Reviewed by Marc Mason
I’m a sucker for stories that engage one’s sense of childlike wonder, and SHUTTER #1 does that quite well, mixing exotic milieus, strange creatures, and youthful angst in a potent science fiction brew. When we first meet Kate Kristopher, she is a seven year-old girl who has been dragged along on her father’s work, and she is boooooooored. Of course, his work has him exploring the moon, so she lacks a certain sense of her good fortune, but before long she learns to embrace the family calling and becomes a renowned adventurer. Of course, life is prone to unexpected change, and when we meet her in the “now” she has renounced it all and gone her own way to lead a quiet life.
Quiet lives rarely last for adventurers.
Suffice it to say, trouble comes calling, and destiny is unavoidable. But it never feels trite in the execution because Keatinge and del Luca give the whole package a feeling of energy and joy that is infectious. You can feel them having a great time making the comic and that carries over. A mystery is set up, the character fights purple ghost ninjas, and it all just works. This is precisely the kind of comic I enjoy supporting.
After entrenching himself on the A-list drawing incredibly popular books written by guys like Warren Ellis and Mark Millar, Bryan Hitch has finally decided to take care of the writing chores himself. REAL HEROES #1 is his baby, and the results he produces are a bit of a mixed bag.
The concept can be described like this: GALAXY QUEST with the cast of Marvel’s THE AVENGERS. While attending the premiere of “Olympians 2” a real-life bad guy attacks and starts slaughtering bystanders. But before the actors can be killed, they’re pulled away to a world/dimension where their characters are real… and dead… and where there is the hope that the actors can take the place of the dead superheroes.
It’s a clever conceit, and one that has a huge amount of potential that we’ll have to wait and see if Hitch can develop over the course of the series. And certainly the book looks spectacular – no one draws superheroics like Hitch can. Many of the pages here are absolutely jaw-dropping and invite the reader to stop and soak in the details. But the characters never really come to life, remaining ciphers in part to some dull dialogue.
This is far from a deal-breaker. At the very least, I’m interested to watch Hitch develop the concept (as well as his characters) going forward to see if he finds some unique ways to use the setup. REAL HEROES is not a smash, but it’s far from a burn, either. Let’s call it a curiosity and go from there.
Reviewed by Avril Brown
There are sequels which are a satisfying continuation of a story, there are sequels which are such a colossal let down you pretend they don’t even exist, and then there are sequels which stand alone. Movies that are so unbelievably epic you can’t stop talking about it while the credits are rolling and you’re already planning on seeing it again to catch all the little stuff you might have missed while your mind was busy being blown.
Unsurprisingly, ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’ falls into the later category.
I adore the first film; I thought it was an incredibly well-crafted, believable origin story which did the character and the time period justice. To compare the first and second ‘Captain America’ films, however, would be comparing apples to oranges. ‘The First Avenger’ is an introduction to Steve Rogers and how he went from scrawny kid from Brooklyn with the heart of a lion, to badass Captain America with the chiseled body of a sexy lion and a mission to save the world.
‘Winter Soldier’ is a story of Steve Rogers truly coming into himself as Captain America here in the present time. When he lived and fought in the Second World War, things were somewhat simpler: rescue soldiers, take down Hydra, and get the girl. He wakes up in the digital age where wars are fought over oil and boundary lines, nothing is private, and his girl had to live her life without him. Despite the confusion of the modern day, Captain Rogers has landed on his feet, and the confidence he exudes in everything he does is an overwhelming turn on.
This is not simply an action movie, though there is plenty of that, and it is AWESOME. ‘Winter Soldier’ is not just an espionage film either, though there are oodles of twists and turns, some you see coming, others you might not. One thing it is not is a romance story, thankfully, though naturally there are a few nibbles on the line (how could there not be? Dude’s like sex on a stick, and I don’t normally go for blondes).
‘Winter Soldier’ is largely about taking control, and having faith and trust not only in one’s self, but in the people around you. Steve Rogers is a man working for S.H.E.I.L.D, but he never once compromises his morals in the line of duty, and in fact is the type of man who brings out the best in people. Hardened spies with serious trust issues find themselves trusting a man in a spangley outfit (which he totally owns).
