It’s nearly the end of the year which means I’ll have to stop going on about the 50th Anniversary of Planet of the Apes. Although it is only a year until the 50th anniversary of Beneath the Planet of the Apes…
But, before then, there is still time to get some new Apes stories in and that is exactly what Boom! Studios are doing this week with the release of The Simian Age: three new stories set across the franchise, taking in the original universe and the new movie continuity.
Similar to The Time of Man one shot released last month, The Simian Age has three very different stories which highlight the diversity and story potential for Planet of the Apes. Across both issues, the creators have told 6 wildly different stories but they all are quintessentially Ape stories.
In this week’s offering there is Apex, a tale of a gorilla in military training written by Matt Kindt and illustrated by Matt Smith. The story starts off in a very straight forward manner, presenting the training regime for a Gorilla new to the military. But as the story unfolds, the central character Apex begins to learn what it means to be a mindless follower of the status quo and he has a few issues.
The story illustrates the horrors of combat through the eyes of a young Ape and Kindt builds a series of events which leads the reader, and Apex, into a situation where a choice needs to be made. The script pulls no punches and doesn’t hide from the brutality of sanctioned violence. The actions of the military are questionable which leads Apex into his predicament.
The Art work is as bold as the story with Smith using thick, fluid black lines and heavy shadows. The colour choices by Joana Lafuente are also striking with some less than subtle panels.
Apex may feel heavy handed to some readers but it draws on the political nature of previous Ape outings and the creators aren’t afraid to stand up for what they believe in.
Cloud and Rain is weakest of the three stories but that’s not to say it isn’t enjoyable or entertaining. Written by Ryan Ferrier and illustrated by Lalit Kumar Sharma, Cloud and Rain follows the tragic adventures of two Apes caught between their fear of Koba and their love of Caesar. As political as the story that precedes it in this comic, Ferrier examines the impact that 'Fear' has upon the average ‘persons’ decision making. He delves into uncomfortable truths and shows the reader how easy it is to manipulate people and turn friend against friend.
Sharma gives the titular characters an innocence, representing them as children in the face of the elder Apes like Maurice and Koba. This approach works well at reminding the reader about the divide between the leaders and the civilians. Sharma also uses the layouts of the page to great effect when telling the story. He mixes up the panel layouts, unafraid to use inserts or allow the gutters to be broken for emphasis. A number of panels have pure white backgrounds which stand out on the page and focus the reader’s attention onto the Ape’s interactions.
There are some strong moments of tension within Cloud and Rain with a number of thought provocative panels. It may be the weakest of the three but that does not mean that it is a weak story.
The best that The Simian Age has to offer is in fact the first story in the collection. Mothers of Exiles is a beautifully moving tale of a Chimpanzee in hiding. Jeff Jensen has written an emotional tale of heartbreak and loneliness that will touch even the hardest of gorilla hearts. It follows the daily routine of Amy, a Chimp who is self-exiled and living in the remains of the Statue of Liberty.
Set a short while after the end of the original movie (reference is made to Taylor so the readers can place the action) and unexpected arrival changes Amy’s life in a way that she hadn’t expected.
The Art work is beautiful. Jared Cullum’s watercolours are a superb fit to Jensen’s narrative and produce an atmosphere rarely found in an Ape comic. It is very insular tale of a single Chimps personal experiences. There are moments of warmth; touching scenes that illustrate the kindness of the chimpanzee’s and are a reminder of the affections shown by Cornelius and Zira in the original movie.
Like the other two offerings in The Simian Age, Mothers of Exiles is about over coming fear and risking personal safety to do what is right. The narrative, however, has a much subtler tone which makes the Hope embedded in the story more transparent and heart-warming. It is a gripping story, expertly written and beautifully illustrated.
Planet of the Apes: The Simian Age is yet another worthy additional to the ever expanding Apes franchise. A collection of three, very different yet very similar themed stories each with its own appeal and relevance. Whether you are a fan of the old movies or the new, The Simian Age has something for you.
It’s been a bit of a Hit and Miss sort of week. A little bit like the Netflix series The Haunting of Hill House which started off really well and then became less inspired and less watchable as the series went on.
However, let’s start off on a positive note: Cold Spots #4
Cold Spots is an awesome horror comic created by Cullen Bunn and Mark Torres for Image Comics. Like the aforementioned The Haunting of Hill House, Cold Spots achieves a creepy atmosphere and gripping story by slowly building up tension and hinting at the supernatural, rather than throwing it wildly at the reader. Even in issue 4, where the story has started to pick up pace and the demons/ghost are coming out to play, the horror is still understated allowing the situation to cause feeling of nervousness and fear.
I have written a fuller review for comiconverse.com and it is my 100th review for that website. A great comic to mark that mile stone.
Another great comic out this week is issue 10 of Days of Hate. I’m pretty sure I don’t need to remind anyone about how much I am loving this comic, just check out previous posts (or even my extended essay) to see how much I appreciate this work of Art.
This issue is building to the series conclusion and has a conclusion that you don’t want to miss. It’s heart stopping, jaw dropping tension, beautifully rendered by Danijel Zezelj and Jordie Bellaire. The ominous grey/blue tones coating the first half of the comic create an atmosphere of detachment and coldness that surrounds the characters but Bellaire slowly introduces a red wash, in small amounts at first, which eventually over shadows everything, just as story takes a turn.
Combined with the heavy black inks of Zezelj’s, this entire issue is given a heavy, world carrying feel which subconsciously prepares the reader for the worst. After 9 issues of building the characters this issue is a gut punch as your sympathies towards certain characters are challenged.
