Dark Engine by Ryan Burton and John Bivens is a new comic that plenty of my friends have been waiting on, and after reading it, I’m reasonably certain that no one has been or will be disappointed. First of all, the cover art is really nifty, portraying the focus of the comic, a girl who looks fierce and incredibly intimidating with a giant sword. I’m certainly not an artist, but I really like the style of art being shown in this comic. It’s very otherworldly, and definitely helps to transport you into the chaos within the story.
From the beginning, this comic throws you into a world that is unlike anything that we are used to. There are a surplus of creatures that somehow fall between prehistoric and alien in appearance. We meet the girl from the cover rather quickly. As expected, she quickly starts slaughtering things, presumably because she’s a total badass. Directly following this, we start to see some other new characters talking about the girl, who we now learn is called: Sym. There is talk of the magic and sacrifice used to create her, and we are informed that she has been made to kill some enemy.
It’s divulged that she was fitted with some sort of engine (I’m assuming a Dark Engine, but that could just be me being presumptuous) by one of the characters. This character seems haunted by this engine, which we find out is being used to send Sym back in time in order for her to kill this enemy before they could ruin the world in the way that they did (which is only being expressed through the art at the moment). We learn that the engine is sending Sym into various periods of time until it can somehow right itself, and we’re given a glimpse into the possibility that the engine might actually think for itself.
The comic ends with plenty of mystery after a character nonchalantly states that Sym will likely kill anything she comes in contact with across these time periods (and we actually see her brutally slaying something). Already, I want to know more about how Sym and how she was created. I’m definitely interested in learning about the inner workings of this engine, and what it is capable of. I also want to know exactly who this enemy is and what he used to destroy the world. Really, I just want to know more about everything, and I’m really hoping that the next one comes with a little insight into this interesting world.
So, uh, read this. It’s a good one.
Sheltered #1 & #2 Review
Writing: Ed Brisson
Art: Johnnie Christmas
Review by Melissa Megan
Victoria and her dad recently arrived at Safe Haven, a community intentionally removing themselves from ‘the grid’ and preparing for the end of the world, however it may come. They’ve got ham radios, bunkers stocked with food and water and the knowledge to survive almost anything. They’re still adjusting to their new home when things take a major turn for the worse.
Charismatic local boy Lucas heads up a rebellion against the adults of the compound. We’re not talking about throwing the grown ups in the basement here, every single one of them are killed and burned. It’s a shocking basis for the story and issue 2 wastes no time getting to the point. As Victoria and her friend Hailey return from a walk in the woods that caused them to miss the massacre, they are faced with the grim new reality of their situation.
This is heavy shit, folks. Lucas is committed to his mission, although what that is isn’t exactly clear yet, and he won’t let any weepy kids get in his way. He’s already convinced the other kids in the compound to murder their own parents. The question is why and what has he got planned for the community left behind. Victoria is obviously a tough cookie and she isn’t prepared to lay down and start taking orders from Lucas or his child army.
So far, Sheltered is a very interesting read. The art works but it’s nothing that will blow your mind, the writing is the real meat here. This concept is high tension and I love how quickly the action got started. There is lots of potential for a great psychological thriller here and Sheltered has already delivered in a big way on emotional drama. You should definitely be reading this one, I have a feeling it won’t slow down.
Writing: Brian K. Vaughan
Art: Fiona Staples
Review by Dorina Arellano
When last we saw our heroes, we were left with a pretty big “oh, snap!” moment, so I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who was desperately hoping to learn of Alana and Marko’s immediate fate in this chapter. Unfortunately, we go back in time for a bit, as Brian K. Vaughan likes to do, because he’s a mean, genius tease. Fortunately, however, every single page of Saga is exciting, thanks to Mr. Vaughan’s fantastic storytelling, his very relatable heroes and villains, and Fiona Staple’s exquisite and provocative art.
