Story: Frank Tieri
Art: Oleg Okunev
Publisher: Aftershock Comics
What if the black plague wasn’t what the history books would like us to think it was? What if it was a cover up for something more sinister? This is what Pestilence from Aftershock comics tries to explore.
The years is 1347 and the group Fiat Lux is called by the church to deal with a renegade band of crusaders. Once they have dealt with the nasty business, they come in contact with a courier. A courier who seems to be ill and ends up biting one of them. After putting the man down, with great difficulty, they find a note addressed to Roderick Helms, the de facto leader of Fiat Lux. It’s a summons from the Vatican, to deal with a far greater problem than wayward crusaders.
Pestilence #1 is beautifully told through Roderick Helms himself. Through a confessional letter he has sent to is wife, he details the events from a few weeks prior. His band of warriors consists of the regular eclectic group; the joker, the brute, the clever one, the killer and the quiet one. It a standard troupe and at first glance a straight adventure narrative. The characters are familiar and it is expected that as the story continues that there will be more familiar tropes. There has definitely been an influx of zombie stories over the past years, and in order for these to become competitive the writers have to be inventive. It can be immersing zombies in literary fiction as in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, set it in history like Exit Humanity or the middle ages like Pestilence. Max Brooks hinted in his Zombie Survival Guide, that the world was no stranger to zombie attacks, and that most of them had been hidden under the guise of other plagues, and what could be more wide spread than the Black Death. It’s an interesting concept and it makes for an intriguing plot.
All in all Pestilence #1 hints at a delightful and exiting tale, with fun artwork, all the things that Aftershock Comics has proven to be experts at. They just keep on bringing awesome comics with great art, brilliant!
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Writer: Ryan Browne
Artist: Pete Woods
In 2008 Dynamite released Alex Ross and Jim Kreuger’s Project Superpowers. To all who love the superheroes of the so called Golden Age it was a treat. For many years people waited for more, and eventually the spin offs came, not the way readers expected it though.
Apart from the natural continuation of Project Superpowers; Black Terror, Death-Defying Devil, Masquerade and The Owl, it wasn’t until 2015 that a new series saw the light. Project Superpowers: Blackcross, written by Warren Ellis, was unlike the series it came from, and to most the only similarities were names of heroes and the title. More of a murder mystery with supernatural overtones, it most likely was a disappointment to those who expected something like the traditional storytelling. Now Dynamite have once again delved into the Golden Age pool, releasing Herokillers by Ryan Browne and Pete Woods. It too hailed as being from the pages of Project Superpowers.
Like Blackcross, the story has little to do with the original book. It takes place in Libertyville, a place dubbed as Murdertown U.S.A. The mayor, an interesting fellow called Smooth Willie Williams JR., offers a crap ton of money to superheroes who might come and clean the city up. The heroes are given tax breaks, annual salaries and bonuses based on performances. The end result is a safe city where heroes outnumber criminals. As is true with bored teenagers, the heroes soon lash out and become self destructive, none more so than Black Terror, who turns to alcohol and women of loose morals.
While Herokillers isn’t Project Superpowers, or Blackcross, it has its own charm. There is a warmth and humor to it that the other books lacked. It takes the superhero genre and twists it, making the heroes look more pathetic and sad. Maybe this is because they do not have a purpose in life, or maybe because they’ve always been a-holes. In the end it doesn’t really matter. Sure some readers might be disappointed again, because it makes fun of the genre and these characters, but it’s all very intertaining. A constant commenting from the editor Matt makes the series more meta, and the style of Woods brings it all together.
It will be interesting to see where this series goes and how these serious characters react when being thrown into absurdity.
Writer: Fred van Lente
Artist: Francis Portela
Publisher: Valiant Comics
In her hour of need Keisha Sherman decides to contact the group Generation Zero, her boyfriend has recently died in a car accident, but she believes there to be some very odd circumstances surrounding this death and she needs answers. Keisha lives in a town called Rook a place sentenced to die due to unemployment until a savior comes and revitalizes it. After her boyfriend’s death there indeed seems to be something sinister going on and it becomes clear that drunk driving wasn’t the cause. Generation Zero, a team of young psiots who have broken free from an evil corporation and help people, arrive in the city, infiltrate the high school and begin their investigation.
