Drawing inspiration from television shows, movies and modern, independent comics, Lucas Stand is a gritty comic that mixes genres in a wide reaching story. It punches you in the gut from the opening page and challenges you to like the unlikable and not to prejudge a character. This is a challenge in an age when the difference between ‘good and evil' is made so obvious in most modern narrative mediums.
The titular character, Lucas Stand, has not been having a good time since leaving the army. He has trouble adjusting to his civilian life, especially with the amount of alcohol he drinks. A confrontation gets him fired from his job. And this is just one in a long line of uncontrollable disasters. The final straw is an incident on the highway that results in the death of a family. The accident was inadvertently caused by Lucas but due to his current ‘state’ he fails to immediately see the consequences of his actions. When he finds out, thanks to a news report, Lucas decides to do everyone a favour and take his own life.
The opening of this comic is grim. It deals with some hard subject matter from alcoholism to suicide. The way that Lucas is portrayed in the first few pages make him a difficult character to empathise with.
But it’s at this point in the narrative, and at this point Lucas’ ‘life’, that things begin to get really interesting. Lucas finds himself thrown into a crazy afterlife where a supernatural soldier offers him ‘the coin' as a way of employment. Lucas doesn't believe what he sees, thinking it is all some hallucination as a result of a bullet to the head.
It only starts to get real for him when he is attacked by a form shifting demon and embroiled in a chase to the roof and eventually into the past. Lucas awakes in the middle of Germany during the Second World War, disorientated. The narrative suddenly turns into an espionage drama; a supernatural Borne story with Lucas completely out of his depth. The unapologetic deadbeat is turned into a reluctant hero, of sorts.
Lucas Stand has been created by Kurt Sutter who is famous for creating and writing Sons of Anarchy, and if you've watched that show, you can see his hand in this comic. Lucas is a rough and ready character with a massive chip on his shoulder. He's on the verge of being a villain and gives off a bad boy vibe. In fact, one of the draw backs is that he's almost too unlikable in the beginning. It creates a large gulf for him to climb out of and one that some readers might not want to stick around for. It isn't until he's thrown into a situation where he is face to face with someone who needs his help that there is a spark of an appealing personality.
Once the narrative gets going it's swimming with familiarity. There's a touch of Quantum Leap and J. Michael Straczynski's Ten Grand but the closest comparison would be with the television series Life on Mars (the British version, I've not seen the one with Jason O'Mara) but with added Nazi's. The words from the show's opening "Am I mad, in a coma, or back in time? Whatever's happened, it's like I've landed on a different planet" ring in the ear as soon as Lucas wakes up in Germany.
This is not a bad thing, the comic is written well and has a wonderfully paced script but you would expect this from a seasoned writer like Sutter. There are just so many elements from different styles of genres all vying for space in a single issue. It's like Sutter has been given a bottomless budget and told to go wild.
The outlandish story is somewhat tamed by Jesus Hervas' art work which is grounded in reality. His design and layout is immaculate with panels that flow so effortlessly into one another. The transition from image to image is intrinsically comic book but at the same time it has the essence of a brilliantly directed movie. There are shifting points of view, mood shots, directional shots, emotional close ups and action sequences full of energy and violence. Whereas the script may nag at you for elements of unoriginality, the art is grimy and dark and whole heartedly beautiful to read.
As a first issue Lucas Stand is gripping and immediately pulls you into his strange new world. It's entertaining, disturbing and a none stop thrill ride from start to finish.
Lucas Stand was published by Boom! Studios, written by Kurt Sutter and illustrated by Jesus Hervas.
In November 2016 the first issue on Slam! was released by Boom! Studios. It was the first of their 'sport' comics and as issue one of Fence is released this week (review soon) I thought it I would drag up my review for this one. Also, check out some of the interior art at the end of the review.
Continuing their brand new, creator owned comic range Boom Studios! continue to grow and encourage their creator owned range and this year (2016) unleashed Slam! onto the shelves. Set in the competitive and growing world of Roller Derby, Slam! Follows two newcomers to the sport as they try to integrate themselves into a team. The sport is rough and doesn’t hold back just like the players on and off track.
