Duppy 78 Review

Duppy78coversmall_0414The newest production from UK based publisher, Com.x (Cla$$war, 45) Duppy 78 is beautifully realised, with luscious visuals and a daring desire to do something different and disturbing with the unique voice that sequential art offers.

Set in Kingston, Jamaica in 1978, this is a location and era that gets little focus in comics. That, plus the bold characters and surprisingly effective combination of supernatural scares and crime drama make Duppy 78 an engrossing read. The publisher describes it in three words – “voodoo, violence and vilification,” and that sums it up pretty well.

Too Bad, Martin Isaac and Chris Mansfield are the three main crime lords of Kingston but an unfortunate incident with an American photo-journalism student whittles the three down to two, ramping up the tension and the means to which the remaining crime lords will go to keep, and expand, their power.

There are some bad characters within these pages, but writer, and former DC/Vertigo editor, Casey Seijas never allows them to be so repugnant that we don’t want to know what happens to them. We are also given glimpses into the gangsters’ lives outside of their criminal activities, such as the mature way Mansfield deals with a dangerous and troublesome rock star who’s staying at the luxurious resort he owns.

The story is divided in to four chapters, each with a short primarily black and white flashback which reveals more of the main characters’ history and motivations.

The dialogue is filled with the lingo of ‘70s Jamaica, but is never indecipherable, plus there’s a handy glossary in the first few pages, but thankfully the tale can be enjoyed without constantly referring to it. In case you’re wondering, a duppy is a mischievous spirit in Rasafarian culture, and those who are able to see and control them are known as Obeahmen, or Duppy Conquerors.

The three ruling gangsters each have one of these Conquerors, in the form of “gifted” children who have ties to the men. The wheelchair bound Judah wears a bag on his head to stop the terrifying visions, and there’s also Santa, and Elena is Mansfield’s daughter. The way these children are used by the gangsters as mere pieces on a chess board, and tools of vengeance drives this intense, well-paced tale.

Amancay Nahuelpan’s artwork is suitably nightmarish in a way that goes beyond the gang violence, as you can glimpse in the trailer for the 116 page OGN. Combined with Daniel Warner’s colours and the well researched details of the period, this is a comic that almost has dirt, smells and grime coming off the page. With the childrens’ terrifying visions of demons highlighting the ugliness and hatred that surrounds them, Duppy 78 looks like an ’80s horror film, with grotesque monsters jumping from the shadows. I haven’t seen this many disturbing visions on the page since I read Junji Ito’s alarming manga Spirals.

Also included are a few pages of concept sketches and cover designs from Nahuelpan and other talented artists.

Duppy 78 is available now from digital comics distributor (and recent Amazon acquisition) comiXology for only $4.99.

Overrun Review

Overrun Preview CoverDebuting at the recent London Super Comic Con was this exclusive preview of Overrun. It’s 32 pages, but the full OGN will be 114 pages and will be released soon. Judging by this wonderfully seductive teaser, I’m looking forward to seeing the complete story.

As for the story revealed in these pages, it’s an interesting one, made even more so as it’s all set inside the mysterious world of computers. Well, it’s not all that mysterious as we are so familiar with computing devices and terminology of course, but writers Andi Ewington (of the excellent 45, and Bluespear by UK publisher Com.x) and Matt Woodley use it to their advantage. The world of Overrun is an overcrowded one and the powers that be have decided the best way to make some more space is to purge some of its citizens by introducing a deadly virus, the beginnings of which we see here, as it takes its toll on Cooper, the protagonist.

A visit to the new website gives a great look at the world of Overrun, and how much care has gone in to constructing this hi-tech world. It’s filled with in-jokes and detail. The Kb rationing, the hierarchy, the little people struggling to get by. It’s kind of like Tron, but with much more colour and personality. For instance we see computer files watching computer games being played, which is rather meta. There are characters riffing on Tomb Raider, Mario, Pikachu and Snake Eyes, characters called Mcafee and Macintosh, trains deliver files to users’ inboxes. The number of wide computer references is impressive, even in this teaser.