As soon as the investigation interesting and strange things are uncovered and the group, with Keisha are in immediate danger.
Generation Zero is yet another title that contains all those things we have come to expect from Valiant’s titles. Great storytelling combined with great art. It reflects a city in decline because of a failing economy and those that might pray on such places. It’s about fitting in, about tropes we recognize from TV shows like Stranger Things; the fantastical mixed with the mundane. There are enough conspiracy angles, pop culture references and mutant like powers to satisfy all various fandoms.
Once again Valiant drags us into its intriguing universe by blending nostalgia, social criticism, intrigue, compelling plots and wonderful art. Generation Zero makes one want to come back for more.
Writer: Matt Kindt
Art: Clayton Crain
In the very distant future, New Japan is in trouble. The kingdom, these days orbiting earth, is ruled by the omnipotent artificial intelligence Father, who commands New Japan with an iron fist through various channels and pacifies the people. His son, Rai, incites a rebellion and after apparently being defeated by Father and believed dead his partner Lulu infects the A.I. with a virus. This cause Father to lose control and begins to drop parts of New Japan back to earth in order to get rid of the virus, killing thousands in the process. And that’s just the prologue…
As Lulu continues to fight the good fight while her section of New Japan is set for demolition and her parents beg her to turn herself in, Rai is still alive, trapped on Earth. With the aid of two companions and a mech-like ship the trio ventures back to the orbiting nation for a final confrontation with Father.
There is quite a bit that goes on in 4001 A.D. and at a very high pace. The few issues that the collection is comprised of tells a very compressed tale that flashes by in colorful art. It isn’t very intricate, the story, a science-fiction version of a trope we have heard before, but that in no way makes it dull. The context and society that has spawned it makes for very interesting social commentary. Father numbs the people of New Japan with entertainment, which makes them uninterested in the world around them, very much like the unnamed government in 1987’s Running Man. What Father’s motives actually are remain unanswered as such, but a misguided love, like the one Stalin might have had towards the Russians. He and Rai seem to be fighting towards the same end goal, but with a very different view of one best reaches it.
Rai, who like the monster in Frankenstein has been created by a mad entity, becomes confronted by humanity and love and that is what shapes him, that is what causes him to rebel and in turn inspires others to join the fight. There is much to be discussed between the pages of 4001 A.D.; friendship, loyalty, love and parenthood and as a reader one wishes, when it is all said and done, that there had been more, more to sink your teeth into.
As with most Valiant titles the artwork is beautiful, filled with vibrant imagery and intense colors. It moves the story along and hints at a bigger picture and a wider world. It makes the entire 4001 A.D. world more mysterious and interesting and even though the four issues only treat a small portion of the story, a quick glance of a greater whole, it becomes exciting and furious.
All in all, a book like 4001 A.D. really shows the strengths of Valiant as a publisher and universe.
Writer: Jody Houser
Art: Francis Portela & Marguerite Sauvage
When looking out over Los Angeles one might see her soaring through the sky; Faith Herbert, also known as Zephyr of the Harbinger Resistance. Having left her friends and adopting a secret identity she drudges through life as Susan, working at an internet site eventually tasked with watching a reality show starring her ex-boyfriend Torque. When not stuck in her cubicle Faith flies around and stops crime even if it doesn’t quite turn out as in her vivid daydreams. When she realizes that someone is hunting psiots, that her ex is quite uninterested in superhero work she sets out to investigate it herself, but when she in an unguarded moment reveals herself, she becomes a target.
Faith is in many instances a perfect comic. It takes a female superhero and avoids all the stereotypical traps that they jump into without thought. The character of Faith is also exactly what happens when a true nerdy fan girl has supernatural powers and abilities. The story in this first collected issue appears, at first glance, to be quite basic with kidnappings and the like, but it is quickly revealed that there is depth here and an ingenuity that is refreshing. The artwork is nice and the juxtaposition between Faith’s reality and her daydreams is clever. Faith’s job at a buzzfeed like internet magazine and the reality show makes the comic close to its social context and it speaks to the reader showing that the writer, Jody Houser, is in tune with the trends of the day. Something that actually isn’t that common in the comic world of today. Another aspect that Valiant does so well is the use of the shared universe and the continuity they have created; Archer makes an appearance.
