Already a month into the year and the stack of comics is building up. I’ve picked up Postal #25 which seems a weighty tome (in content as well as page count) and Frankenstein Alive, Alive! but haven’t had chance to read either yet. I can probably give you a number of reasons to buy both without knowing what the contents are like but my recommendations here are for comics I’ve actually read.
Star Trek: Discovery #2
Written by Kirsten Beyer and Mike Johnson
Art by Tony Shasteen
Colours by J.D. Mettler
Publisher by IDW Publishing
To start with, ST: Discovery: The Light of Kahless. The new series is back on after its mid-season break and it continues to excel and surprise. Unfortunately, the comic does not have quite the same impact. However, it is an interesting look at an element of the series which isn’t getting much screen time. The Klingon’s are an important feature of ST: Discovery so it makes sense that the comic will explore that rich culture. It’s not perfect but I’m sticking with it and it’s still worth a look in.
For my review of ST: Discovery check out comiconverse.com
30 Days of Night #2
Written by Steve Niles
Art by Piotr Kowalski
Colours by Brad Simpson
Published by IDW Publishing
Strange things are happening in Barrow as the long night draws in. Office Stella Olemaun is not having a good night, not only has someone stolen all the towns’ mobile phones, but cases of vandalism and unruly behaviour are being reported from across town. Oh, and her husband, Eben has been killed.
This is a re-imaging of the original 30 Days of Night which was released in 2002. The story so far has followed the same frozen path but with a few obvious differences; the aforementioned Eben and his surprising case of death. That twist in the narrative is the hook that keeps you reading this latest iteration; without it I think that it would be too familiar. As it is, two issues in and the expectation for divergence from the original premise is now at a high.
Piotr Kowalski’s art definitely has a different look to Ben Templesmith’s, it’s much cleaner with strong, character defining outlines. It creates a different atmosphere to the original; it has more of an emotional punch to it. The colouring adds additional coldness to the scenes; blues for the exterior scenes and an eerie green tinge to many of the interiors.
I’m sure the shock and bloodletting thrills are just around the corner, Steve Niles will not let us down in that department, but for now this comic has an emotional tension which will drag you through the pages and leave you wanting more at the end.
Written by Saladin Ahmed
Illustrated by Sami Kivela
Coloured by Jason Wordie
Published by Boom! Studios
Set in Detroit in 1972 against a backdrop of crime and racism, Abbott tells the story of a journalist who goes above and beyond to tell the truth, no matter whose white, privileged feathers get flustered.
Abbott is a gritty character from a Hard Boiled Crime novel and she is written brilliantly. The opening of this comic has all the features of a Max Allan Collins' Ms Tree story, with the journalist replacing the P.I. The Art work is suitably noir-esq with bloody bodies, stern close ups and cigarette flicking gestures. Some of the panel transitions and slow paced story telling techniques are a joy to follow.
Ahmed and Kivela aren’t afraid to confront the ingrained racist elements of the time head on and in so doing they are able to bring the serious discussions into the present day. Look at the past, now compare it to the present. How far have we come? Is it far enough?
Although, it is possible that they decided to set it in 1972 because Kivela is able to do so much with the image of someone smoking, a dying past-time these days. Abbott’s smoking habit comes in useful on several occasions to help mark the passage of time and the curling white smoke seems to permeate every page.
Where this comic starts to lose me is about two thirds of the way in when a new element is added to the mix that I’m not sure it needed. But I’m waiting to see how it all plays out because, despite this niggling inclusion, I was absorbed in this comic from page one. There are way more reasons to read this than there are to leave it.
Created by Melita Curphy
Written by Singgih Nugroho and Ryan Cady
Art by Sami Basri
Colour by Sakti Yuwonon
Published by Image Comics
For notes on how to make an introduction to a new series simple and affective, check out Dissonance. The opening few pages introduce the reader to Terra Fantasme, a parallel world to ours, and the inhabitants who have reached a higher plain of existence. Obviously this isn’t working out for them and they seek help from a more childlike race to bring stability back to their world. Enter the Human Race.
