Tag Archives: Science Fiction

Graphic Novel Review: LEGEND OF SUMERIA

Legend of Sumeria

LEGEND OF SUMERIA is a graphic novel set in a future where social media and genetics collide. Among a growing number of graphic novels integrating elements of real science with fiction, this one does best with its offbeat humor. There are plenty of intriguing subplots here but what will get the reader every time is that quirky human touch. Just as we marvel over the fact that there is just a speck of difference between our genomes, so too do we zero in on those storytelling nuances. This is not a perfect work but it is weird and odd enough to keep your interest.

“You smell like my mother used to. And I know she was not evil.”

Our main character is Dr. Bruce Abbot, who works for The SEQ Network. He is not very happy at all with that arrangement. Not when there is such a high level of mutual distrust. And especially not when a corporate lab experiment could trigger the end of human civilization! Add to that a cryptic organization lurking in the shadows and bent on destroying SEQ and you’ve got quite a lot of narrative to juggle. There is definitely a lot of stuff to like here such as the premise of trusting a corporation with your DNA especially so that you can have tailor-made intense and unique experiences.

New York, 2027

I’m not sure everything adds up here but I would advise to take what you want from this and don’t sweat the details. As it is, the story lurches enough with its insertion of sexual content. It is not exactly necessary and just makes the book inappropriate for younger readers. A more alluring vibe could have been achieved if the art was stronger. That said, the art is spot on for the overall offbeat quality to this work. So, I hardly dismiss this book out of hand as it brings up some intriguing ideas about how we humans can be outdone by our own hands.

LEGEND OF SUMERIA

LEGEND OF SUMERIA is co-created and written by Jay Webb and Dr. Biju Parekkadan. Lead artist is Anthony LaGaipa. It debuts on March 20, 2018. For more details, visit the official site right here.

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Filed under Comics, DNA, Sci-Fi, Science, science fiction

Comics Review: PRISM STALKER #1

PRISM STALKER by Sloane Leong

Sloane Leong is one of those special cartoonists who immerse themselves deep into a world of their own. This sort of artist-warrior is without exception, both writer and artist. Leong, following this highly individual tradition, has worked up her skills (never complaining since it never seemed like work) and come out the other side with comics of a caliber that has led her today to launching PRISM STALKER, her new title with Image Comics.

For a comics critic who also both writes and draws comics, I am confident in sharing with you what sets Leong apart. Among the many independent cartoonists out there, just like any other artists, a number of them will take one detour or another. Some will feel most comfortable remaining within self-published cliques. Others may need to keep a project under wraps and work on it on their own terms. But, if the stars are in alignment, and the cartoonist is particularly driven, the transition can be made from bohemian poet to career path. In the ideal case, the work retains that same idiosyncratic vibe. The work retains its integrity. The artist retains their integrity.

What you see on the comics page, the merging of words and images, takes on an added significance when created by a cartoonist in the traditional role of artist-writer. You end up with a window into the subconscious mind. I would argue that you can feel a disconnect, perhaps subtle or maybe distracting, in a collaborative work. That is why you hear so much said on the importance of chemistry between writer and artist. But you don’t have that concern when you’re running the whole show. In the case of Leong, she has taken on the added roles of lettering and coloring. All of that adds up to a more personal perspective. And, by the way, it is no surprise that cartoonists at this level are attracted to and invest a lot of energy upon depicting dreams.

And then you add a passionate vision and you have the whole package. A look at Leong’s website shows us a person with a heart-felt desire to tell the stories of those who have been pushed to the margins. That is exactly what we see here: Vep, our main character is toiling away as a slave on a hive colony run by giant insects. Who doing what where? you may ask. It is a very dream-like sci-fi tale about very serious problems.

This is a story that casts a very wide net and succeeds by balancing all the details. Vep is a strong and compelling character who the reader is immediately drawn to. The setting is pretty outrageous and highly ambiguous and becomes a character in its own right. You could say this is a comic that is both character and atmosphere driven. It becomes a true meld of visual and literary delight. You feel that unique push-pull connection. You recognize trippy originality when you see it right down to that wildly eccentric title, PRISM STALKER!

