“To be a fire when I feel like ice”- Cecil Castellucci delves deeper into madness and isolation with Shade the Changing Girl

comic, review

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School is Hell. School is madness, even for the displaced avian Lomo currently inhabiting Earth girl Megan as she returns to Amelia Bloomer High School, much to the confusion of her fellow students. Insisting on being called shade in her new amalgamation of body and personality. Her peers are obviously wary of her, assuming her strange and oddly calm behaviour is a result of her accident and resulting comca as she struggles to make sense of her place in the social strata of the school, her relationships with other students and even lunchtime.

Series writer Cecil Castellucci is crafting a strangely off kilter look at this world through the eyes of her uniquely alien, avian creation Loma. Far more advanced and intelligent then the primitive world around her she none the less has to work to make sense of her strange new home and the people around her already questioning her act of rebellion in stealing the M-vest. Thrown into school Loma has a lot more interactions this issue as we start to learn more and more about Megan’s life. Faced with the tense and confused reactions of Megan’s former friends, unaware the majority wanted her dead. While initially indifferent to those around Loma is still left with the creeping uneasy sense that she’s logged herself firmly into a human with a very complicated and prickly past than she might have first thought. So far there is no sign of the previous occupant, Megan, beyond her memories but it’s such a tantalising layer to add to an already out there story,  I have a hard time believing that Castellucci won’t bring some of this into the mix during her run.

Being no stranger to writing teens in her long career as a novelist or indeed the criminally overlooked Plain Janes for DC’s last teen oriented imprint, Minx back in 2008, She has an amazing grasp on writing what feels like authentic teens dialogue and speech patterns without ever slipping into groan worthy cliche or dropping in social media mentions and in fact seems to be actively avoiding this particular pitfall with Shade. The comic slips between this tone and Loma’s more poetic inner monologue beautifully. Ultimately I was left with the feeling that even if the alien elements were stripped out, this series is strong enough already that it would still work wonderfully as a story of identity, change and dealing with the preconceptions others bring into that equation. Working as it’s own unique story even for those like myself who might be coming to the book with only general idea of Shade’s long and esoteric character history.

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Matching this with some sensational art  from Marley Zarcone further sets this apart from the rest of the comics crowd, Imbuing the comic from start to finish with it’s own loose flow and momentum as the story drifts almost lazily and fluidly from one moment to the next. A page featuring Megan getting ready for school shows this in a single panel showing her movement from the room and time, fain versions of herself around the room almost like echos which emphasises the books dreamlike qualities and elements of madness. Despite the book’s solicitation saying “No one can have a little bit of madness” the visuals are toned down this issue letting the book breath a  little after the stunning visual spectacle of it’s debut issue. Subtle and effective when they are used, a small poster here, the madness takes over small parts of her surroundings almost seeping through into the panels.

“I have to study up. Do my homework to really live this life” Shade promises herself setting out her plan for the future as this issue itself does,  expanding on last issue this one treats us to just a little more of Megan’s life, a world that Castellucci makes you eager to explore and learn more about as Loma sets about discovering too. Gorgeous art and sharp writing sets this as perfect allegory for being an uneasy teen and a story of identity put through a psychedelic, kaleidoscope filter.

 

“Panic in Detroit Baybah!” Zac Gorman and Will Robson reassemble the Great Lakes Avengers

comic, review

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Calling the Great Lakes Avengers Z-list heroes would be an insult to other hardworking Z-listers. Indeed, an insult to the very concept of lists itself. Unless it’s a “most obscure Marvel characters of all time list”, which like most people is where my knowledge of this quirky little group of lovable underdogs both starts and ends.

Created by John Bryne, and subsequently deemed unfit to even be a part of the Avengers “brand” due mostly to the combination of crap powers and weird personalities, the team has always been a tongue in cheek, off kilter look at the world of well intentioned, yet hilariously inept superheroes. With the run of success from books with more humorous bent, such as former member Squirrel Girl it’s perhaps not surprising that Rick and Morty comics scribe Zac Gorman has brought the team back.

Thrown back together through a legal loophole and perhaps the most ridiculous fall out from the still ongoing second Civil War, the majority of the book revolves around getting the four team members; Flatman, Big Bertha, and Doorman back together. Eventually moving the team out to new digs in Detroit. Beyond that Great Lakes Avengers’ debut issue stubbornly refuses to offer up any solid hook for readers or indication of it’s direction beyond bored genius Flatman wanting to get the team back together to relive the good old days. For a first issue featuring a team with such an interesting history, the plot feels strangely low key.

