Arkham Asylum Screenshots

Eidos Interactive and Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment have officially released 16 pics of next year’s Batman: Arkham Asylum game. A next-gen game set in the nuthouse for Batman’s rogues gallery is a great concept, and from these pics it certainly looks dark enough. Visit here for the full 16, and you can see a lumbering Killer Croc, a Batarang heading towards some baddies faces below. The game includes 3rd person combat, plus some detective elements, and is written by familiar Bat-scribe, Paul Dini, and even features Mark Hamill as the voice of the Joker, the role he owned in the excellent Batman: The Animated Series from the 1990s. With this game, and the upcoming MK vs DC Universe and DC Universe Online games, DC might finally have a chance at competing with the awesome slate of Marvel games that we’ve been blessed with over the last few years.

Challenger Deep #1 Review

Captain Holden leads his crew on a routine data gathering mission somewhere near Guam when they are hit by a mystery vessel, leaving the sub broken and helpless, while their superiors argue about the seriousness of the situation, with a few scientific phrases thrown in for good measure.

It takes a few pages for this tale to become anything other than that simple description, but if there’s one thing BOOM! seems to excel at, it’s taking stories that’s seem familiar, and then throwing in some unexpected elements to make them gripping and unexpected. That’s what Challenger Deep has going for it.

We soon learn that there are only 50 hours of air left in the vessel and its stuck near a huge ice shelf, and only one man can save them. Dr Eric Chase’s fly fishing opportunity is interrupted by men in dark suits, imploring him to serve his country and save these men’s lives. But he’d rather not. Chase is an expert in the ocean’s depths, but couldn’t care less about saving over 100 lives. In fact, he hasn’t cared much for the deep blue since his wife’s death 5 years ago, and hasn’t stepped on a boat since. That finally changes however when the men in charge let him know about the sub’s precarious position, plus the fact that it’s warheads are set to detonate in 72 hours. Nuclear warheads + methane ice=Armageddon. A planetary match. And that’s bad.

Written by Andrew Crosby and Andy Schmidt, with art by Chee, it seems somewhat reminiscent of one of BOOM!’s better titles, Station, but with a nuclear sub replacing an international space station. With 3 issues left, I can only assume the rest of this series will quicken the pace. There’s a lot of set up in this issue, but it is necessary, and now that it’s out of the way, hopefully the real adventure can begin. Some may be disappointed by the art. It’s dark and sketchy, with minimal detail, but it is a mood setter. Thankfully the pace and dialogue make up for it. Characters are quickly established and intriguing plot elements, such as the Captain’s erratic behaviour, and the crew’s handling of him after the crash, plus the mysterious name that also helps convince Dr Chase to save the world, all help to lift this tale above the depths of mediocrity.

MK vs DCU Full Roster

After months of leaking minor details, Midway have released the full list of characters from both opposing forces from November’s Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe next-gen game.

Mortal Kombat
Shang Tsung
Liu Kang
Shao Kahn
DC Universe
Green Lantern
The Joker
Shazam (Captain Marvel)
The Flash
Wonder Woman
Lex Luthor

I’m quite unfamiliar with the MK characters, but the DCU cast look great, although slightly tweaked. You can visit the official site for more info, including some fantastic looking hi-res pics of most of the combatants, including Wonder Woman (above), Green Lantern and Deathstroke (below).

Jerrell Conner Interview

I met artist Jerrell Conner at this year’s Comic-Con. A humble, and obviously talented guy, his work has only been gaining more and more fans as of late, with exhibitions, posters, t-shirts and all manner of things focusing on his unique designs. In 2005 he released an original graphic novel, entitled Revelations: The Prophets, the first in a planned trilogy inspired by the biblical book of the same name. It’s certainly unlike most books on the stands, with certain sequences dedicated solely to prose, and uninhibited layouts. It may be too untraditional for some, and there are rare signs of a new artist’s hands, particularly in the imperfect spelling and occasional unclear art, but for a self-published writer/artist, it’s a bold debut, and shows the promise of a multi-discipline artist.

Revelations was initially your thesis project right? How different did the book end up being from your initial proposal?

Yes, it started back in 2001, in a quite different format than it’s current state. Initially it was a mock pitch for an animated feature. Not a book at all, basically a rough outline of the story (not nearly as flushed out or expansive as it has grown to be
over the years). Only 3 characters from the original project still remain (and have evolved quite a bit), there was a sculpt of one of the characters, process books, and concept
art, movie posters, and a short 3 minute animation which was essentially the center piece.

It’s quite a unique style you have. I can see touches of David Mack and Bill Sienkiewicz. Would you say they are influences on your work, or have I missed the mark entirely?