One of Ales Kot’s main achievements with this comic is that he is able to misdirect the reader so completely and challenge your conceptions of situations and people. You never feel completely comfortable with anything that is going on in Days of Hate because there is a constant element of mistrust running through the comic. This is based on the groundwork laid out early on and is part and parcel of the dystopian tale that Kot is telling. It is a reflection of the current political turmoil in America, the UK, and all over the world. Finding the truth is difficult. Knowing who to trust and who to rely on is difficult. Kot illustrates this in Days of Hate perfectly.
Published by Image Comics, issue 10 is out this week.
Unfortunately, Dick Tracy Dead or Alive has not improved much from issue 1. The second issue has all of the same problems that the first does and still feels like a pale imitation of Chester Gould’s icon Detective.
Elements of the story strike an uncanny resemblance to the Disney Movie of 1990 but doesn’t have the larger than life cinematography that made the film so enjoyable. However, this is not a gritty retelling either. I’m not sure that Lee and Michael Allred are entirely clear what kind of comic they want this to be, which is a shame because a new and exciting Dick Tray could really boost the character’s profile.
The characters are all one dimensional and the art work fails to impress. All of the ‘nods’ to the classic strips are forced into the narrative with no real explanation. Maybe for a different type of Detective tale the aesthetic may work but for such a strong character like Dick Tracy, there is an expectation of what the story should be and how it should be presented. There is a high bar for any new story and Dead or Alive just isn’t reaching high enough.
The one positive to take from issue 2 is that it is slightly better than issue 1.
Dick Tracy Dead or Alive #2 is written by Lee and Michael Allred, art by Rich Tommaso and Michael Allred, colour by Laura Allred.
Another title that was a little underwhelming this week was the new title Go-Bots from IDW Publishing. I was curious about this title as I have dim memories of having some of the toys way back when. In fact, I had Leader 1 who is one of the central characters in this story.
However, my memories of the toys are that they were a bit rubbish, a poor imitation of the Transformers toys which I loved. The same can be said of this comic. After years of being invested in the Transformers comics, it was Simon Furman’s work on the UK Transformers comic that really got me hooked on comics in the 80s, coming across this comic is a bit of a let-down. It I very underwhelming and doesn’t have any striking features.
The design and the art of the comic by Tom Scioli is definitely interesting as he has made the entire product look and feel like a comic from the early 80’s; especially with the colour tones and panel crowded pages. There is a naivety that is quite charming but this is experience is soon lost in the baffling story telling. The fluctuating art style creates an uneven read which leaves the reader wondering if they are reading a daily newspaper strip or a Marvel-esq superhero comic.
In the end, it is the lack of intriguing characters that makes this a difficult read. It’s like scratching the surface of something only to find more surface underneath.
Go-Bots #1 is written/drawn and lettered by Tom Scioli and published by IDW Publishing.
To remove the disappointment of Dick Tracy and Go-Bots, I would recommend Low Road West #3 published by Image comics, Smooth Criminals #1 published by Boom! Studios and Night Moves #1 published by IDW Publishing. All good reads.
This week a living Legend died.
Everyone knew who Stan Lee was. Everyone! To some he was the creator of Marvel’s greatest comics; one of the most inspirational writers to work in the medium; friend; work colleague; and all round nice guy. To others he was just the old guy in every Marvel Movie.
To most he was more than one of those, and to a select few he was all of those.
I have been reading comics written by Stan Lee for most of my life and, even though I no longer read Marvel comics or even Superheroes comics as a general rule, most of the comics I read today owe a small part of their existence to the power house that was Stan Lee. The out pouring of memories and tributes on social media like Twitter and Facebook just emphasise his status in the world, not just the comic book world.
He will be missed by so many people and remembered by even more. No-one would dispute that he leaves a massive and impressive legacy behind and that he will forever remain a Legend.
Our current family goal in the Lego Marvel Superheroes game is to rescue all 50 Stan Lee’s throughout the game. We seem to have missed so many on the first play through. Even my children, who have yet to reach double figures, know who Stan Lee is.
When I told my son that Stan Lee had passed away, he looked up at me with sadness in his eyes and said,
I guess I still have some work to do there….
This week’s comics have aliens, voodoo, heavy metal and the whole entire ‘Verse.
My first pick of the new releases is the new entry into Joss Whedon’s Firefly universe.
Written by Greg Pak, illustrated by Dan McDaid, coloured by Marvelo Costa and lettered by Jim Campbell. Published by Boom! Studios.
The story see’s the crew of the Serenity limping through space until they are forced by an old War Ship to run and hide on a nearby moon. Desperate for repairs, and a growing need to get out of the local air space, Mal and Co search for a job to earn a penny or two.
The story has a wonderfully engaging opening which not only facilitates the story but re-introduces the characters just in case the reader has forgotten who is who. This opening also helps to set this series in relation to other stories, emphasising the time period of the piece.
Pak’s script is punchy, packed with humour. Each of the characters feels familiar and they each have their own voice, a voice that long time readers will now be used to.
I personally love Dan McDaid’s work, he has a vibrancy and energy that he injects into his work. The action sequences jump from the page and there is always a sense of danger hanging over the characters. Costa’s colour work is also superb in this first issue, contrasting the coldness of space and the threat of burning while the crew are stuck in the middle, coated in their colour faded clothes.
Firefly #1 is an enjoyable action comic with all of the idiosyncrasies that you have come to expect from a story set in the ‘Verse.
Cemetery Beach issue 3 hits the shelves this week. It has yet to reach the same level of admiration that I have for Trees but Warren Ellis and Jason Howard know how to produce a good comic. This is pretty much a chase movie on an alien world populated with unlikable characters and mutated beasties. The central characters cut a swath through a dystopian world as they head for their own personal salvations.
