We all know what happens in a post-apocalyptic world where there isn’t any power, petrol is scarce and the population has been decimated but what if the equivalent of a nuclear Armageddon happened in a fantasy realm? What if there aren’t any heroes and the magic is scarce and what’s left of the population has formed factions against each other?
If this intrigues you then you should be picking up Coda #1 from Boom! Studios, released this week.
Coda is written by Simon Spurrier and illustrated by Matias Bergara. It tells the story of Hum, a wandering bard who manages to find himself in a scrape wherever he goes. Luckily for Hum he travels on a rare Unicorn whose viciousness is only equalled by his loyalty.
The world that Spurrier and Bergara have created is a sprawling fantasy populated with an array of outlandish characters. All walks of life and villainy are represented with the central character being far from a holier than thou fellow himself. The world has been tainted by the mystical event which has robbed it of most of the magic and this is evident thanks to the multitude of gruesome scenes and quirky illustrative style.
The opening starts with the hero, Hum, mining the innards of a rotting dragon who has yet to leave the world of the living. It screams in anger and frustration but also pleads for help and companionship. This lost soul, a remnant of the magical world, and the duality it displays is a fair representation of this comic’s narrative. Spurrier has written a comic that overlays the usual fantasy elements of stories like Lord of the Rings, onto the harsher, bleak world views of The Walking Dead. Coda is a sword and sorcery version of Jonathan Hickman’s East of West.
Matias Bergara’s artwork also has this uncomfortable duality to it. On the one hand it is bright and fun with playful character design however the putrid colour tones which feature heavily on each page give the landscape the feel of rotting flesh, of degradation. The setting is deliberately uninviting so the reader latches onto the character they are given as a hero and follows him, hopefully to a better place.
Large vistas drown out the characters giving the comic the sense of grandeur and when the story rolls into Ridgetown, the vast tower city, the scope of the world that Spurrier is building is revealed. The city scape extends forever upwards and the cast of characters inhabiting the city are varied and complex. Comedy and tragedy play out through the various scenes, linked by the semi-hero Hum. It is a wonder to behold.
Coda is a fast paced, adventurous romp with a complex central character and one of the best steads committed to paper. Spurrier knows how to write fantasy with enough familiarity to hook the reader but also plays with the genre to create scenes reminiscent of 60’s road movies or Shakespearian comedies. The art work feeds the wayward narrative, again mixing up genres to create a new visual language for this new world. Every aspect of this first issue, including the colour work and lettering, works together to produce a uniquely enthralling read.
Published by Boom! Studios
Written by Simon Spurrier
Illustrated by Matias Bergara
Colours by Michael Doig
Letters by Colin Bell
I missed a new comic book day post last week for a number of reasons. One of which is that I am currently re-reading Jonathan Hickman’s run on Avengers. I was looking for something to read and picked up the first few issues to kill time, now I have the entire run out next to my bed. That’s well over 70 single issues and two event series.
On the whole, the entire run is a good read. Hickman’s plotting and scripting is excellent although his commitment to the long game can put some people off. Not me though, I love it. And the artwork too, I love that most of the time. There are a few moments I’m not to keen, like Leinil Francis Yu’s work on Avengers #19 where a moment of threatening behaviour and possible torture is depicted more like a scene from lesbian erotica; Yu’s work in this issue can best be summed up as tits and arse. However, this is an exception rather than a rule.
For example, Mike Deodato’s work in the New Avengers at this time is outstanding and it is issue 9 of that series that I'm going to look at here.
As way of narrative background: Thanos has sent his Black Order along with an invasion force to find the last of the Infinite gems. If you’ve been to the cinema recently this might be a bit familiar. In the New Avengers #9 each of the Illuminati (see years of Marvels comics for their back story) stand to defend their respective homes against the onslaught and keep hidden the whereabouts of the final Gem.
The confrontations in each location take place in this single issue which is a lot of action and story to pack into a single monthly comic but what Deodato manages to do is tell the reader everything they need to know about each of the Illuminati and their current situation in a single page. This makes it easy to speed up the action sequences and almost skip to the end without making the reader feel like they have missed something.
I’ve picked three pages which best illustrate Deodato’s approach and the impact that a single page can have on a set of characters and the narrative outcomes.
Firstly, let’s look at Black Panther. Wakanda is under siege but they are ready and holding back the initial invasion force. Then into the field steps the Black Dwarf. He is introduced in a standard rectangle panel, striding towards the reader. He is over confident, smug and full of himself. Deodato draws him small in the panel and surrounded by his speech, emphasising the notion that he is all talk.
In the next panel, Black Panther is shown in action, leaping and fighting through the panel. His speech is short and snappy; he is a man engrossed in the moment. This side by side comparison illustrates the difference between the two characters: one is unmistakably sure of himself while the other is prepared for the fight.
The final panel of the page shows that Black Panther is in fact the better of the two. His positioning is higher in the panel, above the striking fist of the Black Dwarf. The Panther’s hand is placed firmly on his enemy’s head, holding him down and out of the two of them, only the Panther's fist looks like it is going to hit the target. There is no doubt in this panel who the victor is going to be and this page acts as an allegory for the rest of the Wakandan fight so that when the narrative returns to this section of the story, the battle is over with no surprise as to the outcome. This single page sums up the entire fight in Wakanda.
