Emerald City Comicon 2017, here in Seattle, is fast approaching. It is a four-day event starting Thursday, March 2nd, and running through Sunday, March 5th. It is certainly a big deal for us locals as well as the Pacific Northwest and all points beyond. Image Comics will make a significant showing this year with a rare gathering of its founders to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Image Comics. This special panel is scheduled for Friday, March 3rd. Be sure to come to ECCC to see Image Comics founders Todd McFarlane, Jim Valentino, Erik Larsen, Rob Liefeld, Marc Silvestri and Whilce Portacio.
Gabriel Hardman is an artist with a very fluid and powerful drawing style. And that carries over to his writing as well. His latest one-shot comic for Image Comics is a perfect case in point, entitled, THE BELFRY, a trippy surreal vampire jaunt. You could say this is how truly engaged cartoonists dream, or have nightmares: a sequence of seemingly random events that creep up on you to unveil some unnerving results. For Hardman, it all began with a sketch of a vampire woman with silky wings sprawled inside a dank cavern. That haunting drawing led to this strange and lyrical story.
Hardman runs with dream logic and gives us quite a number of compelling visuals: an airliner crash-landing in a remote jungle, devilish winged figures, a spike jammed into an eyeball socket! Yes, it can get gruesome but this is stylish horror. For those of you into quirky comics, you are likely already fans of Gabriel Hardman (KINSKI, Star Wars Legacy) as well as his work teamed up with Corinna Sara Bechko (INVISIBLE REPUBLIC, HEATHENTOWN). This is an artist loaded with wit, vision, and endless energy. Hardman loves to draw as his expressive ink does attest!
The initial sketch that set things in motion.
“Fwip! Fwip! Fwip!” go the incredibly long batwings. There’s a deliciously uncompromising vibe to this comic. Right after the airliner crashing, because of those demonic wings getting in the way, co-pilot Bill is awakened by flight attendant Janet. All the passengers have been accounted for. But what about Captain Anders? Well, er, he’s alive except…there’s a stake through his eye. Then there’s a beautifully surreal transition…Bill is running through the wild jungle and falls, as into a rabbit hole, except it’s a huge cave full of humanoid bats. Bill lands with a tremendous thud. He’s been stripped bare. All the other passengers are naked as well. And from there the screws are turned tighter and a splendid nightmare spreads out in full bloom.
THE BELFRY will prove to be a great new addition to your comics reading so make a note of it as this one is a month away. And, if you haven’t been following Hardman, seek him out. A good place to start is the ongoing series, INVISIBLE REPUBLIC, to which I provide a review right here.
THE BELFRY one-shot issue is available as of February 22, 2017. For more details, visit Image Comics right here.
BEOWULF, a graphic novel by Santiago García and David Rubín
If you are looking for a graphic novel that gives a quirky edge to the epic poem, Beowulf, then check out the all-new English translation of the graphic novel version. Originally published in Spain by Astiberri, this new edition is by Image Comics. Written by Santiago García and illustrated by David Rubín, this is a fresh and bloody take on the oldest surviving long poem in Old English (circa 1000 AD).
There’s that scene in Woody Allen’s 1977 masterpiece, “Annie Hall,” with Alvy talking to Annie about her English lit courses. He advises her to take anything but Beowulf. That was the common view on the prospect of reading the Viking epic in its original Old English. But attitudes evolve. An interest in Tolkien and such helps. Robert Zemeckis directed a pretty decent Beowulf movie in 2007. The fact is that Beowulf has influenced countless great works of fiction in numerous mediums. What is distinctive about this new graphic novel is how much it revels in the gritty and gruesome.
Beowulf makes his case.
Our hero is the brave warrior, Beowulf. He’s on a quest to kill the monster known as Grendel, right? In that task, he succeeds. All seems well until he has to confront the wrath of Grendel’s mother–and beyond! If you’ve read this in high school or college, you know it’s pretty rough going for Beowulf. Santiago García’s script and David Rubín’s artwork mean to up the ante.
Consider the fight between Beowulf and Grendel. There’s definitely a contemporary sense of provocation here as Grendel is depicted as having a devilish zeal to inflict pain. In fact, he sexually assaults Beowulf. It is one of the most unusual scenes I’ve read in comics this year. Done with a certain level of restraint, you could possibly miss it if you were quickly scanning through pages.
Use of floating panels.
This is an intelligent and imaginative adaptation. While not without a generous dose of blood and gore, the creators here aimed to tap into the power of the original work. The pacing of the narrative and the robust art make this a highly accessible read. There are interesting touches running throughout like the floating panels within panels offering various points of view and/or an inside look into a character. This has a thoroughly contemporary sensibility and decidedly provocative. Recommended for mature readers.
BEOWULF is a 200-page hardcover, in full color. Direct market release date is 12/21. Book market release date is 12/27. For more details and how to purchase, visit Image Comics right here.