Hmmm, I wouldn’t say you’ve missed the mark, I am a fan of David Mack’s stuff and recently ran into him at a convention, but I don’t believe his work was something I referenced a lot while, or before, working on my book, same with Bill’s, but that’s more of a recent acknowledgement for me. Often people ask me about my style, and it’s hard to put in words, I don’t have a single place of reference for it. Just growing up in the time I did and in the environment that surrounded me, I seemed to soak up a great deal of influences. I’m pretty much a sponge, so there is some anime, concept art, G.I Joe, video games from the early 90’s, early X-Men and Dark Horse stuff in there, but nothing too
specific. I think two of my biggest influences when I started the Revelations series were Egon Schiele, and Ashley Wood, sooo awesome!

What’s your process for creating new artwork? Is it a combination of traditional tools as well as the computer?

Funny, I knew little to nothing about the comic industry/process. The Revelations book series just kind of threw me into the mix of it all (though as a fan, I really didn’t have aspirations in doing a comic), and I had a lot of figuring out to do, so stumbling through the process was…. interesting. The goal was to do a mix of traditional painting and Photoshop work, and that’s the way it started. I did some paintings for backgrounds for the first few spreads, going back and forth from paint to the computer, back to painting and so on. The problem was this was a 96 page graphic novel and that was taking waaay to long! So about 95% of the book ended up being Photoshop drawn on a tablet, which really worked out better in the end and was much faster. It was a learning curve to say the least, but towards the end I think the panels really began to come together and have a nice flow and color scheme.

Revelations: Book 1 was published in 2005, with plans to publish two further books by 2006. What happened that put those plans on the back burner?

I got lazy. No, not really. Actually the opposite, I got REALLY BUSY with all kinds of art work going on! The thing that sucks (I’ve learned) about self publishing is ALL
the responsibility you have to carry, and all the hats I find myself needing to wear. The first hurdle was that, once the books were published, having to do the press and promote
them, then touring and doing shows, and getting them in shops, because I was the distributor. Hustling them to as many shops and conventions as I could, the problem was that it was JUST me doing it, so there was really no time to work on the next title during that time. Secondly, everything was out of pocket, so with the bills and expenses I had just through living I needed to do other freelance jobs and art projects to pay the bills, and even make it possible to do conventions and shows, which was fine, because it was still art and I enjoyed it for the most part, but of course if all my time was spent doing those projects the next Revelations title was pretty much on a shelf collecting dust, partially
finished but still waiting to be completed. I more recently have made the commitment of not letting a week go by without finishing at least one page for the next book, moving around other projects to at least fit one day in for it every week, otherwise I fear it would never get done. Things that get put off, tend to KEEP getting put off.

Your art career seems to have taken off quite nicely, with work for clothing lines,
posters and the like. Was that always the hope for you, that you’d become a working

I’ve been drawing and doing art for what seems like forever. My earliest memories are of drawing Star Wars space battle scenes, making sound effects and the whole 9. It was like play time for me, so I’ve always known it was something I wanted to do. It kind of runs in the family, all my siblings and parents seemed to have some creative streak and artistic tendencies, but it wasn’t until I started winning competitions and contests in middle school/high school that I thought this was something that I could actually do for a living and not just for fun on the side.

How difficult is it too manage your burgeoning art career, with your comic book ambitions?

See two questions above! Pretty much those have been my main difficulties and struggles with that crazy balancing act betwixt the two. For me, Revelations is first and foremost in my mind, even though at times it has to take a back seat so I can do other projects, the main reason why I do those projects is because I feel those are opportunities for me to further the book series. They pave the way for all the stuff I do with Revelations.

My aspirations are not about becoming a famous artist or being popular. I’ve had this vision of this story in my head for years now, and telling it in a certain way. The goal is
just to finish it and get it out there in people’s hands, in a place where they can be exposed to it, get caught up in it. Whether or not they even know who the artist is irrelevant. It’s all about the story and getting across the message.

How do you think your faith influences your decisions as an artist?

I don’t think there are any decisions that AREN’T affected by my faith. It goes: God, family, then art. My passion for my beliefs is what drove me as an artist initially, and I feel this gift isn’t for my own benefit but for others. To NOT do it, to NOT give it my all would be a
disservice, not only to those who can gain from it, be uplifted, and inspired, but to the One who gave this gift in the first place.

What directions would you like your career to take in the future?

Early in college I had aspirations in the area of direction, but lately I don’t know. I really don’t look too far ahead. Right now, the focus is for finishing these Revelations books, and get them to the big screen!

What thoughts go through your mind when you look back at your previous work, and when
you see others enjoying it?

Generally i think, “Geeeeeze that’s crappy!” But we all have to start some place. I’ve seen my style and process grow a lot over the years. I do understand however that without the early work back then I wouldn’t be here now. I get a big kick out of it when someone actually likes my work or the books. It’s more of a surprise than anything. It is reassuring though, and makes me feel like maybe I am doing something right and not wasting my time following the wrong calling, like I should have been a doctor or plumber or

Go here for a very well done video piece on indie artists at Comic-Con 2008, including Jerrell, and go here for his official site.

