Tuesday, May 26, 2015

APOCALYPSE-SIZED ALL STAR RECOMMENDS FOR MAY 26TH


Hello there.

If you get a chance, pop on over to Spook and read my piece on subversive josei manga and...WHAT? Armageddon is here?! No time for chit-chat! Fuel up your Doof Wagons! FOLLOW THE WOMEN!

COMICS OF THE WEEK : 
GRENDEL OMNIBUS 4: PRIME
By Matt Wagner, Patrick McEown, Greg Rucka & Bernie Mirault
Published by Dark Horse Books

GRENDEL TALES: HOMECOMING
By Pat McEown & Dave Cooper
Published by Dark Horse Books

BLACK RIVER
By Josh Simmons
Published by Fantagraphics

APOCALYPTIGIRL: AN ARIA FOR THE END TIMES
By Andrew MacLean
Published by Dark Horse Books


“She’ll have to die, of course...I will not have my authority undermined by a single, meddling ant.”—Buster the Large, Grendel Tales: Homecoming.

Apocalyptic thoughts of late.Apocalyptic pop culture of late. Bear with me here...the road’s long and winding and even I’m not entirely sure what’s at the end of it...

The admittedly scarce criticisms (those worthy of discussion, anyway) of Mad Max: Fury Road have mostly left me scratching my head. Either filed under “violence isn’t feminist” or “ugh, so much action, ” those critical of the film seem ignorant of just how much Fury Road reshapes the territory in which it operates chiefly because they don’t like actions films. This distaste for things frequently going ka-boom is fine in and of itself, but to criticise a great action film for being an action film is like criticising a comedy for having too many well-crafted gags. As for the “this film is not feminist” arguments, aside from mentioning that Fury Road ends with the establishment of a new matriarchy, I would refer you to Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, who does a far better job at skewering this than I ever could. The only critical quibble to which I can reasonably shrug my shoulders and go “fair enough” comes from those who feel that the lightning pace prevented necessary character development and, as a result, they could not connect with the cast. I don’t agree with that, but I can at least understand it. The fact is, somewhat improbably, Fury Road is a hit. Personally, I think it’s the best action film of all time.

While it’s the zombie that’s obviously been the recent apocalyptic motifdu jour, all of a sudden it’s as if the (mostly) faceless undead, long functioning either symbolically (see Dawn of the Dead) or as a looming threat to darken and propel onward interpersonal dramas (see The Walking Dead), are giving way to an apocalypse of far more realistic, personal and decidedly gendered nature. Although Fury Road was admittedly gestating for over a decade, it’s hard not to feel that right this very minute the party punch is being gleefully spiked, the zeitgeist is shifting. However you want to phrase it, we are all living in the fever dream of a very different kind of pop culture apocalypse, a world in which pro-active, goal-oriented females roam, firearms loaded, vehicles fuelled. Chauvinist ideologies explode like Krypton as bros with the old-school, “get behind me, woman!” mentality are unable to oil up their pecs and strap on their slippery tough-guy leather gear in time to stop these trigger-happy furies from aiming weapons right at their heads.

From recent comics past, I can immediately think of several examples of the apocalyptic/dystopic femme. For example, there’s Judge Anderson of Judge Dredd, Martha Washington of Give Me Liberty, Agent 355of Y: The Last Man and Fatima of Fatima: The Blood Spinners. However, for our purposes here, let’s consider arguably two of the most extreme, radically contrasting portrayals of post-apocalyptic comic book woman.


Firstly, there’s Druuna (1995-2003) by Paolo Eleuti Serpieri. Druuna was a very famous, very popular, pouty, curvaceous, rag-clad character from European comics who shagged her way (frequently unwillingly) through a seedy post-apocalypse filled with leprous-looking males and ruined urban environments. She was perhaps the unfortunate It Girl of the period when Heavy Metal became less about mind-bending Euro SF and mostly about titillation. There’s a lot more to Drunna’s tale than this reductive encapsulation allows (there’s actually a clever twist), but in the wake of Fury Road, the “adventures” of this pneumatic, constantly objectifiedcharacter feel more than ever like comic book gender fossils.

Secondly, there’s Susan Veraghen from the tail-end of Matt Wagner’s centuries-spanning “aggression study,”Grendel (Wagner, while we’re on the subject, does not get the credit he deserves for the diversity of his characters. The man is a pioneer). We can quibble over whether or not the futuristic world the character finds herself in is post-apocalyptic, but as it’s seriously dystopic, inparts heavily-irradiated from nuclear attack and filled with mutants and monsters, let’s just agree that it’s at least Mad Max 1 bad....


In Grendel: War Child (1992), Susan is introduced as the alabaster-skinned, green-mohawked bodyguard of Crystal Kennedy, who is brother to the next Grendel-Khan (ruler of Earth) and daughter of the Grendel-Dowager. Written and inked by Wagner and pencilled by Pat McEown, War Child’s Susan is shown as tough, intelligent, punkish, physical, romantic, principled and bi-sexual. Grendel Tales: Homecoming (1994), a follow-up miniseries by McEown and colourist Dave Cooper, continued her tale, and, finally, there’s the Greg Rucka-penned, Wagner- illustrated prose novel Grendel: Past Prime (2000) in which she’s the narrating character.

