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
When a creator wants to show off a character’s inner thinking there a number of techniques they can employ. A conversation between characters, an inner monologue or even the once popular Thought Bubbles which were a very simply way for writers to get their message across. But the art work can play just as an important role in expressing emotional states.
Ryan Kelly is an impressive, expressive artist who has worked on a number of titles, imbuing the narrative with subtle emotional context.
In the following page from Cry Havoc, issue 2, Kelly uses detailed visual language to highlight the inner turmoil of the central character, Louise Canton.
In the first half of the page, Lou and her girlfriend Sam are having an argument. Lou had behaved badly the night before and she has woken to face the consequences in the form of an angry Sam. Kelly wants to express the division between the two characters as Lou’s life is slipping out of her control. She feels as though she is starting to lose the things that are important in her life and Kelly illustrates the start of that divide in the panels below.
The first row doesn’t even feature Lou. The two panels are from her point of view so that the audience is seeing what she is seeing, which in the case of panel one is nothing at all. The speech from Sam floats in the blackness, almost unconnected to anything. The language is unfriendly which makes the pure black panel all the more uncomfortable. This is followed by the yelling face of Sam. This row sets the scene and the audience is witnessing it first hand, through the eyes of Lou. Already a certain distance has been created between us, the audience, Lou and Sam.
This is followed up in the third, page wide panel. Now Lou is the central character with everything in the panel designed to lead your attention to her. She is sat in a defensive position on the bed, her arm down in front of her like a barrier. She is being guarded and this adds to the feeling of distance. Sam is leaving the panel on the left, only partially visible to heighten the sense that she is walking away, her arm also acting as a barrier between them. Add to this mix the positioning of the speech bubbles, down the centre of the panel, between the two characters, and you have an image full of barriers between the two women. There is physical distance on the page, there are anatomical barriers and then there is a verbal wall. All of these separate Lou and Sam, highlighting the argument that the central character has woken up in and reflecting her inner fears that she is losing aspects of her normal life.
The separation of the characters is followed up in the fourth panel. This is another long shot of their home. This time, Lou is in the foreground and Sam in the background. Sam is physically distant, the reader can see her entire body which contrasts the view of Lou, who is again using her arm as a barrier between herself and her girlfriend. The devastation in the flat works as a visual signifier to illustrate the relationship and also, in conjunction with the wall in the background, as another barrier between the two characters.
The top two thirds of this page has a barrier that runs down the middle, firstly a gutter separating panels, then a wall of speech bubbles and finally, detritus from the previous night. At each point the two characters find themselves on opposite sides of these barriers. The art succinctly illustrates that this is a relationship in trouble. Even without the text on the page, the reader can tell that not everything is going well for this couple.
The final panel on the page not only reflects the destruction from the panel above but also hammers home the point that it is Lou’s lycanthropy that is the cause of the problems displayed on the page. By being the only panel on the page that doesn’t have the central barrier, it highlights the importance of the image; that of Lou as a wolf. This acts like a punctuation to the argument above. The distance, the destruction, it is all caused by the creature at the bottom of the page.
The narrative requires a transitional stage for Lou as her life is changed by becoming a werewolf and Ryan Kelly expresses that perfectly across this single page.
Cry Havoc was written by Simon Spurrier
Art by Ryan Kelly
Colours (in this section) by Nick Filardi
Published by Image Comics
Full page marking the barriers between the two women from the top of the page to the bottom.
“It seems to me that a beautiful view is all you’ve achieved here today.” *
So many comics not enough time. This week’s new comic book day is full of some amazing releases, so many that I’ve not had time to read them all and I’ve barely had time to write about the one’s I have read.
So, let’s just look at some of the beautiful work that is on offer this week, in a gallery style piece.
Cop out? I shall accept that.
But first, a quick rundown. If you are stuck for something to read, I recommend picking up one (or all) of the following:
East of West #36 from Image comics. It always seems so long between issues of Jonathan Hickman and Nick Dragotta’s apocalyptical tale of people involved in the end days, even when it’s on the normal monthly schedule. This is a comic of style and substance. It looks like a Kubrick movie and reads like a Frank Herbert novel. A lot has happened in the previous 35 issues but it’s never too late to catch up and the new issue is a very good taster of what to expect.