Making of Solomon Kane #1

Comic books are a lot like onions – they make you cry. No, I mean, they have many layers. Yeah, that’s it. Now at Dark Horse’s official site, you can peel back those layers and have a brief look at what it takes to make a comic, specifically Solomon Kane #1. The 32 page comic goes on sale on September 24 and is written by Scott Allie, with pencils by Mario Guevara. Covers are provided by Joe Kubert and John Cassady (who also does the Lone Ranger covers) This unique feature showcases the first 6 pages of the ish, in its various stages, namely the script, pencils, colouring and lettering. All comics are a team effort and this is a rare example to peak behind the curtain and see what each creator brings to the finished product. Go here for a look at the mad puritan Solomon Kane, the other creation from Conan creator, Robert E. Howard. This new series begins with a 5 part adaptation of one of Howard’s novels, “The Castle of the Devil.”

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed TPB Review

With all the hype that the game has been getting, which from what I’ve seen so far, it certainly deserves, this comic tie-in has slipped under the Star Wars radar. Of course, it was always going to be an uphill battle, with the frenzy surrounding the upcoming LucasArts release, so it’s no surprise that this OGN (original graphic novel) appears to be the forgotten sibling in the game’s shadow. After reading this book I’ve come to realise that it can’t compete with the awesomeness of flinging around stormtroopers and frying everyone with lightning from your hands, but sadly, it can’t compete with a lot of the other comics out there either. It certainly doesn’t help that I couldn’t even find it on the official SW site, and that both Dark Horse and Amazon list the book as 104 pages, while it actually goes up to 126. That’s enough to make any SW loyalist about as confused as Jar Jar at poker.

Those with a bad taste in their mouth after the Clone Wars film may very well find relief in this darker tale though, and newbies need not be perplexed, as there is a short explanation as to where this adventure is set in continuity (2 years before Episode IV-A New Hope).
The tale concerns Darth Vader’s secret apprentice, Starkiller (named after Luke Skywalker’s initial name, before George Lucas rejected it), his pilot Juno Eclipse and personal droid Proxy, who is effectively the narrator of this once-hidden tale. There are some cameos to be seen here as Starkiller flits around the galaxy dispatching goodie and baddie alike with skill and abandon (and a lightsaber of course), but they will probably only be familiar to followers of the expanded universe, rather than the films. For such an important note in SW history, Starkiller’s story appears rushed. It deserves more than this. More expansion, more explanation of the main character’s judgements, more of everything. His turning from evil to not so evil, and almost a rallying cry for the birth of the Rebellion seems a hasty one. In fact, the whole TPB just seems haphazard, with mere snippets of Starkiller’s life, rather than a complete biography. I’m sure Haden Blackman, the writer of both this book and the game, had some restrictions placed on him by Mr. Lucas, due in part to the earlier release of this compared to the game. Hopefully more will be revealed when we get to pick up the controller for ourselves next week, and there is enough to mine here for future novels and mini-series. As it stands The Force Unleashed TPB comes across as an unsatisfying part of a larger picture. The art by Brian Ching. Bong Dazo and Wayne Nichols is serviceable and in line with the look of Dark Horse’s other Star Wars series, but it’s not enough to save it. However it did make me want to play the game even more, and that’s probably this book’s greatest audience- eager gamers. If that is its primary function; to serve as a companion piece, rather than a stand alone story, then its done the job. Anything Star Wars related has a lot to live up to, however and fans can be an unforgiving bunch. If you don’t want to be one of them, then leave this alone, and save your money for September 16-19 (depending on where you live), when the console game is launched and we can all breath a sigh of relief as the Star Wars franchise enthralls us once more. Hopefully.

Go here for a preview.

Pretty Pics

Below is a just a sample of great looking covers from comics available this week, including Secret Invasion #6, Secret Invasion: X-Men #2 and Deadpool #1 from Marvel, Wonder Woman #24, Green Arrow/Black Canary #12 and Final Crisis: Revelations #2 from DC, and finally, Image’s Pax Romana #3. That’ll keep your eye balls occupied for a while.

Some New Kind of Slaughter Interview

Here’s the last of my interviews that I was holding off from my INFUZE days, until its new iteration would take place, which for me, I guess is this here little blog. It was conducted in January of this year, with the creators of SOME NEW KIND OF SLAUGHTER, mpMann and A. David Lewis. Slaughter was a bold four ish mini published by Archaia Studios Press, that looked at the concept of world changing floods in different lands and cultures. Arachaia put it more succinctly: If there is one constant throughout most of Earth’s historical nations, cultures, and religions, it is the threat and the destruction of the Great Flood. In the wake of the recent Indian tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, and alarm over global warming, the award-winning creators of The Lone and Level Sands return to plumb the depths of the world’s great myths with this four-issue, all-ages mini-series, exploring how this legendary fear may be more relevant now than ever before.

