Grimm Ignites Crozonia

ignition cityOkay, here’s a look at 3 recent indie first issues.

I haven’t read a lot of Warren Ellis’ work, though I’m familiar with his recently wrapped (but not finished) Anna Mercury, also from Avatar. It was a simple and unashamedly fun 4 ish mini centred on a red head’s crazy sci-fi adventures. Similar to Mercury, in that it stars a sassy female character surrounded by men in a mish-mash world of hi-techerry, with low-tech solutions, Ignition City is entertaining enough. City throws in lots more swearing, vomiting and toilet humour than an America Pie film. It’s amusing in a way, but not exactly novel. Fans of Ellis will know exactly what to expect. He seems to present similar ideas in new packaging. I’m not saying he’s not a great writer. He definitely is, but perhaps he’s over this quasi sci-fi vibe he’s dealing with now, he can show the diversity he’s capable of once more. City is concerned with Mary Raven, a pilot who travels to the grimy titular location to discover what happened to her famous father before he died. Gianluca Pagliarani’s art is mildly distracting. Facial expressions often look awkward, but he draws ugly cosmonauts and grimy, steel plates well, so that’s something. The 1956 setting is sold ably with his unusual designs for weapons and transport, as well as the look of Earth’s last spaceport. Its diversions from our history’s space race and its effects on he world’s superpowers are played out with promise, but this title is off to a slow start. For Ellis fans only.

grimmIDW’s American McGee’s Grim is a new series bringing the apparently popular game character to the printed page. Grimm is a surly pirate-like dwarf who runs amok through fairy tales, jumping on things wit his butt to put the darkness back into the tales. Yes, that’s right. I’ve heard of American McGee (yep, that’s his real name), and his games such as Alice, and Scrapland, but never played them. Grimm is currently being released weekly through GameTap.com. Written by Dwight L.Macpherson, each issue of this mini-series is focused on Grimm’s intrusion into a different genre of comics. Naturally, first up are do-gooder superheroes. I didn’t laugh once. There’s just not enough room to play with. It’s a vaguely interesting concept, as Grimm empowers the assorted baddies to defeat the ever-victorious Freedom Friends, but it’s all been done before. Lobo, the recent Bizarro arc in Action Comics, or even Justice League International have all run with this idea, but they were given more than 22 pages. Once Grimm has introduced himself in the first 6 pages, the remaining 22 are just a one-sided battle during a parade through the streets of Megalopolis. There are over a dozen costumed characters – all the obligatory homages to popular characters, but none are obviously given the time to develop character.  Superheroes being surprised that they’re getting beaten just isn’t funny, by itself. Grant Bond’s art does work though, with its loose Mike Allred style and Golden Age colouring, and having Grimm rendered in a style separate from the rest of the universe is a nice touch. I’m sure MacPherson is an accomplished writer, as he’s been doing this for a while but he’s not given a lot to work with here.

CrozoniaThe team behind Beach Studios, and Crozonia must be a confident bunch, competing with Fathom and its assorted spin-offs from Aspen MLT. Like the late Michael Turner’s best creation, this new series is focused on an attractive young woman torn between two undersea worlds. Writers Jim Su and Dan Merisanu have wisely set this story in 1948. I don’t know why exactly, but it’s enough of a deviation to make things a little more interesting. Essentialy a young  man, Matt Stark works for a publisher, with hopes of becoming a writer. One bad day he realises that perhaps his dreams are fruitless, so hits the bar and goes for a walk at night. Then he sees the aforementioned woman “drowning” and dives in to save her. Like Lenny from The Simpsons says, “Alcohol and night swimming – it’s a winning combination!” Matt becomes the rescued instead of the rescuer and wakes up to an amazing undersea city. The woman he attempted to save is actually a princess and a war is brewing. The whole issue has 1996 written all over it, from dialogue to the early-Image like art. The up-sides are some groovy pin-ups and Jim Su’s encouraging reflection on the journey it took to get this to print. So far Crozonia appears to be something that comic book newbies would gladly read, but those hankering for something more contemporary should look elsewhere. It’s not without promise though, and the production values are higher than the average indie (or even Big Two) book. With three colourists, including Su (who also did the lettering!) the look of this issue does hit above its weight class. With some more character development and surprises it could be one to watch.

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Diamond: In The Rough?