Gorman does a great job re-introducing these characters and portraying their varied personalities and powers, but it’s just somehow never quite as funny as you’d expect it to be. It has a few solid moments early on with some perfect comedy pacing, with so much of the remaining humour feeling forced or flat. The funniest parts of the book centering around the group’s well meaning leader and his predictably squalid home as well as a great moment involving an ex-member’s recent rise to the big time. Overall it just doesn’t quite have the effortless delivery or laugh out loud moments that elevate the likes of North’s Squirrel Girl or Zdarksky’s Howard The Duck just yet.

Robson’s cartoonish, exaggerated artwork is what sets this book apart right now, ringing every bit of physical humour from the outlandish cast with his gorgeously over the top facial expressions and character design, each with their own distinct look and feel. He gives a strong sense of movement and action throughout, which helps in an issue with a lot of dialogue heavy set up, and callbacks to the characters past exploits. The introduction of new character “Good Boy”, a huge blue werewolf, is when the writing and artwork finally come together for one of the issues funniest moments. Although not the strongest first issue of any of the recent humour focused Marvel books, overall it’s still has a solid enough base to build upon in future issues, and hopefully establish more clearly what Gorman has in store for these misfit heroes in the months to come.

‘For the usual fee–plus expenses’- Bendis and Gaydos are back with new Jessica Jones series

comic, Comic spotlight, review, Uncategorized

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“Everybody feels beleaguered at some point, That’s the universal truth of punk, that you are going to feel, in whatever role you’re living, that everybody is against you”

– John Darnielle

Say what you like, Jessica Jones is a character who is at her most compelling when beleaguered, set upon and troubled. Alias reveled in seeing her overcome great odds and her own actions and although her appearances since her own title had her finding some semblance of peace and happiness it’s clear that on returning and picking up her story after over a decade away, Bendis isn’t interested in a happy Jessica either. With original artist Gaydos back on board as well we find our reluctant heroine, with a few tweaks here and there, pretty much back where they left her all those years. This issue finds her fresh out of prison and stubbornly dodging questions about the mysteries mounting up in her own life, her marriage, her incarceration and most importantly what, if anything has happened to her daughter, Danielle.

Barely skipping a beat, Bendis drops us back into her world weary frame of mind as if we were picking up the story from last month, never mind over ten years ago. His characters voices are all distinct and sharp, never more so than when they are giving a knowing wink to the changes in the Marvel landscape since Alias wrapped up. Although it’s comforting to once again to hear Jones’ jaded inner monologue, this time we can most definitely see where it might trip her up. Over the years she’s tussled with superheroes and seen incredible things, but when her new client mentions her husband’s unusual behaviour and outlandish claims of having lived another life, started “eight months ago”, dismissing the obvious answer and leaving us on the edge of our seats as Bendis teases us with a mystery of a character who is either on the con, or an unwitting casualty caught up on the wrong end of Hickman’s recent cosmic reshuffling. Reminded in part of the classic Astro Cities storyline, “The Nearness Of You”, with average citizens caught up in universe altering events they can scarcely comprehend, let alone react against, it sets up one of the books many, many mysteries.

Gaydos’ art for the first issue is as despondent and melancholy as it ever was. His tired and worn out characters set against his un-superheroic, washed out New York City managing to feel both fresh and familiar, emphasising just how unusual his style and tone is to comics even on the second time around. It’s thrilling to see the recently formed Champions striding through New York in Gaydos’ gorgeously grimey and downbeat style as Jessica sits on, suitably nonchalant at the public posturing and heroic antics around her.

“Is she a big deal or not?” asks a prison guard early on in the book, with some firmly tongue in cheek Bendis dialogue, daring the reader to answer. While the more cynical might point out his earlier remarks on having written everything he wanted with Jessica, or the success of this years Netflix show for his  sudden return to the world of Alias Investigations. Let’s face it comics are based on “never say never” and this issue seems almost genuinely reluctant to trade on the success of the TV show or even show off about getting the band back together, so to speak, lest the book stray too far from it’s scrappy underdog roots and with a subtle first issue might have just pulled it off. While some might be put off by Bendis’ deliberately slow pacing or knocking Jessica down once more for the sake of restoring her status quo somewhat,  the first issue sets up some intriguing conflicts and mysteries, all with the chance of her coming back stronger than ever.

