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Hey there! Since I don’t update my blog anymore, you may like to find me on Instagram! I’m kris.bather and also fictionalsquid where I post my thoughts on general pop culture goodness including comics, films, novels and action figures.

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Two Recent Films I Recommend

The Tower

South Korean. 2012. Set during Christmas time, in a skyrise, but it’s not Die Hard! The Tower is a great disaster film which shows the destruction of a massive building called Tower Sky. Yes, occasionally it has Hollywood levels of predictability, with families trying to connect, people hoping for love, sacrificial heroes, etc, but the films’ director was inspired by the 1974 film The Towering Inferno. It’s filled with good action, drama and special effects.

The Tower

 

 

Doomsday Book.

South Korean. 2012. Three sci-fi stories in this diverse anthology. A Brave New World follows two young lovers, one of whom goes nutty and zombified after some bad meat, and then the epidemic begins, all thanks to one bad apple – literally. The Heavenly Creature features an I, Robot looking robot who has attained enlightenment. It looks like there’s no CGI involved in the Buddhist robot either, which the film makers use rather well. It has lots of talking between himself and the monks who he lives with in a temple, and the robotic company who made him who believe he is faulty and needs to be exterminated, as robots need to know their place. Happy Birthday is the last story and is wonderfully funny at times. A meteor is about to hit Earth, but can one little girl be responsible for calling it to us?

If you liked Cloud Atlas (and I did), you’ll like this film. It’s not as epic as Atlas, but it also shares an actress – Bae Doona, who played the revolutionary clone in Atlas. All three of the short stories have unique hooks and origins of catastrophe that set them apart from similar stories in their genres.

The Doomsday Book

 

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.

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.

Moon Knight and Dead Boy Detectives

Thankfully, libraries have great comics collections these days. Sometimes I’ll go to my local one and pick up a few random Trade Paperbacks. There’s not necessarily an order to what’s on the shelves, but it’s a good opportunity to grab something I’ve been meaning to read for a while, or something that I’m curious about. My last two choices fall in to the latter category.

Moon Knight: Down South collects issues 26-30 which are the final issues of the 2006 series. I don’t know a lot about Moon Knight, and many compare him to the closest thing Marvel has to Batman, which is understandable.The character has been around since 1975 but has some things that set him apart from his fellow superheroes. Namely, his great white costume, the fact that he has multiple personalities (and secret identities!), and has  lunar/mystic theme to his identity and powers. I’ve read very little of the character, but I know the basics, but for anyone unfamiliar with Moon Knight, this will tell you what you need to know. Wiki will help too. There is a recap page which tells you about the events leading up to this, but essentially, MK is on the run and has “killed” one of his identities and is hiding out in Mexico.

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This was a surprisingly good read. Written by Mike Benson, and with art by Jefte Palo, this was a thoroughly enjoyable read. MK hardly appears in costume, until the end, and despite the cover, The Punisher only shows up for a few pages too. Most of this tale is focused on Jake Lockley and a job he’s been given, to rescue a Mexican land mogul’s daughter from some corrupt cops. Everyone isn’t who they seem, and the two luchadore brothers are  a great addition, and have real personalities. They could’ve been an annoying gimmick, but Benson makes them work, and Palo grants them great visuals, plus the amazing covers of the original issues by Gabriele Dell’otto are included here. (Mexican wrestling masks, Kevlar vests, and big guns). This is grim, bloody (but not overly so) and mature. There are a lot of adult themes and blanked out profanity here, but it’s all a great reminder that Moon Knight is an interesting character, as hopefully his latest series launch by Warren Ellis and Declan Shalvey will show when it debuts in March.

Continue reading

Furious #1 Review

Furious #1 CoverBryan J.L. Glass and Victor Santos’ last team-up was on Mice Templar from Image Comics. This time, they give us something completely different. Whereas Templar is epic and far reaching, Furious from Dark Horse is more contained, but no less spectacular.