July PreviewsI went to one of my comic shops yesterday and was aghast to discover that 5 books I ordered in February were now cancelled. Thanks Diamond! Actually, I wasn’t aghast exactly, as I never remember what I order two months after the fact (I like the surprise each week). It must be terribly frustrating for self-publishers now that the world’s biggest distributor of comics demands a minimum order before they carry it. I kind of get where Diamond are coming from, in a business sense, but it’s no fun for retailers, publishers or consumers. The Previews catalogue is only going to get smaller and that’s so depressing. I order way too many unheard of books each month from Previews, and look forward to new discoveries from unique talents and brave creators. Now it’s going to be very difficult to find them. I’m glad I’ve managed to do my tiny bit for great books like Harker and Kid Beowulf with Extra Sequential, but it’s not enough. New distributors without such restrictions will continue to gain new ground and the digital distribution model will attract more creators though. One company can’t kill the magical diversity in comics, and if anyone risks their talents, time and finances on actually creating a comic, they’ll be determined enough to find an outlet for it, I’m sure. I recommend keeping your eyes open every time you visit the LCS and check out what indie books are gaining new fans on-line. There’s a world beyond the familiar out there, and they need our support.

Retailers and publishers may find this interview with the minds behind Haven Distribution hopeful reading.

Dynamo 5 #21 Review

Dynamo 5 #21 Image’s Dynamo 5 first appeared in 2007, created by writer Jay Faerber and artist Mahmud A. Asrar. Like Faerber’s other superhero family title, Noble Causes, Dynamo 5 focuses on a mixed team of heroes and the complications that come from being siblings and world savers. The tag-line, “Strangers bound by fate, and a father they never knew,” sums it up pretty well.  The intriguing premise is that the world’s foremost superhero Captain Dynamo, wasn’t such a great husband, and sired at least 5 illegitimate children. Now he’s dead, and his widow, Maddie Warner, rounds up these kids, all of whom have inherited one of their Dad’s powers, and shapes them into a team – Dynamo 5. That’s a great launching point for any series.

This issue begins in an unusual place for an ATM – a park, as several drooling people rip it open and toss bystanders aside. Cops on horseback arrive, but the situation doesn’t get resolved until Dynamo 5 land and disperse the madmen (and women). The thankful cops blame the outpouring of a new drug called Flex onto the streets of Tower City for this rampant violence, as it increases strength while lowering inhibitions. The 5 siblings disperse, dedicated to launching their own investigation, but not before 2 of them go on dates, because balance is important in a busy superhero’s life. Visionary, otherwise known as Hector Chang, proves he’s the romantic by bringing flowers to the door of Firebird, otherwise known as Emily Reed. At the same time, Scrap, AKA Bridget Flynn, feels uncertainty as she waits for her on-line date to arrive at a coffee shop. Her fears seem to be erased as Nate turns up and the pair discuss their mutual disgust for poor grammar. Sounds like my kinda gal. After some inappropriate wordplay, the pair’s discussions are interrupted by…yep, a mouth frother demanding cash. Bridget rolls her eyes and is about to pounce on the thief, superhero style, but is beaten to it by Nate, who handles himself rather well with a gumball machine.

At the same time, Hector and Emily find the park too boring so suit up and blast things in the Shark Tank – the underwater workout area in the 5’s HQ. Beating up robots is far more bonding than looking at trees.

Meanwhile, the remaining 3 members of the team (Myriad, Scatterbrain and Slingshot) discuss the recent revelation of Maddie’s past. The issue ends on 3 different cliff-hangers, which is pretty impressive in itself. They’d mean more to a long-time reader, and I can’t say if they’re true to how the characters have been portrayed thus far, but they’re interesting surprises nonetheless and give Faerber a lot to play with in future issues.

I have the first Trade sitting unread on my shelf, with far too many other unopened books, but as a newbie to this title it reads well.  It’s a good jumping on point for new readers as it introduces the team members and their different powers with ease, as well as their alter egos. Asrar styles the issue fluidly, and Yildiray Cinar, the artist on Faerber’s other family/superhero series, Noble Causes pitches in too, but the shift in artists is hardly noticeable. Each of the team member’s red and blue costumes look varied enough and it’s easy to identify who’s who. The fight scenes are handled dynamically, as are the facial expressions, whether it be Emily’s nervousness or the drug user’s mania. The Flex set-up seems like it will only lead to more action and danger, while the two superhero romances surely could go anywhere.

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New Marvel Toys

Appropriately entitled Geek-lactus (after the biggest, baddest planet eater in the Marvel Universe, Galactus) is Marvel.com’s new monthly video feature. Its’ devoted to the latest news regarding Marvel toys and collectibles. The premiere video features looks at the new Hasbro figures, Kotobukiya busts and more.

World War 3 Illustrated #39 Review

ww3-coverThis is one of those books I ordered from Previews simply because it looked like something different. And it certainly is. World War 3 has been around since 1980 and was created by artists Peter Kuper and Seth Tobocman. In their own words, “WW3 has functioned as a microcosm of the the kind of society we’d like to see. Content is valued over style and ideas are not regarded for their popularity, but for their substance. Artists are given a forum to reach an audience with their work and the opportunity to interact and examine their concepts in a group setting.”