There is a 2 page introduction to the characters represented as various file types which as an idea is executed well. Characters who are jpegs wear images on their shirts, MP3 files dress according to the style of music they represent, etc. It adds to the diversity on display in these pages as well as the world building.

The art is quite simply luscious. Paul Green’s work on the revamped Flash Gordon series from a few years ago by Ardden Entertainment was a visual treat, but it’s obvious he’s really raised his game here. The production quality is stellar. It’s slick and multi-faceted and takes the concept of a life inside of a computer (which could’ve been bland), and gives it a real vitality. There are characters here, not just concepts with names that will make hip computer users smirk, and that’s testament to the unified creative voice of the talented trio behind Overrun.

As a teaser, this is a most effective one, and does the job it should; operating as an enticing showcase to a world similar to our own, with a whodunit story to be told. I’ll be grabbing this OGN whenever it hits shelves, which I hope is soon.

Comic Novels

I’ve been reading less comics and more novels these days, but occasionally the two meet in a harmonious manner. Comics scribes such as Greg Rucka and Peter David are also prolific novel writers, for example. However, lately I’ve noticed three examples.

This week I picked up The Girl With All The Gifts, as I’ve seen it mentioned on a few websites, and also in the spotlight from some of my local bookstores. I was intrigued by the author’s name – M.R. Carey, and after reading the author blurb I realised that this was actually Mike Carey, the British comics writer of such series as Hellblazer, and X-Men.

The Girl With All The Gifts

Writer Alex Irvine has also written for both media with an impressive list of characters and franchises to his name, including Transformers, Batman, Pacific Rim, Iron Man, as well as comics for Marvel such as Daredevil Noir, and the Marvel Ultimate Alliance online game. I saw his name attached to the prose adaptation of the classic X-Men: Days of Future Past storyline from the comics in a recent Previews catalogue, so I ordered it. I’m aware of the original comics storyline from 1980, and the upcoming film, so I thought I’d take this chance to delve a bit deeper into this much-loved tale when the novel is released in May.

Days of Future Past Novel

Finally, Dark Horse recently released Alabaster: Pale Horse, an anthology of short stories by Caitlin R. Kiernan. The book is actually a re-release, with a new introduction by the author, (and startling illustrations by  Ted Naifeh), but is a great entry in to the fantasy world of her character Alabaster. Dark Horse also have the Alabaster: Wolves Trade Paperback collecting the five issue mini-series focused on the same albino character Dancy Flammarion and her dealings with the supernatural, as well as the upcoming collection Alabaster: Grimmer Tales, with both feature interior art from Steve Lieber.

Alabaster Pale Horse novel

Biowars

Biowars is a new comic (below is a preview of its 4th issue) which has an intriguing jumping off point – a war in microcosm. The production values and pretty impressive, especially for a free, digital comic. Obviously a lot of thought and creativity has gone in to this project.

Biowars is a digital comic book series featuring an exciting pair of intertwining storylines. While Alexander Hawking fights the sinister forces of the Combine in the outer world, the heroic BioWarriors of his immune system must defend his inner world against a deadly Combine-engineered pathogen. Biowars seeks to open the audience’s imagination to the wondrous alien world that lies within the human body and the strange threats it must face on a daily basis.

Biowars involves readers in its production by regularly engaging its over 100k Facebook fans. With this fan base growing daily, Biowars is the crux of a vibrant and active comic community.

Find out more about Biowars here.

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Blackout #1 Preview

Releasing on March 26 is the debut issue of Blackout from Dark Horse Comics. Here’s a sci-fi-tastic preview.

Blackout1

Titan Comics’ Doctor Who Covers

As recently announced, UK publisher Titan Comics will now be publishing new comics based on the tenth and eleventh incarnations of Doctor Who, and below is the first info, as well as the first superb covers.

DOCTOR WHO: THE TENTH DOCTOR #1

Regular cover by Alice X. Zhang

THE TENTH DOCTOR IS BACK, IN AN ALL-NEW ONGOING SERIES! NEW COMPANION! NEW HORIZONS! UNFORGETTABLE NEW FOES! ALLONS-Y!