It seems like quite an intricate tale. Do you foresee this book having an appeal to a mainstream comic-book fan as well as to the independent comics audience? Was there an intentional attempt to appeal to specifically either or both types of reader?

Marvin Perry Mann: It will probably appeal more to the indie/alt cognoscenti and, for that matter, new mainstream readers than to the spandex or manga fans. But there’s no small amount of overlap. Most of the writers I’ve worked with have been quite broadly read in comics, much more so than I. The complex story structure of the book should give fans of formalist comics something to bite into, and the emotional depth of several of the tales will satisfy lovers of stories about real people, despite the mythological underpinnings.

But I think it’s fair to say that neither Dave nor I set out to target an audience. Some New Kind of Slaughter fits no well-trod genre. We wanted to produce a work that would engage us, and tell stories that might open eyes. We assumed that there were like-minded readers out there. The formal structures and challenges of telling so many stories in some coherent fashion were spice to the process.

A. David Lewis: It’s no good, from a creative standpoint, to identify an audience and then, after the fact, to write for that target. I mean, unless you’re trying to make a point about that specific audience, I can’t see it going too well. Really, that’s more a concern for the publisher and its marketers. The creators, though, have to go with what hooks them to do a story, especially when they’re operating outside a mainstream character base; I mean, the purpose for writing a Batman story might just be to write a freakin’ Batman story. But, thanks to the good graces of publishers like Archaia Studios Press, Marv and I can pursue stories that interest us, for which, in turn, ASP has found terrific readerships.

I imagine the research process must have been quite intensive and enlightening. How did you choose what absolutely had to be in the project and what you could do without?

mpMann: Well, Noah had to be in. Dave did the primary work on that story, the longest in the project, nearly 1/3 of the page count in all. And as I have said elsewhere, he knocks it out of the ballpark. This is Noah as you have never seen him before.

Lewis: Aw, Marv’s a flatterer. But, yeah, I became interested in Noah the same way I became interested in the Pharaoh for The Lone and Level Sands. I mean, it really fascinates me how much people, both secular and religious, think they remember about biblical characters that just isn’t there in the text. There’s so much wiggle room, so much gray area, and exegetes over the centuries have, with good intentions, spun out a number of character interpretations. None, as far as I could find, looked to fill Noah’s Iserian “gaps” (check out that hard-core scholarly terminology!) in terms of other cultures’ Floods. So, I had a great angle at which to approach the research.

mpMann: The second one that was almost as mandatory, at least for me, was Ziusudra/Utnapishtim, the Sumerian cum Babylonian prototype for Noah. Their stories are very similar, so it was important to find ways to distinguish them. One way was to make Ziusudra the narrator. He was after all, the earliest flood hero to come down to us. And since “doubt and certainty as an approach to faith” was one of our themes, we used Ziusudra to represent doubt, and Noah to embody certainty.

The Sharon Boatwright story was something I had concocted whole cloth for an earlier project using Utnapishtim. With a little fiddling she fit right in and gave us something to tie myth to the present day. Her flood has the most contemporary resonance, but her story is told in a manner that is the most dreamlike.

The Chinese myth of Da Yu/Nuwa is really a composite of two very different myths. But together they form a unified story that illuminates how one can be inspired by the story of another.

The Hindu myth “almost” made the cut as one of the long form stories, and does get more space than the other done-in-one myths.

In tackling these myths in Slaughter but also in your previous work The Lone and Level Sands, has it surprised you how the themes and story telling techniques of these ancient tales reverberate even in today’s stories? I’m thinking the work of Joseph Campbell here.

mpMann: Heh, well, if we’re thinking of Joseph Campbell then it shouldn’t be a surprise that new stories parallel the old, or that the old tales still have power to inspire us. The underlying structures and interests of these stories speak to our human longings and fears. What can be fun is making the topical connections to contemporary life, and learning to distinguish the local from the eternal.

Comics seem like the perfect avenue for you to tell this story. Is it easier for you both to work in comics than any other art form, with the kind of stories you want to tell?

mpMann: Does it? I think these stories, constructed this way, might well have been presented in prose form, or perhaps as epic poetry. Okay, epic poetry in today’s market would surely result in fewer readers, but, historically, both prose and poetry have tackled the idea of “many-stories-in-one” any number of times. Bringing an approach like this to comics is a bit different. Think of it as bringing a classic form to this relatively new medium. Comics can to do what older literary forms have long done.