Violence, media manipulation and family politics follow with an exciting cast of characters. The Herviett family appear to be in charge and it is the brother/sister combo who are central to the goings on. Roisia is the most interesting of the two, based on this first issue, and it’s interesting to see the way she is depicted in the opening pages compared to what you learn of her as a character. In her first, full body shot, she is illustrated in a way to infer that she is weaker than her brother but not all is as it seems. Sam Basri’s clever use of alternating angles means that the narrative is able to hide aspects of Roisia’s life and nature in a way that would be much harder on film.
The other characters and creatures that inhabit this world are a wealth of crazy designs. Part eighties kids cartoon and part Neil Gaimans’ American Gods, the cast are a delightful bunch of extraordinary beings.
And to this a wonderfully paced introduction to the story and a disturbing turn in the final pages, and what you have is the perfect way to introduce a new comic book world.
And a special mention for The Rocketeer: The best of Rocketeer Adventures published by IDW.
This comic has a collection of stories which have appeared in the numerous anthologies over recent years. There are some outstanding stories in this little collection and it will make you want to track down some of the others, especially if you’ve never come across the Rocketeer before. I’d highly recommend The Rocketeer: The Complete Adventure which includes the original stories by creator Dave Stevens.
This new little collection is also worth picking up but I’d maybe rip of the cover as soon as you’ve paid for it cos, Funko, not necessary!!!
Days of Hate is a grim thriller set a stone’s throw into our future. It deals with in house American terrorism, Alt and far Right gangs, political manipulation and revenge. The Art work matches the narrative as the reader is taken through rusty streets and into gaudy night spots. There is a lot of unpleasantness in the story and in the Art.
And yet Kot, Zezelj, and Bellaire manage to produce some beautiful and spectacular images throughout the pages of the comic. A city scene stretched across a two-page spread creates a weirdly magical illusion of bleeding colours and flowing streets. A lonely image of Amanda, one of the central characters, standing in shadows against the door of a run-down toilet tells the reader a lot about the character and where she is in her life at that moment; relating to more than that single scene. It gives the impression of a larger sense of being trapped and reaching the bottom, as far down as she can go.
But by far my favourite part of the comic, and the one I want to spend a few words on, is the page transition from Amanda on the West Coast to Huian Xing on the East Coast. To talk about this may involve spoilers so go and read the comic first, then come back here….
In the opening of the comic the reader is introduced to Amanda as she investigates an Arson in a warehouse in down town Los Angeles. After reaching some conclusions about the incident her attention is drawn out of the window towards a bird flying by. On the surface we are led to believe she is lost in contemplation and briefly forgotten the horrors left within the warehouse. Zezelj deliberately draws our attention to the bird outside. The panels before contain two characters who are staring towards the left of the scene, automatically making the reader look that way. The establishing shot in the first panel tells us that on the left are the large windows, so when we reach panel four, we know we are following Amanda’s gaze out of the building. The most prominent feature of panel four? The flying bird, framed in the centre bars of the window.
We are then given two close up images of Amanda, the second a focused zoom on her eyes. She was lost in the moment, transfixed by the bird, as made clear by the previous panels.
The reader then moves to the next page and the action leaps across the country to a brand new character but everything about her introduction links her to Amanda. The first panel of the page is the bird in almost the same flying position as the it was seen before. Whether this is the same bird or not isn’t relevant but there is some inference that it should be viewed as the same creature. There is then a close up of the bird followed by a large image of the bird returning to its handler. It’s as if we have followed it from one side of the country to the other, from one page to the next.
The transition is cinematic in style but also serves a larger purpose than pure visual brilliance. It links the two characters in the reader’s mind. We are shown Amanda, obsessed with the flight of the bird, then made to follow it to Huian creating a mental link; the two characters are related somehow. At this point in the story we don’t know about their history, about their marriage but we have connected them through a visual transition. For the following few pages the reader is introduced to Huian’s situation and subconsciously we are trying to tie the two plot threads together. This creates anticipation in the following scenes that wouldn’t have been there otherwise. Because, as an outsider, we are looking for the connection we are on tender hooks as Huian is being interviewed, wondering if that link will be explained. Without that initial transition the heightened awareness of the character relationships wouldn’t be there so when the ‘wife’ reveal comes the reader might not make the connect between Huian and Amanda. However, by some brilliant manipulation of image, when we get the close up of Peter Freeman’s face in a long, thin panel mentioning Huian’s wife the reader immediately knows who he is talking about.