 

Ragnarock the Vote in Marvel’s Vote Loki

comic, review

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“America. If I was your president I’d have the guts to lie right to your face..and you’d love it!”

In between the twitter fights, promises of wall building and genuinely terrifying calls for the other nominee to be hacked, or shot, whichever, that the actual US Election is still a month away. One. Whole. Month. Easy to see then why we now have writer Christopher Hastings and artist Langdon Foss boldly striding into the oddly familiar political landscape of the Marvel Universe with the satirical, Vote Loki. Like Howard the Duck in ’76, the trickster god throws his horned helmet into the ring ,announcing his intentions to run for leader of the free world.

With the real run up to the elections fresh in everyone’s mind you might think setting a showy, media friendly , rabble rousing Loki right in the centre of things was a bit on the nose, then you’d be right. Broad swipes at the current political climate, general mistrust of politicians and the distracting circus surrounding it all run through the entire series. However for a while this works in it’s favour drawing the obvious parallels between the two and the ridiculousness of both and for a while manages to explore new elements of what at first seems like a simple one joke satire. Part of this is that despite his good looks and sharp tongue, Hastings and Foss have made the former agent of Asgard into a secondary player in his own book. Told from Nisa’s point of view it definitely helps the story seeing it through her eyes in much the same way that Marvels gave us a glimpse of the dawn of the greatest heroes from a street level. Ultimately though it feels as if Nisa isn’t given that much development and even her speech in the rushed final issue can’t help shake the feeling that Nisa didn’t get a lot of agency and like the main story, hers just doesn’t really go anywhere interesting.

Even having a few other Marvel titles to his name it was still surprising to see Langdon Foss, whose art was part of what made his collaboration on Ales Kot’s The Surface so new and exciting. Even with the vastly different styles across their line, Vote Loki still feels like an outlier  with it’s very strong indie-creator owned feel. Foss has a unique and style and texture to his work both in terms of characters and settings that feels perfectly suited thematically for a topical, street level title like this. As with “The Surface” and it’s highly detailed and precisely inked surreal landscapes, his work is elevated when drawing the fantastical. Here it’s when the Asgardian’s showboating leads to him using his powers, floating in heroically in issue one surrounded by glowing Nordic knot work. Even when delivering a speech from his podium, Foss’ Loki has a huge and attention grabbing presence. However like the series itself it starts to get very repetitive with the same few locations and the art definitely slips towards the end of the series, with issue four looking noticeably rushed and a little lacklustre.

Vote Loki was a title I really wanted to like, especially considering the team involved, but despite a strong start in the first two issues it really burns through that initial goodwill when the third issue spins it’s wheels telling a story it had already pulled off so well in the previous issue. Once again Nisa brings evidence against Loki, which he spins through the media machine to his own advantage. Given it’s oddly rushed finale that jumps closer and closer to the election every few pages, it’s a shame it squandered the chance to let the story breathe a little or maybe a few more issues to properly flesh out it’s ideas. A fun premise that is let down by a boring repetitive plot, uneven artwork that like Loki’s campaign never really delivers on it’s initial excitement.

Vote Loki is available Wednesday 5th October and collects Vote Loki 1-4 and material from Journey Into Mystery 85 and Avengers 300 (1963)

THE PULL LIST 10/08/16

comic, Comic spotlight

Vision #10 (Marvel Comics)

Delivering emotional gut punches and shocking moments, King and Walta’s and heart achingly tale of family, conformity and identity hit’s it’s sure to be devastating endgame. The Visions mission for normality and a places in the world falls apart and promises the violence and inevitable confrontation with his fellow avengers that has been lurking in plain sight since the very first issue. Continually gripping and equally shocking, I can only imagine what the last three issues of what is sure to be known as a classic will bring for the Vision and his family.

