Bioshock Infinite was released last week, bringing a new, exciting chapter of the hugely popular game series for fans to obsessively play for days at a time. I, myself, am a fan of the franchise and when I heard about a book release accompanying the game which would outline the artistic development involved, I was thrilled to have the chance to review it. The Bioshock games are known for their complex story lines and tormented characters, but I think the real core of these games is in the mind blowing art work. I still remember my first time watching the opening sequence for Bioshock. I felt real terror and fear living the experience of sinking on a huge ship, watching people and flames plummet in to the ocean around me as my character sank deeper and deeper. Then, the elation of discovering Rapture, the city under the sea, glowing and majestic, yet abandoned and incredibly eerie at the same time. Bioshock has never settled for less than ‘holy shit amazing’ in the visual department and by the looks of The Art of Bioshock Infinite, this latest installment is no different.
The introduction to the book is by creative director Ken Levine and he explains that the process of developing a video game on the level of Bioshock Infinite is far more complicated and time consuming than some may assume. “ the process of making anything—and certainly an Irrational game—is grueling and exhilarating, exciting and depressing, thrilling and scary as hell. For every idea that makes it into the game, a dozen are put against the wall and shot.” This book puts this process on display for you, showing the character and world development, sketch by sketch. Hundreds of pieces of art and ideas were thrown out in the editing machine, but no less impressive. It becomes obvious right away that the artists who created this new Bioshock universe toiled endlessly to achieve the perfect effects on every single detail of every puzzle piece that eventually became Bioshock Infinite.
I found the notes explaining the process behind the art development as intriguing as the pictures themselves. To get a glimpse in to the great care and immense thought behind every detail in this game feels like peeking in to someone’s window and watching them create. Someone with more artistic chutzpah in their little finger than I could achieve in a lifetime. Watching the floating city of Columbia come to life in these paintings and sketches is so much fun, but for me the best part was being witness to the birth and growth of the enigmatic characters of Bioshock Infinite. Booker DeWitt, Elizabeth and Songbird are focused on heavily, their personality and story details being just as imperative as their styles and physical make up. Readers are invited to observe the ideas behind Sky-Hooks, airships and the menacing, powerful Heavy Hitters.
The Art of Bioshock Infinite is a beautiful, enlightening lesson in video game development. It’s not quick, easy, simple or lacking in sacrifice. At least not a game on this level of quality and brilliance. I haven’t actually played Bioshock Infinite yet, but reading this book makes me feel like I already have an intimate knowledge of the people and creatures (or machines) that make up the city of Columbia. Whether you’re a fan of the Bioshock franchise or just a lover of artwork, this book is definitely satisfying and worth having on your shelf. It’s been a real treat for me and has only increased my desire to experience Bioshock Infinite for myself.
Review: Everybody Loves Tank Girl by Mahfood and Martin
Review by Prof. Jenn
Once again, I’m in the position of not being familiar with these comics characters before plunging right into reviewing the latest in a series of volumes. So what I can’t tell you is how the characters have progressed, how this collection fits in with previous ones, etc. What I can tell you is what I did and didn’t like, of this volume.
Let’s start with the bad news first: being new to Tank Girl and her cronies, I didn’t get what world we’re in, what the back story was, etc. For example, what is Tank Girl an outlaw for? Or of, for that matter? For someone already familiar with the denizens of Tank Girl’s bloody world, this is no doubt not a problem, but for a first-timer I needed a little more. The other downside to this volume is its bloody foul-mouthed-ness. Sometimes the base-ness is strong or dirty-fun or hilarious, but sometimes it’s just jejune and crude. Tank Girl has been called the “most rock ‘n roll comic book character ever” (NME, back cover blurb), and I would agree–but we get both the good and the bad of what that potential is.