Rating of 10/10

PRISM STALKER #1 is available as of March 7, 2018. For more details, visit Image Comics right here.

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Filed under Comics, Comics Reviews, Image Comics, Sci-Fi, science fiction

Emerald City Comicon 2018: March 1-4

Emerald City Comicon 2018: March 1-4

Emerald City Comicon is and integral part of the fabric of Seattle. It is a tradition that has grown and developed into an impressive and highly anticipated annual event. ECCC is one of the first, if not the first stop, for many creatives as they embark upon their comics convention tours–and a most welcome one. That has a lot to do with ReedPOP‘s leadership. And, of course, it has a lot to do with so many loyal fans of a uniquely Pacific Northwest celebration of pop culture. Maybe folks are more polite and mellow in this region. We won’t dissect it any further and just be grateful. Now is the time to get ready and to keep an eye out for updates on all things ECCC.

ECCC and SYFY WIRE

JENNIFER MORRISON at ECCC 2018

Whether it is a chance to see two of the legends from “Back to Future,” Christopher Lloyd (Doc Brown) and Tom Wilson (Biff Tannen) or a favorite talent at Artist Alley, there is something for everyone at ECCC.

BACK TO THE FUTURE at ECCC 2018

ECCC Artist Alley 2018

ECCC Artist Alley 2018

As usual, Comics Grinder will venture out and report back from various panels, activity on the showroom floor, and whatever should catch the eye. If you are in Seattle, and love comics and pop culture, then make sure to be part of Emerald City Comicon.

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Comics Review: GARDEN SALAD by Tristan Wright

“Garden Salad” by Tristan Wright

“Garden Salad” is a mini-comic that exceeds expectations and enters the realm of a model of excellence: the story is engaging; the art has a dazzling and quite intoxicating quality; the whole work is delightfully original. Tristan Wright is new to me but I’m so glad that I stumbled upon his work! Honestly, the solid craftsmanship and originality immediately won me over.

Creating something with a real spark and kick to it is never easy. What Wright accomplishes with this work involves a lot of groundwork and revisions. I suspect that he enjoys every bit of it as there is an effortless and joyful vibe throughout these pages.

Nice day for some sveedle!

Our story is a deceptively simple one: an old man is gathering items from his garden for his mid-day feast. Like many stories that have the reader see things from an unconventional vantage point, events focus more on what the old man is foraging: vegetables, for sure, but not good ole veggies exclusively. How about a veggie goblin? In our tale, we see quite a bit of this little critter and then we come to find out that the old man is all too aware of this bewildering force of nature. He even has a name for them. These critters are known as “sveedle.” Sounds like something out of a Stephen King novel! Yum, sveedle, them’s good eatin’ goblins!

Running after the garden goblin!

Yessir, these here goblins are pretty hideous and intense little beings. With a wedge of leaves upon their heads and bulbous jiggly bodies, they resemble what they eat: veggies, but also worms and other creepy crawlies. The big hint here is that these ghastly little monsters are violent–and potentially dangerous to humans. But the old man seems to be up to the challenge. In fact, the old man is relatively hideous and dangerous in his own right, surely a formidable match for any veggie goblin.

Wright’s intricate and detailed drawing style keep the reader glued to each page. This is a masterfully crafted tale with a philosophical bent; a wonderfully ambiguous tale of veggies and goblins. Let’s go ahead and bring out a nice shiny star and give this one a 10/10.

“Garden Salad” is a 32-page black and white comic book written and drawn by Tristan Wright. For more details, and how to purchase, go right here.

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Kickstarter for THE SILVER METAL LOVER by Trina Robbins

THE SILVER METAL LOVER by Trina Robbins

Jane is 16 years old and believes that she does not know how to live her life. We can all relate to that–but Jane’s world is far more complicated, set in the distant future where robots are capable of providing human companionship. “The Silver Metal Lover,” the 1981 cult classic science fiction novel by Tanith Lee, was adapted in 1985 into the highly engaging graphic novel by Trina Robbins. It has never been reprinted in any form until now. Drew Ford runs his own imprint at IDW called IT’S ALIVE! and he has a stellar track record for finding gems from the past and giving them a whole new life. A Kickstarter campaign in support of an exciting new edition is reaching its final stages, closing January 5th. Check it out right here.