Lewis: I do tend to visualize my stories, yeah, so I suppose they could be wrought for film, television, web animation, or comics. But the comic book medium has techniques and tools unique to it that tend to mesh best with the way I like to approach telling a story. I don’t mean to disparage the purely written word – prose or poetry – which has its own strengths and magic. But I am a believer that the word-image synergy of comics has a unique effect on engaging the reader’s mind. (Go see Visual Linguist Neil Cohn on all this.) Young children can read picture books more easily because they have verbal and visual information working in unison to help them to meaning. This isn’t a simplistic interaction; it’s a relatively natural one. Whether the brain is actually hardwired for this or not, I can’t say, but I do know that this whole engagement of the visual languages in comics accomplishes things that you don’t often find in words or pictures alone.

David, in April you’ll be a part of Boston University’s “Graven Images: Religion in Comic Books and Graphic Novels.” It’s an intriguing topic. Can you give us a glimpse of what you’ll be discussing?

Lewis: Well, abstracts and presentation proposals are still coming in from across the country and abroad, ahead of the January 31st deadline. So, my co-chair and I need to work thought a selection process to finalize the program slate. I can say, though, that we’ve got educator and award-winning creator James Sturm as its keynote speaker, and the Sunday Q&A will include both him and other comic creators engaged in a wide-ranging discussion: What are “religious comics?” And what impact do they have?

There’s plenty of metaphorical application of religion and faith for any narrative medium. Neo is as Christ-like in The Matrix as Superman is. Lost seems as much like Purgatory as Peter Parker resembles Job. However, this conference is about the more overt depictions of faith and the religious in comics…which is a rapidly expanding corpus. A Contract with God, MAUS, Chick tracts, Christian publishers, Testament, Cerebus, Preacher, Mark Millar’s Chosen, or even (brace for it) Spawn, just to name a few. Even in secular terms, religion plays an important part in comic book storytelling, certainly as much as politics and perhaps moreso than sexuality, to name two umbrella topics. So, “Graven Images” is an exciting first attempt by Boston University to create a bridge between academy study and this creative upswell.

Marvin, from an artist’s point of view, was the design of the narrative difficult at all? Were there any sequences that took you a while to grasp visually?

MpMann: Since I co-wrote the script with Dave, I made a point of providing myself with different kinds of writing styles and pacing to help the reader to keep track while hopping around so much. The Ziusudra material is mostly first person narrative. Dave wrote the Noah story primarily as dialogue. Much of the Sharon Boatwright story is silent. The short done-in-one myths are all captioned, and Da-Yu/Nuwa is a story within a story. Visually, some are more naturalistic, and others more cartoonish. I relied on my natural “hand’ to provide  visual continuity. Color, of course was a real key to the sections.

How would you both describe the collaborative process and the way it shaped the story or the project? Was it very much a partnership with lots of big ideas going back and forth?

Lewis: To be honest, this is a process and an approach I would never attempt with another other than Marv. He and I already had a rapport, a solid working sense of each other, and a language on which we could rely. Moreover, it was a partnership in which I could place my trust, handing over this Flood concept to Marv and then moving back to a second banana role. Rather than feeling like Lando reluctantly giving the Millennium Falcon to Han, I got to be Chewie sitting right next to him and playing co-pilot. Perhaps I’m too domineering or controlling, but I don’t think I could have done this with anyone else.

mpMann: Dave concocted the original notion of doing “all” of the world’s flood myths. I was skeptical as first. But when it came time to put something together and Dave was consumed with his PhD program, he graciously allowed me to run with his idea and take the lead in outlining the story and doing a first draft on about 2/3 of it. But we both took a pass at the other’s work and both of us have our fingerprints all over the whole.

How do you both feel about the mainstream comics scene and how it measures up against the more independent publishers? Do you have a personal preference more for one than the other, or would you prefer the two worlds mingle more often than they currently do?

Lewis: I refuse to apologize either for having an interest Joss Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men or for not being particularly compelled by, say, Seth. I mean, I think the independent market produces more hits-to-misses than the mainstream, but that’s because the latter generally deals in quantity. And, amongst that quantity, there are some great and entertaining stories. Both groups have their snobs, their elitists, and their obsessives – that’s what turns me off, personally. So I do like it when those two worlds meet or influence each other. They’re both needed, so long as they’re not polarizing, you know?

Independent publishing obviously gives creators like Marv and me more freedom, though there is limited exposure and machinery supporting it. (No offense whatsoever to Archaia; they know they’re not Time-Warner, nor do they wish to be, I think.) The indies let us pursue these odd, atypical stories, whereas the mainstream might not be so kind. Still, I’ve got an ache in my soul to tell this one Superman story in my noggin – really for no other reason than, heck, I’d be writing a Superman story!

mpMann: The market for comics is diversifying into many markets and I can’t help but think that’s very healthy. Hopefully more of these markets will be able to provide improved living wages for creators in the future. One thing that could help would be an outlet for more 48-90 pages stories, the graphic novella.