Later in the issue The Jean Grey School is under attack from Corvus Glaive and his hoards. The X-Men are making a stand and on this page we can see Wolverine throwing everything he has towards the enemy, and the reader. Wolverine is the definition of determination in this illustration. He shatters through a wall of ice, as seen behind him, but also out of the boarders of the panel. His need to win is too big to be contained.
Unfortunately, in the next panel, the reader is shown how easy the mutant is stopped. The long panel has Corvus on one side and the speared Wolverine on the other; a long, metal spear separates them as if to say that Wolverine was nowhere near victory. He has been subdued and put in his place by Corvus and Deodato, who draws the X-man hunched and pushed almost off the page.
The following two panels highlight the defeat. The first of the two has the fiery background with solid silhouettes in the foreground, reducing Wolverine to a shape instead of the brash, bold character at the top of the page. The last panel goes one step further, as the foreground becomes a confusion of detritus with Wolverine's silhouette lost in chaos. He has been defeated, utterly.
As with the Black Panthers page, this one is also representative of the greater X-Men struggle. They give it their all and never surrender but ultimately they are defeated by a superior force.
Finally, Namor. The following page says everything you need to know about the Submariner at this point in the story. Proxima Midnight has just arrived at Atlantis and in the first panel of the page she is towering above the once great superhero. He is crouched, head down and almost swallowed in shadow. The reader and Proxima know that the fight has been won even before it has begun.
Deodato uses up over half of the page for this single panel because this image is all that is needed. Everything that happens with, and because of, Namor in this issue is because he is a broken character as shown here on this page. Atlantis is lost and it’s king is ready to sell his soul at the first opportunity. The betrayal from Namor which comes later in this issue comes as no surprise because the reader can see from this page alone that he has already been defeated.
What is also interesting is the colouring of the page by Frank Martin. In the previous two examples each of the pages have represented victory in one form or another. The first is Black Panthers and the second Corvus Glaives. In each case the over riding colour theme is red and orange which is very dynamic. In this page, Namor is washed with a cold blue with ice white light shining down on him. The colouring highlights his defeat and is a contrast to the brighter, winning feel of the other pages.
There are a number of big, world changing battles that take place in the pages of New Avengers #9 and this is only possible because of the economy of Deodato’s artwork. He aptly illustrates the conflicts between two characters and their relating forces through a couple of pages, usually with one page acting as narrative for the entire battle. This helps to give the massive storyline by Hickman weight and believability without having to run to hundreds of pages. The first few panels on the pages tell the reader everything they need to know about the heroes/villains and by the end of the page the outcome of each conflict is depicted with a clear and concise winner.
Hickman’s run on the Avengers fills so many issues but when he works with artists like Mike Deodato, it’s no wonder that his narrative and vision is so huge. Anything is possible when you can cover a worldwide invasion in a single, 25 page issue.
New Avengers #9
Published in 2013 by Marvel Comics
Written by Jonathan Hickman
Artist Mike Deodato
Colours by Frank Martin
It’s been a mammoth week for comics. There have been a tonne of great reads hitting the shelves this week and of course the biggest of the big Action Comics #1000.
I don’t tend to read DC comics; I usually give Supergirl a read whenever they reboot to see what they do with her character or pick up a title when one of my favourite writers/artists are on board. Very rarely do I read a title for longer than a year though. However, Action Comics #1000 is a mile stone like no other, surely? This is a comic that’s going to be extremely popular and sell out everywhere. And I was definitely interested to see what content DC would put in a comic like that.
Most of the stories within are pleasurable, heart-warming Superman tales which remind you why the character has survived for so long and why he means so much to so many.
But I guess the biggest piece in the anthology is the introduction of Brian Michael Bendis to the DC universe. This is a massive steal from Marvel and promises big things ahead for DC in general. Action Comics #1000 features the introduction to Bendis’ Superman story and it is Bendis all over. It’s bold and brash with some dialogue that just grates when reading. Fans of Bendis, of which there are plenty, are going to love this. He is going to do to Superman what he did with the Avengers and that’s not a bad thing. Bendis writes comics that are the equivalent of Summer Blockbuster movies, he is the Michael Bay of comics which is perfectly fine if you like that type of thing. I am sure that the new Bendis helmed Superman comics are going to be a massive and hopefully give DC a boost.
Elsewhere on the shelf there is:
30 Days of Night #5
I love this comic. The script, the art and the colours; oh, the wonderful colours. Check out my review on comiconverse.com for further ravings on this.
Crow: Momento Mori #2
Someone is going to like this. I wasn’t taken with the first issue and this second issue isn’t much better. Most of it is about the central character and the journey that led him to the terrorist incident that ended his life. And, at best, it’s dull. At worst, clichéd and insulting to the reader’s sensitivities. The art work is good, better than issue 1, however it isn’t enough to make this readable for anyone other than die hard Crow fans. Look it up if you must but I’ll not be returning for the third issue.