The action is jaw-dropping, no doubt, and the fight scenes are masterfully crafted. Watching a fight scene with men who know how to kick some ass can be problematic if the fighting is poorly done, but my expert brawlers were pleased and impressed with the choreography. With the Black Widow as a featured costar it was inevitable that at least one woman would have plenty of amazing action sequences, but I was thrilled to see two more women step up to the badass plate and not be found wanting. You got to hand it to Marvel, they have quite the variety of superheroes to choose from, whether they be men, women, any race and sexual identity. Every character was brilliantly cast and the new faces brought a lot to the table.
One of my favorite parts about ‘Winter Soldier’ was that it was a game changer for the film/television Marvel Universe, and there is every indication that the ripples are going to be felt, and best of all, acknowledged, throughout the rest of their projects. When Joss Whedon signed on to direct ‘The Avengers’ he did so with the caveat that Marvel follow his long-term plan for the subsequent films. If I have one long-suffering complaint about comics it is that there is very little consistency among the different books despite the frequent sharing of characters. At the moment Havok is both in the present day spying on his ex-girlfriend, and at least seven years in the future on Planet X ‘cause Earth was destroyed. Fantomex is working on Cable’s X-Force crew whilst speaking like Pepe le Pew, and he’s exiled himself in a prison in a micro-world on Logan’s desk at the Jean Grey School. Oh, he also attended his foster son’s graduation. Coordination, people; it’s not just for novels.
‘Marvel’s Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D.’, a television program on ABC, has been rocky from the start, but the episodes have perked up a bit as of late, and that world is going to be shattered come Tuesday. They have been planning for the changes incurred by ‘Winter Soldier’ for awhile, probably from the beginning, and the timing is perfect. Knowing a large portion of their audience will likely be flocking to the theaters this weekend for a date with Captain Rogers, the producers are blazing full steam ahead with the next episode reflecting the major shift made by ‘Winter Soldier.’ Fans are finally getting some follow-up, and I am thrilled.
Go see ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier.’ See it for the action, see it for the story, see it for a buffed out Chris Evans in a white tank top (he really should’ve taken it off, it was ever so dirty). See it again for the delightful nods to other films and hints at characters sure to pop up in the near future. Go see ‘Captain America’ because it is an excellent, fun film that is actually worth the ticket price. And for love of Pete, keep your butt in that seat until after ALL of the credits.
Wake up and smell the solid script DC, ‘cause Marvel is on fire. Fingers crossed future films will just keep fanning those flames all the way into 2028 because I’m going to be there front and center, the whole wild and crazy ride.
Reviewed by Avril Brown
Scratch the cat is at it again! This delightfully fun furry companion is not your ordinary feline: he is a brave and loyal buddy to young Penelope, who has no idea how special her friend really is. In times of danger, Scratch is able to summon forth one of his nine past lives, imbuing him with the powers of that particular cat incarnation.
Good thing Scratch is a superhero in kitty form as Penelope tends to find herself in trouble more often than not, this time at Camp Robo. What appears to be a fun getaway where children come to build robots turns out to be the headquarters of the evil Dr. Schrodinger, a mad scientist who has a few tricks up his sleeve for poor Scratch, taking our furry hero further away from his friend than ever before!
What is so enjoyable about SCRATCH 9 is the universally entertaining aspects of the characters and stories. Kids are sure to get a kick out of the talking cat who can morph into interesting creatures such as a saber-tooth tiger, and while Penelope remains clueless about her cat’s abilities she has a few herself, not the least of which is a working brain, a desire to do the right thing and a tough-as-nails attitude.
SCRATCH 9 combines the superhero world, talking animals and a smart young girl with sass, delivering everything youthful readers, particular the ladies, could want in a comic. Buchanan’s art is quite clear and expressive, giving all of the characters nice, rounded dimensions, and his action sequences really take the reader along for the ride. Scratch’s big wide eyes when he’s worried about his Penelope truly tug at the heartstrings.