You’ve worked with the Exodus story in Sands and now Noah and the flood in Slaughter. What is it about the Bible that intrigues you as storytellers?

mpMann: For me these are familiar stories seen in a new light, and that is valuable. Like many non-religious people, I am nevertheless fascinated by religion and the things people are willing to believe. Undercutting the sanctimonious way that so many of these stories are presented is a service in itself. Looking at the human side of them, maybe even providing a little humor, can make them fresh and worthy of reassessment.

The project currently on my drawing board is a comedy/horror western, The Grave Doug Freshley. It is a real change of pace from The Lone and Level Sands, Inanna’s Tears and Some New Kind of Slaughter, all of which deal in ancient myths and societies. But after that, I will be working on a trio of stories under the omnibus title of Ba’al. These stories blend the Ugaritic myths of Canaan with the confrontation between Elijah and Ahab and his wife Jezebel that appears in the Book of Kings. I am anticipating dense, rich stories, and I guarantee they will have a point of view. I am writing them, so as they say, “this time it’s personal.”

Lewis: Marv said the magic word: Myths. That has proven time and again to be where my interests lay. The Lone and Level Sands drew from biblical legend as does a major chunk of Some New Kind of Slaughter, but the latter also goes into mythic stories from a global variety of cultures. I found myself moving there in my Mortal Coils series as well. And, for that matter, my next project draws from the mythic fabrics of both Native American sagas and, quite separately, Western sport lore. I suppose I see myth in all stories anyways, so why not go straight to the source?

Are you planning on working together again in the future or are you both busy with solo projects?

mpMann: No plans on the horizon, but we said that after finishing The Lone and Level Sands. Dave is a lovely collaborator, smart, humane and gracious, so as I have said before, “Never say never.”

Lewis: Hey, I often say “never!” But, like I mentioned above, Marv’s the one creator for whom I readily make exceptions. I’m looking forward to Ba’al and I hope to share peeks of my next project with him as well. After that…?

Say, Marv, want to hear my Superman story?

Go here for a preview of issue one.

Freedom Formula #2 Review

This is what Speed Racer could’ve been like. Hectic, well constructed, mature. Definitely my favourite Radical book, and a welcome departure from perhaps their more famous series such as Hercules and Caliber. Radical Publishing recently celebrated their one year anniversary and already have a string of Hollywood heavy hitters interested in film versions of their projects, such as Johnny Depp, John Woo and Bryan Singer. That bodes well for a good future for the new company, and a great foundation from which to launch further unique titles.

Freedom Formula #2 (of 5) picks up right after the events which closed the premiere issue and doesn’t let up, thanks to the fast paced writing of Edmund Shern and fluid pencils of Kai and Chester Ocampo.The first ish was great. This is even better. It opens in Los Petropolis, a typical gleaming city of the future.

Zee Obanon is captured after being involved in a crash in his home, known as the Wasteland, while on his way to deliver a package for his recently departed father. He, along with his package, falls into the wrong hands. The hands of a group of nasties who take a keen interest in Zee’s father, Jugger Faizer.

As Zee gets to work for his new captors, in a far glitzier part of town, we are introduced to Daedalus, a prime Freedom Infinity racer and puppet for his corporate overlords. These men in dark suits, led by a Mr. Long pay Daedalus 5 million “credits,” (which is the word any writer can use to make the setting seem more futuristic) to infiltrate the illegal street races known as Freedom Formula. The suits don’t like the “norms” getting all rebellious in the face of the big business world of “eugene” (read genetically engineered) racing.

Zee and his new friends stage a daring robbery from the corporation in order to grab some valuable engine parts, which leaves one of the thieves dead, and the rest surprised at Zee’s driving prowess. Zee is then given a unique VC, otherwise known as Vicious Cycle, from his new lawless “friends” to compete in the next illegal race, which ends in a surprising fashion.

This series continues to build intriguing concepts with a genuine rhythm. It’s full of beautifully diverse art and characters that you just know are heading for a deliciously frantic collision. Freedom Formula, like the street races it glamourises, is an enjoyable thrill ride. Strap yourself in and enjoy the view.

Go here for a preview of this issue.

All Hail Megatron # 1-2 Review

Humans used to just be an afterthought in the Transformers cartoon back in the day, (The day was at some point in the 1980s) but now every screen incarnation and especially the latest toon re-imagining, feels compelled to throw in a few annoying kid sidekicks to keep the youngens happy, but it annoys us jaded Generation 1 lovers, or maybe just me.