The creators have used a visual ploy, a clever transition from one page to the next, to feed the reader important, but subtle, information about the future narrative so that when the reveal comes, it’s sudden and has impact. It is a well thought out, perfectly executed piece of comic book narrative and just one example as to why you should be reading this comic.
Days of Hate #1
Written by Ales Kot
Drawn by Danijel Zezelj
Coloured by Jordie Bellaire
Published by Image Comics
New comic book day, Tra-la-la! (I should probably save that for next month’s Labyrinth comic from Boom. Consider this shelved for future reference) Another day, another shelf of wondrous comics. I wonder what people are reading? How goes the DC and Marvel worlds? Maybe one day I’ll go back there but for now all my money goes on beauties like these….
Written by C.S.Pacat
Art by Johanna The Mad
Published by Boom! Studios
The rivalry hots up this month as the two newbies battle it out to get onto the Varsity Fencing Team. Seiji is arrogant and self-assured. He expects to get on the team and Pacat frames him as the ideal candidate for this. He is always depicted with style and grace. He is pictured as an athlete in every panel.
Nicholas, however, has flaws and this is the basis of the drama for the comic. As readers we are expected to be in awe of Seiji but we route for Nicholas, he is the underdog, the loveable rogue character. Sure his technique might not be up to scratch but his determination is evident on every page.
The Artwork is very simple in appearance, with limited backgrounds. The colours also are minimal with a lot of block colouring but this works in the comics’ favour. It helps to focus the action of the story and also allows for some of the more humorous and quirky elements not to stick out like a sour thumb. There is a playfulness to the comic which is appealing. You skip through the pages with ease and reach the end much sooner than you’d like.
Some of the narrative elements are rushed, as if Pacat wanted to get elements of the story in place as soon as possible however this does not detract away from the enjoyment of this issue. Hopefully, now that Fence has become an ongoing at Boom! Studios, there will be time for the narrative to slow down and allow Pacat and Johanna The Mad to explore this competitive world they have created.
Days of Hate #1
Written by Ales Kot
Art by Danijel Zezelj
Colours by Jordie Bellaire
Published by Image Comics
In a not too distant future (and I mean, right around the corner kind of a deal) 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.
Ales Kot’s new thriller asks 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; one that is brilliantly illustrated early on in the comic by following the flight of a bird as it crosses a page transition. Both of these characters have depth and lead intriguing lives, only some of which Kos shows us in this first issue. He makes each character a compelling read and places them in this dystopian world that is visible just on the edge of our own.
This place is familiar in an unnerving way. This is the comics’ hook and its major strength.
None of this would be as successful without the amazing artistic talents of Zezelj and Bellaire. The heavy line work and awkward point of view shots that Zezelj litters the pages with give the comic a foreboding and an emotional weight. The seriousness of the character’s situations is evident in each panel. Even the more touching moments are weighed down with the vast areas of blocked in blackness.
Zezelj keeps the interiors busy with many people and detailed backgrounds while outside shots are sparser, open spaces. This makes the reader feel trapped in this world, hidden away in the recesses of a scared country. 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 is soaked in a pinkish red which reflects the gaudiness of the venue but is also an omen of things to come.
Days of Hate is a powerful and exciting work of Art. Both the narrative and the Art are outstanding. And this comic contains one of the best pages of comic book Art I’ve seen in a long time.
Ice Cream Man #1
Written by W Maxwell Prince
Art by Martin Morazzo
Colours by Chris O’Halloran
Published by Image Comics
Flavours by God knows who
Something strange is going on in the suburbs of America. A professional couple have gone missing and their ice cream loving son is acting all kinds of strange. Detective Jialeou seems to be attracting all of the crank cases in the office and it’s beginning to show but nothing can prepare her for the night ahead.
And the Ice Cream Man is always watching.
This is a spectacular read. Bat shit crazy, yes, but then if you’ve read any of W Maxwell Prince’s previous titles it is something you should be expecting. In fact, The Electric Sublime was one of my favourite comics in 2016 so it’s really good to be able to pick up something new by this talented writer.
Ice Cream Man is a journey through a suburban horror manual. It’s all of those urban myths rolled into one, kind of like the Grimm TV series but with an extra scope of weird. The visual aspect is wonderful, depicting the streets as the mundane homes they are. The beauty of the fantasy element is that Morazzo gives it all an air of the fairy tale monster; there is a distinct B-Movie look to creatures. All of this swirls together to make something that is difficult to get the flavour of but at the same time is never distasteful. It’s enjoyable; it’s fun; and it has enough horror to shock but not enough to turn you off.