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Marvel hasn’t exactly left fans desperate for Spider-man related titles in the last few years with readers able to get their arachnid fix in Infamous, Amazing, 2099, Silk and Gwen flavors to name just a handful. Hearing about this new title I was skeptical at first especially in the high school setting the films still obsess over even now. The truth is despite the enduring Image of Peter, he only spent about thirty or so issues actually in High school, which makes it the perfect place to get some old school, no nonsense webslinger stories. This first volume collects writer Robbie Thompson (already a Spider-vetron having written Silk and Venom: Space Knight) and Wolverine and the X-Men Artist Nick Bradshaw. With Peter back in high school and his early career as the wallcrawler, the pair have been creating an essential re-tweaking of this time in our hero’s life. Even within the confines of a soft re-imagining they succeed in thrilling at every turn with the mix of high school drama and updated canonical appearances of classic Spidey villains like Doc Oc. The super detailed work on Bradshaw gives a much needed youthful energy to the book as he did with Wolverine and the X-men.

While I’m thrilled with the major character development and changes Peter Parker has had over the last few years it’s still great to see a book out there for an audience who wants fun, exciting old school Spidey tales.. With Peter back in high school and his early career as the wallcrawler, the pair have been creating an essential re-tweaking of this time in our hero’s life. Even within the confines of a soft re-imagining they succeed in thrilling at every turn with the mix of high school drama and updated canonical appearances of classic Spidey villains like Doc Oc. The super detailed work on Bradshaw gives a much needed youthful energy to the book as he did with Wolverine and the X-men.

While I’m thrilled with the major character development and changes Peter Parker has had over the last few years it’s still great to see a book out there for an audience who wants fun, exciting old school Spidey tales.

“I wanna hold her hand and show her some beauty Before all this damage is done” – Overwhelming unease in King and Walta’s Vision of the Suburbs

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“So can you understand?
Why I want a daughter while I’m still young
I wanna hold her hand
And show her some beauty
Before all this damage is done
But if it’s too much to ask, it’s too much to ask
Then send me a son”  

The Suburbs – Arcade Fire

With Marvel’s synthezoid playing a large part in this years Avengers: Age of Ultron and presumably figuring into the future of the MCU, you’d be forgiven for expecting his new solo title to be a more straightforward rock ’em sock ’em, capes and tights affair. Recent years have seen aspects of characters form Tony Stark to the Guardians of the Galaxy tweaked to resemble their on-screen counterparts and give cinema goers who might brave a comic shop a more familiar experience. Instead this eerie sci-fi tale opens with Vision having quit the Avengers, purged himself of all emotions and relocated to the leafy, idyllic suburbs of Virginia with his recently created family. Chalk one up for creative and fearless storytelling over corporate synergy on this one.

An almost overwhelming sense of disquiet pervades King and Walta’s first issue and works it’s way through every panel from the very first page as we are introduced to the new life Vision is creating for himself in the Suburbs with it’s curious neighbours, morning commute and freshly mown lawns. While recent books like Avengers AI explored Marvels artificial intelligences celebrating their distinct nature as AI’s, this book is the polar opposite. King takes the characters core idea, his desire to be human regular and ordinary, his search for his humanity and takes it to the next extremely logical step.

“She was fascinated by how often she found something that made her cry,” reads the narration as Virginia sits silently on the couch lost in the past. Someones past at least. In the wake of the missing eight months since the resetting of the universe, one of the intriguing mysteries set up in this issue is whose brainwaves Vision’s bride is based on. Like many of the questions raised,the fact our hero wakes up in the middle of the night plagued by doubt, hints that the answer is bound to be shocking. Just who is the emotionally distant and seemingly omniscient narrator foreshadowing the events the book?

VISION2015001-int-LR2-3-a2480Walta’s art style compliments King’s script perfectly, further adding to the sense of unease in how he depicts Vision and his new family. Already an unusual design even in the Marvel universe, Walton’s synthoids stand out even further against the mundane suburban environments. Around humans their faces are plastered with synthetic smiles and wide welcoming eyes. Away from them, the act is dropped and their faces became vacant, robotic  and almost mournful. “It felt like a sandwich bag” comments a neighbour on shaking Visions hand and the art reinforces this with the families glossy, almost 50’s atomica style artificiality. His subtle yet clever designs for Marvels newest family shouldn’t be overlooked and again in small ways works hand in hand with King’s story. Tiny details like the reoccurring diamond motif from Vision’s costume crop up on clothing and jewellery with the rest of his family and give them an unsettling uniform appearance. Whilst giving them a distinct look it also reinforces the Visions desire to present a strong, unified family unit to the world in his own exaggerated way.