SCRATCH 9 is a great comic for quite a range of ages and proves it by dedicating the last couple of pages to the ‘Pick of the Litter’: a letter and drawing from a young reader, giving fans the chance to creatively express their love for Scratch. Now here is a kids comic that gets it right.
Reviewed by Marc Mason
Two excellent new trade paperbacks from the Image offices…
I’ve been enjoying Simon Roy’s work on PROPHET, finding it innovative and challenging, so I was intrigued to see a story collection of his solo work. Happily, once I dove in to JAN’S ATOMIC HEART AND OTHER STORIES I was rewarded with more phenomenal material from Roy. Diving into the strangest recesses of science fiction, Roy combines unique art and clever stories, delivering ideas that engage the reader and make him think. The title story is the superstar of the collection; Jan is a man who has been in a bad accident, and rather than being fully laid up in bed, he is given a loaner body, that of an aged robot. But as he meets up with a friend, he learns that this particular robot type is one that has been embraced by a terrorist group, and suddenly he realizes that he may have made a very big mistake. To tell you more would be criminal, so I’ll just say this: the result is brilliant. Honestly, there isn’t a dud story in the book, and it deserves a wide audience. Highly recommended.
Speaking of brilliant artists, you can’t have that conversation without talking about Paul Pope. MONSTERS & TITANS is excellent proof of why. This is not a graphic novel; instead, this is more of a tour program for Pope’s traveling art exhibition last year. BATTLING BOY hit shelves last fall, Pope’s first new work in a few years, so it was not a huge surprise to see the original pages make their way across country in a museum setting. This program shows the original art that went on tour, and it offers textual reflections on the pieces; what they mean, what Pope’s process was, and what his intent was for certain sequences. It’s informative, interesting stuff. The printing is over-sized, so it has a coffee table feel to it, and the text is done in English, French, and Italian. This is an unusual item for Image, but I love the fact that they did it. Recommended for sophisticated readers.
By Marc Mason
A bit over two years ago, I wrote this, talking about the process of how my first comic book made it to shelves. It was an incredibly exciting moment for me, the fulfillment of a life-long dream. But in my head, the creepy little elves that like to take up residence did their best to eat away at my excitement, trying to convince me that it was a fluke, and unless I did it again, I had little to be happy about.
All that stuff you hear about writers being neurotic? Far too true.
But I am breathing a bit easier at the moment, because the sequel to RED SONJA: RAVEN is coming this June from the fine folks at Dynamite Entertainment. RED SONJA: SANCTUARY takes place a couple of years after RAVEN. It brings back characters from that first one-shot, and it follows up on ideas from that book. That said, you do NOT have to have read RAVEN in order to understand what is going on in SANCTUARY. One of the great things about editor Joe Rybandt is that he wouldn’t let that happen. He makes sure books are accessible. And I’m with him on that – I grew up on Jim Shooter’s Marvel universe, where the philosophy was always that any comic could potentially be someone’s first comic, so it needed to be understandable. I have always taken that to heart, as a reader and as a writer, and I promise you that SANCTUARY gives you everything you need in order to have a robust reading experience.
In a broader sense, I’m excited beyond just having the book coming out. Sonja is a great character, one of the richest and most interesting that comics have to offer. Being able to add to her legend is a privilege, one I do not take lightly. And the talent I’m surrounded by is fantastic. The first time it was Lui Antonio, this time it’s Noah Salonga. These guys are veterans. It eases the mind to know the kind of work they can do.
RAVEN came out during Eric Trautmann’s record-setting run, which was certainly a little intimidating. No one has done a longer consecutive run than he has on the character. But I made deliberate choices as a writer to separate my story from what Eric was doing on the main book. I did not want to even remotely interfere with his incredible storyline. Of course, it doesn’t get any easier this time; we’re right in the middle of Gail Simone’s absolutely epic run on the book, probably the most buzz the character has received in her entire history. Again, my story has nothing to do with hers. But I’m hopeful that the old adage that a rising tide lifts all boats applies, and hopefully some of the readers who have found Sonja because of Gail will sample SANCTUARY. If they do, I think they’ll like it.