THE SILVER METAL LOVER by Trina Robbins

This new edition will have a new cover and afterword by Colleen (A DISTANT SOIL) Doran, a new foreword by Gail (BIRDS OF PREY) Simone, and a new intro by Trina Robbins herself. All of this will be printed at 8.5″ x 11, full color, on glossy paper, all tucked inside a beautiful hard cover.

Drew Ford on this very special project:

“This cult classic science fiction romance is an important early example of ‘the graphic novel’ as a storytelling vehicle, telling an intimate story of a young girl’s first love…who just happens to be a robot! We are very honored to shine a light on the brilliant work of the late Tanith Lee. And we are thrilled to be working on our second book with the legendary Trina Robbins! Also, we must send out a huge THANK YOU to Colleen Doran and Gail Simone for coming along for the ride! We hope you will give it a look, and consider making a pledge.”

Many exciting rewards are being offered, including signed copies of the book, exclusive prints from Colleen Doran, sketches by comic book pros, and even original pages of comic book art by Trina Robbins!

This is a book that is sure to please fans of science fiction and comics alike. Visit the campaign right here.

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Filed under Comics, Drew Ford, IDW Publishing, IT’S ALIVE! Press, Kickstarter, Sci-Fi, science fiction, trina robbins

Interview: Mark Gottlieb chats about project with George Clayton Johnson

Émile Zola illustration by Henry Chamberlain

Mark Gottlieb is a composer and a lucky person to have been a lifelong friend of screenwriter George Clayton Johnson. This friendship led to a collaboration between Gottlieb and Johnson on “Zola,” a compelling musical that features the Dreyfus affair, a scandal that rocked France at the end of the 19th century and reverberates to this very day. There are a number of things to unpack and discuss here. We begin with an overview of what the infamous Dreyfus affair was all about and go from there, with plenty of recollections about the great ole storyteller, the timeless, George Clayton Johnson.

The Dreyfus affair focuses upon a wrongly accused man who made the perfect scapegoat for the time. Considering how Rod Serling was such a steadfast advocate for human rights, it is quite fitting to find George Clayton Johnson, one of Serling’s fellow writers on The Twilight Zone, as co-creator of this musical. Johnson was always a person to side with the nonconformist. So, it was natural when Gottlieb, in search of a libretto, came calling on George. The two entered upon a partnership and worked, off and on, on the Zola musical for many years. Since the death of George Clayton Johnson in 2015, the impetus has been to get the musical out into the world. To that end, Gottlieb is contacting like-minded souls such as myself to help spread the word. As someone who also got to enjoy a special connection with George, it is my pleasure to present to you this conversation I had with Mark Gottlieb recently.

Now, a little history: The Dreyfus affair occurred during France’s Third Republic. It was sparked by the wrongful imprisonment of French army captain Alfred Dreyfus in 1894. The matter would officially drag on until 1906. Dreyfus was convicted of treason for allegedly selling military secrets to the Germans in December 1894. At first the public supported the conviction; it was willing to believe in the guilt of Dreyfus, who was Jewish. Much of the early publicity surrounding the case came from anti-Semitic groups (especially the newspaper La Libre Parole, edited by Édouard Drumont), to whom Dreyfus symbolized the supposed disloyalty of French Jews.

The effort to reverse the sentence was at first limited to members of the Dreyfus family, but, as evidence pointing to the guilt of another French officer, Ferdinand Walsin-Esterhazy, came to light from 1896, the pro-Dreyfus side slowly gained adherents (among them journalists Joseph Reinach and Georges Clemenceau—the future World War I premier—and a senator, Auguste Scheurer-Kestner). The accusations against Esterhazy resulted in a court-martial that acquitted him of treason (January 1898). To protest against the verdict, the novelist Émile Zola wrote a letter titled “J’accuse,” published in Clemenceau’s newspaper L’Aurore. In it he attacked the army for covering up its mistaken conviction of Dreyfus, an action for which Zola was found guilty of libel.