Dodge City #1. Boom! Studios new sporting comic is fun and fast paced: check out my review on comiconverse.com
Frankenstein Alive! Alive! #4 from IDW Publishing. I’ve not read this yet but I am sooooooooo looking forward to it. It is unfortunate that Bernie Wrightson didn’t get chance to finish this but Kelley Jones has done a wonderful job of completing the story. Maybe we could send a copy of this to The Sun newspaper to help them understand the Frankenstein story, but then I doubt it could help them. They's have to learn to read. (I’ve linked to a story they published but do not endorse the newspaper at all)
The Highest House. Another number 1 and another you can read more about on comiconverse.com (The number of times I must have typed the Highest Horse it's not even funny. Hopefully no tall nags got through)
From Image comics there is:
Prism Stalker #1, bright, colourful and more than a touch out there. A read it to believe it comic. Not going to be to everyone's taste but those who like it will probably love it.
Oblivion Song #1. The new comic from Robert Kirkman. He has bene promoting this for months now and spent some time talking about it at the Image Expo in February. The set up for the series is very good with a lovely combination of thrills and character exploration. Whether or not it will be his new Walking Dead remains to be seen but maybe it’s time for him to step away from the zombies. Kirkman keeps teasing the end of The Walking Dead but I’m not sure the fans will let him do it just yet.
The Spider King #1 from IDW Publishing is a Vicking/Alien mash up in a similar vein to Cowboys and Aliens or Cadillacs and Dinosaurs or Plants and Zombies. Maybe not the last one. The art work is dark and rough with thick black lines and shadows. It has a heavy, imposing feel to it which reflects the grimness of the narrative. It reminded me of a grown up version of How to train your dragons and the colour work by Adrian Bloch is wonderful, switching between blue and red washes then using them together in certain panels to highlight the distinction between character groups. It is such a satisfying visual treat.
Now, let gallery commence…
*Quote from East of West #26 written by Jonathan Hickman
And I'm aware that I went on for longer than planned but still, I promised a slideshow....
Terror on the Planet of the Apes starts as a very simple story. Two young friends, one Chimpanzee and one Human, become caught in the wave of a Gorilla up rising and the ethnic cleansing of Ape City. From there the characters are taken on a wild, and sometimes outlandish, ride through the Forbidden Zone, beneath the Planet, into a mountain and out the other side; meeting some of the craziest characters of the Apes franchise.
The Second Phase of the story began to skirt on the verges of farce, with the Psychedrome issues almost becoming too ridiculous to read even for a comic about talking Apes. There are too many eccentric elements and characters which don’t fit with the general ethos of the rest of the franchise. However, the central characters all develop and come out of the story in a good light, pretty much unscathed.
One of the characters, not affected by the craziness in the second phase, is the Lawgiver, who’s own story takes a tragic turn of events. But before this, in the first phase, the depiction of this character is fascinating. He is seen as the ruler of Ape City, and to most of the Ape inhabitants, he is a religious figure of highest regard: A Pope like figure. During the first few issues of Terror the Lawgiver is away in the Forbidden Zone, a prisoner of the Inheritors but with Jason and Alex’s help he returns to the City like a messiah. Through the use of religious imagery and the depiction of the Lawgiver in When the Lawgiver Returns, Doug Moench and Mike Ploog are able to relay to the reader a greater image of Ape City and the culture that built it.
In Chapter 7, When the Lawgiver Returns, there is a surprising amount of religions imagery and allegory but this is befitting of the story that Moench is about to tell in this issue. Near the opening of the issue, before the heroes return to the city, there is a panel featuring a crude crucifixion. Xavier the keeper of the City who was ruling in the Lawgivers absence, is found tired to a cross with an arrow thrust into his side. It is a symbol to the Apes of the city that the Humans can no longer be trusted but it is also a lie because we, the reader, know that a Gorilla was responsible.
