Valen the Outcast #1 Review

Originally titled simply Outcast, this new series debut is only $1, and do you ever get a lot of bang for that buck! Hyped as “undead Conan,” this new BOOM! Studios title written by Michael Alan Nelson with art by Matteo Scalera (Deadpool) lives up to that cool description with a rousing tale, and a fair bit of bloodshed.

Things kick off with King Valen Brand of Oakhaven as the last man standing of his armies, being captured by his enemy, the necromancer Korrus Null who tells the defeated ruler that he doesn’t want his kingdom, but “something else entirely.”

Flashing forward Valen is alive and well (sort of) and has just received a magic tattoo from the lovely Zjanna who is none too supportive of his death wish to reclaim what was once his. Through the next few pages we learn that Valen is indeed a member of the living dead and just wants his soul back.

It’s obvious Nelson is having a ball here, with a daring tale to be told and lively characters thrown together. I even noticed a subtle Star Wars, and Aliens, reference. Seeking the shifty Alexio Cordovan out from a rowdy tavern to be his guide through the dangers of Wraithendal, the pair aren’t off to a great start, but Valen finds an opportunist who gives him what he’s after and leads him to well, danger.

An unlikely fellowship is forged and the adventure begins, though Null has a surprising secret weapon.

Nelson does well to not cram in a lot of mythology and background information of the main cast. It’s done organically through the entertaining story. We have the comedic character, the sexy character and Valen, the outcast in every sense of the word. Having a murdered king who is now living and feared by the people he once ruled, and soldiers he once fought beside, is a great idea and gives a real emotional weight to Valen’s noble, though dangerous, quest. He’s a typical ruler, but also a man of quiet focus and inner conflict, willing to make the most of his current existence.

This is a great example of how to craft a premiere issue of a new series. It’s easy to follow, with enough hooks to grab the reader and bring them back for the second issue. It did take some digging, but apparently this is an ongoing series, rather than BOOM!’s typical mini-series, but this concept is certainly strong enough to live up to that scope.

Nelson is one of comics’ most underrated writers, who is consistently entertaining, as he’s proven with 28 Days Later, Hawks of Outremer and many other series, including one of my faves – Hexed. In fact, he’s been responsible for a lot of BOOM!’s output in the last few years.

Scalera’s art is dynamic and expressive, especially during the well realised battles, and although the background details aren’t ornate, he fills this fantasy world with great costume design and manages to make the tavern, the forest and the village square all retain the look of the sword and sorcery setting. Archie van Buren’s colours bring much life and intensity when needed too, particularly during Zjanna’s hectic fight with a few of Null’s soldiers.

At only $1, you’d be wise to pick this great action packed fantasy debut up.

Avengers: X-Sanction Variant Covers

Remember Cable? Well, he’s back and Marvel are celebrating by releasing a bunch of covers for next week’s return.

If you don’t know who Cable is, check out this short and funny recap.

All Star Covers To AVENGERS: X-SANCTION Revealed!

Next week, the road to Avengers VS X-Men begins in Avengers X-Sanction #1 from the blockbuster creative team of Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness! And just in time to witness Cable go head to head against Earth’s Mightiest, three prolific artists who put their stamp on Cable join us for more as Marvel unveils their variant covers to Avengers X: Sanction. Stephen Platt, Ian Churchill & Steve Skroce join Marvel’s CCO, Joe Quesada, superstar artists Ed McGuinness and Leinil Yu on amazing covers for the biggest chapter in Cable’s life!

“When Cable came back we knew it had to be big, but I had no idea that we could get superstars STEVE SKROCE and IAN CHURCHILL — who I had a blast working on the monthly Cable comic back in the day – and, making his return to Marvel, STEPHEN PLATT to all do variant covers for AVENGERS X-SANCTION!” exclaimed Loeb.  “This series is a celebration of everything we love about Nathan Summers and it wouldn’t have felt complete without all these guys onboard.”

Cable’s actions will send shockwaves throughout the Marvel Universe and with these special variants featuring brawls against each of Earth’s Mightiest, no fan can miss them!

Retailers: Please note that Marvel is rush printing a second printing of Avengers: X-Sanction #1 due to expected demand and its relationship to Avengers vs X-Men. Check the Marvel Mailer and Diamond Daily for more details.