All in all; Faith is the comic book we all deserve and is clever, witty, exciting and entertaining.
Writer & Artwork: Richard Corben
Publisher: Dark Horse
There is something very appealing with Richard Corben’s comics. Maybe it’s his way of telling a story; calm, haunting, dark with a great deal of sadness. Maybe it’s the artwork; solemn almost Botero-esque in their appearance with a way of expressing their feeling so they almost leap from the pages. It might also be that as a reader one is reminded of the days of Heavy Metal, both the magazine and the movie that entices or the lure of a world inspired by the likes of Poe, Lovecraft and Howard.
Rat God is released in the wake of the amazing Ragemoor, a Lovecraftian tale of a evil men and living stone, but is like his previous title Big Foot, in color. Corben’s art is often times amazing in black and white, if one is in doubt then a glance at the pages of Haunt of Horror is due, but the use of color in Rat God creates a vibrant tapestry of life that one would be hard pressed to find in other comics.
The opening issue introduces the young man Clark Elwood, very similar to H. P. Lovecraft both in countenance and attitude, who is driving on a dirt road towards the town of Lame Dog. He is looking for a woman, Kito Hontz, whom he met at Miskatonic University in legend haunted Arkham. On the road he meets her brother Chuk and they travel on together. Elwood is not a very pleasant figure and it is obvious that something has happened between him and Kito that makes him venture on this quest in the woods of New England.
Parallel to this the reader is treated to a tale of two natives being pursued by something sinister after having ventured where they should not have.
Rat God promises to be a tale honoring Lovecraft’s greatness as well as in a way criticizing his bigotry, but also following in his cultural footsteps. Corben’s artwork is beautiful and the story has a nice pace and the next four issues will hopefully prove to excite the reader.
Writer: Warren Ellis
Art: Colton Worley
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
A dead body found in the woods, a man sets himself on fire and walks into a lake and a fortune teller is haunted by a terrible visage. All these things seem connected with the town of Blackcross in Washington. A place were Rob Benton is being hidden by the FBI after witnessing a mob killing. He hasn’t coped with it well and lives like a slob in between working at the pharmacy. He is also haunted by mysterious dreams as well as texts that confuse his federal contact. Whatever is going on it seems as if it’s coming to Blackcross.
Blackcross is billed as coming from the pages of Project Superpowers, Jim Kreuger and Alex Ross’ intriguing tale using public domain super heroes. At first glance, which is all that the initial issue really gives the readers, Blackcross is a darker animal than the traditional story of super heroes. This seems more to be a crime story of the neo noir kind and that is mainly due to Worley’s haunting artwork. Though the first issue reveals very little of what one might expect in the future of this title it gives the reader enough to become invested and there are Easter eggs placed here and there for the odd golden age comic lover.
It is easy to become excited by Blackcross, yet there is cause for concern. Six issues have been announced and it feels that this might be too conservative. The slow build in the initial issue hints at a slow build, but the low number of coming comics makes one believe that, true to Dynamite’s form, the story will become rushed and suffer because of it. On the other hand this may not happen and one may just have to trust the genius that is Warren Ellis.
Legenderry: Green Hornet
Writer: Daryl Gregory
Artist: Brent Peeples
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
In the wake of Bill Willingham’s Legenderry: A Steampunk Adventure we find ourselves back in this elaborate world of fantasy, steam, adventure and pulp figures. Dynamite Entertainment announced a while back that they were releasing three spin offs from the initial series and that they would be Green Hornet, Vampirella and Red Sonja, these would continue the storyline and take it in very different directions.
The story opens on Undertown where we are introduced to a young man enlisting the aid of the street gang The Velocikings. What his agenda might be is shrouded in darkness, but it becomes clear in the end that he is in league with a figure by the name of Tin Man. At the same time he seems to be waging a war on the boss of the underworld; The Veiled Lady, the woman who married the demonic Blackmass in the original arc. This comes to a head early on as The Velocikings go head to head with the lady’s gang The Toffs.
While this is going on Britt Reid, Green Hornet himself, meets with the new millionaire in town; Chesterfield Grimes. Grimes seems to be interested in where Reid’s alliances are and this, naturally, causes suspicion in the mind of the Hornet.