[NOTE: Both War Child & Past Prime are collected, along with even more material, in the fourth Grendel Omnibus collection. All four volumes are highly recommended, but not essential to the tale].

Even though War Child feels very much like the Mad Max of the overall legend, with its decompressed pages (by Grendel standards), Grendel-punk gangs, desert hover bike chases, leather-bondage gear of protagonist Grendel Prime and overall grittiness and emphasis on action, it’s Homecoming that I make particular note of here. Over the span of 60 beautifully illustrated pages, McEown and Cooper elevate Susan from stoic, dangerous, big-hearted defender to a lethal, avenging, misogynist-killing, proto-Furiosa. Cooper’s painted colour art (over McEown’s pencils) steals the show, grubbing up landscapes and giving everything incredible depth and richness. In fact, Homecoming has the look of a Euro SF comic, which for 1994, at the height of the original Image Comics Madness, was incredibly distinctive.


In Homecoming, Susan returns to her home town after a failed period of roaming, “drinking,” “brawling,” and attempting to rediscover her warrior Grendel-self once more. Her mohawk grown out to a mop of thick, ropey green dreds, her face tattooed with a Grendel motif gone tribal, she finds her warrior-self pretty rapidly, coming up against Orion’s Bastards, an underworld gang claiming to be the illegitimate offspring of the original Grendel-Khan. Led by Bustopher Gropius Abelard, AKA Buster the Large, an enormous, pierced, hulking, misogynistic thug who treats the local prostitutes as his very own property, Orion’s Bastards terrorize the town, hanging their victims from transmitter towers in a cartel-like warning not to cross them. Despite their dominance, the Bastards quickly realise that in Susan Veraghen, they’ve got a very real threat to their dominance. Susan rekindles an old romance with a girl named Martha, now one of Buster’s prostitutes, and their plans to leave town go awry when Buster gets wind of his “property’s” impending departure.

McEown’s story is the classic, some would stay stereotypical, revenge narrative, but with Susan in place of the revenger filled with righteous fury, who becomes oddly empowered through the death of a loved one. Although undoubtedly rushed and its climax somewhat disappointing, Homecoming is a short, sharp triumph of a comic, visually the crowning moment of a character who more than deserved a series of her own yet who is virtually forgotten, left to twiddle her thumbs in comic book limbo until someone discovers her stories in a remainder bin.

Okay, now, wrap your brain around this: It’s 2015. In space of just four weeks, Mad Max: Fury Road and the comics Black River and ApocalyptiGirl are released. Although spanning two different mediums and being three quite distinctive works, all of these creations find common ground in that they feature casts of gun-wielding females surviving in horrible, terrifying environments. Add to all this 2014’s collected celebration of exploding zombie heads, Fatima: The Blood Spinners by Gilbert Hernandez and it seems crystal clear: we’re in an ever-expanding pop cultural landscape of Susans, not Drunnas.


Black River is Josh Simmons’ second completed full-length work after House, the first volume of the ongoing one-page-a-month Jessica Farm and the short story collection The Furry Trap. It was unleashed upon comic shops just three weeks back and follows a group of mostly female cataclysm survivors as they, in true wandering survivalist horror fashion, search for a utopian hidey hole.

Obviously the most well known comics in the Black River vein are The Walking Dead and Crossed. Neither of these titles comes close to capturing the despair and, more importantly, the horrific reality of violence that Black River contains. The Walking Dead has always struck me as something of a post-apocalyptic soap opera with Kirkman frequently struggling to reign in his melodramatic leanings. Crossed only works for me when it is treated seriously and played completely straight (so basically when Garth Ennis writes it). It’s otherwise difficult to get past the sexualised violence and the constant attempts at gore-soaked titillation, which, ironically become desensitising, boring and lazy: oh look, another taboo-smashing sex act, oh gee, that man’s wearing a face on his genitals...

Simmons lingers uncomfortably on scenes of brutality and death as if to chide us for this potential fondness for nastiness and despite his scratchy cartooning, Black River is the most realistic book of its type produced in quite some time. The journey of these poor,filthy, fraying, unwashed, realistic, battle-weary women making their way across an endless ruined landscape, avoiding (male) killers and clinging on to their sanity is harrowing. Here, death is arbitrary. It comes, not just in the form of gangs but also in accidents, in bad luck, suicide. It comes suddenly and unexpectedly, its ability to shock and sadden is not limited to simply visceral, gory set-pieces or male on female violence.

In typical Simmons fashion the comic is also very strange. Blessed with an uncanny ability to disquiet readers, in Black River, he takes his levels of uncomfortableness to new heights. An early visit to a comedy club features such odd character interaction you’ll squirm in your seat. One character’s psychological breakdown and subsequent self-harm are treated by others as just one of those post-apocalyptic things. Time passes and neither reader nor character seems to know exactly how much. And it’s all presented with a documentarian’s eye for human interaction and a skilled cartoonist’s gift for expression.