From the point of view of the Gorilla rebels, Xavier died for the sins of the city, for harbouring Humans as if they were equals and the rulers fate is a not too subtle religious reference.
But this is just the start, a way for Moench to set the scene for the rest of the issue, because Chapter 7 is a reflective parable of religious stories, especially those about Kings or Leaders. Through out the issue there are links to Jesus and Moses and the trails that there encountered in their stories. Each borrowed reference tells the reader something about the society of Apes and how they became slaves to religion as much as Humans did.
Two pages after the crucifixion, the Lawgiver is pictured re-entering the city. He is drawn by Ploog at the bottom of the panel, in the centre, the major focal point. Despite his frailty, as shown in previous pages, he is still a strong leader with a trail of people following behind him; a long procession with him at the head.
The entire procession forms the shape of a triangle leading the readers eye from the top of the panel to the bottom. In conjunction with this the Human and Ape’s all have bowed heads and their gaze is downwards, towards the Lawgiver. All of this forces the reader to follow the gaze of the Lawgiver’s supporters and where ever you look at this panel your eyes are drawn directly down to the Lawgiver himself.
As the procession enters the city it leads directly into an altercation between Ape and Human. A standoff that is on the verge of violence, fuelled by the death of Xavier. The Lawgiver rises up to put a stop to the arguing. Throughout the sequence he is drawn larger and, from the perspective of the reader, higher than all of the other characters. Basically the Orangutan towers above everybody else and is able to enforce his will upon them. He shames the Apes and the Humans so that the potential violence is quelled.
A moment later he returns, alone, to his home but without his presence and influence a fight breaks out. The first panel on the page shows the Lawgiver leaving, his back to the reader and cast in shadows. This indicates that he has no control over what happens next; it is behind him where he cannot see. Just like what happened to the city when he wasn’t there.
He has great power but only when he is actively engaged with the inhabitants. The religious connection here is with Moses. The Lawgiver spent time in the Forbidden Zone and returned home to find his people tearing each other apart: Moses ascended the mountain and returned to find his people worshipping false gods.
Moench and Ploog are showing the reader how important the Lawgiver is to society. His presence is instrumental for the peace to remain. This is further highlighted in the sermon that follows the leaders return: another religious allegory. The Lawgiver stands above his people, with Ploog illustrating the panels so that the reader looks down, passed the leader to the people below. The sermon is a heartfelt one and speaks of fear and hate; across the page the sternness of the Lawgiver is juxtaposed with the sorrow of his followers.
That is until the gorilla, Brutus, challenges the words. He speaks of Pride and cultural doom like a brute defending his racist views. He blames others for his shortcomings but his power is reflected by his positioning in the panels. He is drawn central to the panels and appears to stand shoulders above the other characters, all but the Lawgiver. During his ranting the Lawgiver suddenly loses his position of power, it feels as though he is now closer to the crowd and in one panel in particular he is fighting to stand tall, crouching below his own words in an attempt to be heard. There is a real threat to the peaceful order of the city as illustrated by the Lawgivers loss of powerful status. Brutus is bringing him down which will lead to trouble and violence as has already been established earlier in the story.
When the Lawgiver Returns is an important chapter of Marvel Planet of the Apes comic. Not only is it the final issue of Phase 1 of ‘Terror’ but it also hammers a wedge between the Ape and Human heroes forcing one to leave the city. The aftereffects of this break up drive the story through Phase 2 as the majority of the narrative leaves Ape City behind. Moench isn’t quite done with the Lawgiver but chapter 7 is the pinnacle of his characterisation and he is instrumental to the success of chapter 7’s narrative. The writer and artist use religious analogies and imagery to reinforce the social aspects of Ape City and its inhabitants which in turn leads the drama. The conflict between the different races and ultimately the different characters all stems from the belief, or lack thereof, in the Lawgiver. He is made out to be the head of society and all those who oppose him are portrayed as rebels in one way or another.