I’m really enjoying this title, partly because I’m a fencing fan but also because this is a very focused character piece with a streak of humour running through it. The overall aesthetic is manga in style with cartoon emotional faces is odd panels and minimalistic settings for fast paced action sequences. These elements work very well together thanks to Johanna the Mad's simple but precise line work and character placement with in the panels. C.S. Pacat knows her audience and gives them exactly what they want which is teenage, school drama with a sporting edge.
This is an amazing comic and volume 1 has also been released this week so there is plenty of it out there to feast your eyes on.
And my review of the latest issue will be on comiconverse.com soon.
Kong on the Planet of the Apes #6
After the violence of the last issue, this finale has the traditional Kong ending with a Planet of the Apes twist. Even though you can see it coming it is still expertly executed and makes the final issue a perfect ending to the series. It’s almost a shame that it has come to an end only because I have thoroughly enjoyed Ryan Ferrier’s take on the Ape characters. In this series he has proven he can create something new using something old.
Add to that Carlos Magno’s art work, he was born to draw Apes, and you are left with an exceptional series. I should have written a full review for this issue, maybe I’ll get chance to come back to it. In the meantime, I’ll raise a glass to the clever creators.
Lucy Dreaming #2
I haven’t read this yet…
I loved the first issue and, unless something terrible has happened between issues, I expect this issue will be as good so I’m getting behind it. Go and buy it, support this title. And if you hate it let me know and I’ll issue a general apology or something.
The Highest House makes me feel claustrophobic and have attacks of vertigo at the same time. Mike Carey writes a sprawling script which Peter Gross manages to squeeze into the pages. There is a labyrinth of panels and conversations which wind around and above and between and beneath. The design of the comic is a work of architecture reflecting the setting and the world building of the creators. It is engrossing and a beauty to behold.
Star Trek Discovery: Succession #1
Finally, a ST: Discovery comic that reflects the TV series. The previous issues have been a let-down but here Kirsten Beyer and Mike Johnson have captured the voice of the show, albeit the Mirror Universe aspect. There is an element of drama mixed with humour all balancing on the shoulders of the characters. Angel Hernandez and Mark Roberts have worked some magic with the artwork making the overall comic feel like a Star Trek Episode, similar to the recent 2018 Annual. Unlike the annual, however, the story here is fresh and intriguing. Suspense and drama stalk the corridors of the Terran Empire and, as it’s the Mirror Universe, no-one is quite what you would expect.
Phew, that’s a lot of reading for one week. Anyway, here’s some images that might convince you to pick one or two up.
Last week was a slightly disappointing comic week, although on reflection I read some great comics and really enjoyed Frank Miller’s new Xerxes: the rise and fall of something or other. In contrast, this week I have been inundated with a stack of excellent reads. A few ‘meh’s’ crept in but on the whole there is a wonderful array of entertaining stories and outstanding works of comic book art.
First up Boom’s Planet of the Apes: Ursus #4. It’s Planet of the Apes and it’s been many years since I’ve read an Ape comic I haven’t liked (I didn’t read the Green Lantern Crossover though) so already off the fence before picking this one up. David F Walker’s story is a cleverly woven retelling of the original movies with a deeper examination of the racism inherent in the Apes world. The central character is beautifully written, full of depth and character.
This issue sees a change in artist with Lalit Kumar Sharma taking over from Chris Mooneyham. Luckily Jason Wordie is still on colours and manages to bring some consistence to the aesthetic as Sharma’s style is more cartoony than the superb Mooneyham’s rendering. The change in art doesn’t affect the story telling too much but there are moments when I wondered what a panel would look if Mooneyham had drawn it.
Planet of the Apes: Ursus. Published by Boom! Studios. Written by David F Walker. Art Lalit Kumar Sharma. Colours Jason Wordie
Another title that I enjoyed less this month than last was Dry County from Image Comics. The difference is that I wasn’t that taken with the first issue. The story telling is mundane and lacks any sense of drama. I put this down to the central character being thoroughly unlikable and the ‘underground comic’ art style becomes tedious very quickly. Elements of the narrative are intriguing with a slow mystery bubbling away but in the end it just isn’t enough.
Dry County published by Image Comics. Written and illustrated by Rich Tommaso
Dodge City #2 from Boom! Studios Boom! Box imprint is a fast paced, young adult drama. The characters are diverse and larger than life. Set around a sport that is fast and full on, Josh Trujillo writes a script which reflects this. Dramatic twists keep coming as the history of the team begins to unfold and the newbie captain learns about the uphill struggle facing him. Cara McGee’s art is full of energy and the layouts are simple but effective. Dodge City is a fun and easy read which is ideal for a teenage reader.
Dodge City published by Boom! Studios. Written by Josh Trujillo and Art by Cara McGee. Colours Goncalo Lopes.
