Christmas is fast approaching but there is still one more New Comic Book Day to come. And what a day it will be, there are hundreds of new titles and stacks worth reading. There’s Backways #1 and Unholy Grail #5 from Aftershock Comics, MMPR #22, Jim Henson’s Storyteller Fairies #1 from Boom Studios, A brand new 30 Days of Night from IDW along with the usual host of Transformers and Star Trek titles. And then of course there’s Dark Fang #2, Evolution #2, Redlands #5, Copperhead #17 and Spread #24 all from Image.
Also the usual stack from Marvel and DC I’m sure.
However, here are my three picks for this week; all from Boom Studios which just goes to show how much I am enjoying their output at the moment.
(30 Days of Night would probably be on this list but I’ve not seen it…..yet)
First up is Fence #2.
Written by C.S. Pacat and illustrated by Johanna the Mad, the second issue of the sporting comic steps up the rivalry between the two central characters. Not only do they have to share a room at their new school but they have to prove to the coaches that they are the one who should be on the Fencing team.
This issue is very comical with several characters who are entertaining and adorable from the moment they are introduced. Pacat plays the new characters off against the two returnees from issue one creating a wonderful serious/comic dynamic that helps her set the scene for coming issues. The rivalry between the two leads is sit com ridiculous but this matches Johanna the Mad’s fluid Manga-esq art style.
One of the outstanding elements of this comic is Joana Lafuente’s colours. Seemingly very simple, the use of black and white emphasis for Nicholas and Seiji highlights the conflict between the two while at the same time evokes the idea of ying and yang. Are these two destined to become friends and, possibly even allies?
Second up Kong on the Planet of the Apes #2
Ryan Ferrier has captured the characteristics of the Movie Ape cast beautifully and wound them believably into the King Kong story. Although on the surface the narrative seems like nothing more than a gimmick; retell King Kong but with Apes, Ferrier has made the entire thing plausible, in fact it is a logical step from the story.
Carlos Magno and Alex Guimaraes, art and colours, demonstrate an attention to detail and an affection for the franchise. Despite the large bluster of the story, it is the small details that stand out; a quick look of love between Cornelius and Zira, the anger of Ursus when he is immobilised, Doctor Zaius’ dismissiveness.
The story takes our cast of characters deep into the forests of Skull Island and they face a range of monsters and more. Kong on TPOTAs is a joy to read and feels like the Sunday afternoon matinee that the original movies became. I can’t get enough of this comic.
And finally the grotesque and disturbing Lazaretto #4.
Clay McLeod and Jay Levang’s disintegration of a college dorm and the students trapped within has become the back bone of one of my favourite comics of the year. There is nothing that these two guys won’t do to make you, the reader, feel uncomfortable.
By the third issue of the story, the disease riddled students have turned on each other and torn their habitat to shreds. Only Chris and Tamara seem to be keeping themselves together, and only barely. McLeod continues to up the ante as far as the violence and horror goes but he is also continuing to building the characters of Chris and Tamara; their inner qualities are brought out by their desperation and their inner most fears are laid bare for the reader to see.
This creates some very touching emotional story telling which almost makes you forget the horrors surrounding the cast. But not for long because this issue sees a new phase to the disease and I would recommend reading this on an empty stomach. Levang’s art work will make you shudder and potentially retch.
The longer this comic goes on the more disturbing it becomes. In some respect it is probable a good thing there is only one issue left, however, I will miss it when it I gone.
Lazaretto is my top pick for the week, if you’re not reading it you are missing out on exceptional storytelling and emotive art.
In 2015 the brilliant new Sci-Fi comic RunLoveKill was released by Image Comics. Written by Jon Tsuei and illustrated by Eric Canete, the story followed Rain as she attempted to leave a futuristic city before the impending lock down.
From the very beginning there is a cinematic feel to the visuals and the narration. The first 11 pages are virtually text free, with only the ‘TIC TIC’ sound effect of a metronome to break the silence however the tone and pacing for the four-part series is laid out in those 11 pages.
It starts very slowly on the first page. A silent, unmoving metronome is spotlighted in the first panel. It is like an intake of breath, the peace before the storm. The panel is long, stretching from the left of the page to the right. The first 8 pages of the comic are split into panels which are shaped like this, like the screen in a cinema. It makes a bold statement about how Tsuei and Canete view the Sci-Fi world they have created; it is a wide, encompassing place. It has scope and space for a lot of action.
The cinematic feel continues across the first page with the interjection of ‘title card’. “Image Comics Presents” and “A Jon Tsuei, Eric Canete & Mafufo/Olea Production” split the first movements of the metronome like the opening of a movie. And as the arm begins to swing back and forth the Tic Tic sound first appears. It is the Tic Tic sound that gives the final panel of the page it’s sense of time. In the previous panels, nothing was happening, nothing was moving, they were moments in time. When the metronome begins to tic, the sound effect signifies that the panel represents a number of seconds, a stead rhythm has begun.
Onto the second page, with that steady momentum entrenched, you are faced with two distinct time periods; distinguished by Leonard Olea’s colouring. The past is in blue and the future in orange.
In the past Rain is giving a musical performance, on stage and under spotlights. These panels are emotionally charged and intimate. This is achieved by isolating the character from everything else, the white lights block out most of the scenery and there are no other characters. A number of close up panels bring the reader into Rain’s personal space and show the emotion on her face.
The future is a high octane chase sequence with a number of long shots and blurred movements. The attention is focused on Rain’s movements as she attempts to avoid her pursuers before engaging them. It is a fast paced sequence but it measures against the Tic Tic of the metronome.
As the action hots up in the future, the reader begins to inject an upbeat tempo onto the music in the past. Rain appears to be playing with more vigour, the shots of her and her double bass are packed with more movement and speed, mirroring the athletics of the future Rain.
Then at the bottom of page 7 a single dart strikes Rain’s leg. It happens central to the panel and the background is a murky yellow, as if the fire and energy of the previous panels has been used up. Putting this panel at the bottom of this page creates a pause in the story, a moment of reflection. The reader, like the characters, all hold their breath for a brief moment.
Page 8 is slower because of this pause, the pacing has been cut back and Rain takes a slow decent from the wall. After the building tempo of the previous pages, these three panels seem to be in slow motion, as quiet as is indicated by the lack of speech or sound. Panel 4 shows Rain in the past, her bow away from her instrument; the music has stopped. That Tic Tic that was in the reader’s head for the last 7 pages has ended. The artists have created a moment of reflection and managed to add a layer of silence to an already silent panel. This isn’t just lack of speech; this is a lack of sound.
The next page changes again. The Tic Tic is back and the panels have changed from the previous uniformity. Rain has fallen into the ocean, the colours have become blue and green, even though we know that this is the future, which we have up to this point associated with an orange pallet. By making these changes the creators have reasserted the initial level of pacing. The scene has played out, building from page one to a crescendo that resulted in pure silence, and now reset so that we know what the rhythm is going to be for the next few pages. It is also a precursor for the rhythm of the first four issues.
In the opening of the comic Tsuei and Canete have laid out the pacing of the comic. They have let the reader know what the tempo of the story is going to be and as a result have let the reader know what to expect over the coming issues. It is a magnificent opening to the comic, cinematic in style and substance, and a pleasure to read.