What follows is my interview with Mark Gottlieb. Here we begin with the Dreyfus affair and quickly dig deeper into the issues involved. Then we steadily see how Gottlieb and Johnson joined together as a creative team. In the process, we get a unique inside view into the world of George Clayton Johnson, a unique voice in storytelling. He is best known for iconic episodes of The Twilight Zone like “Kick the Can,” and “Nothing in the Dark.” Among his work, he is also known for writing “Man Trap,” the first episode broadcast of Star Trek, as well as being the co-writer, with William F. Nolan, of the landmark science fiction novel, “Logan’s Run.” Lastly, I have to say, I believe this interview will really hook you in. The proper warm up and set up is done and off we go:

For the interview, click the link right here.

Stay tuned for more news on the Zola musical.

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Filed under France, George Clayton Johnson, Mark Gottlieb, Music, Musicals, pop culture, Social Justice

Movie Review: ‘Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets’

“Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets”

“Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” is a very big deal–and deservedly so! It exceeds the expectations of the most diehard fan with a heady mix of style and substance. I am so happy to have seen it and I would gladly go see it again and again. I was hoping for something special. I went in with thoughts that this could be a like a French Star Wars, perhaps divided by Star Trek, and then multiplied by Doctor Who. Something really special–and that it is!

My concern was that there might be some culture clash for some viewers: American tastes at odds with this Euro-movie based upon a Euro-comic book series. But, I conclude, that really is such a non-issue. There is a decidedly offbeat sensibility going on with this movie but isn’t that what we all love about the Star Wars franchise, along with other loopy and irreverent entertainment?

Another worry was that I had heard that this movie was too dependent upon CGI. Well, ahem, there’s nothing wrong with CGI when it works. Just think of “Avatar.” Much like “Avatar,” the CGI in “Valerian” is simply an integral part of the experience. There are so many iconic moments in this movie that are all about the CGI. For instance, the wonderfully elaborate sequence with Valerian (Dane DeHaan) running through a multitude of dimensions. Or Laureline (Cara Delevingne) arguing with some very dim servant creatures. Or, one of my favorite moments, Bubble (Rihanna) and her beautiful dance sequences.

Dane DeHaan, Luc Besson. and Cara Delevingne

There’s a very intriguing thing going on with the dynamic between Valerian and Laureline. The two are lovers but they have a lot of work ahead of them. They are intentionally distant in how they interact with each other, in an other-worldly comic book way. This disconnection between the two lovers leaves the viewer wondering about them. When Valerian repeatedly tells Laureline that he wants to marry her, it comes across as highly ironic. It would be wrong to dismiss the acting as wooden. It is part of what director Luc Besson intentionally wants. It is part of what the script aims for. I think some critics have unfairly expected more natural performances and gleefully found fault where there is none.

Given the surreal and whimsical elements in this movie, it remains a well-built and grounded piece of work. The opening sequence brings to mind the opening scenes to “Wonder Woman” set in the idyllic Themyscira. In this case, it is an ideal world of peaceful beings. The civilization depends upon little creatures who happily produce pearls that power their world. These beings, like the young lovers, Valerian and Laureline, are quite otherly. It is this otherliness that informs this rather sophisticated narrative that gently balances irreverence and idealism. Just the sort of thing you’d expect from the very best comics.

Of course, you can’t please everyone. Americans, in particular, have become quite reliant upon extra bells and whistles, even after they’ve just been presented with a formidable visual feast. No, it doesn’t seem to matter if they’ve just viewed a masterpiece–Where’s the gag reel?! they demand. And, with that in mind, you may love the video below that includes just that sort of bonus content:

“Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” is undoubtedly a joyride of a movie. You will love it. Visit the official Valerian movie website right here.

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Filed under Comics, Europe, European Comics, France, Movie Reviews, movies, Sci-Fi, science fiction, Star Wars

Comics Focus on Everything You Need to Know About ‘Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets’

It all began as a French comic book series.

“Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” will open in U.S. theaters on July 21st. It all began as a French comic book series. First published in Pilote magazine in 1967, the final installment was published in 2010. The science fiction comics series was entitled “Valérian and Laureline,” or just “Valérian,” created by writer Pierre Christin and artist Jean-Claude Mézières. The first volume in a complete collected works was recently published by Cinebook. “Valerian – The Complete Collection Vol 1” is now available from Cinebook. You can also purchase it at Amazon right here.

“Valerian – The Complete Collection Vol 1”

This deluxe edition includes various supplementary material related to the movie. It starts out with an exclusive interview with the film’s director, Luc Besson (The Fifth Element). He shares his childhood adoration for the Valerian comics. He dutifully awaited each new installment in Pilote magazine, just like all the other kids he knew. The Valerian comics, with their mix of classic science fiction and whimsical fantasy, helped to influence Star Wars. And perhaps, only now, has movie technology caught up to do justice to a Valerian movie.

Drawing by Jean-Claude Mézières of Star Wars meets Valerian

All you really need to know to enjoy the movie is that it’s like Star Wars but with a distinctively French flare. The main characters are a couple of special operatives, Valérian and Laureline, on a mission to save the world, or should I say, the universe! It is in reading the actual comics that a reader quickly picks up on that refreshing sense of irreverence that is Valerian. Keep in mind that director Luc Besson worked with Valerian artist Jean-Claude Mézières on “The Fifth Element.” Indeed, this is a very special case of a major motion picture and its comics source material working seamlessly together.

Now, consider the significance of the Valerian comics because, make no big mistake, Valerian set the stage for much that was to come. Valerian comics, in their day, were groundbreaking. There was nothing quite like it in its scope and influence. These comics hit France in the Sixties during a major time of transition: a post World War II culture seeking out fresh new entertainment. To get away from the gray and the drab, the two French creators of Valerian went west to the U.S. for a time to get recharged. In fact, their first work together originated in Salt Lake City, Utah!

Panel excerpt from Valerian

In the U.S., Mézières, the artist, and Christin, the writer, were enthralled with wide open spaces, colorful B-movies, and great promise for change, as demonstrated with the Civil Rights movement. They honed their skills. Mézières focused on such artistic talent as Giraud, Jijé, Franquin, and Mad magazine. Christin focused on science fiction writers like Asimov, Van Vogt, Vance, and Wyndham. And, together, they created Valerian.

This first volume of the collection contains books 1 and 2 of the series: The City of Shifting Waters – in its original two parts, 9 pages longer format – and The Empire of a Thousand Planets. It also includes book 0, Bad Dreams, translated into English for the first time: the very first adventures of our two heroes, published after City and retroactively numbered.

And to really get a sense of what’s in store with the Valerian movie, check out this particularly informative trailer below that goes into the vital connection to the original comics. Yes, Valerian is a big deal. Consider it as big as Star Wars:

“Valerian – The Complete Collection Vol 1” is a 160-page full color hardcover suitable for all ages. Buy it on Amazon right here.

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Filed under Bande Dessinée, BD, Comics, European Comics, French Comics, Sci-Fi, science fiction, Star Wars, Valerian

Review: ‘Läskimooses’ by Matti Hagelberg

Panel excerpt from “Läskimooses” by Matti Hagelberg

“Läskimooses,” by Matti Hagelberg, has got to be one of the most unusual of comics. It comes out in single issues and the plan is for the complete collected work to be an epic over 1,000 pages. Currently, this art/sci-fi comic book totals around 700 pages, is published 7 issues per year, and is the longest single comics story ever to be produced in Finland.

Hagelberg is best known for his scratchboard technique that he has used in most of his works, published by L’association and Le Dernier Cri in France (Raw Vision 83). It is a wonderfully obsessive vision, part parody and part stream of consciousness. Hagelberg is on an adventure to find the meaning of life and the secrets to the universe byway of conspiracy theories. Only a determined artist like Hagelberg can sustain such a quest. It makes for fascinating results.