Over recent years Roller Derby has become an extremely popular sport. There's probable not a major city in America or the UK that doesn't have a Roller Derby team. Anyone who has been to see a live game will have noticed the intensity; not just of the game but also of the relationships between skaters, between teams and between supporters. The Derby world is one massive family with a full contact sport thrown into the middle.
Slam! is not the first comic about Roller Derby but is probably the most mainstream release to date. But does it capture the energy and excitement of the actual sport?
The comic opens on Bout Day and the newbies, or˜'freshies', are nervously preparing for their first official game. Meanwhile Maisie and Jen are in the toilet. Maisie's nerves are overwhelming her and she hasn't got the confidence to actually get onto the rink. Jen is trying her hardest to convince her everything will be okay. And so the central characters of this tale of friendship and full contact sport are introduced.
The two women meet at the Roller Derby training sessions and quickly become part of each other’s lives. And it is at the first game that the two central women realise that they shouldn't be alone and decide that they can move in together. What could possibly go wrong?
The talent involved with this comic is amazing. Veronica Fish (artist) has worked on developing characters for film and TV and she was the artist on Spider-Woman for Marvel. Pamela Ribon (writer) has also worked in TV and film, having worked on the upcoming sequel to Wreck It Ralph, and has written numerous comics and books. Add to that the excellent colouring skills of Brittany Peer and you know you're in for a good read.
Unfortunately, despite this talent, it is difficult to work ot what Slam! wants to be. Part story of friendship and part Roller Derby propaganda, the narrative never really settles down into a style that flows.
The comic starts off well introducing the central character's moments before their first Bout. The Art work uses silent panels to illustrate the physical preparations while the speech underlines a nervousness from the characters.
Maisie and Jen are then introduced in the rather unglamorous location of the toilets. This is great place to introduce the characters because from the beginning Ribon is showing the reader that these women are down to earth, real women and not some glamourized sports stars. From this scene you can tell they are new to the game and non-professional athletes. Basically, they are just like any women reading the comic. Instantly identifiable characters that draw the reader in and commit them to the story.
However, when the narrative switches to flashback mode to tell the backstories of Jen and Maisie this is where things get a bit muddled. It's not the stories themselves but rather the way they are told.
Jen's history is told in a clumsy, third party voiceover which reads more like a draft outline of the character rather than finalised script. The reader also doesn't really learn anything about Jen's character. She's determined not to let her current situation bring her down but there is something missing from her life; enter Roller Derby. But there are no real details about her lonely life or why so much of her time is taken up in the gym.
Maisie's story is told in a different way; using her friends and internal angst to let the reader know all about her recent relationship break up. This is a contrasting style to Jen’s back story because it gives you a lot of information about Maisie’s recent life. She is much more rounded character but then the artwork manages to let it down with one, large panel that is just awful. The background colour scheme, the script and the overall effect is cringeworthily and catches in your throat. There is a groaning obviousness about the entire image which puts a dampener on Maisie's story.
The part of the narrative that deals with the modern day is told via 10 facts about Derby Life. And therein lies this comics biggest problem. Roller Derby is very much a lifestyle choice for most women who play it. From personal experience I know how much of a players life is taken up by the amateur sport. And what Slam! Is trying to do is show you what Derby Life will be like. This is admirable and relevant but it feels like it's jumping ahead. The characters are barely developed, the plot only really becomes clear in the final pages and virtually nothing about Roller Derby is explained. A collection of images represents sections of the game and related ‘life’ but the lack of exposition means that without already knowing Roller Derby, the casual reader will be lost.
It isn't clear who the audience is for Slam! Do you have to be initiated into Roller Derby already or is it trying to convince you to give it a try? There is a story, with characters who have very good growth potential, but this gets lost in the mixed stylistic approach to introducing them and the game they play.
There is some very well-choreographed Derby action with the introduction of potentially exciting characters however there is no frame work or explanation about the game itself. The main audience appears to be seasoned Derby Players who like a touch of nostalgia.
There is a lot of potential in these pages and the Art work is mostly engaging and kinetic, which you need for a fast paced sport like Roller Derby. Pick up a copy then find a Roller Derby player to explain it all to you. And hopefully, by the second issue, the narrative will have settled on one style.
The Power of the Dark Crystal is based on a script for the sequel to the original 1982 movie. Boom! Studios have enlisted Si Spurrier to rework the magic and take readers on a long overdue journey back to Thra.
