“The Sunderland Volume One: Schism” is the first in an epic trilogy of graphic novels set in a dystopian world. It will be followed by “Solitude” and “Thermidor.” This is quite an ambitious work and I salute, artist Jon Renzella and writer Eric Weiss, the talent behind this 450-page book of black and white woodcuts and text.
From the introduction:
Society is fractured. Life for most is a desperate struggle. Natural Resources are scarce and the discovery of a miracle source of new, clean energy only serves to deepen the cracks. As the planet reaches breaking point, the sudden appearance of two mysterious pillars…
It’s a very intense and vivid world that Renzella and Weiss have created. If you enjoy comics with a social commentary bite to them, then this is something you’ll want to check out. The creators of this book live and work in Taiwan and so it is interesting to keep that in mind as a subtext.
The Green movement is in disarray. The average citizen doesn’t stand a chance. And the Petrolol corporation just keeps chugging along. The narrative can be rather dense at times and so can the artwork, but it grows on you. This is a byzantine journey crowded with numerous characters confronting chaotic and enigmatic challenges. There is no hero. There is no clear resolution in sight. The story just is. But out of that jungle we find numerous graceful and poetic moments.
“Schism: The Sunderland, Volume One” is published by Lei Press and printed in Taiwan. It is available through Jon Renzella’s website. You can find it right here.
Greg Rucka is a writer you can count on to have something to say. “Lazarus,” his new Sci-Fi thriller, published by Image Comics and out today, has plenty to say. This is truly a dystopian story with a twist. This is dystopian crime fiction with major anger management issues. Injustice must be confronted, you say? Well, this comic is taking aim at the whole rotting system as it blasts its way into existence.
At the center of all the mayhem, a woman. A Rucka woman. Yeah, you got a problem with that? Her name is Forever Carlyle and she holds a unique position in the world. Depending on how you look at things, she’s one very lucky girl or one very unfortunate girl.
Okay, the ground rules. Every dystopian piece of fiction has a structure, a place to work from. The world of “Lazarus” is pretty ballsy. You see, it’s not enough for the haves to have and see the have-nots choke on their own spit. In the future, the haves are elites to the extreme and they’ve pushed back the rest of humanity into a dung pile. Only certain families have survived and prospered. And within each family, is a protector, a Lazarus.
This person cannot, will not, be hurt, maimed, killed, destroyed. They always return–to protect the family. And, guess what, Forever is a young woman who is the Lazarus for the Family Carlyle. You’d guess that might be a cool thing. But, think about it. Forever is the one who is always taking a bullet for the rest of the family. No matter how far stem cell technology has advanced, it still hurts like hell!
The opening scenes will grab you and keep your attention. Artist Michael Lark has worked very closely with Rucka and you can feel the chemistry. Enjoy bringing what you’ve read before or just kick back and take in this comic fresh. You’ll see, from the opening fight scenes down to all the establishing scenes, this comic is well paced and sure of itself. The comic looks fantastic: spare where it needs it; detailed with compelling architecture and backgrounds; and given the right noir vibe with colors by Santi Arcas. It’s gritty fun.
And, keep in mind, Forever is no shrinking violet either. She will pull the trigger on whoever she has to. But she also has a brain and a heart and that will likely get her into far more trouble than even she can handle.
Also included, you will find a very generous and heart-felt essay from Greg as he talks about the writer’s craft and how he came to partner up with Michael. At the end, you’re invited to get in on the action and help bring the letters page to life. Greg has promised that, if your letter gets printed, you will receive a very cool embroidered patch of the Family Carlyle crest.
Brian Wood’s “The Massive” takes on Manhattan in Issue 13. And we are off to an awesome start with cover art by J.P. Leon.
I saw “World War Z” over the weekend and, while I hesitate to make much of any comparisons, it is safe to say that “The Massive” is going to deliver for you that dystopian fix in a more substantial way than this movie. Now, I did enjoy the movie but it was more about action than delving into a world on a deep level. As is too often the case, I assume you’ll find a more coherent plot in the novel. “The Massive” manages quite nicely to geek out a fully realized world in a comic book format and leaves you ready for even more details.
You can say that Mr. Wood has taken these dystopian tropes around the block a few times already but he seems to always be good for a new take on them. “The Massive” has so far been moving along steadily and convincingly. It’s doing what its reader base expects and it won’t disappoint new readers.
In the first of a three-issue story, “Americana,” we find the crew of The Kapital, the ramshackle vessel on its valiant journey in a post-everything world, on the heels of a baddie in a submarine. He’s made his way to what is left of Manhattan, which is nothing. The Kapital’s captain asks the punk chick on board for advice, since it is assumed she’s a city rat steeped in secret knowledge. She asks him if going to see a show and then crashing on some guy’s couch qualifies as valuable intel and then gives him a kindly smirk.