Well, IDW’s latest series happily swings things in the ‘bots favour, thanks to writer Shane Mc Carthy and artist Guido Guidi. It begins with the Constructicons tearing up New York, and loving every minute of it, with a smashing (literally) arrival of Megatron who shows the Decepticons how it’s really done. It’s a great intro to this 12 ish series, and I could even hear the characters voices in my head, like I was 12 years old again, sitting in front of the TV on a Saturday morning.
Then the US Army try their noble best, but against transforming fighter planes, their efforts are brave, but futile. The last two pages are silently set on Cybertron as the Autobots try in vain to revive their fallen leader, Optimus Prime.
The second issue begins with a name familiar to Trans Fans – Witwicky, a Colonel in fact, who gets interrupted at a party and brought up to speed about the Decepticons destruction. Meanwhile Andy Reid, a survivor from issue one’s counter attack is doing his best to dodge a “large mechanical dog,” ie, Ravage and save bystanders while doing so. There are a lot more humans, and talking, in the second issue, but there’s also Soundwave (yes!), a surprisingly frightening attack from that manic cassette tape, Frenzy and finally, an attack from Devastator, the united Constructicons behemoth. There’s nary an Autobot to be seen here, which is fitting considering the title, but one would assume the robo-heroes would show up soon, as the humans resistance is looking limp.

As a non regular TF reader, I can’t say where this fits into the TF universe, but apparently it does slot into to current IDW continuity. This is a great series for newbies though, and old Gen Xers like me. It’s action packed, well paced and creatively written. Guidi is an unusual artistic choice, but it works. His pencils are the antithesis of the standard manga inspired fare, replete with the minute technical details that often accompany Hasbro’s most famous franchise. Guidi’s pencils are rougher and he manages to convey the erratic nature of battle well, while still creating an epic scope, especially in Megatron’s arrival and Devastator’s construction.
IDW obviously believe in this series, with a combined total of 8 variant covers for these first 2 issues alone. They’re also releasing it when they already have 5 other Transformers related books currently available. With as many fans as there are out there of the old school Robots in Disguise, from IDW’s point of view, it’s a safe bet though. And they’d be right.

Farscape goes BOOM!

Well, now I have officially passed my 100 posts mark. That went fast. Anyway, BOOM! Studios are just about to release the Farscape 4 ish mini-series in conjunction with the Jim Henson Company, who helped launch the fan fave TV show back in 1998. Also on board is the show’s creator, Rockne O’Bannon and veteran novelist Keith R.A DeCandido, who worked in the Farscape universe in his 2001 book, House of Cards. From BOOM!’s press release, for those of you who are unfamiliar with the sci-fi show:

Debuting on the SCI-FI Channel in 1998, FARSCAPE follows the adventures of astronaut John Crichton, who has a freak accident during an experimental space mission that catapults him across a thousand galaxies to an alien battlefield. Suddenly, he’s trapped among alien creatures wielding deadly technology – a battle that 20th century sci-fi pop culture never prepared him for. Hunted by a merciless military race, Crichton begins his quest for home from a distant galaxy.

A groundbreaking award-winning sci-fi production, FARSCAPE has become a global favorite. Named by TV Guide as one of television’s “Best Cult Shows Ever” and most recently named by EMPIRE Magazine as one of the “50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time,” FARSCAPE is known for the overwhelming fan-based campaign that led to its miniseries production.  The show has continued to find new audiences as it airs in syndication and is available on DVD around the world.

Below are the covers for the first two issues.

Hellboy 2: The Golden Army Review

From my review at Sight:

There will undoubtedly be more than a few concerned Christians who will dodge any film dealing with supernatural themes, especially one with , “hell” in the title. I’d suggest those people give Hellboy 2 a go however. Appearances can be deceiving, especially in this case, as there is much to recommend here.

A sequel to the first film from 2004, Hellboy 2: The Golden Army retains that film’s main cast including Ron Perlman as the titular hero, Selma Blair as pyrokinetic Liz Sherman and the dry wit of Jeffrey Tambor as their frustrated boss, Tom Manning. It is also directed by Hellboy’s helmer, Guillermo del Toro.

The most noticeable change is the absence of David Hyde Pierce’s (Niles from TV’s Frasier) voice for the amphibious agent Abe Sapien. Christian actor Doug Jones portays Abe (under all the make-up and prosthetics) as he did in the first film, and alos has the honour of voicing him. When Abe first speaks, that absence is noticeable but Jones is such a great actor, who also plays two other characters here, that it soon fades. Jones’ voice was also forgotten when he portrayed the Silver Surfer in last year’s Fanatstic Four sequel, to be replaced by Matrix actor Laurence Fishburne, so it’s about time he received his due. However Jones, along with Perlman and Blair did perform voice duties for the two fun Hellboy animated films, Sword of Storms and Blood and Iron. For those of you who are keeping track of useless trivia, here’s some more; Jones also worked with Del Toro on Pan’s Labyrinth, as did Perlman and Hellboy 2’s villain, Luke Goss in Blade 2.