And now the positives: I like that they’re rarely in color–we get a lovely, gritty tattoo-art sense from most of them in black and white sketchy style. The art itself is the visual equivalent of Beat poetry: rough, busy, sexy, and interesting. I dig the many little joke commercials peppered throughout. The short one-off punch line-centered stories are a lot of bizarre fun; they remind me of a couple of precocious adolescents making a radio show. The storylines are chaotic enough to be hard to follow sometimes, but that’s not really an issue given the tone and feel of the whole thing. Just hang on and enjoy the ride.
Bottom line: Meh, I don’t know what to think. It’s enjoyable enough, albeit quite trippy, confusing and low-down-and-dirty. So…hm, okay my final judgment is “meh.” ~Prof. Jenn
The Great Showdowns is a lovely little art book that is at once a fun geeky guessing game and high quality pop art watercolors.
When I received my review copy, I promptly brought it to rehearsal so I could peruse it while I was backstage, not in a scene. It proceeded to enchant the entire cast, who would, on tenterhooks, look over my shoulder as I flipped the pages, exclaiming the depiction as soon as they could decipher it. They didn’t stay as quiet as actors need to backstage, and I am not sure that a late entrance or two may not have been because of this book.
Scott C. does these showdowns a lot– his work is not just relegated to little comic-y art books, but his work appears in galleries and collections regularly. It shows. The Showdowns are simple in the most complex way–sometimes the showdown will be obvious (Han Solo and Greedo), other times you have to look at it for a bit before you “get it” (the one about Trainspotting made us all laugh way too loud). And there’s an introduction by Neil Patrick Harris, so there’s the awesomeness factor ramped up right there.
Bottom line: The Great Showdowns is a wonderful little magical tome to include in your art library, pop culture collection, or keep out on your coffee table.
How many awesome books can Titan send me to review? Seriously, how many?
Dinosaur Art is a giant, gorgeous coffee-table book that’s chock full of gorgeous paleoart. It showcases several excellent artists by not only displaying their work, but alongside are extensive interviews about their creative process, choice of media and technique, etc. It’s a fantastic combination–this is a book you’ll want to pick up again and again.
What’s most interesting is the variety–not only from artist to artist, but there is everything from little thumbnail sketches to huge unfoldable multi-page spreads. It’s a collection of paeloart at its best.
Bottom line: this is a book that everyone with the least interest in science or art should have out on their coffee table. ~Prof. jenn
Written by: Kasra Ghanbari
Art by: Menton3
Review by Melissa Megan
My local comic shop guy messaged me online: “The Monocyte hard cover is here, bagged and ready for you. I thought I should let you know right away, since you’ve been excited for it to come” ‘Excited’ is definitely an understatement here. I admit I don’t frequent my local shop as much as I should, but they know that for the last year I’ve never been late to pick up my latest Monocyte issues. This one, in particular, had me itching to get my hands on it. Nerds in Babeland readers are well aware of my addiction to these comics, as I have reviewed and highly recommended every single one. Creators Menton3 and Kasra Ghanbari felt that the horrible grandeur of Monocyte could not be contained in tiny comic book pages, so they brought fans a collected, hardcover edition that is so, so much more than just the story of Monocyte.
From the minute you turn the book to take in the entire wrap around cover it is obvious that it was created with an incredible love and dedication to the power of Menton3′s art. He’s by far one of the most unique and impressive comic artists of recent years and Monocyte was, I believe, the creation that really got him noticed by readers, art collectors and artists. Within the first few pages of the book I became painfully aware of just how limiting those single issue comic pages had been for Monocyte. All I can compare it to is maybe seeing a film in IMAX for the first time. You have no idea how much you’ve been missing until you see it in all it’s glory, splayed out in giant size images that you can’t help lingering on after you’ve already read the words.
This is not at all to downplay the quality of writing that Kasra Ghanbari brings to Monocyte, which is the backbone of the book. He writes like he’s carving mythology in to a modern world, building characters and events on each other with unflinching grace and balance. The story is complex and requires your full attention, but if you allow yourself to be present in it, you will not be disappointed with the reward. I will stop gushing about how much I absolutely love Monocyte because as I promised, this collection is so much more than just the story of Monocyte.