Robocop: Citizens Arrest #1
You remember Robocop, yeah? That policeman’s brain in the chunky cyber-tech body? Well, people keep wheeling him out to fight new crimes, never letting him retire. Except that’s exactly what Brian Wood has done with this new series from Boom! Studios. The concept of the comic is that a new breed of law enforcement is needed in the future and, as if commenting on modern culture, the solution lays in the hands of the average citizen. Apps! Apps are the way of the future and getting monetary rewards for squealing on no good criminals. What could possibly go wrong with that idea?
Robocop: CA is an entertaining peak at the dangers of technology when used for all the wrong reasons but it’s most fascinating aspect is how Wood deals with the redundant Officer Murphy. Jorge Coelho’s art work captures the sublime atmosphere of the original film and tie-in comics while at the same time feels modern. Robocop himself is especially well drawn, looking like a Frank Miller creation through and through.
I enjoyed this more than I thought I was going to. I was ready to be snarky about it but Woods writing and Coelho’s art make this ludicrous idea work.
Robocop: Citizens Arrest published by Boom! Studios. Written by Brian Wood and illustrated by Jorge Coelho.
Brothers Dracul #1 from Aftershock.
I’ve seen this referred to as Dracula Year one but I think that does it a disservice. Instead of getting straight into the bloodsucking, this comic delves into the life of the character that, supposedly, inspired the original Dracula by Bram Stoker. The Artwork is brutal in places and extremely detailed with some excellent colour work. Check out my full review on comiconverse.com for the full run down.
Brothers Dracul published by Aftershock comics. Written by Cullem Bunn and illustrated by Mirko Colak. Colours by Maria Santaolalla
Next up, the first of two Russian centric comics that came out this week. The Dead Hand from Image comics is an espionage story about an aging spy. During the early 90’s the hero of the piece hunts down dangerous weapons in Russia and is shocked by what he finds. Years later he works in a laid back, pleasant town where nothing ever happens. The perfect retirement for the spy character. That is, until someone comes nosing around.
A wonderfully written story with a big twist really captures the reader and drags you into the story. The opening has a Captain America sense to it with the idea of an American Boy Scout fighting for all the right causes but this cliché is subverted just enough to make the narrative work in a logical way. Stephen Mooney brings a superhero element to his layouts and a espionage look to his panels, mixing both styles with the confidence of a seasoned artist. Jordie Bellaire adds her amazing talent to the colours and the final product is a wonder to read.
The Dead Hand published by Image Comics. Written by Kyle Higgins. Art and colour by Stephen Mooney and Jordie Bellaire. Pick this up if you can but not before (not that I want to have favourites but..)
I loved this character driven family drama. Yes, it's not your average family becasue the central character did despicable and violent things while working for the Russian government. And yes, he hid that from his son by telling him he was selling insurance. But the consequences are dealt with in a very emotional, family orientated way. There is a mystery at the heart of this narrative which only just starts to unfold towards the end of the issue but by then Steve Orlando has already grabbed you by the throat with his heart-breaking story. Garry Brown produces some moving imagery and uses the panel layouts and page transitions to set a melancholic tone to the entire comic.
I have written further about this earlier in the week (here). I can’t recommend this title highly enough. If you only read one comic this week, I’d make it Crude.
But hopefully you can pick up a few of the others as well.
Don’t forget there is also Sleepless #5 which I have yet to read but am looking forward to. And Vs #3 if you are still following it. I really appreciate the artwork on this Image title but I just can’t get into the story, in fact I gave up on this issue. It’s just not for me but I know it will find an audience out there.
And apparently Aftershocks Anthology: Shock was out this week but my local shop did not have it in (I have it on order so I’m not sure where it is….). This is an oversized book of a comic with an array of amazing talent. I cannot wait to read it so, sorry local comic book shop, I will be in everyday badgering you for it.
A great week this week with plenty of good reading. I’ll leave you with some pretty images to get you in the reading mood.
In a small province of Russia, the secrets that father and son keep from each other lead to the breakdown of Piotr’s family life. After years of wallowing in regret Piotr suddenly finds himself returning to his old ways in an attempt to find out who his son really was.
Crude is not the only Russia centric comic coming out this week, see also The Dead Hand from Image comics, and both feature a mysterious place that some desire and others fear. In Crude, this place is called Blackstone and is the destination that the central character travels to in order to feel closer to his wayward son.
Crude reads like a very personal story. The focus is on Piotr, a man who hides his profession from his son in order to protect him but in the end this has the opposite effect. Steve Orlando, the writer, barely touches on the violence that forms so mush of Piotr’s life, instead the writer focuses on the affects it has on the man’s home life and relationships. The narrative is very melancholic as the reader witnesses the slow decline of the central character. But there is a poetry to the narrative flow as it slowly bleeds from one moment into the next.
The passage of time plays an important factor in the story telling and several different approaches are used to highlight this. The most straight forward comes from the captions informing the reader of the location and time period. These are provided by Thomas Mauer, the letterer, who uses a typeface that sets the location as much as the actual place names. There is something instinctively Russian about the typeface he uses.