Where the story goes after Phase one is questionable but When the Lawgiver Returns is a pure Planet of the Apes story with all of the elements that made the original movie the hit classic it has become. It is meticulously written and contains some intense art work. A wonderful work of drama.
When the Lawgiver Returns was originally printed in issue 11 of Marvel's Planet of the Apes and has recently been collected in Boom! Studios Planet of the Apes Archive Volume One
As the UK disappears under a blanket of snow and no-body goes to work, instead ditching their job for an hour on a sledge, it might be worth giving a thought to what you can read while huddled around the open fire later tonight.
As it’s New Comic Book Day here’s an idea or two.
There is of course the new issue, of the new Arc, of Saga from Image Comics. Everyone is still reading Saga, right? Nobody needs this comic ‘selling’ to them, do they? It was awesome in issue 1 and it’s still awesome as they approach the milestone 50th issue. And if by chance you haven’t read any, it’s not too late; it is still one of the bestselling trades every month afterall.
Speaking of trades, Crosswind volume 1 is out. The first issue was very good and Gail Simone’s scripts are always a pleasure to read. I’m looking forward to reading the first arc in one, huge chunk.
Also from Image (Crosswind is published by Image Comics) is Days of Hate #2. Ales Kot, Danijel Zezelj, and Jordie Bellaire bring you the continuation of their near future dystopian America political fantasy. It is an insightful and challenging read with the script and the art making you think about how you digest information.
My full review is over on comiconverse.com but, to be honest, you don’t need that, you just need issue 2 of Days of Hate.
Another second issue: Abbott #2 from Boom! Studios continues to impress. An intriguing story by Saladin Ahmed and illustrated by Sami Kivela. Despite the historical setting the narrative reflects modern issues and doesn’t shy away from exploring difficult subjects. I especially love Kivela’s art in this comic, his composition and panel design lead you through the story like the piped piper of Hamelin. He manages to manipulate the simplest of subjects in order to control the reader and the story.
I’m not convinced that there needs to be a supernatural element to this story but there is plenty of time for the creators to convince me otherwise; I will be sticking around for a while, to see where this title takes me.
Finally, for this week, Boom! Studios can just take my money. I’ve already written about Jim Henson’s Labyrinth: Coronation (here) and it goes without saying that I will be recommending this to anyone who will listen to me. Si Spurrier and Daniel Bayliss give fans everything they could possibly want from a Labyrinth comic and then some. The way the script channels the original movie is almost witch craft and I’m not sure I can write much more about Bayliss’ art.
Spurrier’s script is the hand and Bayliss’ art is the glove.
This is like a dream comic, even more so than the Power of the Dark Crystal. Now, who wrote that one?.....
So, avoid the snow, stay in and read an exciting comic or two.
I wasn’t sure if I could write a review for the new Labyrinth comic from Boom! Studios because of the following reasons:
Labyrinth is one of my all-time favourite films. I saw it at the cinema when it was originally released and have then continued to watch it year after year. I recently re-watched it at the cinema with my own kids and I still love every moment of it.
Simon Spurrier is a writer at the top of his game, he has left me in awe on several occasions in recent years. Simply check out Cry Havok or The Spire to see the brilliance of his writing.
I adore Daniel Bayliss’ work whenever I see it. He has a bold, lyrical style which I find so easy to read.
And Fiona Staples has done the covers!
It’s difficult to come at this from an unbiased point of view; I’ve been sold on this before I’ve even opened the comic.
So, we can all assume I enjoyed this new Labyrinth comic. This is not going to come as news to anyone.
Some of the previous short stories that Boom! have released, more often than not in their Free Comic Book Day offering, have been pleasant and quick flights of fancy that made the reader wistful for the movie but very few had any real meat on their bones. Labyrinth: Coronation on the other hand is steeped in the lore of the Goblin world. In essence the comic is about Jareth’s life before becoming the Goblin King and this is journey that is told from the very beginning. Not wanting to give anything away but the central character is not the one that you would necessarily expect. This is a story of belonging and family and is beautifully told. It has a grandiose setting which is soon torn down as Maria, our heroine, is forced to face truths she has been running away from. Just like the movie, the story is an emotional journey for the central character and the similarities don’t stop there.