Image Comics reports that, in order to keep up with overwhelming customer demand, it is sending SEVEN TO ETERNITY #1, written by Rick Remender, drawn by Jerome Opeña, and colored by Matt Hollingsworth, back for a second printing on the same day as the issue’s release. And that makes total sense. This is the just the sort of quirky, weird, action-packed comic that will excite many readers. This is the tale of Adam Osidis, one reluctant hero confronting, The Mud King, one scary evil ruler. Both characters are up for a fight–or perhaps a discreet understanding of some sort.
Welcome to the kingdom of Zhal, ruled by The Mud King, officially known as The God of Whispers. How this works is left sort of mysterious. Part of it has to do with The Mud King having cast a spell on all of the kingdom’s inhabitants. Much weighs upon whether or not someone will take up The Mud King’s offer, whatever that may be. Under no circumstances would Adam’s father bend his knee and accept any offer from The Mud King. That did not work out so well for Zebadiah Osidis. There is a whole village in exile hiding in the mountains because of Zebadiah Osidis’s defiance. So, maybe Adam can figure something out.
This is definitely one of those big deal titles right up there with the likes of Jonathan Hickman’s celebrated Image Comics series, EAST OF WEST. This new breakout hit reunites the creative team behind Uncanny X-Force. You have all the depth and texture of a story you can really sink your teeth into. There is so much referred to and implied here to keep a series roaring for years. That said, we have a steady and compelling narrative unfolding. We’re in good hands with Adam, our reluctant yet cunning young hero.
SEVEN TO ETERNITY #1 is available as of September 21st. For more details, visit Image Comics right here.
Let’s say that you do go out to L.A. to chase that dream of fame and fortune. Alright, you’re walking down Hollywood Boulevard. You get a text. But it’s not your agent. You don’t even really have an agent but you know someone who does. Or you thought you knew this person. Where did the time go? At this rate, you only have enough money to last you through…the week? Ah, it can happen. Variations of this happen every day. Meet Farrah Durante. She’s struggling at cattle calls for whatever part she can get. And she actually used to be somebody. Yeah, she was Cee-Lin on that really popular sci-fi show, “Space Farers,” or it used to be popular. That was so many years ago. Close in on Farrah. She’s attractive and seems pretty agile but she’s at the mercy of youth-obsessed Hollywood. However, Farrah has stumbled upon some sort of secret weapon in “Glitterbomb,” the new comic book series from Image Comics with a Hollywood horror tale to tell.
You see, Farrah has a way to exact revenge. She is not looking to make trouble. But something has tapped her to be a vessel that can unleash horrific fury. You wouldn’t think it remotely possible to look at Farrah. And, Jesus, what exactly would horrific fury entail? Look, it’s been brewing for a very long time. Hollywood’s fame culture has already unleashed its own horrific fury, so to speak. We question our looks, our own worthiness, compared to the latest celebrity darlings. We all do it in our own way. And, if you don’t, there are others who will do it for us and unfairly judge us. Poor Farrah finds herself caught in the middle of some cosmic reordering of balance. That much I can tell you. That’s fair enough. I’m not here to spoil anything. What I am here to say is that Farrah Durante is a great character and exemplifies the tragic state of our culture when a talented woman reaches a certain age and becomes something less than worthy: unemployable, unmarketable, unwanted.
There are a couple of classic films that readily come to mind now: “Sunset Boulevard” and “All About Eve.” Both films came out in 1950 and each stars a woman who has committed the worst act in Hollywood: she has gotten older! Gloria Swanson was 51. Bette Davis was 42. Each character was at a dangerous point in their lives with threats coming at them from all sides. Who would love them? Who would hire them? Both films are dark with Billy Wilder’s “Sunset” decidedly noir. Neither is horror, per se, but we come close as, in both cases, these two older women are so up against it. “Eve” is far more restrained although the threat from the young Eve Harrington on the older Margo Channing reaches the level of a blood sport. For horror movie theatrics, you can’t find much better than Gloria Swanson as the aging and desperate Norma Desmond. This is all to say that both of these movies were playing with a common theme, one of the oldest in the book: the young will devour the old…and women are placed at greater disadvantage.
Clearly, “Glitterbomb” is playing for keeps! This is an ambitious work. It’s also a scary one! Jim Zub (WAYWARD, Thunderbotls) has created a script that realistically brings us into the hard luck world of Farrah Durante endlessly scrambling for an acting gig. And he melds that with some of the most inventive supernatural content that I’ve seen in a long while. Add to that the very nimble artwork by Djibril Morissette-Phan that captures the pathos and rage of Farrah quite convincingly. We see her as someone potentially so full of life but who must continue to sidestep all sorts of life’s sucker punches along with whatever that is that spawned from hell–or is it just Hollywood?!