With a rotating team of editors and no shortage of contributors, WW3 offers true creative freedom and a rare outlet for some inspired artists. Every page has something to say about today’s world; both good and bad. The latest issue is an almost entirely wordless one. With over 30 short stories, this 120 page mainly black and white comic is a splendid read. Size-wise it sits somewhere between a standard comic and a magazine, reminding you that what’s inside is some entertaining and unique content. Reading it, I felt like an intellectual, part of the cultural vanguard, rallying against, “the man.” Or maybe I just felt that way  because this is a comic from artists I’ve never heard of and doesn’t feature a single superhero. Either way, I’m so glad I picked it up. As with any anthology, the quality varies, but I was genuinely smiling at a few witty entries, particularly The Crisis by Terry Labahn about one man’s failure to learn his lesson about money and In Security by Santiago Cohen. The latter brims with dark humour, but like every story within these pages, it has a point to make. Some are obvious and quite touching in their simplicity, while others had me scratching my head as to what exactly they were trying to say. The art styles range from manga to cartoons to the swirling, expressive line work seen in the double pages of Mac McGill’s Song For Katrina. There’s also a short selection of Kuper’s photos of art seen on Mexican walls. A well researched  4 page article by David A. Berona on the history of wordless art as it relates to spotlighting social injustice is a nice touch too and helps remind readers that the powerful , yet simple tales within WW3 are part of a global force. The majority of the work here, as in every issue, is focused on humanity and it’s needless desire for destruction of the environment or itself. None of the stories are depressing however. They serve to remind us of what we already know, such as the sometimes foolishness of chasing material wealth. Those who know that comics don’t always live up to their potential as a storytelling force to be noticed, will find a kindred spirit within these emotive pages.

You can read an interview with Kuper about WW3 and this particular issue here.

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Top Cow In July

CFHK ChoiTop Cow’s solicitations for their July releases are now out. This is the complete list.

Cyberforce/Hunter-Killer #1 Mark Waid/Kenneth Rocafort/Mike Choi   
Berserker #2                Rick Loverd/Jeremy Haun/Dale Keown    
Fusion #3                Abnett/Lanning/Kirkham/Choi        
Dragon Prince #1-4 Reader Set    Marz/Moder                    
Impaler #5                William Harms/Matt Timson            
Witchblade #128            Ron Marz/Stjepan Sejic            
Witchblade #125 ECCC Var Cvr    Marz/Sejic/Silvestri                
Art of Top Cow HC            Silvestri/Top Cow’s Finest            
Witchblade Vol 7 TPB            Marz/Sejic                    
Witchblade/Darkness/Angelus: Blood on the Sands Sgn    Smith/Mitchell/Grindberg/Admira        

And here’s what I’d pick – actually all of them if I could. Berserker started strong, Witchblade continues to intrigue and Cyberforce/Hunter-Killer is by Waid and Rocafort, so what’s not to love there? Art books seem to be coming out of the woodwork lately, and we should be thankful for that. The Art of Top Cow should be dream to the eyes, and for newbies who like horror, you can’t go wrong with Impaler or if you prefer you entretainment less adult – go for the complete set of Dragon Prince. The conclusion to the 3 part x-over with Marvel, Fusion should also be a beauty. That’s enough to keep you busy.

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Chronicles Of Some Made Review

Chronicles Of Some MadeI have a soft spot for indie comics. At least a third of everything I order from Previews is from relatively small self-publishers.  Two things struck me about this book; the gloomy yet intriguing cover and the fact that it’s from a Xeric Award winner. Published by Passenger Pigeon Publishing, Chronicles is a simple, black and white 96 page one-shot. Writer/artist Felix Tannenbaum clearly has some skills. However, what is also clear is that he’s a far better writer than an artist. Judging by the work onhis web-site, Tannenbaum shows quality with his sketches and paintings. He’s not a bad artist, but just not a superb one when it comes to sequential art. Reading Chronicles made me realise that not every great artist can necessarily translate their talent to storytelling on the printed page. Every eager fanboy clutching pages of superheroes posing who face disinterest at conventions know this.

Chronicles has some good art in on its pages, but most of it is lacking. There’s no real texture and the majority of its pages are filled with blank space. Tannenbaum shows promise though and with further work he could really develop his pencilling abilities. His book has been praised by several reviewers, but few mention the minimalist art, as it is the story itself saves this book. There are two short stories, both of which concern robots. Such things as sub-plots and even character’s names aren’t really vital, but I must admit that the simple tales are rather enchanting. The first one is set in a war torn nation, where 3 robots discover friendship, spare parts and a desire to overcome their destructive programming. The second story, entitled , Why Doesn’t My Robot Love Me? involves the endearing love between a robot and a snowman (or woman). It’s well told, and charming really, and Tennenbaum’s one page explanation of his motivations behind the story will find sympathy in anyone who’s loved, or lost. I look forward to more that Tennenbaum offers in the future, as Chronicles is a sweet, easy to read book, but hopefully he puts as much effort in his visuals as he does with his writing.

The curious can read the whole first chapter of Chronicles, here.

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