Walta and King have crafted a comic so far removed from Marvels usual output, jettisoning the super heroics for a smart existential meditation on what it means to be human. A creepy, bold and gripping first issue that hints of something darker yet to come.

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Review: Rumble 6

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“A warrior does not kill because it is his wish but because he must. If it becomes easy for you, you become a killer”

The unsung gem of 2015 is without a doubt Arcudi, Harren and Stewart’s Rumble. Straight away you can see why it might have been somewhat overlooked. Combining slow paced world building and a unique mythos with kinetic no holds barred action set pieces. It’s hard to pigeon-hole and a strange beast even among Image’s plethora of other sci-fi and fantasy titles.

For those not up to speed issue six serves as a great way to get quickly caught up as it sets about recapping the action packed events of the previous five issues of the series while still giving established readers enough development and insights into its characters to feel satisfied and make it a worthwhile read. From the image of the scarecrow bodied Rathraq calmly crouched on the impression is one of a much more subtle and subdued affair. Cleverly written as both recap and set-up for future issues we find the Rumble cast in a rare moment of rest and reflection that can only be the calm before an even more insane second arc from the book’s creative team.

As bar worker Bobby finds himself conflicted by his actions in the last issue, mythical warrior Rathraq recounts a tale from his past as both ruminate on the necessity of violence. It’s impact upon a person is mirrored between the two, one a seasoned warrior and one new to combat. So far Rumble has worked at it’s own pace, taking it’s own damn time in explaining any back story and letting the mystery unfold. This issue uses this to great effect, telling a small story for big impact. The slower pacing allows writer John Arcudi  to explore their protagonists in more depth, showing the complexity of their thoughts and pasts crafting some heartfelt character moments. There is a lot more to bad ass hero, bumbling every man and his sidekick that we will hopefully see developed in this second arc.

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For a series characterised by its explosive and ferocious fights, this issue is by no means a lull in the action though. Rathraq’s story of a past battle is as energetic and furious as anything we’ve come to expect from Rumble, but it’s the tone that is different this time around showing that he derives no pleasure from causing death and unrest with his actions. Harren is an amazing talent and his pacing of the panels in the book and this issue in particular is astonishing, an artist that clearly understands that constant action can be tiring, he uses the stories slower moment to his advantage. When the action hits, it hits hard. His art is visceral and dynamic and strewn with details creating a rich world from of grit, dirt and even moments of beauty.

Continuing to combine high adrenaline action and character development Rumble is another instalment of what is shaping up to be one of the most idiosyncratic and interesting series of the year.

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Review: Howard the Duck Volume 0: What the Duck?

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It’s amazing what a post credits scene and the right creative team can accomplish for even the most ridiculed and belittled comics characters. Once an iconic and important character in Marvel’s history all it took was one truly awful movie, widespread misconceptions and fierce disagreements between the company and creator Steve Gerber to overshadow the work on his wildly inventive, silly and hysterical five year stint with the melancholy mallard. Until December at least Howard now stands as one of the most rehabilitated properties connected with Lucasfilm. When the new series was announced it felt more an inevitability than a shock. Howard back in his own title again? Obviously! Zdarsky as writer? Well of course! Why did it take this long to set up? However beyond the novelty and initial laughs to be had at one of comics more eccentric ‘new’ talents working on a character reduced to an industry joke, Howard the Duck is already a whip smart book with genuine warmth and real humour.

Throughout the original Gerber run and beyond Howard the Duck has always been a comic that thrived on it’s cameos, with Spider-Man swinging in as early as the ducks second issue. On other titles this reliance on other more well known characters might be considered a weakness but here it works as a strength. Luckily it’s one of the many aspects continued in the new series and a clever choice by Zdarsky. He clearly has a deep knowledge of the source material and of a love of all things marvel. Especially it’s strange and silly corners. Chips irreverent humour and fond jabs at it’s weird history is evident on every page as he takes us on a mirthful, magical mystery tour of the Marvel Universe. Already in the first arc contained in this volume the far reaching reference include Morrison and Millar’s mid nineties creations the Skrull Kill Krew (Marvel Edge? Anyone?), Aunt May marrying villains and Reed Richards propensity (seriously once is sketchy. Twice is…worrying) for turning hostile alien invaders into cows.