The script is succinct allowing the images to tell much of the story and when you have Jason Howard on art duties, this is exactly what you want. Howard's work boarders on the impressionistic at times with the colour work carrying a lot of the emotion. Some of the panels are made even more shocking thanks to the bright white centres and orange tinges which act like a sudden flash of light in the darkness.
The design work is also worth a mention. Not only are the city backgrounds beautifully rendered on each page and panel but the design of the Outerfamily is sublime and grotesque. These are real creatures of nightmare and worth the cover price itself.
Cemetery Beach #3 is out now, published by Image Comics, lettering by Fonografiks.
Other worthy mentions for today are Jook Joint #2 from Image comics. It’s not an enjoyable read in the same was as Firefly because of the subject matter. A Voodoo revenge story with a heart that beats 'Empowerment'. If it’s on the shelf pick it up, the writing and art are excellent and the story is definitely gripping.
I have Infinite Dark #2 to read. The first issue was a slow, space horror, similar in feel I thought to Steve Niles' Delta 13. Published by Top Cow and has the look of many of their titles, based on the first issue I am looking forward to the second, which is out now.
Finally, Murder Falcon #2. I love this comic. It is ridiculous, outrageous and does not take itself too seriously but despite all of that there are some especially moving moments within these 20 odd pages. My full review is over on Comiconverse.com here, check it out and definitely check out the comic itself. It’s very metal in all of the right ways.
It’s Halloween! Which can mean only one thing: A re-reading of the Revolver: Halloween Special!
Okay, pumpkins and sweets and trick or treating as well but this blog is about comics, mostly…
Revolver was a short lived comic published at the beginning of the 90’s by Fleetway Publications. It came with a ‘mature readers’ tag and was the home of some experimental and more daring comic strips including notable entrees like Peter Milligan’s Rogan Gosh and Grant Morrison’s grim look at Dan Dare’s future. But as well as these ongoing strips it offered up short stories by some of Britain’s greatest talent.
And in October 1990 they let loose their horror special into the world and it dripped with macabre tales from the grimmest of storytellers. This single 80 ish page comic was created by such talent as Si Spencer, Will Simpson, Warren Pleece, Garth Ennis, Mark Millar, Mark Buckingham and Neil Gaiman. There were 12 chilling tales in total, encapsulating; humorous ghosts and nasty demons; Carrie-esque coming of age awakenings; soul buying demons; the weird, the wonderful and a touch of body horror. I’ve picked out a few of the highlights. My favourites.
In ‘The Wishing Hour’ by Nicholas Vince and John Bolton, a young boy named Simon wants to dress up as a witch for Trick and Treating but due to a rather sexist attitude on his mother’s part, he doesn’t get his wish. “Little boy’s can’t be witches. Sally’s going to be a witch. You’re to be a Jack O’Lantern” she tells him. He leaves home full of anger and childish thoughts of revenge. Then along comes a demon to give young Simon what he wants. The outcome is bloody and has an ending that epitomises the phrase ‘Be careful what you wish for’.
The story is short and sour with a wonderfully lyrical script packed to bursting point with stomach churning descriptions. Some, but not all, of these are captured by the amazing painted art work of John Bolton. The paint splatter effect he employs adds an extra layer of atmosphere to a tale of darkness driven by a child’s fantasy for revenge. His depiction of Simon as the witch is brilliant and demonstrates to the reader that the ‘classic witch’ look can still be scary and even more disturbing than Anjelica Huston’s turn in the movie The Witches which was released in the same year.
The ending of the tale is a lesson to us all about making deals with the devil and the final page, contrasting the witch’s laughing face and Simon’s face of terror, is all the reader needs to understand the consequences of the night. Although the reader does get an extra image of torturous death just to hammer home the point.
The next story, ‘First Blood’, is a clever little tale about a girl experiencing menarche. Win, the central character, is already a bit of an outcast, bullied by her peers and her mother has no faith in her. At a Halloween party Win decides to feign illness so that she can leave early but as they travel home she actually starts to feel uncomfortable. That night she is restless and wakes, cast in the glow of a full moon, as her body pushes her one step further from childhood into adulthood.
The narrative is designed and laid out like a werewolf tale with Si Spencer referencing elements of clichéd lycanthropy stories. It is illustrated by Tony Riot in the same way, focusing on the central character but always casting shadows onto her or placing her at the edge of the panel as if hiding something about her physical form. Win is an outcast, at the edge of her social group and she feels different: she can feel herself changing but she has no-one to talk to, no-one to help her understand what’s happening. Win’s loneliness is further illustrated by the unusual angles and positions which Riot uses to show her moving through her night of turmoil. It’s as if she is being stalked through an urban jungle by a camera in a modern horror movie.
However, the twist of the tale is that there is nothing supernatural about her feelings at all, it’s just the natural progression of her own body and the ‘horror’ element of the story is a metaphor for her fear that she will never fit in. It is a very smart, thought provoking tale.
My final pick is written by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Mark Buckingham. ‘Feeders and Eaters’ may seem familiar to readers of Neil Gaiman as he later turned it into a prose short story published in the collection Fragile Things. The story is based on a dream that Gaiman had and is a story within a story, a trope Gaiman uses to great effect. A man, who looks uncannily like the writer, bumps into someone he hasn’t seen in years but the other man doesn’t look well, in fact he looks especially dreadful for someone who used to be incredibly good looking. The man, Eddie Barrow, has a dark tale to tell about how his life was taken away from him as he became the slave to a woman but not in the way you would expect. When the story introduces Miss Corvier she appears to be a frail old lady. Eddie starts to feel sorry for her and begins to help her out but at the same time he is a little weary: he has a strange feeling about her. But he is unable to pull away from her hypnotic like grasp and ends up feeding her by providing his own flesh to keep her nourished.