The Monocyte Collected Edition is a 224 page hardcover book. It contains the entirety of the original Monocyte story, plus the previously digital only prequel. The book also offers over 60 pages of new content, including a gallery of Menton3′s conceptual and design work for Monocyte, plus a very impressive guest artist gallery. Creepy little child demons by sculptor and fine artist Scott Radke. Sexy, gothic pinups by Alberto Ruiz. Fluid, surreal digital art by Chris Newman. Even some bad ass metal sculpted Monocyte head pieces by Tim Roosen. The book is literally stuffed with so much breathtaking art. One of my personal favorite pieces is a super goulish, almost 3D painting by David Stoupakis that I haven’t been able to stop looking at.
The Monocyte Collected Edition is not only a magnificent representation of one of the best comics to be released in the past year, but it’s a guaranteed brag book for your collection. Set this book down on your coffee table (be careful not to spill on it!) and there’s no way someone won’t pick it up and get sucked in. Menton3 and Kasra Ghanbari are up to huge things this year (44FLOOD, anyone?), but Monocyte is the beginning of their magical union and one that every self respecting comic book reader should experience. if you’re a Menton3 fan or just a Monocyte fan, this book is a must own. MUST OWN. Not maybe. Get it now and bask in it’s awesome power of pure, artistic unicorn blood voodoo. Get it HERE.
44FLOOD is a brand new publishing project comprised of Menton3 (Silent Hill, Monocyte), Kasra Ghanbari (Monocyte), Ben Templesmith (Wormwood: Gentlemen Corpse) and Nick Idell (Owner of Alley Cat Comics, Chicago). It’s a true creator owned company, committed to bringing readers top notch material. The first thing 44FLOOD has planned is a Kickstarter campaign to fund the creation of an amazing collaborative art publication called TOME.
TOME will be an annual anthology in an oversized format showcasing world-class artists as they explore a single theme using comic book, painting, and music mediums. The first theme of TOME is vampirism. TOME will gather together a huge lineup of artists presenting their unique interpretations of vampirism in whatever form they choose, including artist to artist interviews. The Kickstarter launches today. If you love art, comics and everything they could be, when given the right medium and environment to grow, you must get in on this.
Not only will you have the opportunity to be part of the beginning of a huge creation that will packed to the hilt with super talent, you’ll get endless chances to be rewarded with some truly incredible, limited edition swag. I’m not bullshitting you when I say every donation to this Kickstarter will get you something brag worthy.
44FLOOD is a great group of guys with outstanding talent and I promise you that whatever these guys produce will blow you away. Please jump on the Kickstarter page, check out the details and consider supporting TOME. I damn sure will be!
Kickstarter (search for TOME)
Monocyte #4, the post apocalyptic, muti-species battle story love child of Menton3 and Kasra Ghanbari, will hit stores on May 23 and conclude the series. I’ve been covering this series since the beginning and it has raised the bar in both artistic chutzpah and writing prowess for comic books to a godly level. Yes, I am a fan. Monocyte is a story of two species locked in a never ending battle, using and throwing away what humans are left on the planet as tools of life force, weapons of mutilation and play things. Monocyte is the being sent to put an end to their nonsense and clear the clutter left behind. He does his job with pure brutality, staggering insight and intelligence, style and grace.
I promise you have not read a story like this one before. It’s everything I always wanted to find in a comic but never thought was possible. If you want something heavier, something thicker, something more cranial in your comic collection, Monocyte is just that. The poetic writing of Kasra Ghanbari and the other worldley artwork of Menton3 come together in a tender, perfect embrace that other comic teams can only dream of. Monocyte #4 will feature 3 covers plus interior art by Chris Newman and Ben Templesmith. Preview here!