In five issues Doctor Strange, The Fantastic Four, She Hulk and the much missed legal team all make it onto the pages with Howard, now self employed as one of Marvel’s many private eyes, surely the career b-plan for their stable of characters. It’s a tactic currently being employed by the team on Groot’s solo book to great effect and gives both comics a greater depth and scope as well as a distinct place and impact over the rest of the Marvel Universe. If comics cohort and fellow brimper Matt Fraction’s run on Hawkeye was “what he does when he’s not being an Avenger” than Howard’s wide circle of friends definitely gives Zdarsky the chance to showcase a lot of other heroes on less than noble and productive days.

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Oh, and fun. Lets not forgot cameos are fun! Everyone likes to see their favourites show up, and Zdarksy likes them too. Like Gerber he has your friendly neighbourhood Spider-man show up pretty early on, even if it is only to poke fun at the webhead. Here, tongue firmly in cheek he comically reduces the wallcrawler down to the essential and most easily recognisable character traits for comic effect. Playing up his basic concept to absurd and hilarious levels makes for some of the books most noteable laugh out loud moments. With strong hints that Aunt May might be a supporting character when the book returns later this year (please, please be true!) we could see Parker as Chip’s whipping boy for the foreseeable future. The only minor misstep in my mind is the appearance of Guardians of the Galaxy. While it’s a downright funny issue it’s the only one that feels slightly forced, perhaps owing to these also once fringe characters now being hot properties. Again the issue is uproarious and farcical with witty repartee between Howard and a certain racoon, but as a second issue is does rather derail the pacing and the development of the new partnership with Howard and the books other lead, Tara Tam.

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Quinones playful and energetic artwork (expertly inked by Rivera) along with his strong and innovative panel composition also makes Howard the Duck one of the most unique and striking books on offer right now. While a world away from Gerber’s look, Quinones style feels like an appropriately fresh and modern take on the cantankerous canard. Every characters is wonderfully detailed and sharp, and his comical and varied facial expressions make for some of the best moment in the book while Rico Renzi’s coloring gives the book a bright and bold feel, his bright hues perfectly complimenting the already dynamic artwork. Perfect for a book filled with bright spandex clad heroes. Not forgetting of course, Jason Latour who lends a hand for some of the volumes shorts. A more scrappy and sketchy style that lends itself well to the short, ridiculous backups.

Zdarksy and Quinones definitely share a vision for this comic and  have crafted a fitting reintroduction for Howard back onto the comic book shelves. Even with a handful of guest appearances over the years and a Marvel Max series, this feels like the natural extension of the ducks original outing and is already up there with the likes of other comedy driven titles like Squirrel Girl and the Superior Foes of Spiderman.

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NA NA NA NA NA NA NA NA BATBOOKS!- UNLOVED BATBOOKS YOU SHOULD GIVE A SECOND CHANCE! PT 2 – The Face of Justice, Digital Justice!

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Batman Digital Justice created by Pepe Moreno was released in 1990 and someone at DC was clearly banking on this one making some waves or being the next big thing, given it’s larger format and the lavish hardback treatment, complete with a silver circuit board design on the books inside cover.


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The cover proudly boasts “Computer Generated” which is a strange thing to read in 2015. With computers being so ubiquitous in the creation of modern comics and indeed many other types of media it would now barely seem worth pointing out. Computers are now a natural extension of an artists toolbox and in most cases used to replicate or add to traditional media, obfuscated to the point that you probably can’t tell. Digital Justice is the other extreme, using very early and basic art software it has a distinctly synthetic and computerised feel to it. It’s basically the future as seen standing on the cusp of the 90’s. That becomes part of it’s charm, how it’s essentially a time capsule. A snapshot of a certain moment in time and in comics.

I know I said I try to refrain from the negative, sarcastic style of reviewing, which would be really easy to slip into for Digital Justice, but there is just one thing I can’t let slide. Inside the dust jacket the copy proudly declares “Digital Justice will be compared to such dystopian visions as 1984, Brave New World, Blade Runner, the novels of Phillip K.Dick”. A bold, bold statement and an especially strange one to make directly upon the books release, rather then letting the public decide. If I had to guess I’d say you’ve heard of the works it’s compared too and not Digital Justice. They’re incredibly high bench marks for any book, never mind this one so kudos for the creators for at least aiming high.In a lot of ways it makes perfect sense. If you’re going to draw influence from something it might as well be something decent.