This twisted tale is like so many of the others within this horror anthology. It is simple and subtle, building up the tension by affectedly using the illustration to mislead the reader. The old woman turns from a helpless, fragile lady into a dark, overpowering and hungry creature without actually undergoing any physical change: it’s all in the way that Mark Buckingham lights the panels and changes the readers view from looking down on her to looking up into her face. Eddie on the other hand is barely seen in the story as he acts as the readers eyes and is the one who becomes subjugated making the reader feel as though they themselves are falling into the woman’s vile grasp.
There is a lot packed into this little anthology and it’s a magnificent blend of styles and stories to chill your soul on a dark and stormy night. It’s a shame they never got chance to do any more of these but that was part of publishing comics in Britain in the 1990’s, especially genre breaking stories like the ones on show here. I’m not sure if any of the material has been made available elsewhere, but is you see any of it, give it a read.
It has been 12 months since I set up this web/blog site to rant endlessly about the comics I read. A full year of reading, reviewing and writing about comics. That’s crept up on me.
I started off well, covering each weeks releases, writing full reviews and managing to add a few extra’s; such as stealing from previous reviews to create The Pointless Review. But as the year has moved on I have become a bit more sporadic. Part of this is down to work commitments and partly down to the fact I got wrapped up in writing an essay (see the ‘Time in Comics’ tab for the full thing).
However, I have kept up with my reading most months, and I have read way more comics than I have mentioned on here. Some good, some not so good and some that just weren’t for me.
To celebrate managing to do this for a year without deleting the whole site, I thought I’d take a look at a few of the past reviews and my favourite comics over the last 12 months.
When I created this blog I was (and still am) submitting reviews to ComiConverse.com but I wanted a place to have a bit more of a personal voice, somewhere I could recommend comics or write more specific comic based critique. So, when I started I took a number of reviews I had already written and fleshed them out, re-edited them and turned them into something else.
The first comic that I did this for, and as such ended up with a lot of content over the first month, was Lazaretto, a creator owned, zombie-esq comic written by Clay McLeod with Art by Jay Levang. The comic was grotesque in the best possible way and managed to make the very product you held feel dirty and contagious. Levang’s art work was unsettling and the narrative took a number of unexpected twists. A magnificent horror comic which shone a bright light onto the unnerving College experience that people still have today. Social commentary thinly disguised as a disease outbreak.
If you didn’t read Lazaretto I highly recommend it. It is still available in a collective form from any comic or book shop worth its salt. But be warned, it’s not for the queasy and I’d read it wearing gloves. Just to be on the safe side.
If you want to know more about my thoughts on Boom Studios Lazaretto (and I had many) check out the achieved posts for October 2017
Another horror comic received a lot of my attention in November 2017. Winnebago Graveyard published by Image comics was by far one of my favourite comics of last year. Written by Steve Niles and created/drawn by the amazing Alison Sampson, this comic played with the horror genre tropes and the final product was outstanding. The narrative twists and turns in unexpected ways so that you never feel comfortable. But it is the artwork that really sells the disconcerting feel of the comic. Alison Sampson produces some of the best artwork I’ve seen in years. She manipulates the panels, distorts the perspectives, and simply messes with the reader’s idea of how a comic page should work.
Plus, the collected edition had a touchy/feel-y velvet cover edition which is just lush. And the content is good as well, obviously.
November 2017 achieved posts contain my thoughts on Winnebago Graveyard.
I’ve done a bit of fencing in my time and really enjoyed it. It is something that I’d like to get back into as a hobby; when I have the time. What has this got to do with anything? Well, Boom Studios announced a mini-series early in 2017 about the world of competitive fencing and the first issue was released in November 2017.
It was delightful. Written by C.S. Pacat and drawn by Johanna the Mad, the comic tells the story of rival junior fencers who find themselves attending the same academy where they must battle to win a place on the academy team.
Inspired by Manga sporting epics, Fence is a clean and crisp teen drama with adorable characters and thrilling competition. You don’t need to know anything about fencing to read it but you will probably find yourself Googling the sport to find out more, just to keep up with the action sequences. Johanna the Mad’s artwork is fine lined and shifts from energetic, heart stopping action to Manga-esq comedic panels. The aesthetic is helped by the seemingly simple colour work of Joana Lafuente, who’s ‘simple’ approach actually gives the page’s depth and emphasis.
It is visually breath taking with an uplifting narrative.
I reviewed issue 2 in December 2017 but also plenty of the other issues on here and over on ComiConverse.com
One of my favourite comics started in January 2018 and became the backbone of the essay I spent several months writing this year.
Days of Hate. Published by Image Comics, this comic is a cold look at modern America through the eyes of the very near future. The disturbing elements of the current political and social landscape have, in Ales Kot and Danijel Zezeli’s world, taken control. There is paranoia and fear everywhere.
The comic is beautifully rendered by Zezeli with Jordie Bellaire’s colours making each and every page a delight. The narrative is hard hitting and in many ways brutal but there is also a streak of hope running through it.
I’ve written a number of reviews and additional pieces about Days of Hate, check out the January Achieves for the start of these but, on top of that, the Time In Comics essay includes a large section on this outstanding comic, if you have some spare time.
In January I also discovered the beauty of the new 30 Days of Night. It is a retelling of a superb story and, I’ll be honest, I was a touch dubious when picked up issue one. However, Steve Niles narrative and Piotr Kowalski’s art work won me over. If they hadn’t Brad Simpson’s colour work by itself definitely would have done. I loved the stark contrasting colours; the sense of tension created by a subtle change of shade; or the emotional weight carried by specific colour palettes.