Eisner Award-winning writer Nick Abadzis (Laika) and fan-favorite artist Elena Casagrande (Angel, Suicide Risk, Doctor Who, Star Trek) take control of the TARDIS for their first five-issue arc with the Tenth Doctor! And don’t miss the second arc, by fellow series architect Robbie Morrison (Drowntown, Nikolai Dante, The Authority)!

DOCTOR WHO: THE TENTH DOCTOR #1 hits comics stores on July 23, 2014

DOCTOR WHO: THE ELEVENTH DOCTOR #1

Regular cover by Alice X. Zhang

THE ELEVENTH DOCTOR RETURNS IN AN ALL-NEW ONGOING SERIES, WITH A TIME-TWISTING LEAP INTO THE UNKNOWN! GERONIMO!

Series architects Al Ewing (Loki: Agent of Asgard, Mighty Avengers, Trifecta) and Rob Williams (Revolutionary War, Ordinary, Miss Fury, The Royals: Masters of War, Trifecta) kick off a whirlwind adventure through eternity for the Eleventh Doctor, with artist Simon Fraser (Nikolai Dante, Grindhouse, Doctor Who)!

DOCTOR WHO: THE ELEVENTH DOCTOR #1 hits comic stores on July 23, 2014

DOCTOR WHO THE TENTH DOCTOR #1

DOCTOR WHO THE ELEVENTH DOCTOR #1

Furious #2 Review

Furious 2 CvrThe latest instalment from Mice Templar creators Bryan J.L. Glass, and Victor Santos hits shelves, and it hits hard. Those who read last month’s debut will be aware that this new mini-series about the melding of fame and superpowers is a mature take on superheroics, and this issue dials it up even more.

The first two pages here serve as a strong indication of what’s coming. With Furious, the world’s first super-hero questioned and praised at every turn, something’s got to give.

Here, we get a greater look at Furious’ past from a survivor of a family tragedy to a rising child star to an unexpected superhero. Throughout those stages of her life however, the bitterness and anger remain, and the unexpected superpowers don’t erase them.

As for those superpowers, there is a lot we don’t know about them. There is an almost dismissive mention of the titular hero waking up on the ceiling upon discovering her abilities, and using kinetic energy, but the focus is on the characters, not the origin, and that’s a smart move. Or, rather the focus is on the character, that being Cadence Lark, the alter ego of Furious. It’s interesting to note that we never see Cadence in her civilian guise, apart from the flashbacks. Perhaps Cadence is finding comfort in the colours of a skintight costume as Furious, (or Beacon as he prefers to be called, but never is). Maybe it’s a coping mechanism of Cadence’s traumatic past, or maybe she sees the life of a superhero as just another role to play. It’s testament to Glass’ strengths as a storyteller that this series can be examined and enjoyed from more than one angle. Furious has noble intentions, and certainly makes strides towards peace in her community, but she is a controversial figure; equally declared as awesome or dangerous, and with the local trigger happy police, she begins to comprehend the scope of her powers.

Santos’ art is not filled with beauty. That’s not to say it isn’t pretty to look at. It is, but rather than reveal the glitz and glamour of the high life of the young Cadence as a film star, he chooses to match the darkness and ugliness of what that life can bring, matching Glass’ thematic explorations. The flashbacks of Cadence’s youth, as she struggles with losing the entirety of her family besides her increasingly erratic father, are sad, dark and real. Cadence becomes a sympathetic character during those looks at her past, and the familiar struggles we’ve seen before with many immature celebrities are brought to the fore. Using broken mirrors as a framing device is clever, as is using the same pose with a mysterious new threat that we saw on Furious’ debut. It appears this dangerous, costumed woman has something personal against Furious and is about to make her mark on her world. Up until this point, Furious’ greatest enemy has been herself, or rather how she is perceived, so an external threat will bring the story to dangerous new places.

Glass and Santos are building a mystery with Furious, and it’s an intriguing one. They’ve been throwing crumbs since the first issue, with more surprises surely to come.

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