The story is essentially a melding of the Batman mythos with the Neuromancer, cyberpunk dystopia aesthetic that was all the rage for a few moments back in the early 90s. In terms of setting the Batman has always proven to be pretty robust when it comes to reinterpretation. As seen in countless comics and the Batman Beyond cartoon, a future setting works more often than not. Maybe it’s the gadgets, maybe it’s the brooding, whatever it is Batman seems to work when thrust into a suitably dark dystopia It’s certainly no more gimmicky or silly then any other Elseworlds tale and I certainly enjoyed reading it a lot more then the dreary attempt at po-faced Dracula Batman and it’s ilk.

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Review: Kate Leth and Matt Cummings’ Power Up for new Boom! Box series

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If the recent Sailor Moon Crystal series or the renewed interest in Power Rangers via comics proves anything it’s that there are no tropes, series or sub genres too old or too obscure that don’t deserve another go around with a fresh set of eyes or a talented creative team. Adding to their already diverse line-up, Boom! studios have added Power Up from writer Kate Leth and Artist Matt Cummings. Already issue one feels stylistically like the opening episode of your new favourite cartoon or anime series and has a lot in common with the likes of Adventure Time, Steven Universe and Bee and Puppycat. It’s the reinvention of the magical girl genre for the hip Cartoon Network crowd. PowerUp_001_A_Main This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone familiar with the duo’s previous connections to these series, with both having written and drawn for a number of shows’ comic book counterparts. This however, is the first creator owned book for both of them and it’s feels so well realised and fully formed from the first page as if it’s come from it’s own Cartoon Network show. On the surface the premise for Power Up is simple, the usual mystic prophecy that foretells of our chosen warriors that will battle cosmic forces of evil. The twist and hook of the book is the choice of characters the powers to be have decided shall become their greatest warriors, the hedgehog owning work shirking Aime, Sandy an overworked mother of two and Kevin, washed up athlete turned construction worker. Already we are shown the characters getting through the hurdles in their everyday lives such as being late for work, juggling work and kids and the indignities of being stuffed into a cup. Oh yeah, one of the team, Silas, is a goldfish. An undeniably cute goldfish, but a goldfish none the less.Already I love the sorely needed, non conventional leads. It’s as if Kate Leth has seen the outpouring and demand for this and simply ran with it. Flawed, realistic and relatable, they’re as far from conventional superheroes as possible. PowerUp_001_PRESS-7-thumb-500x768-160781 All are presented with relatable problems, and as person who has also never, ever wanted to be forty five minutes early for work I could instantly identify with Aime’s less than commendable work ethic. The characters aren’t seen in costume in this issue, only with Kevin furtively hiding what looks to be the costume he is proudly sporting on the cover, a traditional magical girl outfit complete with pink skirt and matching high heel boots. It makes me hopeful for at least part of the story exploring a character, who at least outwardly is presented as very typically masculine, being empowered by aspects of femininity. Although not explicitly stated in any way, there is a sense in the costumes not quite matching the characters that they may not be the first team to use these powers, or perhaps not the intended recipients.

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Cummings’ artwork is both quirky and adorable with an animated style that again makes it feel like an adaptation of a cartoon. The character designs are great and feel genuinely natural yet stylised, his simplistic faces with their over exaggerated anime expressions again calls back to the comics roots in animes like Sailor Moon and Cardcaptor Sakura. His grasp of movement gives the issue some stunning action scenes as Aime and Silas grapple with their first supernatural foe in the middle of the pet shop. The softer lines used in the setting and backgrounds draw attention to the characters and the use of a limited colour palette throughout is also excellent and gives the settings a soft, dreamy feel. As a relative newcomer this is his first longer comic project, with hopefully many more to follow. Though the first issue feels a little slight, and is slow to establish anything but a few aspects of it’s story, it’s enough to make you stick with it for the second issue. The draw being to see how these people from vastly different backgrounds and with little in common, eventually come together as a team. As with the aforementioned comparison to Steven Universe, one of the most important and inventive elements was the shows slow burn, as it took it’s time to world build and establish its mythos. An approach that Power Up will hopefully employ in it’s issues to come.