I reviewed 30 Days of Night issue 2 in January 2018 but I took a longer look at the colour work in February 2018. Why not check it out?
I have slowly fallen in love with Aftershock comics and it’s amazing output. They have, over the last couple of years, released some brilliant comics from some of the best creators working today. Super Zero, Jackpot, Babyteeth, Shipwreck, to name a few.
In March 2018 they released issue 1 of Betrothed. A kind of sci-fi love story about two high school kids who learn that their lives are intertwined in ways they couldn’t ever image. Some elements of the comic are ridiculous and there is a definite computer generated part to some of the back ground artwork but it is the comics narrative strength and strong panel composition that makes Betrothed worth reading. Sean Lewis and Steve Uy manage to fully engage the reader from the very beginning so that you instantly become invested in the lives of the two central characters.
Just to give it some frame of reference, Betrothed has the grand tragedy of a Shakespearian play and the sensibilities of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Issue one was released in March 2018 and I wrote a little something about it that month.
In April I was indulging in a re-read of Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers run, for reasons I can’t begin to remember (Infinity War was on everyone’s lips. I saw it eventually. I’ll stick to the comics in future). That is a mammoth task as it encapsulates nearly 100 comics, however, I did find time to read other stuff and even some new number ones.
One of those new titles was Crude, published by Image Comics. Written by Steve Orlando, Art by Garry Brown and Colours by Lee Loughridge, Letters by Thomas Mauer.
From the very start I was transfixed by this family drama and tale of violence. The design and layouts for this comic are phenomenal and the narrative hits emotional spots I wasn’t expecting at all. Beneath the violence and gang warfare, Crude is a comic about a father connecting, too late, with his son.
April 2018 is where I begin my love affair with Crude, but further reviews can be found throughout the year.
I nearly missed Motherlands from DC-Vertigo. I knew it was coming out and was excited because of the talent working on it but it was a title I forgot to add to my pull list. Therefore, it wasn’t waiting for me when I picked up my monthly comics. I then had to track it down, and remember to get the follow up issues and, long story short, I finished reading it several months later than I should have done.
But it was worth the wait. The dimension hopping, family drama played over 6 issues and was a breath of fresh air from start to finish. The story by Simon Spurrier was off the wall but easy to follow. At its heart was a broken family trying to reconcile itself and this came through in every issue, despite the dimension jumping and the distracting sexual technology on display. The art work was handled brilliantly by Rachel Stott and there were some bold colour choices by Felipe Sobreiro. But one of the most outstanding elements of the comic was Simon Bowland’s exceptional lettering (which is why I ended up writing about it in July 2018).
The comic flowed effortlessly and I’m glad I read it in one chunk rather than have to wait month after month because it so easy and enjoyable to read. I would highly recommend Motherland to anyone, over a certain age at least.
It’s been 50 years since the original Planet of the Apes movie was released, I may have mentioned it once or twice over the year. I’m a massive fan of PotA and have only missed one of the comic tie-ins since the late 90’s. The majority of these have been entertaining, worthwhile reads and some have been exceptional comics.
This year Boom Studios have put out a number of PotA comics, and there are still a few to come out. There was the 6 issue series Kong on the PotA: a crossover with the King Kong franchise and a beautifully drawn comic. At around the same time Ursus was released, another 6 issue comic this time focusing on the life of the central gorilla from the PotA franchise. This had it’s good moment’s and a couple of wobbles; mostly in the art department when the artists swapped between one issue and the next. But overall both of these offerings were great reads and, as I have stated, I never miss a PotA comic*
In August Boom Studios released Planet of the Apes Visionaries which is based on Rod Serling’s original script for the first movie. Although Serling left the project the majority of his story was kept intact; there was a shift in setting and a change to the central character but other than that the story in Visionaries is instantly recognisable. Despite the lack of differences, the script has been magnificently transformed into a comic book and the artwork really captures the optimistic fell of Serling’s script.
I loved this book by Dana Gould and Chad Lewis and wrote about it in August this year.
*except the PotA and Green Lantern crossover. I did read the first issue and found it very difficult to get on with. I have zero interest in Green Lantern and I think this is reflected in my bewilderment of what was going on. If I have to criticise Booms PotA comics for anything it is that whenever they do crossovers the other franchise gets more attention. The exception to this was this year’s Kong crossover which I really enjoyed.
So, there we have it. A year in and still finding new comics to read and write about. I’ve enjoyed writing this blog and I hope that someone has enjoyed reading it. I’ll keep going, just in case.
One last recommendation, the comic that I am currently enjoying the most: East of West. Check it out and maybe let me know what you think.
As the nights start to draw in and the new series of Doctor Who looms on the horizon, it finally feels like the summer has come to an end.
On the plus side it means I may actually get a chance to catch up on my reading. There are a number of titles out this week that I will be adding to that pile; such treats as Coda #5 from Boom! Studios, Days of Hate #8 and Death or Glory #5 from Image Comics, and a new one called Impossible Incorporated from IDW which caught my eye.
However, there are two titles I want to talk about this week, each for a different reason.
First up is the final issue of Crude, published by Image Comics. If you have read many of my previous posts you will know that I have been enjoying Steve Orlando and Garry Brown’s series about revenge in a corrupted Russian worker city.
The series has impressed me on every level from issue 1 onwards. The narrative is, on one level, brutal and shocking with some uncomfortable reading, especially when the central character gets stuck in to the villains. Neither the script or the art pulls any punches when it comes to the violence; it’s big and violent and definitely in your face. This works so well because the fight scenes are expertly choreographed by Gerry Brown: the movements on occasions are exaggerated but the reactions and consequences of the fights are always realistic and painful. This is not ‘cartoon violence’, it clearly hurts.