As we’re already aware, Hazel and her parents set off to find their favorite author, D. Oswald Heist, on his remote home planet Quietus. Their first exchange with him is highly amusing, like the rest of the witty dialogue we’re already used to from Vaughan. Gwendolyn and friends are trying to get back on their tail, as per usual, and The Will gets a visit from an old friend. We also encounter a wounded soldier and this universe’s version of TMZ, which should continue to make things interesting on a bigger scale for our protagonists. Therefore, we don’t really get a whole lot of new story in this issue, but the setup continues to be quite entertaining and fulfilling for such a short read.
In just thirteen issues, this pair of storytellers has already managed to make me laugh out loud several times, be completely shocked and grossed out, and tear up at least once. It’s rare when comic books make you care about so many characters this deeply, even the minor ones. If you’re familiar with Vaughan’s past work (Y: The Last Man, Ex Machina) you’re well aware that the worlds he creates touch upon the same, relevant, hardcore social and political issues we live through on a daily basis. It only makes our heroes’ journey that much more tense and meaningful. I can’t wait to see what happens to Hazel’s parents and what that hilarious narrating baby’s fate will be. I’ll be sad when it’s over, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it ends up being one of my favorite comic book series.
This week marked the release of the second issue of a new series from Image Comics, Lazarus, by Greg Rucka, Michael Lark, & Santi Arcas. Lazarus takes place in a future where there are no more political or geographical nations, but rather nations built around wealth and “Family.” Each Family has a certain number of workers who provide them with basic labor. These people are called “Serfs.” All other people (ie the majority of the human population on Earth) are considered “Waste.” In addition, each Family choses one child to serve as their “lazarus,” a soldier that protects and fights for the Family. This super-soldier is given the absolute best that science and technology has to offer.
The first issue sets the basic groundwork for the story and the main character, Forever, the “Lazarus” of the Carlyle family. After an incident on the Carlyle farm involving an invasion from another Family (Morray), Malcolm Carlyle summons all of his children, including Forever, to the family estate in order to determine the next course of action. That is where Issue #2 picks up.
As always, Greg Rucka delivers in a big way. The first issue is mostly set-up so the majority of the character development is focused on Forever. She is, as one would expect, more than just a killing machine. She feels regret and remorse, emotions that other members of the Carlyle family would clearly prefer their Lazarus not to feel. I loved the additional development of other characters in the second issue, especially Malcolm Carlyle. I cannot wait to see where Rucka takes Forever and her relationships with her family members.
I also love the idea behind the story. Rucka does not go into too much detail in the first issue as to how society broke down from nations designated by geography/politics to nations designated by wealth/Families. I don’t think he needs to right away. Honestly, this is not a future that is too difficult to envision, especially given a post-apocalyptic type environment (it is revealed in the second issue that Los Angeles was mostly destroyed in an earthquake). In his epilogue at the end of the first issue, Rucka states that the idea for this series was partially inspired by the Occupy Movement and the general state of the global economy. He then proceeds to detail all of the research on economics and science that he put together before May 2013 (when he wrote the epilogue). As Rucka states, “It’s not news to say that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. What is news is just how stark that divide has become, and how much deeper and wider it looks to grow.” Keeping this statement in mind, I think it is fascinating to explore a world in which this divide has grown so vast that the majority of humanity is viewed as “waste” with only the extremely wealthy controlling food, power, etc. While the subject matter is extremely dark, I am very excited to see whatever glimmers of hope (if there are any) that may be revealed within this bleak future that Rucka and Lark envision.
Furthermore, the art in Lazarus is gorgeous. Lazarus reunites Rucka with Michael Lark. The two previously worked together on Gotham Central (another amazing series that everyone should check out at some point, especially fans of Batman stories). Lark’s art is realistic and detailed without losing the feel of comic book art. Perhaps one of the characteristics I love most about his illustrations are the eyes of his characters. The story moves so quickly it might be easy to miss on the first read-through, but try to look at the eyes of the characters in each panel. They oftentimes say more than whatever is written in the word balloons.
Only two issues in and I am hooked. I highly recommend this series to anyone who is a fan of strong female characters and post-apocalyptic story lines. If you have not read any books by Greg Rucka yet, Lazarus is a perfect place to start.
Yesterday, comic book fans flocked in droves to the Lam Research Theater at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, all headed for Image Expo. Promising to create a one-of-a-kind experience for fans to connect with comic creators, the event didn’t disappoint.
Expanding on the event’s theme of “What’s Next”, Image Comics Publisher Eric Stephenson delivered a passionate keynote address to an audience of more than 500 eager fans. After describing his own experiences at Image and showing numerous charts of the independent publisher’s growth, Stephenson began bringing out guest after guest, listing off upcoming titles that had the audience applauding excitably nearly without pause.
Here’s what we can look forward to in the upcoming months from Image Comics:
Fans of The Walking Dead can rest easy. Kirkman has no plans to stop writing the series anytime soon.
In fact, with the tenth anniversary of his apocalyptic series coming soon, he revealed a new story arc, titled All-Out War, which will begin in October’s issue 115.
Focusing on the factions that formed among the survivors, All-Out War is aimed at telling the story of how civilization has started rebuilding. Kirkman said he was excited to begin exploring how people are finally living their lives, as opposed to just surviving.
All Out War will be a twelve-issue story arc, the longest of the series so far, and will have bi-weekly releases.
Brubaker announced that he will be pairing up again with his Captain America: The Winter Soldier collaborator Steve Epting for a dark new take on the spy/crime comic. He described Velvet as a Bond movie meets a Cold War scenario, featuring a female protagonist.
The story focuses on Velvet Templeton, a personal assistant at the world’s largest intelligence agency. She’s in her 40s, and and very few people know about her past as a field operative. Things get complicated when she has to leave her desk job to go back into the field, on the run from her own agents.
Brubaker has been wanting to write this project for the last 8 years and it shows in the way he talked about it. This is clearly a project of passion for him.
Issue #1 will be coming out in October.
J. Michael Straczynski
Straczynski discussed his work on Ten Grand with Ben Templesmith, as well as a new project called Sidekick, which he says he would never be able to release anywhere but at Image because he plans to take some liberties with the characters. “Well, out of all those things that I can’t do, let’s now go and do them.” Sidekick, a story of what happens when the superhero dies and the sidekick needs to forge his own identity, comes out in August.
Straczynski also noted that he would be reviving two former Marvel/Icon titles under his Joe’s Comics imprint, Dream Police and The Book of Lost Souls, drawn by Colleen Doran. With these additions, all of Straczynski’s creator-owned titles are now published by Image Comics under the Joe’s Comics line.
Straczynski also announced Alone, a six-issue miniseries with interiors and covers done by renowned artist Bill Sienkiewicz. Their goal is to “re-imagine and reinvent how a comic book works.”
Wiebe discussed his upcoming deal with the BBC to create a motion comic of Peter Panzerfaust, with characters voiced by Elijah Wood, Summer Glau and Ron Perlman. He said that the success of that has paved the way for a live action production of the same by the BBC.
Wiebe also talked about some new things in Rat Queens, which he described as his fantasy homage to Lord of the Rings, where the women kill monsters and then use the money to party. Wiebe noted the Rat Queens webcomic, which he releases on his facebook page and the Image Comics facebook page, and which deals with a new topic every month.
Fraction discussed Sattelite Sam, which is debuting this week, with art done by Howard Chaykin. The story is about a Howdy Doody-type tv host from the ’60s whose strange sex life is revealed after he dies. “Sex, death and live television.”
Fraction’s next Image title will be Sex Criminals, a story about a girl that can stop time when she has sex. She feels alienated from society until she meets a guy with the same power. They team up and begin committing crimes. Chip Zdarsky will be doing the art for Sex Criminals and it is due out in September.
Fraction also announced ODY-C, “The heaviest trip is the one back home.” A take on Homer’s Odyssey, it will be set in deep space and completely gender-swapped, with the lead being a young woman. Fraction says that he chose to write this so that his daughter could have a hero to look up for. Due in early 2014, art will be by Christian Ward.
After three years of writing exclusively as one of Marvel’s “Architects,” Remender is returning to Image Comics with two new titles.
Black Science, a “spiritual sequel to Fear Agents,” was inspired by Frank Frazetta art. This is a classic science fiction story where members of the anarchist league of science experiment with black science, drawn by Matteo Scalera with colors by Dean White, due out in November.
Deadly Class is a 1980s flashback to Remender’s own high school experiences in the hard rock/grunge scene in Seattle, except set in a school for budding assassins. Remender plans on “taking the metaphorical knife in your back and making it real.” Deadly Class will be slice of life stories.
Art by Wesley Craig with colorist Lee Loughridge, and variant covers by Jonathan Wayshak and Farel Dalrymple.
Aaron is excited to be back at Image, where he has the freedom to curse as much as he wants. Pairing up with artist Jason Latour, he’s releasing Southern Bastards, which he described as sort of “The Untouchables versus Boss Hog” or “The Dukes of Hazard by the Coen Brothers on meth.” It will be about the local high school coach, who has won a lot of trophies in his prime and buried a lot of bodies. Southern Bastards, is going to be “about a lot of southern bastards,” which Aaron says both he and Latour know a lot about because they are both southern bastards themselves. The first issue is due sometime early next year.
Via video from his home in Edinburgh, Millar discussed the future of Jupiter’s Legacy, with Frank Quitely. The followup to that will be coming out in January 2014.
Millar also hopes to launch an entire line of books starting with one that is “as pivotal as Fantastic Four”, and which will kick off his ambitious plan to create an equivalent of the “Marvel Universe for the 21st century.” The first book in that line will be called MPH and will be drawn by Duncan Fegredo.
Stephenson wrapped the keynote with two more announcements:
In early 2014, Image will be publishing Noah, written by Darren Arronovsky and drawn by Niko Henrichon. Noah is a series of four original graphic novels adapting the upcoming film of the same name. The official synopsis is this:
“It was a world without hope, a world with no rain and no crops, dominated by warlords and their barbarian hordes. In this cruel world, Noah was a good man. Seasoned fighter, mage and healer but he only wanted peace for him and his family. Yet every night, Noah was beset by visions of an endless flood, symbolizing the destruction of all life. Gradually he began to understand the message sent him by the Creator. He had decided to punish the men and kill them until the last. But he gave Noah a last chance to preserve life on Earth.”
Image also announced that it had just relaunched its website.
Upgrades include easier navigation and purchase of comics, better graphics, and a sleek new look. But the big news was the introduction of downloadable digital comics. Fans are now able to be able to directly purchase their favorite digital comics in a variety of formats, both storable and DRM-free, for use on the computer, tablet or mobile device.
The current available comics are Jupiter’s Legacy #1 by Mark Millar and Frank Quitely and Scatterlands #1 by Warren Ellis and Jason Howard.
Writing: Nick Spencer
Art: Ryan Browne
Cover: Frazer Irving
Review by Melissa Megan
Oh, Bedlam chaos and insanity, how I missed you. In issue #7 Madder Red is back to his old tricks, which in this case is playing puppet master with the heads of two recently murdered religious leaders for an audience of locals gathered to prove they are not afraid of Madder Red. Ok, so it’s only another flashback of one of his many bloody killings, but oh boy does it make his madness crystal clear. This opening scene is the kind of material that drew me to this series and I, for one, am glad to see the pace picking back up.
In present day, Fillmore is still working with Detective Acevedo, helping the police solve murder cases. He makes it look easy and she still doesn’t seem to understand how or why he has such an intimate understanding of all the madmen he paints in such great detail for her. Although Fillmore is maintaining some level of normalcy to Acevedo, he is losing his grip, having hallucinations and flashbacks of his alter ego, Madder Red.
This issue is the first one with a new artist. It was announced a couple months back that Riley Rossmo would be stepping down from Bedlam, due to “creative differences” with the writer. Artist Ryan Browne (Hack/Slash, Hoax Hunters) does an admiral job with the visuals of this world, obviously making a respectful attempt to maintain the appearance of the characters that we have grown comfortable with. His overall style is similar to Rossmo’s in it’s lines and wobbly sketchiness, but doesn’t quite have the same depth. The changes didn’t ruin Bedlam for me, but it does feel different. I suspect as long as the writing holds up, the new art work will melt in just fine, without causing much disruption in the atmosphere.
You should be buying and reading Bedlam. I admit, it has had some ups and downs, but in general is one of the best horror comics being written right now. It’s quite unique and terrifying.
Review by Ermelinda
The Walking Dead creator, Robert Kirkman has caught the television writing bug and his series Thief of Thieves proves it. Enjoying the efforts and fruits of collaboration with fellow writers, Kirkman decided to apply this method in creating his series Thief of Thieves, for Skybound an imprint of Image Comics. Kirkman assembled the writing talents of Nick Spencer (DC‘s T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents), and James Asmus (Marvel’s X-Men). These two talents are great on their own, but with Kirkman leading the story, arcs and dialogue are gritty, realistic, and at times very funny.
The cohesive fluid that keeps this plethora of talent flowing is the art of Shawn Martinbrough. Full disclosure, as a Native New Yorker, I always have a soft cheering spot for a fellow native. Yet, even if Martinbrough hadn’t been born in the Bronx, I would still go crazy praising this man’s artwork. Shawn Martinbrough has illustrated books for DC, Marvel, Vertigo, and now Image. He works a noir comic with his unique style, using the process of working with light and shadow, to visually enhance and evolve the story as it unfolds.
Without giving too much away, Thief of Thieves is the coarse, rough and tumble, unapologetic story of Conrad Paulson, also known as the master thief, Redmond. As Redmond, he is at the top of his game, executing well planned heists while attempting to stay retired. He dives with wisdom through the web of his past, where the an unfinished heist, the greatest of his career, haunts him. Redmond invites temptation by keeping close company with his sleek and sassy apprentice, Celia, who assists and entices him with every job. They feed off each other and the dialogue is electric.
As Conrad Paulson, Redmond is man whose world has gravitated away from his estranged wife and son that he still loves. Conrad’s son Augustus is a young man attempting quite unsuccessfully, to follow in the footsteps of a father he simultaneously admires and resents.
This is where Robert Kirkman’s voice shines. His ability to release a story with engaging, emotionally pivoting relationships shines through. You feel for Conrad and Augustus, rooting that they find common ground and reach some state of equilibrium.
The tension and strain of the drug cartel Augustus has involved himself in, pulls the suspense and gears their relationship to drop like an elevator descending into hell. A father and son journey, unleashing unyielding tough love, anger, caring, and distrust. Thief of thieves achieves the goal of humanizing Redmond, all while creating curiosity for the mental ability and physical agility it takes to achieve a grand heist while fighting off the law and the drug cartel.
It is an excellent addition to any Noir comic collector’s shelf, and a must read for Kirkman fans. As a side note, AMC and Robert Kirkman have been working on scripts to develop Thief of Thieves into a new series for the network. We shall see what Kirkmania at AMC brings forth.
Chin Music #1 Review
Writing: Steve Niles
Art: Tony Harris
Review by Melissa Megan
Apparently, Chin Music is about a guy named Shaw who can leap through time and possesses supernatural powers. He’s on the run from some other creepy dudes who also have powers, like tearing his skin from his bones. Apparently he has landed in Prohibition era Chicago and must now contend with the local police, gangsters and the supernatural underground. I say apparently because Image Comics tells me that this is what’s happening in Chin Music, but to be perfectly honest I only understood about half of that premise reading through issue #1.