Subtler shifts are provided through the panel transitions from silent panels to a panels with speech or vice versa. These tend to signify small time shifts or uncomfortable moments of dead air but they are as important as the big skips in time. These smaller moments are where the strained relationships and distant emotions are illustrated most successfully.
Garry Brown’s artwork is an exquisite fit for this story. He is an expert at creating emotion through facial expressions and body language. His use of very bold, often overpowering, black shadows emphasise the mood of the character and sets off their relationships perfectly. For example, the scene in the kitchen with Piotr and his young son is spacious and has the feel of a family home however Piotr casts a dark shadow and is positioned away from the child, always a little bit in the distance. As his son and wife leave he is left alone for the darkness to envelope him. Piotr is hiding his work from his son but the lies are hard, they are creating a gulf between father and son which is captured by Brown’s composition and heavy shading.
Something similar happens later with Kiril and his lovers. A first they are shown together, their closeness emphasised but then Kiril is separated through their conversation and the positioning of their bodies in the panels. From the moment he is out of bed Kiril is detached from his partners by a barrier created by the bed clothes. This separation is accentuated even further by Lee Loughridge’s colour work. The background, behind the lovers, is a warm pinky/red colour but the bed is a cold blue/grey. The clothes that Kiril puts on are again this cold colour slowly covering up the warmth of his skin. This is finished off with the dark green jacket; a final reminder that Kiril has become distanced from his lovers. All of this highlights the importance of the conversation they are having and illustrates the difference between how they live their lives, in secret, and how Kiril wants to be able to express himself more openly.
Crude issue 1 is an emotional family drama about how secrets eat away at a character and creates unwelcome distances between loved ones. The consequences of this are extreme here in these pages but the emotional drive behind Orlando’s story is evident on every page. This is a story about regret, about guilt, and about the desire to understand family better.
Orlando and co have produced a surprisingly moving drama and executed it expertly. Crude will touch your heart and make you understand the alienation that a parent can feel.
Crude #1 published by Skybound/Image Comics
Written by Steve Orlando
Art by Garry Brown
Colour by Lee loughridge
Letterer Thomas Mauer
Comics, comics, comics. It’s a funny old business. Some weeks you are inundated with outstanding pieces of Art, so much so it takes a week to read them.
Other weeks it’s difficult to find anything engaging in your pull list.
This week has been closer to the later for me.
First up Star Trek: Discovery Annual 2018 from IDW Publishing.
I let out a sigh when I think about this comic. I was looking forward to this. The monthly title has been a bit of a let-down but I thought this, focusing on the actual crew of the Discover, would capture some of the magic of the TV show. Unfortunately, it hasn’t.
It is overpriced, too long and has a story that lacks drama or suspense. The script itself isn’t badly written and the writers have captured the characters very well, so has the artist, but it’s all for nothing. The story is a disappointment but it you need to know more read my full review on
Another title from IDW Publishing this week is Demi-God #1.
I’ve not much to say really. In an attempt to capture the comedic elements of Deadpool and mix it with an outrageous Garth Ellis style narrative the creators of Demi-God miss the mark on all counts. The story is actually bland and the central characters are disappointingly obvious.
Maybe it’s a humour thing. Cards on the table; I’m not a fan of Deadpool and this is hacking into that kind of audience. However, I found the style leaned more towards a Mark Millar comic than a Garth Ennis one, and I’d much prefer the later.
The art work is okay, influenced by a 90’s comics aesthetic but nothing outstanding. There are some scenes that have promise but they are lost beneath the banality and unoriginality of it all.
I don’t know anything about the Ominous Universe in which this comic is set but based on this single issue I won’t be picking any other titles up.
I’m usually a lot more positive in my posts but the first few comics I read this week were very disappointing and there was nothing new from Boom! Studios that I’m reading. Boom! usually make my week.
However, if you read a lot of Image titles there is probably something out that you’ll like. The Wicked and The Divine #35, I Hate Fairyland #18, Sex Criminals #23 and a few new number ones.
I was particularly impressed with Gerry Duggan, David O’Sullivan and Jordie Bellaire’s Analog #1.
Set in the near future where the Internet has been torn open and privacy a thing of the past unless you decide to switch off. The central character works as a secretive message delivery man in a tale which is humorous, engaging and takes inspiration from cold war thrillers from the 70’s and 80’s.
I wrote about the brilliance of the opening earlier in the week and will no doubt write more about it later, when future issues come out. If you’re looking for something new to read, Analog is the way to go.
And last on my list, after falling in love with the first issue, Aftershock’s Betrothed #2 is out. This is a fun read with a couple of central characters you can really get behind. This second issue introduces a lot of concepts as it expands the world first glimpsed in issue 1. There is an element of Buffy the Vampire Slayer here, with a sci-fi twist. In fact, one of the characters reminded me of Rupert Giles and that is never a bad thing.
Betrothed is an entertaining read with manga influenced art style. It’s not the most thought provocative or outstanding comic created but is definitely a light amongst this week’s darkness. Aftershock are committed to producing new, innovative, and entertaining comics and Betrothed fits this ethos.
I’ll finish off this week with a few covers to glimpse over.