In contrast to this, the narrative has a very emotional central theme. At the heart of this comic is a man in desperate need to connect with his son, albeit a little too late. His journey, although soaked in blood, is actually an emotional one which is touching and ultimately has a melancholic ending. Piotr doesn’t learn to appreciate and respect his son until it is too late and everything that he has done in his son’s name is meaningless compared to what Piotr has lost.
Orlando and Brown can dress it up as much as they want in espionage and gangster thrills but this is a story about family and loss. It is a story that pushes the reader’s emotions to breaking point and it does it with style.
The colouring by Lee Loughridge and the lettering by Thomas Mauer enhance the setting and overall tone of the comic. Loughridge especially uses his skills to highlight Piotr’s final journey as the backgrounds slowly change from the cold, brutal blue into the warming reds and oranges of a new day dawning.
If you haven’t read any of Crude, you have been missing out, but now the series has come to an end be on the lookout for the inevitable trade (out in November). Piotr’s journey is one worth following.
A new release this week is something that I have been wanting for a long time; a brand new, monthly, Dick Tracy comic. I am a big fan of Chester Gould’s rough and ready detective and have been reading the collected daily strips for years. I loved the Disney film and every time I hear rumours of a TV series I have to fight the urge to get excited, knowing deep down that it will never come to fruition.
So, a new monthly comic, containing brand new material, should have me leaping for the stars, nearly as much as a new series of Doctor Who. Unfortunately, IDW Publishing’s new offering is far from what I had hoped for.
I have written a full review of Dick Tracy Dead or Alive, written by Lee and Michel Allred, art by Rich Tommaso, for Comiconverse.com but I wanted to add something extra on a more personal level.
I was whole heartedly disappointed with this comic.
Warning, spoilers ahead.
The story is at best a rehash of several earlier Tracy stories, featuring as the central villain Big Boy. This in itself wouldn’t be a problem if there was something new to say, but there isn’t. It is a soulless, uninteresting romp through the motions of a Dick Tracy Adventure. A lot of the script is clichéd and more than one sequence is a direct lift from earlier work; the sequence with Big Boy’s criminal board meeting is a step by step reply of a scene in the Disney Dick Tracy movie without the charisma or presence of Al Pacino and James Caan.
I will admit that I am not a fan of Rich Tommaso’s art style to begin with. His most recent work Dry Country was a difficult comic to engage with and I found all of his characters to be devoid of emotion. So, it will be no surprise that I was equally cut adrift from the characters in Dead or Alive; the difference is that I know most of the characters in this comic already and I have, for the most part, loved them in the past.
Big Boy is an outstanding, larger than life villain, almost Shakespearean in his theatrics but to see him as the oversized toadish character portrayed here feels like missing the mark. The depiction of Tracy is just as troublesome, especially since Tommaso pictures him in gleeful ecstasy as he threatens a criminal in his custody and wallows in the mindless violence. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that the Dick Tracy comic strip has been soaked in blood from day one and the violence surrounding the detective has reached shocking and disturbing levels however, Tracy is about justice not violent punishment and making him enjoy the destruction gives him a cruel edge not befitting the character.
Tommaso can produce some interesting work and he has a style which appeals to a number of readers but I don’t believe he has the right aesthetic for a Dick Tracy comic. His work lacks energy and dynamism needed for a Tracy story. The 1990’s movie tie in’s drawn by Kyle Baker captured the energy of the story telling, even though the art work bordered on abstraction in places, whereas Tommaso’s work is lifeless. This lacklustre highlights the more disagreeable aspects of the comic, such as inconsistent speech balloons and caption boxes, turning the reader off from the adventure.
I wanted this comic to work. I have been waited patiently for new adventures of the legendary detective and I thought that was going to happen with the announcement of Archie Comics Dick Tracy comic. Imagine, a comic written by Michael Moreci and Alex Segura, drawn by Thomas Pitilli, based on the exciting adventures of Dick Tracy. What an outstanding comic that could have been, especially when you see the sketch and design work that had already been produced. It is such a shame that instead with have Dead or Alive, a comic leaning more to the former.
I hope that IDW have some success with this Dick Tracy comic because that would lead to others with different writers and artists, each bringing their own unique take on the character. But for me, this offering is nothing more than a disappointment.
Another New Comic Book Day and there are more comics out than I have time to read.
In fact I am still so far behind in my reading.
Part of this is due to The Summer, everything goes out of the window when summer comes around. You have to grab the sun when it's out, etc, etc.
But also I have been working on something a bit more in depth. You may notice across the top that there is a new heading. If you go there you will find an essay about comics, more specifically the representation of time within comic books. I original conceived the idea for a project which is not going ahead but as I'd already started work, I decided to finish it. I may find another home for it somewhere but for now, here it is. Or, rather, there it is....
In other news, here are a few new releases worth checking out and reading:
Cemetery Beach #1 from Image Comics
MCMLXXV #1 also from Image
Low Room West #1 from Boom! Studios
House of Whispers #1 from DC Comics
That's a collection of number 1's! There are other numbered titles out this week but I've not got around to reading them yet.
Here's a few pictures to convince you to get to your local comic shop.
It shouldn’t have escaped your notice, especially if you’ve read a few of my previous posts, that the original Planet of the Apes film is 50 years young this year. 50 years since Charleston Heston embarked on his mission into a world so very different yet hauntingly familiar to our own. 50 years since Kim Hunter’s Zira stood up to Ape authority and championed a ‘lesser creature’. 50 years since Roddy McDowall made a career out of playing a chimpanzee.
The original script for the film, written by The Twilight Zone creator Rod Serling, would have required a budget too big for any of the Hollywood studios to take on but a rewrite by Michael Wilson saw the setting of the story change and the rest, as they say, is history.