Simmons’ book also comes with an eye-catching, almost disarming cover design by indie comics genius, Sammy Harkham, and its mint-edged pages complimenting a swirling cursive logo belie the black and white horrors lurking within its pages. At one point, a stoned, traumatised character with tears streaking her cheeks and a smile on her face says, “I can’t wait to see how much worse things can get.” I’m not sure if Simmons is commenting on himself creating the book, or his readers, but it feels like a potent piece of fourth wall smashing to me, a little stab at us and our proclivities for this kind of material, and maybe at himself for making it. Be prepared to feel a little strange and more than a little grubby when you read Black River, but that’s okay; that’s really how you’re supposed to feel.



If the horror of what darkness lies within the human heart feels a little much for you to handle, Andrew MacLean’s ApocalyptiGirl arrived just last week. A very colourful, kinetic 96-page comic about a young woman named Aria, and her cat, Jelly Beans, searching for a lost energy source in a more palatable post-apocalyptic world than Simmons presents (there’s even an orchard!), ApocalyptiGirl is likely poised to be a breakout smash for MacLean, who’s prior Head Lopper is a cult hit.

Aria and Jelly Beans inhabit a world of such beauty, even she acknowledges, “You know, for an apocalypse, it ain’t all bad,” as she enjoys the sun setting over intricate, crumbling skyscrapers overgrown with leafy flora and geometrically-attractive water reserves stretching off to the horizon.

Beware though: while the griminess and nihilism of Black River is not present, there’s still much darkness amid the lush, Dave Cooper Homecoming-esque colours. Aria’s machete-fights with the tribal Blue Stripes and their hunting dogs are thrilling and bloody bouts. MacLean packs a lot in to his tale, a rich mythology, warring tribes, numerous, brilliantly staged action-sequences, and a lot of heart. Aria, as adept and fixing machinery as she is swinging her blade, is wonderfully realised in an effusive style reminiscent of everyone from Jeff Smith, to Michael Avon Oeming, and touches of dozens of other cartoonists -- you’ll likely spot a glimmer of a different artistic influence almost every page. Gorgeously colourful, there is much joy to be found in Aria’s thrilling escapes from the brutes that stalk her and in her endless capability in all circumstances, recalling that of a fellow cat-lover, Ellen Ripley, albeit a Ripley infused with a tonne of extra youthful enthusiasm and energy.

MacLean’s world building is exquisite, with ruined cityscapes; subway tunnel bunkers; lush orchards; mammoth, earth-toned robots; the monstrous, Genndy Tartakovsky-ish Greybeards; the modern tribalism of the Blue Stripes; assorted tech and, of course, Aria and Jelly Beans, all attractively, strikingly designed and constructed. It’s beautiful work.

ApocalyptiGirl is also a lovely little comics object, handsomely designed and packaged. MacLean’s book shall also forever be Exhibit A in why matte paper is far superior to glossy in showing off the beauty of line art and the rich, painterly possibilities of the colour palate.

As of right now, considering all of this, it’s hard to imagine something like Druuna, as loving crafted as it was, ever happening again on a level approaching even the vaguely mainstream. The abused, submissive, tattered-clothed fleshpot of Serpieri’s work has finally been put out of her misery. Run over in this post-Furiosa comics-world of Susan Veraghens, Druuna’s remains are recast as a relic from a pornified past-apocalypse.

Hopefully, that’s where she stays.

Hail Susans.



WEBCOMIC OF THE WEEK : ROMANTICALLY APOCALYPTIC
By Vitaly S. Alexius & co

Proving that the apocalypse can still be about dudes too is Romantically Apocalyptic, an oddly slice-of-life webcomic about a few guys named Captain, Pilot, Sniper and Engie buddying up and entertaining each other through nuclear winter. Most of the amusement stems from the incongruousness of this masked, militaristically-costumed crew acting like a pack of teenage goofs. Hilariously grim, the comic switches from conversational snippets to panoramic landscape shots of a ruined world that Alexius puts together using "Photoshop, live actors, dead actors, sexy assistants, greenscreen, a camera, and a Wacom tablet."

The End Times have never been so much fun.





COMICS VIDEO OF THE WEEK : FIST OF THE NORTHSTAR

Even *more* dudes of the apocalypse! Take that, ladies! Manly, leather-bound, vascular,powerhouse men of the sort that those MRA boycotters would surely give the big A-OKAY to, punch each other silly in this adaptation of the classic manga by Buronsen and Tetsuo Hara. This 1986 film is in many ways the Fury Road those guys actually wanted, proving just how wildly out of touch they really are. Ironically, North Star opens as a virtual parody of Fury Road when pugilistic wanderer Ken battles  pugilistic wanderer Shin over the explicitly literal possession of a woman named Julia – who wears a thin white dress – in a desert landscape on a post-apocalyptic earth. I swear I’m not making this up. To say things then escalate in numerous furiously fistic ways is an understatement.