Yes, the last few years have seen almost as many superhero parodies/deconstructions and re-imaginings as straightforward superhero tales themselves, but brightly coloured beings with amazing powers will always be an intriguing prism through which to examine the best and worst of humanity. Fame does the same, and when those two things are combined, you get Furious. This premiere issue is smart and thrilling, and as anyone who’s read the preview can attest, it looks great too.

The titular character describes fame as a spoiled brat which always screams for more. Two months ago she debuted, calling herself The Beacon, but a loss of cool on camera meant the media gave her a new unwanted name – Furious.

This is a mature comic, with mature language, and an intensity and desperation that floods the pages. Furious is a wonderfully nuanced character. Glass employs a delicate touch here, making certain that she is frightened and uncertain, but with noble intentions. She only wants to do good with the abilities she’s been given but she soon realizes that the old saying is true. No good deed does indeed go unpunished.

There’s more at work here than just another jaded look at “superheroes in the real world.” Glass has something interesting to say about what’s expected about those rare, skilled individuals who we so easily put on a pedestal. What does that do to the individual? What does that do to those of us expecting them to be miraculously better than us? Public meltdowns are increasingly common of course, and that just adds to the authentic and relevant approach Furious is aiming for.

Santos’ art is angular and dynamic as always and his colour choices are meaningful – well-lit and exciting when Furious is flying after a distraught mother kidnapping her child, and full of shadow during scenes of Furious’ anger and doubt.

Eagle-eyed readers will see some interesting visuals, such as the nod to Santos’ recent Polar OGN, and Glass also nods to some of his fellow talented creators in a back-up collage page showing some in-world reactions to Furious’ debut. There’s also a familiar figure in one scene that made me do a double-take and just reminded me that Glass and Santos are building an intriguing story with more layers than a lasagne.

Furious is a young woman with some standard superpowers (speed, strength, flight) and although her origin isn’t explored here, it’s not really needed. Furious brings her hurt past with her to her present decision making, and that’s make for an interesting protagonist. Underneath the bright costume and the desire to just do good, is a fragile woman who just wants acceptance, and who doesn’t want to be judged by a bad deed or two.

The remaining three issues are sure to be as dazzling and provocative as this debut. It’s obvious that the story is perched on a rickety rollercoaster track. It will all lead somewhere dangerous and exciting.

Furious #1 will be released from Dark Horse Comics on January 29 and you can even participate in a unique press conference on Twitter with the star of the comic!

furiouspressrelease

Curse #1 Review

Curse_01_rev_Page_1Released last week was the debut issue of this new four issue mini-series from BOOM! Studios. It’s got werewolves in it. With Teen Wolf and the new series Bitten starring Laura Vandevoort (Supergirl on Smallville), could werewolves be the new vampires or zombies? If Curse, has anything to say about it, then yes, and what it does say, it says in style.

Written by Michael Moreci and Tim Daniel and with art by Colin Lorimer, and Riley Rossmo, Curse is so far, a horror debut executed very well.

The creators may not necessarily be household names in the world of comics, but they have some impressive titles on their resume, with Moreci’s work on Hoax Hunters, and Daniel’s on Enormous, both with Image Comics. Lorimer created UXB in the pages of Dark Horse Presents, and Rosmo has crafted the art for Drumhellar and Cowboy Ninja Viking, both from Image Comics.

As you can see by the preview pages after the jump, it starts in a most intriguing fashion. Two men – one chained, and one angry. Then we see how they got there.Well, we get hints as to how they got there in this premiere.

Continue reading

X Volume One Review

X Big BadDark Horse’s focus on bringing a few more superheroes in to their line as of late makes sense. They are not normally associated with brightly clad cape wearers, but apart from Marvel and DC Comics no publisher is really.

X is a character who debuted in the pages of Dark Horse Presents, and his solo series ran from 1994 until 1996. That was the time I was becoming fully engorged on comics, and I do recall X at the time, although I never picked up any of the character’s tales. It was also a good time for the publisher, with the success of Mask, Barb Wire and Sin City getting attention, and they’ve only eclipsed that success in the years since.

