H.A.R.D. Corps will want this #0 issue for future reference purposes.  It offers a good amount of background information on the group and gives a revealing indication of the ulterior motives and machinations behind the Project Rising Sun (PRS) organization.  Central to all three storylines are the head scientist Arthur Kendall and CEO G. T. Prescott, whose two separate work philosophies first mesh and then become further apart as they experience life working for PRS.

BSHC_ZERO_001

          The story centers around the activities of PRS at a 1970’s research station in Saigon; and covers the following five years in the development of H.A.R.D. Corps man Samuel.  By the time he reaches his fifth year of downloaded abilities, it has taken a tremendous toll on his body.  He only 25 years old, but bed-ridden, pale and frail and in his last days.  He out-lasted all the other recruits, whose original life expectancies were only two years.

          Flash forward ten years to the second generation of H.A.R.D. Corps in 1985 at another research center in Ft. Worth, Texas.  Recruit Garrett Dupree, now in his fifth year, is finding it hard to balance family obligations with obligations to PRS.  He shares his intentions to resign with hard-nosed C.E.O. G.T. Prescott and meets with resistance.  The same problems occur for recruit Rosie, who was promised a cure for her son’s crippling cancer.  They try to revolt and learn that PRS treats the corps as weapons first, and never considers the human or family aspects.

          The last vignette occurs in 1993, when current senior leader Charlie Palmer was a recruit and trying to keep an affair with another member from prying PRS eyes.  When the programming in a member becomes out of control, the remaining H.A.R.D. Corps crew are introduced to the newest PRS invention in Bloodshot.  While Palmer gets Lifeline to download Suggestion mode so he can negotiate with the renegade member, Bloodshot does what he’s been trained to do and resolves the matter quickly.  It’ the beginning of the end for Kendall and Prescott’s tenure, and the start up of Simon Oreck, his dismantling of H.A.R.D. Corps and the rise of Bloodshot and the Specialists team.

          As Kendall reflects on the past 30 years of work and how his good intentions were manipulated we get a truer picture of the motivations of the parent organization.  It’s a neat bit of history, all wrapped up in 23 pages.  Consider it essential reading for Bloodshot followers.

      The three separate but nevertheless connected story threads are illustrated by different art teams. It’s a nice way to set each story apart, and it’s done is an unobtrusive manner. All three art styles are close to each other in look and feel and only differ in subtle ways.