K. Michael Russell provides some great atmospheric colors. And Marshall Dillon rounds out the creative team with well balanced, well-placed, lettering. I especially appreciate his creative flourishes in evoking the urgency of text messages.
At the end of this comic, there’s an eye-opening essay on the abusive culture of Hollywood by Holly Raychelle Hughes. As she experienced it, Hollywood made her feel less than human, more like something expendable. It is a perfect companion piece to this remarkable work.
GLITTERBOMB provides a clever horror vibe as well as great biting social commentary. The first issue is available as of September 7th. For more details, visit Image Comics right here.
“Oh boy! It’s really been a while, hasn’t it? But it’s like they say: life is what happens between blog posts. Right??” That is “Snotgirl,” the new comic created by Bryan Lee O’Malley and Leslie Hung. Meet Lottie Person, your fashionista, your Holly Golightly with a blog. Not in a long while have I enjoyed such a pleasing mix of sexy and cute as with this new comic.
Holly Golightly with a blog
A comic like this almost writes itself. Thankfully, we have a thoughtful script by O’Malley and engaging artwork by Hung. When has snot ever been a recurring motif in a story about twentysomethings? Maybe it a comic strictly for kids, like Dennis the Menace or Peppermint Patty covered in snot. But not someone so poised and elegant as our Lottie! The poor thing suffers form allergies. So, she is never too far from a tissue. And those allergy pills don’t seem to be reliable.
I blog, therefore I am.
If you are reading this blog post, chances are you write a blog of your own! We’re all doing it. Feels good, right? Or does it? You could say it depends on why you’re doing it. This is at the hear of this story. What makes Lottie tick? What if all her social media was suddenly withheld from her? Would she exist? And then there’s a surprise twist at the end of this first issue that lets you know for sure that all is not what it seems. Great first issue!
SNOTGIRL #1 is available as of July 20th. For more details, visit Image Comics right here.
It’s always good to read a comic by Howard Chaykin. I can tell that Mr. Chaykin is having a grand time writing and drawing his latest comic, “Midnight of the Soul.” It wasn’t very long ago that I was marveling over another of his works, “Satellite Sam,” also published by Image Comics. As long as there are good comics being made, I’ll be writing about them. And this one inspires my own creating of comics. I admire many things here. Chaykin has a naturalness about him. He has an enthusiasm to share with you as much as possible.
Howard Chaykin wants nothing less than to drench you in the era his story is set in, wants you to appreciate that people ate, slept, shit, fucked, yelled, cried, murdered in this time he’s taking you to. And maybe they did things a little differently back then from the way things are done today by a new generation. A little more blunt and raw, not so pretty. But, one thing is for sure, they lived!
The time for this story is 1950, five years after World War II. The boys, now men, must find their way. For many, the war had never left them. It certainly messed up one Joel Breakstone, former GI and liberator of Auschwitz. Joel thought he might find the answers as a writer. But, too much booze and little discipline have soured his pipe dreams. Maybe he was never cut out to be a writer. Patricia, his girlfriend, tries to get him to wake up. All around him, everything is falling apart, including his relationship with Patricia, including Patricia herself!
Few cartoonists embrace the old school tradition as well as Chaykin: both writing and drawing his work consistently over decades in his distinctive style. To do that, and do it so well, that makes you a legend. But what makes you someone to remember is real passion. Chaykin has such a crisp style, its stark beauty creates a certain distance between the reader and his characters. It is sort of like he doesn’t want you to get too close to these people he creates. Mostly, these are not very nice people to begin with. There’s a very intriguing dark world that Chaykin wants to share with you. These people are broken and are apt to do ugly, even unspeakable, things. Disconnection. Dissonance. Ah, the stuff of noir!
Creating the right mood is so important. Chaykin is such a masterful draftsman that he can easily use the same drawing, even the same set of panels, again in the same issue. If the artwork is strong and interesting enough, and it lends itself to a satisfying reverberation, then why the hell not? Anyway, it is done to great effect here. This whole first issue to a must-read. For fans, you’ll find Chaykin just as gritty and tough as ever. For new readers, you’re in for a wild ride.
“Midnight Of The Soul #1” is available as of June 8th. For more details, visit Image Comics right here.
With perfect nods to everything from “Star Wars” to “Blade Runner,” but with its own distinctive style, “Empress” looks like a comic book headed for the big screen, and it is. Read here. Yes, this comic will be a movie. Someday, all comics will be turned into movies. Anyway, do enjoy it now since good comics help make everything better.
Mark Millar is one of those exceptional creators. He brings to mind Ed Brubaker, someone at home with writing everything from Captain America to his own work, like Criminal. Both Millar and Brubaker have contributed significantly to the Captain America canon. As for Millar’s own original work, there’s a whole universe of it. Ever hear of “Kick-Ass”? Miller has worked on so many titles it would make your head spin. That said, “Empress” feels fresh and fun, like a very special project should.