Garry Brown does a beautiful job of bringing out the gritty reality of seeing one of the great cities on the planet reduced to a heap of flooded and useless junk. Grim and intense coloring, by Jordie Bellaire, and urgent and blunt lettering by Jared K. Fletcher, punctuate the data that ensues throughout, urgent news like the nation’s capital has been forced to relocate to higher ground in Denver. Cut off from the military, vital intel, and basic infrastructure, the nation’s capital is on very shaky ground. Yeah, this is geeked-out dystopian fun.
“The Massive #13” is out on June 26. If you’ve been considering checking out “The Massive,” this is an excellent jumping on point. Visit our friends at Dark Horse Comics.
Jonathan Hickman has a need to juggle many balls in the air. It is a dazzling thing to behold going back to “Transhumans,” “S.H.I.E.L.D.,” as far as it got, “The Manhattan Projects” and, of course, his run on “Fantastic Four” at Marvel Comics. With “East of West,” for Image Comics, he unites with his “FF” artist, Nick Dragotta, and gives us quite a show.
So far in the story, we are in for a dystopian treat with an alternate America cut up like a wedding cake. One big hunk goes to Texas, just because. The North and South get their shares, this being the only way to resolve the Civil War. The cajuns get a bigger slice than they already had. The Indian Nations get a piece big enough to settle many scores. The Chinese end up with a big hunk. And there’s a spot in the epicenter, perhaps a demilitarized zone. Well, that’s where the comet crashed, right in the middle of the North American continent during the American Civil War, but more on that later.
This scenario alone would be plenty to work with for any story. But, no, Hickman throws in the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse! Now we’re cookin’! They’re really what “East of West” is about after all. Nothing is going to result in a world, as we know it, in this story and that could be a good thing–but probably not. Getting back to that comet. It was pretty hefty. It was such a game changer it ended the Civil War and brought about the creation of the Seven Nations of America. Will we learn more about this comet? Is there more to this–like more of Earth beyond this new America? Hmm, lots of balls in the air which is good insofar as adding texture and probably a whole lot more. So, yeah, whether Hickman ever gets back to explaining any of this comet blast stuff or not, that’s our starting point and then we fast forward the clock to the year 2064 and we see that, while peace may have broken out after the comet blast, it has eroded back to civil war. Conquest, War, and Famine have returned in the form of children and with a no-show, Death. The Three Horsemen, as it were, are ready to bring on the Apocalypse but where’s Death?
Through the years, legend has spread about an answer to the world’s ills in the form of The Message. Those who have read it, know what to do. Death has read The Message and appears to be on a killing spree involving The Chosen and world leaders. Death begins by making short work of the President of the North. He keeps killing down the chain of command until he settles on the Secretary of the Interior. This choice fits in with his plans which turn out to be more than mere killing. He’s setting up a whole new world leadership. However, Conquest, War, and Famine have other plans, like finding Death, for starters. Maybe his “wife” can help? That’s where we come in with this third issue.
While Hickman follows comic book tropes pretty faithfully, as in ending with a surprise, his surprises are all the more surprising, you know, given his skill to spin a tale. For Issue Three, he has us get to know this mystery woman in Death’s life. Could she really be his wife? We learn that she’s the daughter of the Chinese leader and that would put her father right in Death’s crosshairs. Of course, Death don’t need no stinkin’ crosshairs, but you know what I mean. Anyway, this issue is another killer in visuals. Nick Dragotta does a beautiful job of brining to life the mystery lady. Lush color by Frank Martin. And spot on lettering by Rus Wooton, too. All shout outs here essential.
The woman in question is young and brash, excels at martial arts, is something of a mystic, enjoys walks on the beach, and wishes to be left the hell alone. Her name is Xiaolian. Can you see Death dating her? One thing is for sure, Death, like taxes, is a certain thing. Death means business and it doesn’t look like an intriguing young woman is going to hold much, if any, sway in his decision-making. However, and there are always “howevers” to deal with, maybe love will find a way. As kooky as it sounds, yeah, maybe love will find a way. That’s what Death’s entourage, made up of two ethereal and spooky characters, known as Crow and Wolf, think. Yeah, Crow and Wolf believe in love! It’s a testament to confident storytelling to take this detour, by gum! And, we all know there’s more going on.
Some comic books are just barely holding up a plot while others stand out as something special. “East of West” aspires to be the next big thing and so far so good. The story has plenty of leg room and could go in all sorts of directions. There’s a lot of thought put into this and could easily be developed into a prose book or series of books. Of course, comic book investors hope to see this become the next “Walking Dead.” For now, appreciate the comic because the comic alone could indeed keep growing and exceed anyone’s wildest dreams.
“East of West #3” is currently available and Issue Four is on sale as of July 10. Visit our friends at Image Comics.