AVENGERS: X-SANCTION #1 SECOND PRINTING VARIANT A (OCT118095)

AVENGERS: X-SANCTION #1 SECOND PRINTING VARIANT B (OCT118096)

AVENGERS: X-SANCTION #1 QUESADA VARIANT (OCT110607)

AVENGERS: X-SANCTION #1  YU VARIANT (OCT110609)

AVENGERS: X-SANCTION #1  MCGUINNESS VARIANT (OCT110608)

Written by JEPH LOEB

Art & Cover by ED MCGUINNESS

Variant Covers by ED MCGUINNESS, JOE QUESADA, & LEINIL YU

ON SALE THIS WEDNESDAY

AVENGERS X-SANCTION #2 (NOV110504)

AVENGERS X-SANCTION #2 PLATT VARIANT (NOV110506)

AVENGERS X-SANCTION #2 YU VARIANT (NOV110505)

Written by JEPH LOEB

Pencils & Cover by ED MCGUINNESS

Variant Covers by STEPHEN PLATT & LEINIL YU

FOC – 12/12/11, ON SALE – 1/4/12

AVENGERS X-SANCTION #3 (DEC110616)

AVENGERS X-SANCTION #3 CHURCHILL VARIANT (DEC110617)

AVENGERS X-SANCTION #3 YU VARIANT (DEC110618)

Written by JEPH LOEB

Pencils & Cover by ED MCGUINNESS

Variant Covers by IAN CHURCHILL & LEINIL YU

FOC – 1/9/12, ON SALE – 2/1/12

AVENGERS X-SANCTION #4

AVENGERS X-SANCTION #4 SKROCE VARIANT

AVENGERS X-SANCTION #4 YU VARIANT

Written by JEPH LOEB

Pencils & Cover by ED MCGUINNESS

Variant Cover by STEVE SKROCE & LEINIL YU

ON SALE THIS MARCH!

Extra Sequential Podcast #70-Unread Stack

53 mins. We all have one – a pile of shame. In other words, comics that have been sitting, and gathering dust, on our bookshelves for far too long. We discuss our own examples, and the reasons why they’ve remained unopened.  Also, Brigitte Nielsen’s body of work.

LISTEN TO IT HERE

DOWNLOAD IT HERE

GET IT ON iTUNES HERE

You can email us at kris (at)extrasequential(dot)com and befriend us on the NEW ES Facebook page.

1:44 NEWS

Brian Wood’s thoughts on digital comics

Jim Zubkavich’s thoughts on comics piracy

Brian Michael Bendis leaves the Avengers franchise

Chewbacca on Glee (yes, it’s true)

Alan Moore on Frank Miller

19:07 THEME-UNREAD PILE

The whys of our collecting habits, plus books on our stack we’ve finally read this week.

Kris’ stack:

Jack Kirby’s OMAC

 

The Rocketeer

 

Starman Omnibus

 

Elephantmen

 

Madame Mirage

 

Superman: Emperor Joker

 

Fray

 

Seeds from Com.x

 

Underground

 

Thor Visionaries Vol. 1 Walt Simonson

 

Hulk Visionaries Peter David Vols 1-4

 

(and recently read) Meltdown, and A God Somewhere

 

Mladen’s stack:

 

Spirou

 

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

 

Epic Comics’ Interface

 

Moebius’ Blueberry

 

Peter Milligan’s Shade the Changing Man

 

Bonelli comic Ken Parker

 

Dragon Ball Z

 

Battle Angel Alita

 

Cerebus (after Minds)

 

(and recently read) Tintin and the Alph-Art, and Vic and Blood: The Chronicles of a Boy and His Dog

 

Plus, stuff we’d like to own, and hopefully read one day!

Deadpool Dead at 50

This is just really an excuse to show another cover by Dave Johnson.

DEAD At 50!

Could this be it? Has everyone’s favorite Merc With A Mouth finally made an appointment with Lady Death? This February, witness the biggest change in Deadpool’s life as “DEAD” kicks off in Deadpool #50! From the creative team of Daniel Way & Carlo Barberi, Deadpool’s lease on life is about to expire and those around him are going to feel the consequences including X-Force! Following the epic battle with his former body parts gone rogue, Wade Wilson makes a monumental decision that will forever change who he is. See how it all goes down this February, in Deadpool #50!

DEADPOOL #50 (DEC110676)

Written by DANIEL WAY

Pencils by CARLO BARBERI

Cover by DAVE JOHNSON

FOC – 1/16/12, ON SALE 2/8/12

Buffy in a Nutshell

Not that any nut product could contain the best vampire slayer since Blade of course. Following this link from writer Tom Taylor’s Facebook page about his excellent The Deep OGN (get it for a young’n, or old’n, for Christmas!) I happened upon this great summary of the awesomeness that was, and is, Joss Whedon’s Buffy TV series. I caught up to Buffy, and soon after Angel, a bit late in my Uni days but I’m so glad I did. It’s one of the best shows ever to grace our TV screens.