I will follow up with a full review of Monocyte #4 after release, of course. If you haven’t already picked up Saltillo’s Monocyte album (have you not been paying attention?) then now is the time. The cd, released earlier this year, was on the top 50 electronic releases on iTunes and nabbed the #1 spot for industrial sellers on Amazon for over a week. Artoffact Records has now released Monocyte: The Lapis Coil on vinyl, which includes three tracks from the CD, two new remixes, and an exclusive new track called Necromancy. It will also contain some amazing artwork by Menton3. The vinyl is limited to 492 copies and will also be released digitally to iTunes and Amazon MP3.
Last, but certainly not least, IDW will bless us all with more treasure to add to the Monocyte collection: a 224 page, hardcover collected edition that will include the entire Monocyte series, with all covers, plus over 60 pages of brand new content. This book boasts a huge roster of incredible talent like Ashley Wood, Bill Sienkiewicz, George Pratt, Phil Hale, Barron Storey, Ben Templesmith, Riley Rossmo, Christopher Mitten, David Stoupakis, and Chris Newman. You’ll also get all the slave stories that were written for each issue and the series prequel, previously only available digitally. This book will be the one to own not only for fans of the work of Menton3, but comic collector who want the ultimate in impressive, unique hard cover brag material on their shelf.
The Monocyte collected edition is in the May Previews for pre ordering, which means do some pre ordering! It’s how you show those guys and girls at your local comic shop what you want and how you are guaranteed to get it.
Creation/writing: Menton3 and Kasra Ghanbari
I am so fucking in love with Monocyte. It has been so long since I’ve read a story that not only grows and morphs along the way, but only increases in intensity and substance. Monocyte never relies on shock, never forces you to accept it using cheap tricks like ineffectual violence or sensory offense. It creeps in quietly, requiring your full attention to keep up with an incredibly complex vocabulary; once you are wrapped up in the mythos and alien quality of the landscape, Monocyte lashes out with an uncompromising attack on your belief in the world around you and of time itself. I am not being melodramatic here, this shit is real and it is not taking prisoners.
In Monocyte #3, we join the Antedeluvians as they prepare for the wrath of Monocyte to drop down on their city. We discover betrayal from within, and are treated with some incredibly rich history of the pre-war beginnings of Monocyte. This issue leaves us with a battle that could, possibly prove the most challenging yet for the seemingly indestructible bringer of eternal death.
Part of what makes the Monocyte books so unique is the extra bonus of mini stories at the end of each. These are written and drawn by very talented names, sometimes flying under the radar, and offer the reader some engrossing perspectives of the human slaves that both the Antedeluvians and Olignostics use as immortality nourishment. Monocyte #3 includes stories by Christopher Mitten (Wasteland, Criminal Macabre, The Dark Crystal) and George Pratt ( Enemy Ace: War Idyll, Wolverine: Netsuke). Personally, my favorite this time around was Christopher Mitten’s contribution. His artwork is so luscious to look at and feels like a natural accompaniment to the other-wordly creations of Menton3.
Monocyte #3 is available with various covers, each one full of awesome in a fresh way. For this issue, you can have the A wraparound cover by Menton3, the B wraparound cover by Ben Templesmith or the incentive cover by George Pratt. I’ve made it a goal to collect every cover of each issue that I can get my greedy hands.
This book asks so much more of it’s readers than a casual understanding and enjoyment. It asks that you bend your concepts of the future, present and past. It demands that you ponder the possibility that the human race is by no means the most powerful or malicious species in existence, and to accept that we all possess innate flaws, the largest being mortality. And let’s not fail to mention the spine of Monocyte, the black blood that flows through it’s veins which is the artwork of Menton3. I have praised the genius of this man’s creations many times here on Nerds in Babeland, so I will keep this short, but this art is so much more than art. Each issue seems to add a new layer to the graphics, a luxuriousness that is all too rare in modern art. His work drips with texture from the heart, emotion boils over the edges of the page. Menton’s art hangs on the walls in my home and I’ve never seen someone walk past it for the first time without stopping to stare for several seconds, eventually asking me to explain what they’re seeing and who made it. In my humble opinion, there is no match in the comic industry right now to the level of work that Menton3 is producing.