However, to celebrate such a milestone in the films life, Boom! Studios have adapted the original Serling script into a gorgeous, hard backed graphic novel so we can all, finally, share in the original vision for the Planet of the Apes.
Planet of the Apes Visionaries was released last week and tells the story of Thomas, an astronaut lost in time and space, alone on a crazy, mixed up world. Just like Thomas, the reader will find this world both new and yet, strangely familiar.
Dana Gould adapts Serling’s screenplay for the comic book format, packing the pages with tension and intrigue; and only a small proportion of this is lost by knowing what’s round the corner. Everyone reading will know that Thomas is going to come face to face with talking Apes, be captured and all the rest. What Gould and the artists have managed to achieve here is depicting recognisable sequences in an enjoyable way and playing up to the actual differences between this version and the original.
The most surprising thing about this version is how little is actually different. Not to ruin anyone’s reading of this but the story is pretty much the same as the 60’s movie counterpart. The setting and tone are the major differences, with a much more advanced Ape world for Thomas to get lost in, but the plot moves along at about the same rate and pace.
Thomas, the central character, is a much more likable character than Taylor. He is compassionate and carries a sense of hope with him as he travels through the topsy turvy world. It’s clear from this adaption that Charleston Heston brought a lot of himself to the character of Taylor, making the astronaut cynical and full of rage. This works in the 60’s movie as he is a product of his time and an explanation for what ultimately happened to the Humans. In Dr Zaius’ eyes, Taylor reinforces everything he has come to understand about ‘Man’ which makes his actions understandable and, in a lot of ways, relatable.
Thomas, on the other hand, represents a contrasting example of ‘Man’ for the future rulers of the world. This has the effect of turning Dr Zaius and his fellow scientist’s into easier to recognise villains and easier to accept as such.
The change in character also makes the ending of both adaptions more intriguing. Everyone knows how the film ends, it is one of the most famous scenes in cinema history, however, the way that it plays out in Serling’s original concept is different enough still to provide a shock element at the end of the story. As a reader you wait for the big reveal but the twist will grab you and give you a good shaking. The entire final sequence of the book is touching and beautifully drawn.
Chad Lewis’ art work has cinematic scope and captures the essence of the scenes wonderfully. His attention to detail, especially in the backgrounds, gives the comic a believable and immersive setting. As a reader you are sucked into the world as much as Thomas and his cohorts. The composition of the panels help to make you feel trapped in an unknown world, even with large vistas spread across the page. When the astronauts first encounter the ‘Humans’ they become trapped between the slowly encroaching people and the vast ocean behind them. There is a series of panels illustrating the slow advancement of the wild people followed by a wide shot with the heroes trapped in the centre, lost and very much alone on an alien world. The tension is gripping.
There are three colourists working on the book but not that you can tell. There is a consistency to the colouring throughout and the contrast between the forbidden zones and Ape city is striking; with slightly too bright natural colours for the forests compared to the muted blues and yellows of the city. A certain unease has been created by the colourists because the natural world appears almost unnatural in its brightness whereas the city is dull in comparison; this is a switch from how we would expect the two setting to be coloured. The colour sets the tone, switching from the mysterious, to action, to intrigue all via altering the colour pallet.
Ed Dukeshire’s lettering is fits snuggly around the artwork, barely making an impression which is the way that it should be. Where the lettering especially stands out is with the sound effects. They boom out of the page and traverse the panels giving Serling’s world sound that you can almost hear. The powerful ‘Thup’ of helicopters rises above the landscape, each time preceding danger for the central character.
In adapting Serling’s script, Gould and co have taken on a mammoth task: not only do they have to make Rod Serling’s vision shine off the page, they have to present something new and entertaining to a readership who will, for the most part, know exactly what is going to happen in the plot. The creators on this book have successfully packed the pages with suspense and drama despite the familiarity of the plot; in some cases, they have used the readers expectations of what will happen to create a more dramatic, and sometimes shocking, scene.
I was personally surprised how close to the original film this version was, with Ape city being different in visual aspects only, but this did not occur to me until after I had finished reading it. It is a gripping adaption, presented beautifully in a hard backed book format. The script and artwork presents us with characters we recognise but at the same time have to get to know them all over again; Thomas is refreshing in comparison to Taylor and the entire book has a more upbeat tone to it. Until the end where one of the biggest differences occurs. A change which will take your breath away as the familiar is subverted by the horrific.
Planet of the Apes Visionaries isn’t a wildly different take on the story and, fittingly, reads more like a Twilight Zone version of the concept. But it is enjoyable, fascinating and expertly crafted. It is an essential read for Apes fans and will fit in perfectly with any Ape franchise collection.
Planet of the Apes Visionaries
Printed by Boom! Studios
Original Screenplay by Rod Serling
Adapted by Dana Gould
Art by Chad Lewis
Inks Assist by David Wilson
Coulours by Darrin Moore, Miguel Muerto and Marcelo Costa
Letters by Ed Dukeshire
In this final issue of RoboCop Citizens Arrest, the creators delve into the production surrounding RoboCop and the battle between Old and New. Brian Wood has produced a script that is reminiscent of the original RoboCop movie in almost every way; minus the ED-209, which is a shame.
The story follows Leo Reza from his moments waking up as the next RoboCop through to his confrontation with Alex Murphy. Reza enters the Detroit streets under the command of O.C.P. and proves to be a hit with the populace and those in charge. Once more, a human-esq police office proves to be the reassuring protection that the city wants.
However, there is an aggressive streak within Reza’s actions; an anger that is bubbling just below the surface waiting for a moment to burst through to the surface.