Mad Max’s aesthetic permeates North Star, from hero Ken’s outfit, to the various gangs throughout the film/manga, there’s even some extended vehicle chases slipped in amongst the martial mayhem. There’s also an oddly subdued, aloof English voiceover in this version, very strange for anime. It’s almost as if in an effort to be apocalyptically downbeat, the cast broke open the world’s last known bag of Quaaludes. Anyway, check it out, it’s visceral, fighty, hilariously un-PC stuff for you to flex your guns to, brothers and sisters!


See you next week. Love your comics.


Cameron Ashley spends a lot of time writing comics and other things you’ll likely never read. He’s the chief editor and co-publisher of Crime Factory (www.thecrimefactory.com). You can reach him @cjamesashley on Twitter.

Monday, May 25, 2015

New Comics For Wednesday 27th of May


Plenty is a happening this week! First off this Monday the 25th sees the first Melbourne LGBT Comic Book Group First Meeting happening at Hares And Hyena

s, Johnston Street, Fitzroy from 6:30pm. Then on Sunday is the next All Star Women's Comic Book Club Meet Up featuring a LIVE skype Q and A with the wonderful CHIP ZDARSKY! Excitement and we haven't even mentioned the comics yet!

More of Marvel's new Secret Wars Universe continues to unveil itself a new play on classics like INFINITY GAUNTLET #1, a Bendis written Wolverine book with OLD MAN LOGAN #1 and  something new for Marvel from Preacher scribe, Garth Ennis in WHERE MONSTERS DWELL #1. CONVERGENCE #8 (OF 8) hits critical mass and wraps up this two month event. The sequel many of us have waited nearly 20 years for, FIGHT CLUB 2 #1 from original author Chuck Palahniuk with art from the superb Cameron Stewart do NOT miss this! Part of Dynamite's current event series, Ms Marvel/ A-Force writer G. Willow Wilson takes a shot at two great female pulp heroes in SWORDS OF SORROW MASQUERADE KATO SPECIAL. What do you do when you find out your family tree is ripe with death cult members and devil worshipers? Find out  when you check out SONS OF THE DEVIL #1. Another Alex Kot creator owned Image series, expect the standard crazy and innovative ideas with MATERIAL #1. Alan Moore sure is a fan of Lovecraft, read his take on unspeakable horrors in PROVIDENCE #1. Still yet to check out the new Valiant universe books? Dive in head first with the collection of their excellent most recent event mini THE VALIANT TP from Kindt and Lemire. And DC go back to their archives and dig out collections of series we always wanted in trade with the new BATMAN ADVENTURES TP VOL 02. Some new Nate Powell work is never a bad thing, even better when its a collection of older work you've never seen before in YOU DONT SAY GN.

Also a new PREVIEWS to check through in store and if there is anything else that you need us to stash, just ask!


MARVEL
ALL NEW HAWKEYE #3
BIG THUNDER MOUNTAIN RAILROAD #3 (OF 5)
BLACK WIDOW #18
INFERNO #1 SWA
INFINITY GAUNTLET #1 SWA
INHUMANS ATTILAN RISING #1 SWA
IRON FIST LIVING WEAPON #12
MARVEL UNIVERSE ULT SPIDER-MAN WEB WARRIORS #7
MODOK ASSASSIN #1 (OF 5) SWA
NOVA #31
OLD MAN LOGAN #1 SWA
SECRET WARS 2099 #1 (OF 5) SWA
SECRET WARS JOURNAL #1 (OF 5) SWA
SHIELD #6
UNCANNY AVENGERS ULTRON FOREVER #1
WHERE MONSTERS DWELL #1 (OF 5) SWA

DC COMICS
BATMAN 66 #23
CONVERGENCE #8 (OF 8)
CONVERGENCE ACTION COMICS #2
CONVERGENCE BLUE BEETLE #2
CONVERGENCE BOOSTER GOLD #2
CONVERGENCE CRIME SYNDICATE #2
CONVERGENCE DETECTIVE COMICS #2
CONVERGENCE INFINITY INC #2
CONVERGENCE JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA #2
CONVERGENCE PLASTIC MAN FREEDOM FIGHTERS #1
CONVERGENCE PLASTIC MAN FREEDOM FIGHTERS #2
CONVERGENCE SHAZAM #2
CONVERGENCE WORLDS FINEST COMICS #2
HE MAN THE ETERNITY WAR #6
INJUSTICE GODS AMONG US YEAR FOUR #2
MULTIVERSITY PAX AMERICANA DIRECTORS CUT #1

VERTIGO
EFFIGY #5
SANDMAN OVERTURE #5 (OF 6)
SUICIDERS #4
VERTIGO QUARTERLY SFX #1

BOOM
BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA #11
BRAVEST WARRIORS #32
BRAVEST WARRIORS TALES HOLO JOHN #1
CAPTURE CREATURES #4
CURB STOMP #4
MOUSE GUARD LEGENDS OF GUARD VOL 03 #3 (OF 4)
MUNCHKIN #5
REGULAR SHOW #22
UFOLOGY #2

DARK HORSE
CONAN THE AVENGER #14
ELFQUEST FINAL QUEST #9
FIGHT CLUB 2 #1
FRANKENSTEIN UNDERGROUND #3 (OF 5)
GRINDHOUSE DRIVE IN BLEED OUT #5 (OF 8)
HALO ESCALATION #18
ORDER OF THE FORGE #2 (OF 3)
PASTAWAYS #3
TOMB RAIDER #16