The first page of the comic is lifted directly from the film. It sets the scene and re-introduces the reader to the world, making it very clear who the story is going to be focusing on. But of course, this scene, with Sarah in the oubliette, has a great significance to the story. From this recognisable moment Spurrier draws comparisons with Maria’s experiences which have filtered through to Jareth. A layer of depth has been added to the characterisation of the Goblin King almost instantly, and we're only at issue 1.
Which leads me to Bayliss’ art; his bold style turns the visuals of the movie into a tale fit for a Sandman collection. His depiction of Jareth is the essence of the character as portrayed by David Bowie without the need to be an identical representation. Spurriers script captures the voice Bowie gave the character and relays this onto the page; Bayliss in turn draws a figure who is quintessentially The Goblin King and a touch reminiscent of Morpheus from the Sandman comics.
His panel compositions are fun and play with the theatricals of the character but also become simple and deliberate to focus the reader’s attention. Sweeping masquerade balls fade away to highlight characters’ interactions and the opulent high society halls become bleak, cold streets as the narrative tests the central characters.
My favourite affect that Bayliss uses is to squeeze the goblins into the gutters between panels. They stare in at the story, just like the puppets in the movie were framed in blackness to indicate they were elsewhere. Bayliss plays with the idea that they are outside, looking in, ready to breakthrough from one world to the next.
There are thrills and chills, excitement and adventure, romance and heart break, all beautifully illustrated within the first issue. The central characters are strong and have layers of depth which in turn leads the emotional narrative from scene to scene. The artwork hones these representations making the characters from the movie instantly recognisable and giving the new one’s their own personalities from the get go.
Labyrinth: Coronation is an ideal companion to the original film and a strong opening to a story. It promises to be a magical adventure with unexpected twists along the way. I know that by the end of this 12 issue run I will be watching the film with new appreciations for some of the characters.
A must read for anyone who has seen the movie or has an interest in magical romantic tales.
But then, I am a little bit biased.
Jim Henson’s Labyrinth: Coronation
Written by Simon Spurrier
Art by Daniel Bayliss
Published by Boom! Studios
And check out those covers... Especially this alternative cover (below) by the amazing Bill Sienkiewicz
Some weeks the release schedule has one or two comics I’m really looking forward to. Others are packed with so many titles I barely know where to start.
This week is one of the later ones. It is during weeks like this that I wish I had more time to devote to reviewing. I can usually manage a couple and maybe a little something extra which is enough but this week it means I have to leave out so much really good work. “Pick up the reviews later in the week”, I here you cry but that has a knock on affect and before you know it, I’m reviewing comics from 6 months ago which no shop has any left on the shelf.
With that in mind I’m going to try and cover as many as I can, even if it’s just a quick mention.
Like Mata Hari #1 from Dark Horse which looks outstanding (I haven’t read it yet). Written by Emma Beeby and illustrated by Ariela Kristantina, this first of five issues starts to tell the unknown story of Mata Hari; Dancer, Courtesan and Spy.
Then as a bit of a contrast, there is a new Hit Girl comic out this week from Image: see my post last week regarding Kick Ass for my views on titles such as this.
The first of the Postal specials is out this week. It focuses on Mark and fills that hole that’s been left since the ongoing title finished. It’s one for the fans of the series and possibly a bit late for newbies. But if you see it, give it a go, the collections are still available.
The first of my recommendations for this week: Punks Not Dead.
This is a new comic from IDW’s Black Crown imprint. It’s about anarchy, disorder and chaos. And infuses the 70’s punk rock ethos with a modern ghost story. David Barnett and Martin Simmonds bring something special to the shelf with this bat shit crazy story and for my review, head over to comiconverse.com.
Next up, over to Image comics for issue 2 of Ice Cream Man. If you read the first issue you might think you know what to expect, but you’d be wrong. This is a completely different type of story from the patricide child story in issue 1. This is a tragic tale of addiction and one bad idea escalating into another. Writer W. Maxwell Prince and artist Martin Morazzo keep the reader on tenterhooks as their central character slowly spirals into a world out of her control. It’s disturbing and moving and draws you right in. At the heart of it is a sadness that never quite escapes despite the moments of happiness that the characters have.