Disclaimer: I bought Xerxes: The Fall of the House of Darius and The Rise of Alexander #1 from Dark Horse but I’ve only just had time to read the title. I’m quietly confident I’m going to enjoy it.
There are a lot of new comics hitting the shelves every week. Even if you ignore Marvel’s insistence on renumbering every other month, the sheer amount of new number 1’s every month is staggering and making the right impact from the beginning is paramount.
There are a number of different ways to grab the reader’s attention; striking covers; intriguing design; big named creator. But in the end the one thing that will make a reader come back for issue two is an engaging narrative.
This week Image Comics releases issue 1 of Analog. It is set in the near future where tech-free Jack McGinnis works as a secure messenger for hire. In this world the world wide web was busted wide open and everything changed, people had to make a choice: embrace technology and lose all rights to privacy or go off the grid, go analogue.
Analog #1 has a pleasant cover; it invokes the cold war era thriller on which some of the story is based. It has some recognisable names working on it: Gerry Duggan, David O’Sullivan and Jordie Bellaire. But the most outstanding aspect of this first issue is the opening scene of the comic itself. It introduces the protagonist in such a way that by the time the reader gets to the ‘title page’ they are already committed to the comic and the narrative. This is even before the creators set up the world in which the story unfolds.
The opening of Analog reads like a scene from any number of spy thrillers you can think of. The writer, Gerry Duggan, uses this familiar setting to introduce the reader to the central character of the comic, Jack McGinnis. Despite the obvious immediate threat to the character, the situation is recognisable and as such comforting for the reader; it makes the reader feel at home enough for them to spend time on the smaller details of the scene. If this had started with the big picture, the mixed up near futuristic world that the story is set in, there would have been too much going on to focus on Jack, who Duggan obviously wants the reader to connect with. Any heart or character would have been lost and the narrative would be fighting an uphill battle to bring the reader back to the core of the story.
The opening panel sets the scene and the tone for the entire sequence. The caption box infers that violence is just around the corner and the cold, snowy weather creates an inhospitable location. The reader is then introduced to Jack, sat in a pool of blood with other signs of violence around him; a bloody hand print; shadowy men, one with a gun. The next two panels portray the physical Jack, beat up but still smiling, and the personality of Jack, sure of himself in the face of danger. Everything you need to know about Jack is here on the first page.
The beauty of Duggan’s plotting is that he immediately creates a bond between the central character and the reader so that he can lead us through the rest of the story. The over powering charm of Jack on that first page makes him a heroic character and by extension trustworthy. This is important because later on his actions might not seem to follow suit but Duggan want’s the reader to be on Jacks side. He imprints the character on the reader at the start so that all that follows seems justified and also creates tension when the character is threatened.
This opening scene is magnificent on a number of levels, the character being just one. The pacing is wonderful with slow beats at first then the action builds up and suddenly the characters are moving much faster; it feels as though everything happens at once. The first three pages are slow with Jack giving the others a chance to escape. The next two pages are violent and the action skips through the panels to finally end on a final page consisting of two massive panels spread across a double page.
David O’sullivan changes the point of view in each panel, jumping back and forth, sometimes in close up and sometimes in extreme long shot. This is to distract the reader in the same way that Jack is distracting his assailants. Jack gives the impression he is not alone so reader and assailant alike are looking for the backup. But a focus on Jack’s flask or a view from beneath Jack’s legs are just guiding the reader’s attention away. The smirks on Jack’s face tell us as much about his confidence under pressure as the voice over captions. And the nervous stances of the three men facing Jack are just as telling. Throughout this entire encounter the reader is told that Jack is in charge, despite bleeding from a wound in his chest.
Add to all of this the colour work by Jordie Bellaire and the scene is complete. The cold colouring keeps the clandestine atmosphere but the thick dark red of Jacks blood is a constant reminder that this isn’t a game, there is real danger here. And when the violence kicks off Bellaire adds in the flashes of white and yellow to highlight the gunshots, making them stand out on the coldness of the scene. Each shot can be seen, heard and subconsciously felt because the reader’s attention is drawn straight to it and the damage it causes. The final panel before the two-page spread stands out because of it's unique colouring. The panel again highlights Jack’s character, his smugness and confidence but it also illustrates his reliance on another character, the out of shot Oona. Oona only features in one panel in this issue but her importance, like that of Jack’s, is cemented in the opening sequence and in that one, sickly green panel where Jack speaks Oona's name. It stands out and remains with the reader.
The opening of Analog doesn’t give the reader much information about the world in which the comic is set, in fact there is nothing in the opening that suggests it’s set in any particular time period. But the purpose of the opening is not about setting but character. Duggan wants the reader to identify with the protagonist from the beginning so that you are eager to follow his exploits to the end of this issue and beyond. Analog’s opening does just this and does it with style. Jack McGinnis is set firmly at the centre of the action, not only on the panels and pages of the comic but also emotionally. Throughout the reader’s attention is drawn to Jack and then asked to consider him on a number of levels.
Within 7 pages the reader has bought into Jack’s life and is with him for the rest of the ride.