Oh and for an added bonus, check out this well edited clip of Buffy vs a stalking Edward Cullen from Twilight.

Dead or Alive #1 Preview

From Red 5 Comics this week is the debut of a new 4 part mini-series, written by Scott Chitwood, with art by Alfonso Ruiz. The Comic Book Page podcast conducted an interview with Chitwood about Dead or Alive, and other stuff, on a recent episode.

Here’s the official description of the issue:

Story: “The Good, The Bad, and the Zombie”

When two down-on-their-luck cowboys capture the most wanted outlaw in the West, they get more than they bargained for when they discover a Comanche shaman has infected him with an ancient zombie virus. If the zombie doesn’t kill them, the Comanche, rival bounty hunters, and other outlaws will!

JLA 100 Project

The HERO Initiative charity that helps creators in need have announced that there are now Hard and Soft cover collections of their recent JLA 100 project. They’ve done similar projects on Spider-Man, and The Avengers and now here’s your chance to see over 100 different interpretations of the Justice League from artists all over the world.

Check out the complete gallery here, and some of my faves below. You can also get details about the upcoming auctions for the original art at the same link.

Flash Gordon: Zeitgeist #1 Review

I was a tad cautious about this new acquisition by Dynamite after several other classic heroes (Lone Ranger, Green Hornet,etc), as there’s already a Flash Gordon series from publisher Ardden, and has been for a while. (In fact, you can read their #0 and #1 issues for free.) However, this debut issue (at only $1!) is awesomely rousing with a great focus on action and drama.

Setting the story in 1934 (the year of the adventurer’s debut, courtesy of Alex Raymond) was a bold, but wise move. Not only does it set it apart from Ardden’s modernised take, it also gives Flash Gordon a unique flair for adventure, much like The Rocketeeer or Indiana Jones tales set roughly in the same era, do.

We first see Flash when he’s jumping from a burning plane, with cartographer Dale Arden in his arms. Handy captions introduce us to all the main players and Flash is instantly likeable due to that charming ’30s style and the fact that he’s a polo player once more. Flash and Dale are on a mission to find reclusive scientist Hans Zarkov. They do and he’s wonderfully crazy (well, at least a little bit). Zarkov believes there’s a way from our universe to others, and that inhabitants of said outer worlds have been visiting Earth for recruitment purposes. One dangerous space shuttle journey later and Flash and Dale see his point. On the last few pages three rebellious Mongo citizens visit Germany to hunt down Ming ally, Hitler. This was a pleasant surprise, adding one more layer to this daring tale.

Artist Alex Ross (Kingdom Come) has long been a fan of the character and an interview with him even shows up on the DVD of the 1980 film. His love is evident here in his character designs and art direction, a role (as well as variant cover artist) that has kept him busy with numerous series over the last few years at Dynamite. Not as outlandish as his designs for the Jack Kirby inspired titles, they evoke classic sci-fi trappings much like the rockets and alien thrones do. Throwing Ming’s snivelly right hand man Klytus from the film was a nice surprise too, and Ming really lives up to his Merciless title, with his disdain for pretty much everyone, including his slave girls and the entirety of the human race it would seem. More of  a nuanced character and not at all a stereotype, Ming is like Darth Vader in Episode IV. We don’t see much of him, but we see enough to know that he’s a calculating despot.

Daniel Indro’s art is a perfect fit. Similar to Ross’ pencils, but with a dynamism all his own, he skimps no detail. The script asks him to create aliens, Zarkov’s busy lab and high drama fuelled emotion, and he does it all splendidly. In particular, the escape in Zarkov’s experimental shuttle is a very well crafted sequence. I’m looking forward to seeing more of his work and it looks like we’ll be witnessing both Earth and Mongo scenes. Excellent.

Writer Eric Trautman (who plots with Ross) does well to craft an entertaining story, with just as entertaining central characters, despite there being several of them. It’s a fast ride and there are no dull moments. From Flash’s take charge attitude, Dale’s far from damsel in distress attitude, and Zarkov’s crazed brilliance, he captures the essence of these well known characters in a superb fashion.

Hitler is no surprise, as he’s shown on the cover, and is hinted that he’s a Ming supporter. If done well, this concept could work, with a nice history/fantasy blend, though I’d imagine there may be some that would cringe with the very idea, but it’s too early to tell just yet.