Somehow the creators have managed to produce an endearing comic that is one-part crazy, one-part classic horror and a final part that is firmly tongue in cheek. If you read this comic, you will definitely be going back for a second helping.
Kong on the Planet of the Apes #3
Written by Ryan Ferrier
Art by Carlos Magno
Colours by Alex Guimaraes
Published by Boom! Studios
Kong happy in his peaceful garden. Naughty gorilla’s break that peace. Kong no longer happy.
This is quintessential Planet of the Apes. The narrative; the look; the colours; it all reeks of the Ape franchise and is exactly what it needs going into its 50th year.
There are currently two Ape titles out, this one and the new Ursus miniseries. They are both good reads but only this one is out this week so I would recommend picking it up.
For more of what I thought of it, check out my review over at comiconverse.com.
In Sleepless #2, the new political, fantasy drama published by Image Comics, the central character Poppy receives a letter from her mother; one that causes particular distress. The letter itself isn’t full of grief, in fact elements of it are hopeful and in other circumstances would be reason to celebrate. However, when Sarah Vaughn’s words appear over the top of Leila Del Duca’s images they become a more distressing, upsetting narrative.
It is a prime example of words and images combining to tell the story in a way unique to the comic book format.
As way of background, Poppy’s father, the King, has died and she has been left at the court of Harbeny where her life is in danger and the new King, her uncle, is an unknown element. After an assassination attempt in issue 1, Poppy had held on to the hope that her mother would come to her side. The letter she receives in issue 2 puts an end to that hope.
“My dearest flower. My Poppy. My Pyppenia.
I know what you think as you read this. Why have you only a piece of paper, and not your mother at your side?
I promise you, child, if I could be with you, I would. But the stars have been read, and the queen has made her decision.” (words by Sarah Vaughn)
The letter is, on the surface, a simple apology from Poppy’s mother that she cannot come to Harbeny. But as it unfolds there is a darker undertone. It relates the potential dangers to Poppy and the peace between two cities; it talks about divergent paths which could lead to great pain; and even hints at the possibility that the two may never see each other again.
All of this is there in the letter but Poppy’s physical reaction to it speaks of greater upset, of emotional turmoil more important than the relationship between two countries.
The first panel is a long shot showing the cosy homestead where Poppy has sat down to read the letter. It’s comfortable and warm, a roaring fire heats the room thanks to a wonderful glow in the colouring provided by Alissa Sallah. This colouring is set to change over the coming panels as it moves away from the comforting, homely brown hues to a cold grey and finally the angry yellow and orange of a burning fire.
The second panel moves in closer. It is the same size space but the reader is drawn further into the scene just as Poppy is being drawn into the letter. There is a noticeable shadow on the wall behind her, an ominous warning, just like the one her mother is referring to in the letter. Most notably is that the door, to the right in the previous panel, has disappeared as if Poppy is now trapped in the room with no escape. This is a reflection of the words that are to come. Poppy is indeed trapped, trapped by circumstance in the city of Harbeny.
Moving down the page, to panel 3, and again the image of Poppy is closer. We can now see the disappointed look on her face, a contrast to the happy, cheerful Poppy who populated the earlier pages of the issue. There is a melancholy to the image created by Poppy’s dejected posture and the fact that her surroundings are slowly being removed.
This is taken to the next step in the next panel as all of the background and foreground is removed and replaced by a grey wash reminiscent of a prison wall. Poppy is trapped in the panel and the emotional distress is there on her face for all to see. A tear begins to roll down her cheek
The final long panel on the page portrays Poppy at her most upset. Not only is her facial expression, with her hand held against her face, expressive but the image is in contrast to the words she, and we, are reading at this moment on the page:
“You must be strong. You must trust yourself above all others. You must keep your eyes open.”
Poppy does not appear strong in this image, she is weakened by her distress, she has been made vulnerable and, of course, her eyes are actually closed.