There are a lot of things going on in the first issue of Legenderry: Green Hornet, which isn’t unusual for Dynamite Entertainment’s stories. The original Legenderry had so many characters introduced in each issue, without creating any back story, that it was more confusing than fun. Green Hornet on the other hand is paced differently, even though the reader is treated to three, seemingly, separate side tales the setup of these stories aren’t so confusing. As a reader one is treated to three varied cliff hangers all creating a desire to see where this is going.
Green Hornet proves that the three Legenderry spin offs just might be the ticket to further what was a very good story to begin with. The fault with the original arc was that it never really felt that it came to a resolution and there were just too many questions left unanswered.
The artwork, though not as clean as in Legenderry, creates the right amount of grit and sharpness for this steam punk world. Gregory also does well at keeping up the language and feel as was started by Willingham, but with a little bit more tongue in cheek and glint in his eye, cutting some of the seriousness out of the violence and mayhem.
Diego Comics Publishing is the only publisher in the United Kingdom that focuses on some of the best-selling Italian authors for teenagers and adults.
European Comics Journal 1st official edition is set for March 14, 2015. The journal will be distributed in print at the London Super Comic Con!
European Comics Journal is an endeavor of Diego Comics Publishing that is dedicated to European comic authors and illustrators.
The journal will include interviews with authors like Giuseppe Di Bernardo (Desdemona & Adam 2.0), Augusto Chiarle (Shadow of Mars saga), Stan Nicholls and Joe Flood (Orcs Forged for War), and Nico Lorenzutti (Salgari’s novels), to name just a few. There will also be articles about the art of translation, and one of the most mysterious crime stories in Italian history: The Monster of Firenze. We will feature masterclasses by respected graphic novel artists as they demonstrate various illustration techniques and help you hone your comic drawing skills and, of course, there will be overviews of our exciting upcoming release such as the mystery crime set in Florence ‘Desdemona’, and the conspiracy sci-fi adventures of Adam 2.0.
European Comics Journal gives an inside look at the work, preparation and art behind the scenes of the European comics industry.
The newspaper will contain ad space pertaining to businesses that deal in comics of every genre.
European Comics Journal is currently crowd funding on Kickstarter to fund their upcoming Comic Con Convention tour and to begin printing and free distributing the newspaper to the public at LSCC!
DieGo Comics Publishing is a family London-based independent publishing house, operating since 2012. They are dedicated to discover the unheard voices and unseen masterpieces of Italy, and to pushing their selection of fantasy literature across the world.
To learn more about DieGo comics hop on in to there homepage here.
or if you are interested in supporting them on Kickstarter click below:
In the competitive world of comics it is important to stand out and get noticed and that is what happened when The Untamed was released at the end of the 00’s. It received accolades from the likes of Clive Barker and early on talks of a live action version were rumored. Now a Kickstarter campaign has been launched to support a printed copy of the graphic novel and we spoke to the brains behind it; Sebastian A. Jones.
Jones launched Stranger Comics in 2008 together with some friends.
‘We felt there was a lack of dark fantasy epics in the comic genre, and we felt we had a fully baked world we could tell character driven stories in’ Jones explains. ‘We wanted to protect our creative visions we had worked very hard on’
Jones, who moved to the States twenty years ago from England, had run a record label so he knew the business side of things and had also written a one issue comic (as part of a 4 issue series) by the name of Salvador for Boom! Studios.
‘It was collaboration with filmmakers The Polish Brothers, but the other three issues were never released. Unfortunate as it had great potential, but it was a great experience allowing me to become good friends with Andrew Cosby (who is a producer partner on the animated TV show we are developing at Film Roman)’says Jones.
Jones describes himself as a Dad and a Dungeon Master and draws his inspiration from the likes of Sergio Leone, Jack Kirby, Malcolm X, Sam Peckinpah, Akira Kuroswa, Alice Coltrane, Alan Moore, Fela Kuti, Muddy Waters, Ennio Morricone, Gorecki, Peter David, Tolkien and above all his son. All very visible in The Untamed a perfect blend of Asian storytelling and spaghetti westerns.
‘In business I look to my Father’s eternal optimism and my Mother’s grounded reality’
Running Stranger Comics is a full time job, but Jones busies himself with teaching and acting in commercials. He isn’t completely alone in his endeavors though.