Ice Cream Man as a series reminds me of the T.V. show Inside No.9; both have individual stories that start from a horror footing but from that moment onward the paths they take could lead you anywhere. It means that you are never quite sure what is around the corner and that is this comics’ most outstanding feature. After the first issue Maxwell Prince and Morazzo have set the stage for almost anything to happen so you don’t get comfortable in the narrative but you do become attached to Karen, the woman at the edge of her tether.
This is a disturbing but addictive read and proof that a monthly series of one shots can engage a reader enough to bring them back month after month.
Fence is turning out to be a real teen drama. There is a lot of fun packed into the wonderfully illustrated pages. A touch Manga-esqu in places but it is following in the footsteps of the Manga Sports epics and this will appeal to the comic’s target audience. Issue 4 is out now and C.S.Pacat has created a loveable rogues gallery of fencers for Johanna The Mad to illustrate. The fencing sequences are bursting with kinetic energy and you truly get the sense of speed that these athletes have. I’m curious to know if the story has changed much since it was announced that the comic will move from a mini-series to a full ongoing; I assume that these issues would have already been written. Time will tell, and with the quality of this comic, I'll be back month after month to see the telling.
I also love the covers; with each issue an increased number of fencers don the cover. A few more months of this and Johanna the Mad will be spending most of her time filling the cover with figures dressed in white.
There’s a new Lucas Stand series out this week; Inner Demons from Boom! Studios. I reviewed the first Lucas Stand comics when they came out (in fact here’s one of my reviews). It was an interesting concept that at times lacked for coherent substance. The first part of this new 4 issue run has a much stronger narrative with a more defined story. You get the impression from the beginning that there is a specific story to tell in contrast to the first run which was more a collection of ideas with nothing holding them together.
In this new series, Lucas is searching for Penemue, a demon who has wronged him somehow. It’s a tale of revenge and our broken, but no-longer addicted, hero goes to great lengths to track his demon down. There is more time hopping but most of this is background information rather than relevant story so it doesn’t take up much space. Most notably there is the introduction of a new character who is to Lucas what Microchip is to The Punisher, but with added demonology.
Lucas Stand: Inner Demons # 1 is an impressive start, better than the initial introduction to the character. Some of the story might not make sense at first if you’ve not read the original but it’s not difficult to pick up; in fact, the scripting is strong enough to carry the narrative without the need to have been initiated into this world.
And finally. Kong. Planet of the Apes.
(Although if you do need more, my review for Kong on the Planet of the Apes #4 is here at comiconverse.com)
The Black Monday Murders is about corporate greed and secret demon worshiping societies. It is also an opportunity for the creative team to use the medium of comics to tell a spectacularly visual story. In my review of issue 8 for Comiconverse I describe it as cinematic, possibly more than once, this is because the scale of the visuals are immense. However, Hickman and Coker are able to manipulate the pace of the narrative and the reader’s perception of the central character by using a very simple comic book technique. They use silent panels expertly throughout this madcap comic.
As I look at issue 8 of The Black Monday Murders I may give away some of the secrets therefore consider this your SPOILER warning. Go read the comic first then come back here.
Issue 8 focuses on Ms Rothschild’s vengeance against the man who killed her bother. She has had him tortured, bound, and basically mistreated but she is about to do much worse to him. A large section of this issue is taken up with The Scale, a magical duel to the death and the depiction of this contains full frontal nudity, violence and a lot of bloodletting. It is not going to be to everybody’s taste. However, it is in the lead up to the duel where Hickman and co use the first silent panel that gives the reader a deeper insight into Ms Rothschild during this issue.