The final two panels of the page portray Poppy’s anger at the words she has just read. She has waited for the arrival of her mother, instead she only receives a letter which upsets her and her reaction is to destroy it, rid herself of the cause of her distress. At this point the paper is a symbol of her hope, the words scrawled upon it have tarnished that hope and the all-encompassing fire is Poppy’s emotional state, destroying the hope she had cherished.
The page is a visual descent into despair for the central character fuelled by formulaic political words that say little but infer much.
The fact that her mother failed to show up was clearly upsetting for Poppy, as can be seen in the harbour scene but it is this scene by the fireside that shows the reader the full affect it has on Poppy. She is a princess in distress and she has become trapped, without hope in her cold, prison like home.
Between them the creators have produced a perfect balance between language and images to produce the biggest punch to the narrative. There is no doubt to Poppy’s emotional state and what the absence of her mother means to her.
This is just one example of the brilliant work on display in Sleepless and it goes without saying that I would recommend this title.
Sleepless is published by Image Comics
Written by Sarah Vaughn
Art by Leila Del Duca
Colours by Alissa Sallah
It’s a New Year and a New Comic Book Day (Okay, there was one last week but I missed it. However, there were some awesome comics that came out. Did you check out Planet of the Apes: Ursus? No? Shame on you!). In the multitude of releases this week I have three recommendations and they should all be easy to find on the shelf as they all start with an S.
Sleepless #2 written by Sarah Vaughn, illustrated by Leila Del Duca and coloured by Alissa Sallah. Published by Image Comics
Another intriguing visit to the city of Harbeny and the royal comings and goings. This second issue expands the world that Sarah Vaughn has created while at the same time enclosing the central character, trapping her in the city where she no longer wants to be. Very little is explained and the assassination plot that formed so much of issue one is background noise to the new arrivals in the kingdom. But the threat is always there and still feeds the greater narrative.
There Is a very earthy feel to the comic, created mostly through Alissa Sallah’s colour choices. The drama is created through the character’s interactions and, in a number of cases, what isn’t said is more interesting than what is said. The emotional reactions of the characters as drawn by Leila Del Duca is where this story is told. A simple change in facial expression matched with an alteration in back ground colour highlights the character’s inner turmoil in a simple but very effective way. And this comic is packed with this kind of subtlety.
Sleepless is a charming and intriguing all ages comic, and I mean all ages not ‘for kids’. The world that Vaughn has created is bursting with character and mysteries and heart. And this issue is part of a wondrous tale beautifully told.
Slots #4 written/drawn by Dan Panosian and published by Image Comics
Part four of Panosian’s confidence trick focuses on the rise of Stanley and the slow fall of his son, Lucy. It also heavily features Mercy who is also on the up and up.
The way that Panosian tells the story makes Lucy the focus and all the readers empathy is with him. In the opening chapter Mercy is focused on in all her dancing costume glory but it is the panels which contain Lucy that stand out, they are different to the others with a tone that doesn’t match. He is an outcast from the glitz and the drink that floods the surrounding panels so his plight stands out. He is clearly nervous in Mercy’s presence whereas none of the other, male, characters have any intention of hiding their obsession with Mercy.
One of the highlights of this comic is Panosian’s ability to move the reader through the pages and panels. He applies his art perfectly creating an easy to read comic; the reader barely notices that they are being led around like one of Stanley’s marks. But if you take a moment to re-read each issue and pay attention to the backgrounds, I’m sure that there are clues to the greater picture.
Issue 4 is an enjoyable read and moves the story on in unsuspected ways. I have a strong feeling that when this story is done, a re-read is going to be very enlightening, like re-watching The Sting.
And finally, my pick of the week, Saucer State #6 by Paul Cornell and Ryan Kelly, published by IDW
I’ve been reading this title since it was Saucer Country and it never ceases to amaze me. The twists and turns that Cornell gets into the plot is seconded only by Kelly’s ability to make it all seem so real. I watched the first four series of the X-Files but I found the constant ‘is it real?’ alien subplot tiring after so many episodes, but I have not tired of Saucer State yet. The humour within the script is genuinely funny and the shocks, when they come, are truly shocking. I read this issue while my kids were drawing and there was one point when the kids asked me what I was reading, responding to the very loud gasping sound I had just made. There are two such moments like that in this issue.
If you’re reading this series, you are going to love this issue. If not, it’s not too late to join the gang, I’d heartily recommend it.
For further information, check out my review on Comiconverse.com