DYNAMITE
KING FLASH GORDON #4 (OF 4)
KING PRINCE VALIANT #2 (OF 4)
RED SONJA #16
SWORDS OF SORROW MASQUERADE KATO SPECIAL

IDW
EDWARD SCISSORHANDS #8 WHOLE AGAIN
FLY OUTBREAK #3 (OF 5)
INFINITE LOOP #2 (OF 6)
JUDGE DREDD #30
OCTOBER FACTION #7
RAGNAROK #5
TMNT GHOSTBUSTERS DIRECTORS CUT
TMNT ONGOING #46
TRANSFORMERS MORE THAN MEETS EYE #41

IMAGE
CHEW #49
DEADLY CLASS #13
INVINCIBLE #120
INVISIBLE REPUBLIC #3
MATERIAL #1
OUTCAST BY KIRKMAN & AZACETA #9
PISCES #2
POSTAL #4
SEX #21
SONS OF THE DEVIL #1
THEYRE NOT LIKE US #6
WAYWARD #8

MISC
BART SIMPSON COMICS #96
BLACK HOOD #4
CAPTAIN CANUCK 2015 ONGOING #1
DIVINITY #4 (OF 4)
HELLBREAK #3
HOAX HUNTERS 2015 #3 (OF 5)
IVAR TIMEWALKER #5
LIFE AFTER #10
POPE HATS #4
PROVIDENCE #1 (OF 12)
SABRINA #3
SCARLETT COUTURE #2 (OF 4)
UBER #25

MAGAZINES
MARVEL PREVIEWS JUNE 2015
PREVIEWS #321 JUNE 2015

TRADES
ALL NEW INVADERS TP VOL 03 MARTIANS ARE COMING
BATGIRL TP VOL 05 DEADLINE (N52)
BATMAN ADVENTURES TP VOL 02
BATMAN LEGENDS OF THE DARK KNIGHT TP VOL 04
DEADPOOL CLASSIC TP VOL 11 MERC WITH MOUTH
DEADPOOL TP VOL 08 ALL GOOD THINGS
DEATHLOK TP VOL 01 CONTROL ALT DELETE
DREAM FOSSIL COMP STORIES SATOSHI KON GN
GARFIELD TP VOL 06
GENIUS TP VOL 01
GUARDIANS 3000 TP VOL 01 TIME AFTER TIME
HUNTER GN
INFINITE BOWMAN GN
KNIGHT RIDER TP VOL 01
NICK FURY CLASSIC TP VOL 03 AGENT OF SHIELD
NIGHTCRAWLER TP VOL 02 REBORN
PATH OF EXILE TP VOL 01 ORIGINS
SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN TP VOL 19
SITHRAH HC
THANOS VS HULK TP
THE VALIANT TP
WOLVERINES TP VOL 02 CLAW BLADE AND FANG
YOU DONT SAY GN

MERCH
DC COMICS BOMBSHELLS MERA STATUE
DC COMICS BOMBSHELLS SUPERGIRL STATUE
DC COMICS NEW 52 HARLEY QUINN ACTION FIGURE

BACK IN STOCK
APOCALYPTIGIRL AN ARIA FOR THE END TIMES TP
BATMAN #40 3RD PTG (ENDGAME)
CHRONONAUTS #1 2ND PTG
CHRONONAUTS #2
CHRONONAUTS #3
DEADPOOLS SECRET SECRET WARS #1 (OF 4) SWA
DIVINITY #1 (OF 4) 4TH PTG
DIVINITY #2 (OF 4) 2ND PTG
LEGEND OF ZELDA LINK TO THE PAST GN
LUMBERJANES TP VOL 01
MASTER OF KUNG FU #1 (OF 4) SWA
PLANET HULK #1 SWA
RICK & MORTY #1 2ND PTG
SPIDER-VERSE #1 SWA
ULTIMATE END #1 (OF 5) SWA


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

ALL STAR RECOMMENDS FOR MAY 19TH



Hey, hey. You’re looking wonderful today, you comics reader, you.

So I literally just got back from Mad Max: Fury Road and my eyeballs are leaking joyful tears of blood. I am just so thrilled that the film exceeded my expectations and lemme tellya I had, like, Lord Humongous-sized expectations. I noticed that Brendan McCarthy was credited as co-writer and realised I had completely forgotten that this was the comic industry’s own Brendan McCarthy.

There’s a terrific article here about McCarthy’s enthusiasm for the world of Max, his involvement in Fury Road and how Mad Max informed Freakwave, an early collaboration with Peter Milligan. I felt like a total dunderhead that all this had slipped my mind….

Also, as I worked on the below Comic of the Week, which happens to be an Archie Comics publication, news broke of Archie’s ambitious Kickstarter. Created to fund the launch of three rebooted titles, Jughead, Betty and Veronicaand Life With Kevin, the $350,000 sought by the company was quite a massive chunk of change and questions quickly arose over both the necessity of and the reasons for the venture. Things quickly became rather divisive. As I was literally taking a final pass at this column, I found out the whole thing had been cancelled. In all honesty, it’s probably a good move.