Back to the story at hand. This sequel begins in Christmas, 1955 when an amusingly young Hellboy is told by his adoptive father, Professor Broom (John Hurt) about a battle long ago between humans and creatures of myth, which is effectively relayed to us via wooden puppets. King Balor had a multitude of goblins create a Golden Army for him, comprising of “70 times 70” clockwork warriors. Due to the devastation on both sides, however a truce was called and the crown that controlled this Golden Army was shared between the humans and elves. We cut to the present where, you guessed it, King Balor’s son, Prince Nuarda (Luke Goss) wants no part of this truce nonsense and reclaims the crown in order to raise the Golden Army once more.

Much has changed since the last time we saw Hellboy and crew. “Big Red” is now living with Liz Sherman in the B.P.R.D complex, (That’s the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense, who the team work for) and as Abe finds out, Sherman is pregnant, which throws her relationship with Hellboy in even greater disarray. This superheroic romance, and the accidental public outing of the B.P.R.D operatives to the general populace provide the film with its numerous laughs. It is a funny film, certainly moreso than the first one, and the addition of new agent, Johann Krauss, basically a German ectoplasmic spirit in a containment suit helps. Voiced by Seth McFarlane his non-nonsense bureaucratic mindset is a great foil for the cigar loving slob Hellboy.
The characters mesh so well together and the cast seem like old friends all at ease with just being themselves. And it is simply luscious to look at. Del Toro is perhaps the most visionary director working today, (and because of such is currently making The Hobbit film, with executive producer Peter Jackson.) When the team visit the Troll Market, all manner of freaky monsters appear, reminscent of a hyped up version of the Mos Eisley cantina scene from Star Wars. The battles here are hectic, but not overly violent and the reliance on puppetry and old school visual trickery rather than elaborate CGI is a welcome bonus.

The film isn’t as epic as I thought it would be. Those expecting massive Lord of the Rings style battles will be disappointed, and the romantic scenes between Hellboy and Liz, and later with Abe and Nuada’s sister, Princess Nuala may be too much for some. However, I am a fan of this series. Different from the comics that inspired it, it may well be, but del Toro adores the source material and worked closely on this original story with creator Mike Mignola, bringing such a clear vision to this outing. The environmental message, the nature of love and sacrifice all mean that this film has more depth than its predecessor, but those themes don’t feel shoehorned. Yes, there is a lot of talking and perhaps not enough action, but with characters birthed from fantasy, there is also great realism in their interactions. No matter what we look like, or what we can do, this film subtly teaches us that there is always a greater need than ourselves, and that all differences are unimportant when trouble erupts.

Next Avengers – Transform!

IDW presents The Transformers Animated: The Arrival #1;  the first of a series of five original comics. The story arc takes place in the continuity of the first season of the “Animated” TV show, airing on Cartoon Network.

In “Dispatches,” Animated series head writer Marty Isenberg, along with artist Dario Brizuela take a brand-new look at the story behind the AUTOBOTS’ arrival on Earth. You’ve seen the Animated movie, but do you know the whole story? You will as ULTRA MAGNUS, SENTINEL PRIME, STARSCREAM, BLACKARACHNIA, and many more tell their sides of the story that started it all! The TRANSFORMERS Animated series will also feature OILSLICK, who was originally intended to be a toy-only character, but the creators found a place to fit him into the comic.

On a similar note, the Next Avengers direct to DVD animated film is now out. Getting a hold of these kinds of DVDs here in Oz is painfully difficult, but I will review it when I get a copy. For now, you can read Newsarama’s review here and ComicVine’s here. I had my doubts about this “kiddifying” of the Marvel U, but so far the reports seem positive, and the DVD looks like it has some great bonus features, including peeks at the two upcoming “Hulk Vs” films, where he faces off against Thor, and Wolverine, and a doco on the current kids roaming the streets of the Marvel U.

Son of Hulk & Web of Shadows

Courtesy of Marvel, here’s the box art for Spider-Man: Web of Shadows, the open world game hitting all next-gen consoles – sometime soon. It’s a darker game than most Marvel adaptations and features guest stars galore, including Luke Cage, Black Cat and Nightcrawler, and as you can see below, Venom and Wolverine.

Below are a few random pages from the one-shot Skaar: Son of Hulk Presents: Savage World of Sakaar. Now, that’s a title! It’s on sale on September 24 and is presented by the original Planet Hulk creative crew, namely writer Greg Pak and artist Carlo Pagulayan, with Timothy Green, Gabriel Hardman and Tim Truman. The ish delves into Skaar’s origins, and is all held together by a gnarly Ron Garney cover.