If you are of a certain age you will probably remember going to the cinema to see the dark, muppet movie The Dark Crystal. It will no doubt have captivated you and drawn you into its slow paced, grim looking fantasy world. For years’ rumours have been abound about a sequel, including the proposition of a CGI follow up made on a tight budget. For good or ill, the sequel didn't materialise but thanks to Boom! Studios, the continuation of the story is available in comic book format.
The new story is set 100 years after the Great Crystal was healed and the Mystics and Skeksis' left the world of Thra, as seen in the original movie. The people of the world venture forth once more and peace has reigned under the glowing light of the Crystal of Power.
Enter into this seemingly ideal world a Fireling and everyone begins to panic. Aughra, the sage and know it all from the movie, has seen the warnings and dreads what the Fireling will bring.
The old world and the new are about to be tested and the fate of the Great Crystal is at the centre of it all.
The Dark Crystal is a must see movie, and if you are of a certain age you will should have seen it. It's a movie that deals with such themes as Death, Predestination, Religious dogma and is a beautiful fantasy adventure. It was brilliant designed by Brian Froud and created by Jim Hensons' creature shop. The story is mystical and evenly paced, a far cry from the Flashy, colour soaked Disney offerings.
For years a sequel has been in production and various rumours have spread about when and where it will appear but as yet it has never got off the ground. This is where this comic comes in. Archaia, and Boom! Studios, have for a number of years had the rights to produce new stories within the world of the Dark Crystal, as well as the other much loved children's classic Labyrinth. Short stories have been released over time, often in the Free Comic Book Day specials. But this is the first monthly title that they have put out and who better to write it than Simon Spurrier?
Spurrier is currently at the top of his game, having produced some outstanding work in the last few years. Titles such as Cry Wolf and his work on Doctor Who have received high praise but it is his creator owned title, The Spire, where his narrative craftsmanship really shines. It is also exactly the reason why he could be the only person to write a new Dark Crystal story. The Spire has the feel of a Jim Henson world woven into it so it was especially exciting when he was chosen to write the continuing adventures of Aughra, Jen and Kira.
The story for issue one of The Power of the Dark Crystal is a standard fantasy sequel set up affair. It sets the scene and reintroduces the reader to the world of Thra with its changes and host of inhabitants. Using Aughra as a central figure from the beginning is a great move because it instantly gives the reader, and the writer, a familiar character to focus the story around. She was an integral part of the movie without being a hero or villain; she's an observer just like the reader although she does seem to know more than anyone else.
The beauty of the script is how much it reads like the movie. From the opening monologue you get the sense that you are witnessing the sequel to the film. It has the same style and pacing. It's difficult to read without hearing the voice of Joseph O'Conor, the movies narrator, in your head. As the new chronicle progresses the narration continues in the same tone, mirroring the voice over of the movie, and setting the tone for the entire comic. This is a majestic, fantasy populated with benevolent characters. When there is a moment of cruelty, for example when the podlings are turned away from the Castle for being too poor to bring an offering, it jars the reader; it is out of place in this, almost, Utopian world. The opening tells us the world has been healed but are there still scars irritating Thar?
Of course the story wouldn't have the same effect on the reader without the outstanding art work by Kelly and Nichole Matthews. The line work appears simple but each panel is packed with colourful detail. The characters are distinctive and the landscapes lavish. Beauty runs through each page. There is a playfulness to the aesthetic that makes it appear simpler than it actually is. Bright colours sparkle in the darkness of underground caverns, and the evening landscapes are coated with a livid purple.
The artists want the reader to feel comfortable in this world. You are being invited back in to a world that you a familiar with but subtle quirks in characters and backgrounds hint at a darkness beneath. Changes in shade and shadow are used to highlight the internal workings of each character. For example, a dark shadow cast across the castle priest adds a malice to the words he speaks but a change in light helps to illustrate the eternal goodness of Kira and Jen.
The first issue of The Power of The Dark Crystal is a the ground laying issue that takes it’s time to set up the series in an engaging and aesthetically pleasing way. It's the sequel to the movie that all the fans want but isn't so soaked in nostalgia that those new to the Dark Crystal will feel as though they have missed out. A pleasing start to a 12 issue series.