As I’m currently sitting at 1 in 5 delivered Kickstarter endeavours (and this includes my beloved Fantagraphics, which still not fulfilled its obligation to me) I’d sworn off backing crowdfunded comics for quite a while anyway, but I was keeping an eye on this. I like Archie Comics a lot. It has balls. It is embracing diversity. It has a tonne of talent working for it. There’s no doubt the material will be top notch. Chip Zdarksy on Jughead? Adam Hughes on Betty and Veronica? It’s genius creative casting.

We’ll all just have to wait a little longer for them, that’s all.


COMIC OF THE WEEK : THE FOX FREAK MAGNET
By Dean Haspiel & Mark Waid w/ J.M. DeMatteis
Published by Red Circle

The stable of characters in Archie Comics’ superhero imprint, Red Circle, has had a number of reboots of varying success over the decades since their creation. As Red Circle morphed into Dark Circle earlier this year, the imprint continued to grow, evolve and mature. However of all Red Circle’s roster it’s The Fox, currently helmed by artist and plotter Dean Haspiel, which has maintained some truly old-fashioned comic book kookiness.‘Freak Magnet’ collects Haspiel and co.’s first five issues and the result is one very slick, very colourful and very fun comic book.

Although originally created in 1940, this iteration of The Fox sees flagging reporter Paul Patton Jr attempting to drum up some dwindling photojournalism work by dressing up in his dad’s superhero outfit, hitting the streets and making the news himself. This plan (which, if you think about it, was likely patented by one Peter Parker) was initially successful, buthas ultimately backfired terribly. Paul is now a “freak magnet,” perpetually attracting the strange and the deadly. Constantly forced to don the tights to get himself out of trouble, all he truly wants is to be left in peace to reforge a relationship with his daughter and enjoy some down time with his wife, who also happens to be the costumed adventurer, She-Fox. However, it’s just simply not meant to be.

It’s refreshing to see scripter Mark Waid working on something so wonderfully oddball, proving that there’s really nothing this veteran can’t do. Stuffed full of ideas such as a corrupting social media platform created by a demonic villain, an interdimensional landscape made of diamonds, an evil druid, a being that huffs out “hallucinobreath,” time travel and much more,The Fox treads some incredibly weird ground for what is, effectively, a street level hero.

Its success must be chiefly attributed to the sensibilities of Dean Haspiel, who channels the psychedelic weirdness of his creator-owned Billy Dogma work with a love of Silver Age shenanigans.The five issues collected in “Freak Magnet” are jam-packed – never standing still for any length of time they also constantly escalate in scale. Somehow, there’s even room for a backup story featuring WWII adventurer, The Shield (drawn by Mike Cavallaro and scripted by another superhero veteran in J.M. DeMatteis). Re-examining the dynamics and clich├ęs of the patriotic wartime hero,The Shield even manages to seamlessly dovetail into The Fox’s main storyline, giving the collection a suitably epic ending.

As Haspiel himself puts it in the afterword, The Fox has allowed him to “unleash unbridled action and adventure where a reluctant antihero could wax desires and anxieties while kickboxing psychotronic monsters and galactic druids.” If that doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, I’m not sure what will.




WEBCOMIC OF THE WEEK : OUR VALUED CUSTOMERS 
By Tim Chamberlain

The one panel gag strip is difficult to do consistently but Tim Chamberlain ’s apparently real life snippets of comic shop customer dialogue are generally really solid. It’s likely the echoes of things we’ve all overheard, either in person or online, captured here in all its snarkiness that makes it resonate so well. Either way, it makes me curious as to what Team All Star has overheard during the years….






COMICS VIDEO OF THE WEEK : GLEN ORIBIK A GALLERY

Terribly sad news last week. Painter Glen Orbik is no longer with us. A titan of his field, Orbik painted distinctive, striking covers for both comics and crime book imprint, Hard Case Books. His Hard Case work is likely what he’ll eternally be remembered for as he caught the spirit of classic pulp paintings and either replicated it or updated it perfectly, depending on the needs or age or setting of the particular title. But, ever versatile, he sure could paint those superheroes too.

Orbik squeezed a massive amount of energy into paintings that never appeared static, unlike those by many of his peers. Here’s a video gallery of his covers work, clearly displaying his versatility and the ease with which he moved from, say, Aquaman to Christa Faust’s Money Shot. He was amazing.



See you next week (where things get dark!). Love your comics.



Cameron Ashley spends a lot of time writing comics and other things you’ll likely never read. He’s the chief editor and co-publisher of Crime Factory (www.thecrimefactory.com). You can reach him @cjamesashley on Twitter.




Monday, May 18, 2015

New Comics For Wednesday 20th of May


Another big week of ace books to get excited about...but where to start? Well...