Monocyte hits shelves on March 21. I can tell you these things sell out fast, so if you can get your hands on #1-#3, snatch them up. And remember, creator owned support means pre-ordering, so if you love Monocyte, please pre-order your next copy!
Although not a huge follower of ‘pop art’ I’ve always felt a special draw towards the art of Tara McPherson. I own her last book, Lost Constellations, and have her prints on my wall. She has a very distinct style that manages to stand out among a sea of modern pop culture art, a delicate touch of feminine aesthetics mixed with vibrant colors and sharp lines. McPherson has worked on everything an artist can put a pen to including concert posters, circus flyers, art prints, toys, electronics and novelty items; one of my favorites is her coloring book. The bookmarks, sketch books and other fun accessories feel a bit like a grown up, slightly twisted and dark Lisa Frank, the line of super bright, sparkly sticker and coloring kits for tweens.
Not to understate the gorgeous work that is the foundation of Tara McPherson’s art empire, Bunny in the Moon is yet another well developed collection of colorful, macabre scenes from somewhere deep in her imagination. As Morgan Spurlock says in his doting foreword, “From her first rock poster to her last solo show, Tara has been and remains an uncompromising artist, creating both a body of work and mainstream art-pop success that are unlike anything else in the art scene.”
The book opens with some of McPherson’s trademark beautiful females, surrounded by heavily detailed graphics that express each character in their own world. The artist has a skill for giving the impression of a story being told, one that you are as much the author of as she is, using just one main character, often blanketed by celestial entities, spirit animals or dripping in viscous fluids.
She then invites readers to follow her through the creation process from rough sketches to polished, multi-layered oil paintings. I find this quite fun, especially in a world largely dominated by digital art; seeing the hand drawn lines as she creates them feels like a rare peek into McPherson’s personal sketch book.
I’m not a ‘hearts and flowers’ kind of girl, I don’t care for art that uses the female body strictly as a cheap tool of stimulation or shock value. One of the things I appreciate about Tara McPherson is that she manages to portray a definite feminine charm without too much fluff or overt sexualism. Her characters don’t adhere to puritanical boundaries (much of the work is NSFW) but they are entangled in scenes of power, manipulation and dark, sometimes morbid engagements. For long time fans of McPherson she revisits a few classic favorites like the ‘Wiggles’. The artist’s work maintains the same trademarks as it has from the beginning: a perfect blend of sweet girlishness, rock star edge, malicious intent and floaty, surreal fantasy environments.
I recommend this book for any level of art lover, but especially those who feel less than satisfied with some of the ‘modern pop art’ available today. Bunny in the Moon is an art collection that will always spark conversation and interest among a variety of casual coffee table perusers.
Bunny in the Moon hits shelves March 14, and is available now for pre-order through Dark Horse Comics.
The highly respected La Luz De Jesus Gallery in Los Angeles hosts an annual show to feature the freshest, most unique and anticipated artists. The gallery had over 9,000 art submissions and only accepted around 125 artists to be in the show. Jurors took submissions from artists of multiple mediums and backgrounds including commercial illustrators, graphic designers, tattooists, scenics, students, animators and working gallery artists. ”This is the one show annually that most patrons look forward to seeing, as it’s a chance to discover new artists in the venue that has launched so many careers,” notes gallery director Matt Kennedy. “Every year we manage to discover a new conglomeration of fresh talent, and among them a class of breakout successes.
I’m so proud to say that at least two fantastic comic book artists earned spots in Laluzapalooza this year, Menton3 and David Mack. Menton3 is the artist/creator of Monocyte, contributing artist for Silent Hill and artist for upcoming Dark Horse Comics publication Nosferatu Wars. The piece featured from Menton is also a page from Monocyte #3! David Mack is the creator/artist/writer of Kabuki, has done covers for Alias and Daredevil.
Laluzapalooza runs from March 2 through April 1, at the La Luz De Jesus Gallery. If you’re in the L.A. area, this show is a must see for the scoop on some of the most impressive up and coming alternative artists. See more of the art pieces featured in the show here.