Analog #1 is out now and is published by Image comics
Written by Gerry Duggan
Artist David O’Sullivan
Colourist: Jordie Bellaire
Lost: Some time. If found, please return.
It appears to be Wednesday already and I’ve barely had time to think.
Luckily I have managed to read some of the comics that are out this week and some of them are really good. I mean, REALLY good.
Unfortunately, I’ve fallen behind in some other titles. And somehow managed to miss issue 2 of Motherlands so was shocked to see issue 3 on the shelf today. I have picked both up but not read them yet so I’ll come back to them at a later date.
I was going to say I was looking forward to the new Crow comic, but in actual fact most of The Crow follow ups just make me want to reread the original and the best. Momento Mori #1 from IDW Publishing is an as expected narrative wise with some good artwork that sets the scene and tone. Nothing spectacular but probably enough for fans of the franchise. Check out my full review on comiconverse.com later in the week.
Days of Hate #3 from Image comics continues to be an outstanding character driven narrative with some of my favourite comic book art in years. This is a comic that I would recommend to anyone. It has an engaging story and wonderfully designed layouts which allow the art work 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 this.
Days of Hate #3 is published by Image, written by Ales Kot, illustrated by Danijel Zezelj, colours by Jordie Bellaire.
Labyrinth: Coronation #2 from Boom! Studios is out. I’ll assume you’re reading this so won’t go on about it.
You are reading it aren’t you?
On my list of comics to read before I go blind from eating chocolate this weekend are Abbott #3 and Lucas Stand: Inner Demons #2 both from Boom! Studios and Highest House #2 from IDW Publishing. Also Saga has reached issue 50!!
And that’s about it, except of course for Planet of The Apes: Ursus #3. This is turning out to be a magnificent beast of a comic. There is something about the interplay between the recognisable story and the newly created history that gels so well, it is difficult to believe one part of it is 50 years old and the other brand new. My hat I completely off for David F Walker, Chris Mooneyham and Jason Wordie. Together they have produced something special.
And for my full review check out Comiconverse.com where it will soon appear.
Now all that remains is the inevitable slide show.
A busy, busy day after a busy, busy weekend. I’m surprised I’ve read any comics but somehow I managed it. I’ve been reading Boom! Studios first Planet of the Apes series and the old Nightbreed comics from the 90’s but more importantly I’ve been reading some new comics for New Comic Book Day.
This week has seen the release of several comics that I was looking forward to but didn’t quite satisfy as hoped. They just missed the mark.
Anthology comics are a good thing and there aren’t enough of them. Each month a different story with different protagonists; a one shot, done and dusted narrative. Unfortunately, in all-most all anthologies, there is at least one story that isn’t as good, or doesn’t grab you as much as the others. And Ice Cream Man #3 is like that for me. The artwork is as impressive as previous issues but the story just doesn’t seem to go anywhere. With each page there is the promise of something exciting but the promise is never fulfilled. The story turns out to be nothing more than a hallucinogenic nightmare inspired by dodgy ice cream, at least that’s all it appeared to be. There was none of the emotional drama or uncomfortable horror from the first two stories.
With that said, the beauty of anthologies is that next month is a new story, a new start.
Ice Cream Man #3 published by Image Comics. Written by W Maxwell Prince and art by Martin Morazzo.
Another title that wasn’t as I expected this month was The Spider King #2. Published by IDW Publishing, The Spider King’s mix of alien invasion and Viking adventure became more of a comedy in this second issue. The alien aspect is played for laughs on pretty much each level and feels in contrast to the tone of the first issue. I was expecting sword and shield version of Turf but I got a historical Mars Attacks. This is still a worthwhile read if this is the type of comic that you like but it does seem at odds with the set up last month. Maybe I need to revisit it to see if I misread it.
The Spider King #2 published by IDW, written by Josh Vann and illustrated by Simone D’Armini. Colours by Adrian Bloch
Dissonance #2 continues in the same vain as the first issue. A compelling narrative with magnificent settings and character design. An enjoyable read and I have nothing else to say about it at the moment.
What do I think about the new title form Boom! Studios, Lucy Dreaming? Why not check out my review on comiconverse.com (here) as I might just tell you.
And while you’re there, check out the review for 30 Days of Night #4. This is turning into an outstanding comic. If Steve Niles pulls it all together at the end it will be good enough to rival the original; definitely better than some of the sequels in recent years. One of the most noteworthy aspects of the comic is Brad Simpson’s colours. They make the comic by creating the atmosphere and characterising the cast. If you read this in digital, minimise it so that you can see multiple pages in one go and you’ll see how wonderful the colouring is. With such a small view you lose all of the detail from the art and every bit of speech but you can still follow the action just by Simpson’s colours. Check out my review here where I go on about the colouring some more.