Of course, comics readers are a nostalgic bunch, so bringing back X makes sense, plus there’s already some familiarity with the hard core character.

This Trade Paperback, entitled Big Bad, collects the relaunch which began in April 2013, in particular issues #0-4, plus a few sketchbook pages of character designs. Written by Duane Swierczynski (Cable and X-Force, Punisher, for Marvel), with art by Eric Nguyen (Batman: Arkham Unhinged, based on the Arkham series of videogames), this is a good (re) introduction to X and the nasty city he inhabits.

Continue reading

Doc Savage #1 Review

It makes sense that Dynamite would eventually publish Doc Savage, one of the most famous old-timey adventure heroes from the pulp era of the ’30s and ’40s. The publisher have had success with creating comics showing new adventures of other characters from that time, such as Zorro, Green Hornet, and The Shadow.

It also makes sense that they’d get Chris Roberson to write the series, as he has an obvious respect for the era, with his previous work in novels, as well as his work on the 8 issues Masks series which sees the aforementioned heroes, and others, team up. (The collection of Masks is sitting on my bookshelf to be read, and I will, seeing as it has Alex Ross’ first interior artwork in years).

It’s a shame that Doc Savage hasn’t been in the forefront of pop culture for the last few decades really. much-maligned film in the ’70s, and an almost Arnie film, but now will become a blockbuster (hopefully) as long-time Savage fan, screenwriter and director Shane Black brings it to the big screen, after his massive success with Iron Man 3.

This first issue handles the complications of the character’s rich history ell, for a newcomer like myself. There’s not a lot of manly heroics here, so don’t expect the ripped, bronze physique of the shirt tearing Doc Savage here, but there’s enough of the supporting cast and the setting to encapsulate a sense of adventure. This debut tells the tale of a disgruntled scientist trying to prove that mankind are nothing but animals, with a device that sets of a specific radio frequency, turning people in 1930s metropolitan America in to crazed brutes who beat each other up.

Savage and his smart friends, who are summed up well with captions and dialogue, sort out the cause and solution rather quickly. To some, this may be an underwhelming issue, expecting more high stakes, glob trotting and machismo fisticuffs, but this is an entertaining and well-rounded intro to Savage’s world. Roberson’s script is text-heavy, complete with old-school inner thought speeches, but with talented newcomer Bilquis Evily’s artwork, it works.  Evily’s clean lines, yet somewhat scratchy approach remind me of Sean Murphy in a way and he fills the pages with spot-on details. The architecture, the fashion – it all looks like ’30s America.

Judging by the description for next month’s issue, this is a done-in-one tale, which means I’m looking forward to further issues and continuing adventures.

Check out a preview of this issue right here.

DocSavage01CovRoss

Hellboy: The Midnight Circus Review

This year is the 20th anniversary of Mike Mignola’s very successful creation Hellboy. There are many ways to celebrate, including reading The Midnight Circus, an awesome new OGN written by Mignola with awesome art by Duncan Fegredo.

You can read my review of this impressive tale at Broken Frontier.

Hellboy MC Cover

The Last Of Us: American Dreams Review

The Last Of Us CoverI’ve been a fan of writer/artist Faith Erin Hicks since her OGN Zombies Calling. If I recall correctly, I picked it up on a whim my first time at San Diego Comic-Con a few years ago, and fell in love with her storytelling ability. She somehow manages to make every character relatable and sympathetic, and there’s great depth in her cartooning style. I’ve pretty much read everything she’s done since my first exposure to her, and when I saw her name in relation to a dark, horror video game title, I was rather surprised. It’s not her normal playground, but I’m glad I gave The Last Of Us: American Dreams a chance.

This 106 page full colour TPB collects the recent four issue mini-series based on the game of the same name that was released not that long ago. Dark Horse have a good history when it comes to video games, and although the medium rarely translates well to the silver screen, there have been some great comics based on video games in the last few years, such as Udon’s always good value Street Fighter series, plus the Horse’s own efforts which include franchises such as Mass Effect, and Dragon Age. The publisher have also released some rather pretty art books which are must haves for lovers of concept art and world building, on such games as Bioshock Infinite, Remember Me as well as The Last Of Us.