Artist Matti Hagelberg

It’s not uncommon for an artist to keep to one theme or one universe in their body of work. Hagelberg has always drawn stories set in the same universe. His epic Läskimooses comics are quite a dramatic example of focused work harkening back to classic comic strips. His theme of exploring the universe is broad enough to sustain a lifetime’s work. The energy and enthusiasm comes across the page. He has set up some fun devices to keep the narrative flowing like an ongoing conversation between characters discussing cosmic subjects. You don’t need to know how to read Finnish to enjoy it either.

Läskimooses #28

I always enjoy writing about comics from outside the United States. Sometimes, I am not sure how to hook into a work and I find it is better to let it simmer and then I come back to it. So is the case with “Läskimooses.” You can now enjoy an issue of the comic book with a handy translation sheet in English. That will certainly clear up any questions about why you’re seeing a bunch of monkeys or what’s going on regarding a volcanic eruption.

Page from Läskimooses #28

Again, let me emphasize that the visuals are pretty stunning all by themselves. Some issues, like #28 above, are only images, no text at all. Basically, all you need to know to begin with is that Läskimooses and Ohto are both planets and figure prominently in the narrative. The two ongoing characters have their own ideas on existential matters that they’re working through. It’s interesting that Hagelberg’s initial idea was to set his story on the Mars of Edgar Rice Burroughs. He had a spectacle in mind right from the start. Anyway, we’re all working through our own existential issues, right? It’s fun to see an artist with such an unabashed and audacious attitude share with us his vision of the sublime and the profound. I look forward to what develops next with this intriguing and unusual project.

To get an issue of “Läskimooses,” with an English translation sheet included, go to Printed Matter right here.

For a closer look at the artist at work, check out this video right here.

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Filed under Comics, Comics Reviews, Europe, European Comics, Finland, Matti Hagelberg, Scandinavia, Sci-Fi, science fiction

Movie Review: ‘Alien: Covenant’

“Alien: Covenant”

“Alien: Covenant” is a strong stand-alone film. If you knew nothing about the Alien franchise, we have here a set of characters worth getting to know and a plot that holds it own. This time around, it seems that the space inhabited by the crew has opened up a little more and there’s more light. It’s not by any means as perky as Star Trek but the crew feels a bit closer to each other. Everyone seems to trust each other with one exception: Walter, the ship’s android. He’s sort of like Spock but not quite enough.

Michael Fassbender

Michael Fassbender knocks out a devilishly good performance. Or, should I say, two performances. He is Walter, the ship’s android. And, later on, we see David, the “synthetic” crew member from “Prometheus” also played by Michael Fassbender. David, the lone survivor of the Prometheus, has what you can call some major AI problems: too smart for his own good, too idiosyncratic. And when was it ever a good idea for a robot to have too much independence?

Katherine Waterston

As for the newer version, Walter, he can think for himself but knows how to hold back. Bots are spooky to begin with so it’s no surprise that humans don’t warm up to him. However, there is one crew member who genuinely finds Walter to be good company. Daniels (played by Katherine Waterston) is a young woman who just lost her husband in a serious accident on board. Captain Oram (played by Billy Crudup) blames Walter with no real basis to do so. Then there’s Daniels who tries to comfort Walter, and herself, by confiding in him about the plans she had for building a real log cabin on the next space station they settle.

The dynamic of Fassbender, Waterston, and Crudup serve as our foundation. Let the Alien critters descend from wherever they please! You can expect Alien embryos to burst forth from all the bloody spots they usually like to emerge from. Katherine Waterston does a fine job of channeling her best Sigourney Weaver. Billy Crudup is a lot of fun as the captain without all the answers. But it’s Michael Fassbender who is this movie’s undisputed quarterback. If ever Ridley Scott’s more esoteric ruminations on existential matters had a more apt orator, it is, without a doubt, Michael Fassbender.

For more details on “Alien: Covenant,” visit Fox Movies right here and check out the Alien Universe right here.

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Filed under Movie Reviews, movies, Ridley Scott, Sci-Fi, science fiction