‘We have a few people that work at Stranger Comics: Darrell May, Joshua Cozine, Eddie DeAngelini, Christopher Garner and Mike Hodge’ he explains. ‘We also work with Ken Locsmandi and Peter Bergting on a lot of projects. Some are full time some part-time.’
The artists that have graced the pages of Stranger Comics have been found through referrals, online or through teaching. The Untamed, as mentioned, became the first title under the Stranger Comics brand, story by Jones and art by the Swedish artist Peter Bergting (The Portent, Dungeons & Dragons), and it generated a lot of buzz. That buzz became very important for the coming productions and Jones is quick to point out how important that buzz was.
‘It was everything’ he states. ‘ It has taken such a long time to produce, mostly because it is a painted book and the trials of having a boutique company and raising a family is not easy. Receiving buzz and excitement let us know that being in the lab for all these years has been worth it.’
Unfortunately, due to some unforeseen bumps, only two physical issues of The Untamed were released, but the story was completed and released in digital form in 2014.
‘Now, we feel having the entire graphic novel as a hardcover coffee table book will be a great reading experience’ he is glad to report.
The buzz around The Untamed also brought about early rumors of a live action version. Those rumors faded with time, but Jones has now announced the plans of producing an animated version instead, keeping the initial productions team intact.
‘I am still working with the producer team including Andrew Cosby, as well as Lloyd Levin (Watchmen, Hellboy) and Andrew Sugerman (Death Sentence, Shop Girl)’ Jones says. ‘In fact, all three are helping me produce the animated TV show at Film Roman (The Simpsons).’
The world of The Untamed is not unexplored and those familiar with Stranger Comics have more than likely come in contact with Tales from Asunda and Dusu as well as seen teasers for Erathune. Dusu was just completed and Asunda stands at one issue so far. Jones is eager to share the state of the expanding universe.
‘Tales of Asunda is coming along. We have a two issue tale by Darrell May titled Morka Moa, which has been written and penciled – It should be out this year, and Erathune: issue 1 is complete and we hope to release all four issues this year. Sheldon Mitchell (The Darkness) is illustrating Darrell’s boards and I am writing’ Jones explains. ‘Both books look stunning.’
To bring a physical version of The Untamed is, as previously mentioned, the next goal so Jones and company decided to take to crowdfunding and the ever popular Kickstarter. The project is for an oversized deluxe hardcover version.
‘I wanted to have the fans to be the final part of The Untamed comic series journey.’
Jones explains the range of rewards that can be expected by backers;
‘Rewards range from the book, music, and the motion comic. We will also have Kickstarter exclusive lithograph prints, convention prints, original painted sketches by Peter and Darrell, and opportunities to hang out with the team and our producers. Cool rewards include: poet for hire, and 7 golden coins for 7 souls who could get a convention discount for life, and get your noggin illustrated as a Dwarf or Orc in Erathune. Stretch Goals are currently locked, but they are epic.’
It is easy to get infected by Jones’ positive attitude and the idea behind choosing Kickstarter over other crowdfunding sites was that it is an all or nothing deal. Jones is also convinced that the project will be a success, there is no other option. So what comes after this Kickstarter project?
‘The Dusu: Path of the Ancient Graphic Novel’ Jones begins. ‘Erathune Graphic Novel, Morka Moa, and our kid’s book I Am Awesome (from the I Am Book Series).’
Stranger Comics isn’t only a publisher for comics, they are also in the process of publishing a series of children’s books called I Am.
‘The I Am Book Series focuses on and celebrates the diversity that exists in the lives of today’s children’ Jones says. ‘I AM stresses to children that their uniqueness is a gift to be treasured. Our first in the series is I Am Mixed and we followed up with I Am Living in 2 Homes for kids that deal with separation and divorce. Our next book is I Am Awesome. I wrote the book with Garcelle Beauvais (Jamie Foxx Show, Grimm) and James C. Webster (Dusu) illustrated. We were lucky to have Halle Berry and Dr. Charles Sophy write the respective forewords.’
What are Jones’ future plans after the Kickstarter?
‘I could do with a holiday! But I’m sure we will be following up with our next books and hopefully TV shows!’
For more information surf on over to Stranger Comics Website
Follow them on Facebook for more updates on the projects
or even better; head on over to the Kickstarter page and pledge today: