Posts tagged Dark Horse Comics

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Review: Freaks of the Heartland

Back in 2005 Steve Niles (30 Days of Night, Criminal Macabre) and Greg Ruth (The Matrix, Conan) introduced us to an endearing and damaged young boy named Trevor. He’s a simple kid, living in a small Midwestern town with his farming family. Trevor’s problems seem at first to stem from his father’s drinking problem and a nasty temperament but we soon discover that there is much more on Trevor’s mind and in his heart. His family hides a secret, a younger brother to Trevor, who is quite different and hidden away in the dark. Trevor loves his brother dearly and looks out for him as best he can, while under the cruel control of his father.

Freaks of the Heartland is a touching and painful story of a town embarrassed of their blemishes,  and what happens when one brave boy makes the choice to stand up for what he knows is right, no matter what sacrifices he must make in the process. The story is not complex, rather quite simplistic and all the more raw for it. It’s the kind of book you can’t put down until you’re finished, largely because you’re rooting for the good guys to win and just can’t stop until you know that they do. Steve Niles does a beautiful job of building of Trevor’s story with layers of sadness, loyalty and triumph.

I can not underestimate the quality and aesthetic importance of Greg Ruth’s art to this book. Freaks of the Heartland would not have the depth and edge that it depends on without the perfect style he brings. Most panels play out more like individual paintings, each made up of heavy brush strokes and gorgeous landscapes of blended color. 

The collected hard cover edition of this book was released July 04 by Dark Horse comics. It also includes some great notes and sketches from Greg Ruth on the character development, along with each individual cover for the original issues.

If you haven’t read Freaks of the Heartland before, I highly recommend it. I am a big fan of hard cover collections, especially for unique comics like this one, which I believe will be a classic to return to again and again.

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Channel Zero, The Complete Collection

Back in 1997, an art school student named Brian Wood (Generation X, DMZ, Demo) published a 5 issue series called Channel Zero, intended to be part of his final project for graduation. He was angry about New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani enforcing his freedom restrictive ‘Clean Act’.  As Brian Wood will tell you himself in one of many footnotes included ” I feel a strong sense of pride that Channel Zero still exists in print today. I’ll never be able to recapture that same creative moment I had working on this book.” He admits it’s a relic of the times, but not completely irrelevant in today’s atmosphere of conservative backlash against media, art, film and video games.

In addition to getting a gem of a look at the roots of Brian Wood’s future comic success, Channel Zero The Complete Collection also includes a prequel story illustrated by Becky Cloonan (Demo, East Coast Rising, Wolves) and represents the pair’s first time working together. The artwork all throughout this collection is raw and sharp. It’s minimalist, no fancy scrollwork or elaborate shading, no colors. What it lacks in fancy it makes up for in texture and heavy mood. The setting of Channel Zero relies on the reader feeling restricted, contained, a little on edge watching all the freedoms of America being washed away under power hungry political sewage. 

Channel Zero is about the loss of rights in a future America drowning in mindless consumerism. It’s also the story of Jennie 2.5, an art student who embarks on a commitment to fight the repression through hacking, cutting-edge media manipulation, and eventually befriending international rebels and supporters. This series presents a super unique view of the comic genre through heavy graphic arts techniques and touches on real world fears of politics, police aggression and commercial absorption of self expression.

The Channel Zero Complete Collection  includes the original series, the prequel graphic novel Jennie One, the best of Public Domain design books, years worth of extras, rarities, short stories and unused art. Throw in a great introduction by Warren Ellis and you’ve got a must-own collection. 

“For all its black and white somber mien, Channel Zero is, to me, one of the most uplifting comics of the nineties. Channel Zero is about winning. It’s about learning how to give a shit again, about finding ways to make things better. It’s about anger as a positive force of creation. It’s about your right to not have to live in the world they’ve built for you.” -Warren Ellis

If you’ve enjoyed Channel Zero in the past, this collection is a fantastic way to display it and share it with someone who hasn’t been there yet. If you’re new to Channel Zero , take my word for it and pick this collection up, as it’s best enjoyed in it’s entirety. And collected editions are pretty on the bookshelf.

Available now from Dark Horse Comics.

Magnus, Robot Fighter Volume 1 By: Jim Shooter, Bill Reinhold, Stephen Thompson & Mark Irwin

This book is just plain fun.  It is not anything ground-breaking and new, nor did it offer any ‘shocking twists’, but it is delightfully entertaining.  Magnus, Robot Fighter tells the story of, you guessed it, Magnus, the robot fighter.  It takes place in the far future, after the artificial intelligence (aka Q-Rob) rebellion that we all know is coming eventually.  Magnus was trained from his infancy to kick robot butt by his robot “father”, 1-A.  This volume follows Magnus as he protects the streets from the “metal mob” that is  being lead by your typical, corrupt politicians/businessmen.

This book is actually a reboot from Dark Horse Comics of a series that was originally published in the 1960s.   It definitely has a classic hero feel to it, as Magnus dresses in a red tunic (and later in a red spandex-y suit) and is your conventional uber-masculine do-gooder.  All the (very scantily clad) ladies love him, and he finds time to have a brief fling with the (supposedly) most beautiful one of them all, Cinnette, after rescuing her from a human trafficking ring.

The one nice twist here, however, is that there is another female character, Leeja, who wants to help Magnus fight robots.  She might not have the same advantages that Magnus has over robots but she still ends up saving Magnus twice throughout the course of this story.  I love her even more because she is still sexy and scantily clad (and literally throws herself at Magnus) but does all of this while wanting to be an equal to Magnus.  In one of my favorite scenes between the two of them, she tells Magnus that she is throwing herself at him and then, in the next panel, tells him that she will only go on a date with him if he takes her with him to find the bad guys.  When he tells her that it is “dangerous down there,” she responds that she will watch his back.  Leeja is awesome because she does not plan to sit back and watch him save the day. She plans to help.

The artwork is clear and well-defined.  Each robot has a distinctive look, and the fight sequences are easy-to-follow (which is good because there are a lot of them).  The writing is slightly cheesy at times, but I view that as a throwback to the original series and time period when it was written.  I love when 1-A calls Magnus a “smart-alec,” or when a group of women call Magnus “bun-derful.”  Moments like those keep the book from becoming another dark, depressing view of the future.

As I said before, if you are looking for something with a lot of unexpected twists-and-turns, this book is probably not for you.  Instead, the book is full of fight scenes (practically a new one every 3-4 pages) and action-hero sequences, without taking itself too seriously or filling the pages with blood and guts and gore.  I strongly recommend this book for anyone who either loves robots and robot-based stories, or who is just looking for an old-fashioned, action-packed superhero story.

Review originally published on Julia Sherred’s Geeky Pleasures

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