Grigoria Rothschild has thrown down the gauntlet and Viktor has accepted but changed the stakes on her. She accepts but not everybody is on board. Bea believes they are risking too much and dares to implore Grigoria to stop. She is replied to with a look…
On this page the adrenaline is pumping. The stakes were laid out by Grigoria but refused by Viktor and in the first row of panels Viktor’s arrogance sets out an ‘all or nothing’ deal. The confrontational atmosphere is sparking with tension and Grigoria accepts the new stakes unflinchingly; she is showing a cold, hard face to her enemy. Then, when her judgment is questioned she shuts Bea down with a look. That silent panel says so much about Grigoria; there is an element of shock that she has been questioned in this way as if she is not used to it; also there is contempt in her eyes for Bea; and her stance is closed, Bea’s reaching hand is so close to her but at the same time so far away. The position of her arm and look on her face says Grigoria is not to be reached. The strength of her position is so obvious that Bea then turns pleadingly to Viktor; a naked man covered in blood who stole the strength of the Rothschilds by killing one of them. He is not the picture of a reasonable man but more approachable then Grigoria at his point. And all of that was expressed through one, silent panel.
The next moment of silence for Grigoria comes after the duel. The violence has reached its zenith and a stillness has started to descend. Hickman moves the narrative from a full, gory, two page onto a page which slows the pace with each panel. The violence seems to ebb away as Grigoria’s familiar tears the heart from Viktor’s body and passes it serenely to her. The entire page is devoid of speech, apart from two speech bubbles which contain the Hickman Symbolic Writing, however it is the final panel of the page that is the most impressive in this sequence.
For two reasons.
Firstly: the image again tells the reader a lot about this issues central character. With everything that has been going on around her and that has led her to this point where she risked so much, this moment is a slice of total contentment. She cradles the heart in her hands almost lovingly, like it is a child. This sentiment is reflected by her facial expression; a picture of a woman at ease, a weight having been lifted from her shoulders. The reader knows the importance of this moment by the contrast between Grigoria’s face and the remnants of violence that surround her.
The second thing that this panel does is give the narrative a wonderful pause between what has just happened and what is about to happen. It is like the moment in Interview With The Vampire during Armand’s stage show where the French Vampire offers the sacrifice to the ‘actors’ on stage. She lays naked on the stage with the actors surrounding her, all cloaked in black, and for a brief moment there is no movement, no sound. Then they swoop in for the kill, enveloping the woman entirely. This final panel on the page is that moment of stillness before Hickman shocks the reader with the next, full page spread. It creates a specific pause for the reader. After flicking through the action and the magic, the reader slows down on this page and then physically stops at the final panel, takes a breather before being hit with the larger than life full stop on the next page.
Towards the end of the issue Detective Dumas and Grigoria have a conversation about hunches, cover ups and the ‘otherworldly history of man’. The sequence is very speech heavy as the two characters’ dance around each other, each holding onto their secrets but there comes a point where Grigoria challenges what the detective is inferring. This is followed by a contemplative, silent panel with the detective filling only half of the space. Behind him is blackness, emphasising the sudden silence. Hickman has stopped the reader in their tracks, created a moment to think about what is actually happening between the two characters.
This pause also acts as a breaking point for the detective because in the next panel he says what he really wants to say. And this is followed by a further moment of contemplation, this time from Grigoria. This allows the statements from the previous panel to sink in but it’s not a full stop because Grigoria goes on to ask “What else?”
This page has a wonderful beat to it created through silence. First beat “What do you want?”; second beat contemplation; third beat honest reply; fourth beat contemplation. It stands out in this scene because it is such a contrast to the previous pages of dense conversation. This page feels like it’s more important as if this is the bit the reader needs to take notice of. The characters are given moments to think about what is going on and as such, the reader is given that same time.
The Black Monday Murders is a visually stunning comic but it’s not just about how well it has been drawn. The page layouts are meticulously planned to give the reader as much information as possible to read the characters and situations. It emphasises moments that are important by controlling the reading experience. The reader is controlled by Hickman and Coker as much as Detective Dumas is being controlled by Grigoria.
The Black Monday Murders is written by Jonathan Hickman
Art by Tomm Coker
Colours by Michael Garland
Letters by Rus Wooton
And is published by Image Comics