30 Days of Night #1 published by IDW, written by Steve Niles, art by Piotr Kowalski and colours by Brad Simpson.
Last week, I completely forgot to mention Betrothed from Aftershock comics. It was a monumental error as the comic is shocking in all of the right ways and impressed me on a number of levels. I tried to make up for it by writing a little something about it (here) and you might still be able to get a copy from a shop. This week I will not miss out the release of Babyteeth #9. Personally I am waiting for the trade collection on this but if you are reading it monthly I’m sure you won’t want to miss it. The series has been a hit so far and I can’t wait for the 2nd trade. Pick up #9 to see what it’s like and I’m sure you’ll want to catch up with the rest. Written by Donny Cates and illustrated by Garry Brown.
My final mention for this week is Punks Not Dead #2. This is a wild, exotic comic brim full of supernatural goings on and teenage angst. The central story stays steady, eking out the dilemmas of haunting a teenager in a boring town however it is in the side story, with the UK’s answer to the X-Files, where the humour and intrigue are. This is a well-paced, cheeky and often outlandish comic; worthy of the Punk Rock association.
Punks Not Dead #2 is part of IWD’s Black Crown imprint and is written by David Barnett and illustrated by Martin Simmonds.
That is it for this week, apart from the slideshow below obviously.
I’ve grown a fondness for Aftershock publications thanks to the brilliance of Super Zero and Jackpot (each has a collection out and is worth picking up if you haven’t already done so). As such I take a punt on a number of their titles and so far have enjoyed most of those that I have read.
Betrothed #1, which came out this week, is an excellent example of what Aftershock do. I will sum up the comic’s synopsis based on what I knew about it before buying and then I’m going to have a look at one particular page. Warning: Contains some spoilers.
It is called Betrothed
That was it, that’s all I knew. So going into it everything was pretty much a surprise and this comic really took my breath away and left my jaw hanging open. I was surprised by the powerful image on the very first page, which is a belter, and then the story twists and turns, never letting the reader get a comfortable. Sean Lewis starts his story in a physical place everyone would recognise but within moments he is dragging you away and throwing you into the deep end of some cosmic craziness. To even call this a science fiction fantasy is to give too much away. The closest contemporary comparison I can think of is the second series of Dirk Gently on Netflix; each has a normal element and a fantastical element and both are effortlessly interchangeable.
Steve Uy draws in a style which fits in well with a number of previous Aftershock comics I have read. His inks focus on the characters, laying them clearly in the foreground, while the backgrounds are mostly rendered using elaborate colour washes. This works especially well for the main character’s astral journey as it creates a brilliant cosmic effect, similar to Star Gate’s interplanetary jumps.
Betrothed is an impressive first issue, and something a bit different which is what Aftershock seem to be all about.
One page in particular stood out from this first issue of Betrothed. It might not seem the most obvious choice, especially when you look at all of the action that happens in the story, but this page sums up the intention and subtler qualities of the storytelling.
Page 5 is made up of three, page wide panels with the top two being the same size while the third having a little extra height. This is important.
Panel one: Kieron, the self-styled Romeo. Panel two: Tamara, his Juliet. Panel three: the two of them together, face to face.
It starts with Kieron facing Tamara, who is off panel. We know by the set up on the previous pages that he is looking at her but this image highlights the intensity which he stares at her. His expression is hard and his eyes are nearly closed as he scowls across the school hall way.
That distance between them is illustrated by the row of lockers that take up half of the first two panels. The way that Tamara takes up the right side of the second panel while Kieron is on the left in the first gives the reader the impression that there is a greater distance between them. The simple positioning in these two panels are interpreted by the reader as different ends of the same hall way, as if it is one panel split in half to fit in the book.
Tamara has the same intensity in her expression and stance as Kieron before her. Another aspect becomes apparent at this stage; the shadowing on the characters. Kieron is lit from the front, the shadows falling under his chin and on the back of his neck. Tamara’s shadows fall in contrast to this; darker face and front of neck. The contrast is almost a ying/yang moment; as if each character has a dark and a light element that is mirrored in the other. It transpires that the story is about these two characters being created for each other and that is reflected in this page of art.
The final panel shows both characters face to face, within close proximity to each other. It doesn’t feel as though any time has passed since panel one and two but all of a sudden the characters are there, in each other’s faces. It’s as if some outside force had brought them together: which of course is the case. These two are naturally drawn to each other, they can’t keep themselves apart and this panel illustrates that perfectly. The gap the reader had imagined thanks to the first two panels has disappeared and now they are almost touching. The smouldering eyes and pouting lips from each of them emphasises the electricity between them.
The Romeo and Juliet references throughout the narrative fit perfectly with the images which Steve Uy is creating, especially on this page. There is an unbridled attraction between the two which cannot be denied or ignored.
Why is this page so important? Simple: it sets up the strength of the central character's attraction to each other and subtly explains that they were made for each other. When the narrative unfolds and Kieron and Tamara’s origins are revealed, this page it is an affirmation of the energy between them. The rest of the comic explains what the reader has already figured out thanks to Uy’s amazing artwork on this single page.
Under the control of talented creators, three straight forward panels are able to tell the reader so much about the characters and hint at the greater story, implanting a number of ideas in the reader’s head even before the story has really got going.
An excellent beginning to a series.
Written by Sean Lewis
Drawn/coloured by Steve Uy
Published by Aftershock