Marvel dives head first into the opening week of all the new Secret Wars titles. One of the picks of the bunch is Ms Marvel's writer, C. Willow Wilson with her all female Avengers, A-FORCE #1. After seeing it at the cinema, now get the back story to your favorite loons from Fury Road in MAD MAX FURY ROAD NUX & IMMORTAL JOE #1. Celebrate everything that was wonderful about 90's comics with Boom's OH KILLSTRIKE #1. When Douglas Adams wasn't writing about the mysteries of the Universe, he was writing about a private detective, that now get's his own comic in DIRK GENTLYS HOLISTIC DETECTIVE AGENCY #1. That mad as, hot tempered little white duck with no pants is back with IDW's expanding Disney range, DONALD DUCK #1. Mark Waid gives as the tale of how not every superhero duo's partnership has to be a smooth one in his INSUFFERABLE #1. Did we order enough APOCALYPTIGIRL AN ARIA FOR THE END TIMES TP? Judging from the stunning art, almost certainly not! UNWRITTEN TP VOL 11 continuing Mike Carey's literal storybook epic. The next high stakes, spy thriller chapter from Brubaker is here with VELVET TP VOL 02 THE SECRET LIVES OF DEAD MEN

Anything else there you are after, you know what to do! 


MARVEL
A-FORCE #1 SWA
AVENGERS WORLD #21
DAREDEVIL #15.1
DEADPOOLS SECRET SECRET WARS #1 (OF 4) SWA (sold out due to late orders/ limited restocks coming)
DEATHLOK #8
GEORGE ROMEROS EMPIRE OF DEAD ACT THREE #2 (OF 5)
GUARDIANS OF GALAXY #27
LOKI AGENT OF ASGARD #14 SWA
MASTER OF KUNG FU #1 (OF 4) SWA
MOON KNIGHT #15
PLANET HULK #1 SWA
POWERS #3
SECRET WARS BATTLEWORLD #1 (OF 4) SWA (sold out due to late orders/ limited restocks coming)
SPIDER-VERSE #1 SWA
STAR WARS #5
ULTIMATE END #1 (OF 5) SWA
UNCANNY X-MEN #34
WOLVERINES #19

DC COMICS
CONVERGENCE #7 (OF 8)
CONVERGENCE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #2
CONVERGENCE BATMAN & THE OUTSIDERS #2
CONVERGENCE FLASH #2
CONVERGENCE GREEN LANTERN CORPS #2
CONVERGENCE HAWKMAN #2
CONVERGENCE JUSTICE LEAGUE AMERICA #2
CONVERGENCE NEW TEEN TITANS #2
CONVERGENCE SUPERBOY & THE LEGION #2
CONVERGENCE SWAMP THING #2
CONVERGENCE WONDER WOMAN #2
INFINITE CRISIS FIGHT FOR THE MULTIVERSE #11
MAD MAX FURY ROAD NUX & IMMORTAL JOE #1
SENSATION COMICS FEATURING WONDER WOMAN #10

VERTIGO
KITCHEN #7 (OF 8)

BOOM
HEXED #10
LUMBERJANES #14
OH KILLSTRIKE #1 (OF 4)
REGULAR SHOW #23
SONS OF ANARCHY #21

DARK HORSE
ARCHIE VS PREDATOR #2
BPRD HELL ON EARTH #131
BTVS SEASON 10 #15
DARK HORSE PRESENTS 2014 #10
EI8HT #4 (OF 5)
GROO FRIENDS AND FOES #5
MIND MGMT #33
RESIDENT ALIEN SAM HAIN MYSTERY #1
SHAPER #3 (OF 5)
STRAIN NIGHT ETERNAL #9
USAGI YOJIMBO #145

DYNAMITE
DJANGO ZORRO #7 (OF 7)
JUNGLE GIRL SEASON 3 #2 (OF 4)
SHAFT #6
SWORDS OF SORROW VAMPIRELLA JENNIFER BLOOD #1

IDW
DIRK GENTLYS HOLISTIC DETECTIVE AGENCY #1 (OF 5)
DONALD DUCK #1
DRONES #2 (OF 5)
EMPIRE UPRISING #2
INSUFFERABLE #1
JEM & THE HOLOGRAMS #3
MY LITTLE PONY FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #30
SAMURAI JACK #19
SKYLANDERS #9 RTN OF DRAGON KING
TRANSFORMERS #41 COMBINER WARS
WINTERWORLD FROZEN FLEET #1 (OF 3)
X-FILES SEASON 10 #24

IMAGE
FADE OUT #6
GHOSTED #20
KAPTARA #2
ODDLY NORMAL #7
SATELLITE SAM #14
SECRET IDENTITIES #4
SHUTTER #12
SPARKS NEVADA MARSHAL ON MARS #3 (OF 4)
SPAWN #252
STRAY BULLETS SUNSHINE & ROSES #4
TITHE #2
TREES #9
VALHALLA MAD #1
WICKED & DIVINE #10
WYTCHES #6

MISC
ADVENTURES OF AERO GIRL #1 (OF 4)
BLOODSHOT REBORN #2
DOCTOR WHO 10TH #10
DOCTOR WHO 11TH #12
EPOCHALYPSE #6
KAIJUMAX #2
LADY MECHANIKA TABLET OF DESTINIES #2 (OF 6)
MONO V2 #2 PACIFIC
NINJAK #3
OPTIC NERVE #14
PSYCHO BONKERS #1 (OF 5)
RACHEL RISING #33
RICK & MORTY #2