American Dreams expands that world further. Written by Hicks and the creative director of the game, Neil Druckmann, with art by Hicks, this is set before the events of the game. The writing pair set the world up elegantly. In the first dozen pages, we know who these characters are, and what world they’re living in. Essentially, the city is barricaded by a giant wall against  hordes of diseased citizens called, “infected.” There’s also a rebellious faction calling themselves The Fireflies who are against the new police state, despite the good intentions of its militaristic leaders.

After some initial friction, and lots of swearing, Ellie, the angry new girl, and Riley the more experienced and sarcastic girl team up to escape their new “home.” Riley is about to turn 16 and like all those before her at that age, will be forced to become a soldier for the good of the surviving community. She doesn’t want that life so she escapes the compound with Ellie and introduces her to the older Winston, who lives in a tent in a very rundown shopping centre.

Hicks’ art conveys the emotion of each scene splendidly and isn’t afraid to use silence when necessary. The city that the mischievous pair traverse is deserted thanks to the infected, which are kind of like fast zombies, although there’s not highly detailed exposition within the story itself. On the back cover, however, is a nice setup (19 years ago a fungal outbreak killed most of the world’s population).

Being largely unfamiliar with the game, this tale stands on its own, and by focusing on two teen protagonists, and their interaction with each other, the scary world, the infected, and the hardcore Fireflies, Hicks and Druckmann have crafted a believable world in which people question their values and determination. Fans of The Walking Dead will surely be fond of American Dreams, and Hicks’ artwork is, as always, a pleasure to behold, and the few extra pages of her sketches is a pleasant bonus. At first glance it may seem that her style may not suit the gritty and intense story being told within these pretty pages, but there’s great raw emotion and dynamism at work here. When characters shout, or get frustrated or scared, Hicks superbly renders all those feelings.

The Last Of Us: American Dreams is available from October 30, and you can see a preview here.

The Last Of Us-American Dreams p4

The Last Of Us-American Dreams p5

Unmasked #3 Review

The latest digital offering from the Unmasked series by Gestalt Publishing is out now. My review of the third issue by Christian Read and Gary Chaloner can be found here.

Unmasked-03 Cover

The Devotion of Suspect X

I’ve been trying to read more novels lately. Here’s a brief review of the latest one.

the-devotion-of-suspect-x

I picked up The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino as it was a recommendation from the owner of a small bookstore owner. (I always like to support the non-chain bookstores).

I did notice a handful of grammatical issues, especially in the early pages of the book, which I found surprising. Sure, it’s been translated from Japanese, but this 2011 English version has also been nominated for two awards for its translation.

Set in contemporary Japan, it focuses on Yasuko, a quiet single mother who has moved to escape her former husband. However, when he shows up at her apartment one night, it doesn’t end well for anyone, and when her neighbour Tetsuya Ishigami offers his genius-level maths approach to assisting the young family, the stakes are raised, and the plot becomes complicated, but thankfully, still easy to follow.

It’s the third book featuring the Detective Galileo character, known as Manabu Yukawa, who is an old college friend of Ishigami and whose investigation, coupled with his knowledge of Ishigami’s eccentric behaviour, leads to the novel’s intensity in the latter half. I haven’t read the other two books featuring the detective, and it wasn’t an issue. This is a stand-alone novel that you can delve right in to.

The first half is a bit slow, but it certainly picks up in the last half, and as I got down to the final chapters, I couldn’t wait to finish it. There are surprising developments which work splendidly in raising questions about various characters’ integrity and true motivations.

There are two film adaptations out already, (a Japanese, and South Korean version), with a third American remake on the way. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of one novel spawning that many international adaptations in such a short amount of time.

Although there are crime elements, seeing as it is a murder mystery, it never becomes gory or gruesome. It is a story about murder, sure, but it is more about the exploration of unusual relationships, the line between respect and romance, and the depths one can sink to to rationalise horrific acts, as well as the effects of loneliness and social isolation.

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