I hate to criticize Steve Niles at all because I really love pretty much everything he puts his pen to, but this introduction just didn’t connect with me, story wise. There’s a lot going on, but not all of it is clear. Granted, it’s a pilot issue, so there’s lots more story to tell and time to tell it. I have all the faith in the world that Niles will pull the plot together in future issues and that my confusion will disappear. Not being crystal on what’s going on in this issue doesn’t necessarily mean I didn’t enjoy it, however. It is action packed, moody, violent and spooky. I just don’t ‘get it’ yet.
The artwork by Tony Harris is brilliant here. It’s thick with atmosphere and very, very pretty. Some of the panels are framed in art deco borders, like intricate picture frames. This lends quite a bit of flourish to the pages and really helps set the retro style of the book. Harris’ characters all seem to have large, chunky facial features and knobby knuckles, but it’s less of a distraction than a style. I found his play with color and texture very pleasing to look at.
All in all, Chin Music seems like it could be a quality series. As long as the story isn’t too difficult to grasp, there’s a good idea here and some unique styling. I’ll definitely be keeping up with this one and am anxious to see Steve Niles develop it further.
Image Comics has pulled the big guns in the new electrifying East of West, a captivating, enthralling offering from the award-winning team of Jonathan Hickman and Nick Dragotta!
East of West is an exciting and engaging Sci-Fi Western, set in an awry, dystopian world, where the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are askew themselves, as one of them has parted ways and rides solo.
As he did with Nightly News, Jonathan Hickman uses his gift of weaving mesmerizing, witty dialogue while sprouting a compelling, engaging book. Not to give anything away, but the exchanges between the solo Horseman and the world leaders he encounters in issues one and two, are witty, riveting and deliver an entertaining story that hooks you from first page to last.
As if the engrossing words weren’t enough, Nick Dragotta’s panels are explosive, detailed, immersive works of art. The characters’ features are magnetic expressions of the sumptuous tale that is evolving from one gorgeous panel to the next.
In East of West, Hickman and Dragotta have set out to create a dynamic, unique, engaging and exciting series with depth and unforgettable characters. They have succeeded thoroughly, and I can easily say it is one of the best new books out there. So saddle up and pick up East of West. You’ll love it!
Writing: Brian K. Vaughan
Art: Fiona Staples
Review by Melissa Megan
Oh, Saga, how you play with my emotions. The games this series plays are heartbreaking, thrilling, disturbing. The opening scene of issue #12 is a prime example. Prince Robot IV has been wounded in war and calls upon the aid of the medic, a mouse-like creature with healing skills. As the medic administers medicine, he explains that he’s not a native to the planet but is supporting Prince Robot’s forces in hopes of earning his degree and as thanks for their help on his home planet. It’s almost warm and fuzzy until a poisonous gas is released upon the unit and the medic reveals that he wasn’t given a mask to protect himself. It gets messy from there.
In the present day, Prince Robot is on a mission to track down Alana and Marko, like so many others. His government has their own reasons for wanting to dispose of the forbidden family. He’s landed on a solitary , foggy planet where he believes a reclusive author can lead him to the fugitives. Mister Heist wrote a romance novel that Alana and Marko are fans of; the book is believed to be a revolutionary text in disguise and Prince Robot thinks the novel was the inspiration behind the couple’s idea to run from their homes and duties.
The majority of issue #12 is focused on Prince Robot’s verbal chess game with the intelligent author, trying to surmise if he has knowledge of the whereabouts of Alana, Marko and Hazel. It’s not quite as much fun as the usual plethora of alien creatures and formidable planets, but it’s engaging and imperative to the story line. And as usual, the issue sets up an exciting and tense possibility for the next one to come. Holy shit, does this book perfect story telling. Magnificent artwork accompanying genius writing makes Saga an absolute masterpiece of a comic book. I’m not sure how many ways I can say that I love this series, but I’ll keep trying.