Murphey, meanwhile, is protecting Reza’a family and waiting for the inevitable confrontation to occur. He is ready to fight whatever RoboCops O.C.P. throws at him.
The first half of this issue is all too familiar. The creation and awaking of the man within the machine bares more than a passing resemblance to the first movie. This isn’t just a nod to that story, an Easter egg for the reader, this is a retelling in short form. Reza waking, being sent on a mission and becoming the darling of the right wing news programs is a direct reference to the movie. There are, however, a few subtle differences which the Murphy RoboCop points out later in the issue and is the point that the creators are trying to make.
The original movie was a reaction to the time it was made; over the top, biased new casts; pushy advertising and inappropriate product placement; the rich being above the law. RoboCop was a clever satire of the world around it. Citizens Arrest follows that trend and its main point is ‘not much has changed’. The familiar opening attests to this fact by deliberately reminding the reader of a movie made in the 1980’s. The second act confrontation pits the old against the new but there is so little between them; how far have we come?
Despite the strengths of the narrative, the comic doesn’t pack the same kind of punch as previous incarnations of the character. This is partially down to the artwork. The close ups and a number of establishing shots are wonderful. They do exactly what they need to do. One in particular with Reza’s family hiding in their house is a clever, isolating panel surrounded by panels of action shots. It’s a smart layout and captures the essence of the scene brilliantly.
Unfortunately, not all of the art has this same impact. Sometimes the rendering of the characters is awkward or flat; lacking the impact that the moments deserve. This isn’t always the fault of Jorge Coelho, whose artwork gives the best pages of the comic their strength, but because the colour work by Doug Garbank doesn’t lend itself to some of the emotionally charged scenes. It feels inconsistent across some of the pages which makes the reader question the art and narrative unfavourably.
In one instance there is a scene with two characters running across two panels, the background has been dropped in favour of movement lines and colour only. These two panels work really well, with the starting point of the movement a bright yellow turning to a dark orange as the reader follows the characters. However, on other pages the background colours shift wildly with no discernible reason and on more than one occasion the background and foreground have uncomfortable meetings points.
There are some strong sequences in this comic, especially the lettering work on the sound effects which really stands out. The overall narrative has a point worth making and the referencing of the original film is a clever technique employed to make this point unfortunately some of this is lost in the inconsistent art work. This series overall has had strong and weak moments. I’m not sure if this would still be the case if a different artist worked on it because some of the stronger moments were down to Coelho’s layouts and composition. This is a satisfying conclusion to the story but it might not lend itself to a re-read.
RoboCop Citizens Arrest is published by Boom! Studios
Written by Brian Wood
Illustrated by Jorge Coelho
Coloured by Doug Garbark
Lettered by Ed Dukeshire
Volume 1 of Days Of Hate from Image Comics is released this week.
And it is worth checking out if you’ve not been reading the monthlies.
Don’t believe me? Here’s why I think you should.
In a not too distant future, one that doesn’t look too dissimilar to our present, a run down, broken America struggles with its internal prejudices. On one coast gangs rule the streets and the other a more political game is being played; equally as deadly.
And so begins Ales Kot’s thriller which poses the question, how bad can the current situation get? The social and political climate that Kos depicts in Days of Hate aren’t that far removed from the world we live in. He gives us two, female, central characters who seem so different in their outlook but there is a connection between them; a link that is brilliantly illustrated early on in the comic by following the flight of a bird as it crosses a page transition.
Through these two characters the creators are able to establish the world that they live in while building an intriguing plot shrouded in mystery and inhabited by a number of fascinating characters.
Danijel Zezelj is creates atmosphere by packing his panels with extras and detailed interiors while in contrast the outdoor scenes are sparser, open spaces. This makes the reader feel trapped in this world, hidden away in the recesses of a scared country. Jordie Bellaire’s colours reinforce this point. She gives each scene its own tone simply by highlighting one particular colour throughout a given sequence. For instance, Amanda’s journey to the all American Diner in issue 1 is soaked in a pinkish red which reflects the gaudiness of the venue but is also an omen of things to come. And one chapter has three distinct time periods each with their own hue.
Every aspect of Days of Hate appears to have the same thoughtfulness applied to it which makes this a superb, if sometimes challenging, read. The story flows effortlessly through the page transitions, flicking back and forth between the central characters and their lives. Each section of the comic feeds off and responds to each other creating a single narrative unit. To take away any section of the comic would create a hole in the narrative which may not be obvious, but it would be there, niggling at the back of your mind like a fake news story ringing muffled bells of warning.
Elements of socially accepted racism, expressions of inner turmoil and opposing personal/professional beliefs make Days of Hate an insightful read. Kot does not make this easy for the reader and just like the real world, the simple good/evil dynamics of the superhero genre have no place here. Each character is multi-layered and the creators take time to portray the different aspects of each. There are twists and turns that build the characters as they move slowly forward through the narrative. It is difficult to tell what is going to happen next and this is another highlight of this comic. Its unpredictability makes it a refreshing read.
Days of Hate is an outstanding character driven narrative with some of my favourite comic book art from recent years. There are some pages that are beautiful, stand alone, works of Art. This is a comic that I would recommend to anyone. It has an engaging story and wonderfully designed layouts which allow the story to flow from panel to panel, page to page. There is a lot going on visually and narratively. For an immersive comic reading experience you can’t go wrong with Volume 1 of Days of Hate.
Days of Hate Act 1 (collecting issues 1 – 6)
Written by Ales Kot
Art by Danijel Zezelj
Colours by Jordie Bellaire
Lettering by Aditya Bidikar
Published by Image Comics
(some of this may have been unashamedly plagiarised for some of my early reviews of the monthlies, please feel free to re-read everything I've written to find out which bits came from where)