Those familiar with the awesomely cheesy 1980 film (with the great Queen theme song) will fondly recall the opening lines here and it’s obvious that the creators are well aware of Flash’s vast history. This is no duty old reboot that sits awkwardly with today’s superheroes. This is a new Flash Gordon. He’s almost the same as the old one, but better. He’s a hero for today, and he’s highly entertaining.

Extra Sequential Podcast #69-’50s Sci-fi

58 mins. Don’t suffer from space sickness or hard radiation, but listen to our discussion about manly heroes, jetpacks, rayguns and the lost art of adventuring. From comic strips to comic books we look at some of the genre’s best tough guys and their unique tales. Also, Timothy Dalton and a tree.

LISTEN TO IT HERE

DOWNLOAD IT HERE

GET IT ON iTUNES HERE

You can email us at kris (at)extrasequential(dot)com and befriend us on the NEW ES Facebook page.

2:15 NEWS

Watch the Neil Gaiman The Simpsons episode (if you’re in the U.S)

Dark Horse going day and date digital on all their titles

Writer Mark Millar ain’t a fan of digital though

Nicolas Cage’s former copy of 1938’s Action Comics #1 sells for a record amount

7:20 THEME – ’50s SCI-FI

Race relations, strange aliens and thoughtful ambassadors in these grand and well constructed tales from the halcyon days of the 1950s.

EC’s Weird Fantasy

Al Feldstein & Joe Orlando’s “Judgment Day”

Wally Wood’s upcoming collection from Vanguard

Buck Rogers

Flash Gordon’s new series from Dynamite Entertainment (and read the first two issues of Ardden’s Flash Gordon series here)

Sky Masters of the Space Force

Jeff Hawke

Dan Dare

Trigan Empire

Rick Random

Tintin: Destination Moon & Explorers on the Moon

Astro Boy

Finally, here’s a clip of Flash Gordon  “fighting” Timothy Dalton in the 1980 film!

Makeshift Miracle Review

This is another one of those comics that I’ve been impressed by and have been meaning to give it its due. Makeshift Miracle began as a webcomic in 2003 and is now back, thanks to MM writer Jim Zubkavich (of the equally entertaining, though different entirely, Skullkickers from Image) has been promoting it by asking, well…anyone to read and distribute it as a PDF or CBZ. It seems to be working, as new readers are doing just that, me included. I don’t read any webcomics regularly, so having the entire chapter in one place is, like the art here, very attractive. This revisitation has seen Zubkavich enrich the story, with the addition of new art by Shun Hong Chan.

Zubkavich touts this as a publishing experiment, hoping to build an audience online before it hits print from UDON (publisher of Zubkavich’s great Street Fighter comics) mid next year. Webcomics such as Axe Cop and Dr McNinja have found a paper home at Dark Horse and with the impressive work on display here, this deserves just as much success as those two series.

This isn’t a comedy however. Zubkavich has proven he knows how to do that with the aforementioned fantasy Skullkickers, so with Makeshift Miracle he focuses on drama and mystery. Titled Impact (a term which will surely have more than one meaning in future instalments) this debut focuses on high schooler Colby Reynolds. He’s sick of the selfishness of those around him and has started a private blog to let his frustration out. It’s this diary which acts as the narrative device for the loner and gives us a glimpse in to who Colby is. Before things become too introspective, Colby follows something guiding him from within to a valley-set town, which he declares to be, “calm and beautiful,” and that is an apt description for Shun Hong Chan’s art.

Zubkavich wisely pares down the text on each page, giving the visuals the focus. Chan’s art is as light and delicate as a soufflé, and the fact that it’s not realistic or flamboyant makes it even more dazzling. The delicate, watercolour-like approach and restrained manga flair make this fit snugly into the fantasy/drama feel it’s striving for. If you like Dustin Nguyen’s art, you’ll love this.

Not much happens, story-wise in the first 18 pages of this debut chapter. Essentially Colby travels, thinks about his family (with nice black and white flashbacks) about his family, goes to a quaint town in the middle of nowhere, and sees a beautiful naked woman fall like an asteroid at his feet. Zubkavich so far wisely puts the spotlight on Colby and the girl and it’s more than enough to be captivating.

The second chapter of Makeshift Miracle began in early November and is updated twice a week. You can download chapter 1 right here.

Billy Tucci’s A Child is Born Review

This gorgeous new one-shot from Billy Tucci (Shi, Sgt Rock) and publisher Apostle Arts is a great Christmas read.

You can check out my review here.