TRADES
ALL NEW GHOST RIDER TP VOL 02 LEGEND
ANGEL & FAITH SEASON 10 TP VOL 02 LOST AND FOUND
APOCALYPTIGIRL AN ARIA FOR THE END TIMES TP
ART OF MAD MAX FURY ROAD HC
AXIS REVOLUTIONS TP
BAD KARMA HC VOL 01
BATMAN DETECTIVE COMICS HC VOL 06 ICARUS (N52)
BATMAN DETECTIVE COMICS TP VOL 05 GOTHTOPIA (N52)
BPRD PLAGUE OF FROGS TP VOL 04
CIVIL WAR TP MS MARVEL
CLIVE BARKERS NIGHTBREED TP VOL 01
EX MACHINA TP BOOK 05
FANTASTIC FOUR EPIC COLLECTION: STRANGE DAYS TP
FBP FEDERAL BUREAU OF PHYSICS TP VOL 03 STANDING
GRAVEYARD SHIFT TP
GRENDEL VS SHADOW HC
GUNNERKRIGG COURT HC VOL 04 MATERIA
INDESTRUCTIBLE TP VOL 02 FAKE IT TILL YOU MAKE IT
INTERSECT TP VOL 01 METAMORPH
IVAR TIMEWALKER TP VOL 01 MAKING HISTORY
JLA TP VOL 07
JOHNNY BOO HC VOL 06 ZOOMS TO THE MOON
LOCKE & KEY MASTER EDITION HC VOL 01
LOKI AGENT OF ASGARD TP VOL 02 I CANNOT TELL A LIE
MY FRIEND DAHMER SC NEW PTG
MY LITTLE PONY FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC TP VOL 07
OUT OF LINE ART JULES FEIFFER HC
ROAD TO MARVELS AVENGERS AGE OF ULTRON ART SLIPCASE
RUST HC VOL 03 DEATH OF ROCKET BOY
SCAFFOLD GN
SECRET WARRIORS COMPLETE COLLECTION TP VOL 01
SHADOW YEAR ONE OMNIBUS TP
STRAY BULLETS TP VOL 02 SOMEWHERE OUT WEST
TRANSFORMERS TREASURY ED
UNCANNY AVENGERS TP VOL 04 AVENGE EARTH
UNCANNY X-MEN TP VOL 04 VS SHIELD
UNWRITTEN TP VOL 11
VELVET TP VOL 02 THE SECRET LIVES OF DEAD MEN
WORLD OF THE WITCHER HC

MERCH
DC COMICS SUPERMAN WOOD FIGURE

BACK IN STOCK
ARCADIA #1
DARTH VADER #4  2ND PTG VAR
HAWKEYE SYMBOL PX KNIT BEANIE
JUPITERS CIRCLE #2
SECRET WARS #1 (OF 8)
SECRET WARS #2 (OF 8)
SPIDER-GWEN #2 2ND PTG VAR

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

ALL STAR LEGENDS Presents: ORC STAIN


With the release of James Stokoe's popular Godzilla: The Half Century War in glorious hardcover, followed by a new Godzilla mini-series starting in July, why not get yourself acquainted with one of the most unique storytellers of the modern day with a look back at one of his earlier works ORC STAIN.



Prepare for a rollercoaster ride into the dystopian future of our confused hero, One-Eye.

For a million millennia the world has cracked and convulsed under the indomitable mob of the orc. Savage, bloodthirsty creatures, they are without number, staining nearly every corner of the globe. The mighty Orc Tzar, newest leader of the mob, marches ever north to find the lost organ of a forgotten god. Only a lone one-eyed orc with a mysterious gift can find the key to breaking the cycle forever.


Stokoe manages to seamlessly blend his unique art style with outlandish storytelling. The pacing is sharp and to the point. He easily paints a picture of a tainted, wild world without clogging the story with excessive detail. This allows for a natural flow to the action that is matched by his unique flare with a pen. A mix somewhere between Brandon Graham and Vaughn Bode, Stokoe's style and design has everything on the page come to life. Most of the time this is dealing with the pain of existence and how cheap and pointless life can be for the Orcs and everything around them.


Stokoe's bold, intensely detailed line-work paired with generously tinged magenta gradients and majestic busy background panels really match the wild world that seems to live and breathe between the pages. With a real attention to detail, his character designs and somewhat suggestive backgrounds, it's hard not to linger on every panel for much longer than needed too.

This book is a great starting place to check out James Stokoes bright and colourful storytelling.

As always the ALL STAR LEGEND will be available to 30 days (or until stock sells out) at the discounted price. As this will be limited stock promotion there is strictly “no holds” on the legend. The early bird catches the comic. No further discount applies to the book as there is a big chance the comic will already be cheaper than the US cover price! The discount also only applies to the volumes listed, not the entire set of trades.

If you have any questions, you know where to ask them. You can buy the legend from this Wednesday 13th of May.


All Star Legends. The legendary titles of the highest recommendation.