With Empress, Miller is riffing on Star Wars and doing it in the House of Marvel Comics (Icon Comics), no less. That’s pretty cool. This is no mere rip-off of Star Wars but the similarities are unmistakable–it is a distant future/past; a lovely woman of noble birth must return to her home; she is on the run with a madcap crew; a funny little droid holds the keys to their escape. But no complaints here. Millar did a similar thing with Batman a few years ago to great effect. Basically, he has the uncanny ability of taking very familiar material and giving it a new set of wings. For instance, in this story, the stand-in for R2-D2 is called, Ship, and it can zap itself, and those near it, to other worlds. Nice wrinkle to a familiar story.
Switching bodies is probably never a good idea and Miller creates here a new wrinkle to that premise. I like the scene with the Quez, a blue mellow race of creatures. We see them here advertising a body swap where they will have one of their reps inhabit your body and engage in vigorous exercise while you get to lounge and pig out in their body. That’s a different level of borrowing. It’s a very clever nod to Robert Sheckley’s hilarious sci-fi classic novel, “Mindswap.” Bravo.
And getting back to the Mark Miller universe at-large, be sure to check out “Jupiter’s Legacy Vol. 2 #1” on sale June 29th, published by Image Comics. “Empress #2,” published by Icon, is available as of May 4th. For more details, visit Icon right here.
Roy and Mac are your next favorite offbeat characters. They aren’t on Netflix or HBO yet. But that’s perfectly fine as the deadpan humor works quite well in its original form as comics. Welcome to “The Fix,” a new ongoing series published by Image Comics. These guys aren’t even smart enough to be true wise guys. The closer they get to those in power in the crime world, the more out of their league they show themselves to be. But, hey, you do what you gotta do.
Crime just doesn’t pay like it used to.
If you’re so inept at being a criminal, but you know it’s your calling, what do you do? You keep setting the bar lower until you reach your comfort zone. That may require setting the bar on the floor. That’s what Roy and Mac do when they decide to rob a retirement community. It had come to their attention that a certain elder hoodlum had a nice stash of old-fashioned cash just waiting to be stolen from his room. But first Roy and Mac must get over the shock of witnessing subpar playing of bingo. And just where is the supervisor, on some extended break?
Yes, this is quirky crime fiction, the sort you find in an Elmore Leonard novel. But you also find it in comics like “Criminal,” by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips; as well as “100 Bullets,” by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso. For “The Fix,” writer Nick Spencer and artist Steve Lieber team up again since their days working on another title with quirky humor, “The Superior Foes of Spider-Man.” Notice all the nuanced touches like when Roy and Mac must confront Donovan, a bloodthirsty killer demanding the money they owe him. They repeatedly encounter a needle-scratching-record blank face response from him when they dare to bring up the subject of murder.
What are these two guys up to anyway? Well, they don’t really know. It’s more a go-with-the-flow plan they follow. They’re in law enforcement because, of course, that’s just a means to an end. Mostly, they avoid work and get away with whatever they possibly can. However, those unfocused carefree days are numbered. Enter a dog named Pretzels.
“The Fix” is available as of April 6th. For more details visit Image Comics right here.
POWER LINES is one of the surprise hits for 2016 with its inventive plot and vivid characters. I have to hand it to the trifecta talent of Jimmie Robinson who draws, writes, letters, and colors this comic. Wait, that’s more than a trifecta. This guy is an Orson Welles of comics. He does it all and he does it well. Very trippy magical realism at play here.
Our story involves some ley lines going back many thousands of years. Oh yeah, I am hip to ley lines. They are only referred to as power lines here but all the better for the double meaning. Basically, when the planet and humans were still in sync with, say, supernatural elements, people could find themselves charged with formidable energy in a time of crisis. But, as we humans trampled upon the earth and each other, that magic was lost. It seemed like it was always to elude us. Until now.
In a wonderfully rendered style using pencil, Robinson brings to life a story of struggle, a struggle for power amongst those who might be disenfranchised or vulnerable in some way. I think the softer and smoother quality of these pencil lines helps to bring us closer to this quirky tale so full of emotion and humanity.
For this first issue, Robinson provides us with a fascinating cast of characters from diverse backgrounds. We meet a group of friends eager to make their mark on the world. They are African-American, lower income, and sensitive to feeling marginalized in society. While they may be tough, they have dreams of their own too. Then we have an Anglo-American family with a misguided matriarch ready to blame all her problems on the Other, whoever that might be. Finally, we get a teasing look at a mysterious Native American who is hip to the re-emergence of the mighty power lines. So, lots to take in for a first issue and Robinson delivers at every turn. This is an impressive debut and I am ready for more.
POWER LINES #1 is available as of March 30, 2016 and is published by Image Comics.