So what is SANCTUARY about?
The first time I wrote the character, my story was based out of two concepts: the idea of Sonja being replaced by a younger woman, and using that character to pay tribute to Chris Claremont’s Professor X/Magneto dynamic from the classic UNCANNY X-MEN era. This time around, I took a far different route. In conceptualizing what I thought a sequel to RAVEN should look like, I started by digging into my own past.
As an undergraduate in college, a bit over twenty years ago, I was a Justice major. During my degree path, I took a class in domestic violence issues, and that course required community service outside the classroom. I spent almost six months volunteering at a local domestic violence shelter, mostly working with the kids. It was an eye-opening, life-changing experience. I’ve never forgotten any of it, really. The pain, the anguish, the heartbreak of those I met… that sticks in your brain. But the good we were doing was also amazing. I was always aware that I was part of something that was making a difference.
The question popped into my head: what would such a shelter look like in Sonja’s time?
The second question: why would Sonja lay down her sword and begin working there?
Question two gave me my primary theme for the entire book, really: aging. How old is Sonja? How long can she keep doing what she is doing? Isn’t her life a tragedy of mammoth proportions if she has no chance to retire and live a little bit?
SANCTUARY is a book about these types of questions.
This does not mean that it is a talking heads book. Far from it. In Sonja’s world, violence is never far away. There is plenty of fighting and carnage in this story. Fans who want things bloody will be quite satisfied. But hopefully those readers will enjoy the layers the tale has to offer.
Since RAVEN came out, I’ve been nicely busy as a writer, and honestly, CWR has suffered for it. I’ve written for a video game, I’ve written a travelogue called A LATE START that will also be a one-man show, I finished serializing an 85K word science fiction novel, I had my first young adult novel, SCHISM, come out, I had a story printed in a literary journal (and a couple of others are still in play), I have written six issues of a creator-owned comic book that my friend Cruddie Torian and I created, and my second young adult novel, BATTERY, just came out last week.
I’m not saying that this is an excuse for allowing the site to suffer; it’s just how things have worked out. I’m trying my best to keep it up and going, and if you think you might want to write for it, drop me a line.
What I am saying is that I’ve gained a lot of experience as a writer in the past couple of years, and I’m better for it. I hope that comes through in SANCTUARY, too. So that’s my pitch. If you want to read the book, let your retailer know to order you a copy. One-shots like this one can easily get “lost in the crowd” in the process of filling out the final order form, so pre-ordering makes an enormous difference. And thanks for reading this far. If you buy the book, drop me a line and tell me what you thought about it. I’ll be right here. I’ll be listening.
By Avril Brown
There’s something about two guys together that makes my heart thump an extra beat. They way they look at one another, the way they fiercely clutch each other when the passion overtakes them, the way they love and die for one another…
Now that your mind is firmly entrenched in the gutter, let me clarify. I heart me a good bromance. Two men who stand and fight together, who have each other’s backs no matter what, really gets me right here. I cannot tell you exactly what it is that draws me in, but when it comes to a true, unbreakable bromance, I just can’t resist.
There are many an addictive bromance relationship in the world of fiction, some more famous than others, but the ones I gravitate towards are (naturally) surrounded by some form of animosity. Either some force is trying to tear them apart, or the personalities are so different you wonder how the hell they got together in the first place.
X-Men: Nightcrawler and Wolverine
The circus performer and the cur. The priest and the pariah. The man of God and the man who would cut God if he pissed him off. Kurt Wagner and James Howlett (aka Logan) are buddies no one saw coming. Despite the Wolverine’s gruff demeanor and body count rivaling a World War, Kurt saw a goodness in Logan which in turn helped Logan see it for himself. The purity of Kurt’s soul calmed the savagery in Logan’s and gave him hope. When Nightcrawler died at the hands (literally) of Bastion (don’t worry, he’s kind of alive again; yay comics!) it was one of the most heartbreaking scenes in an X-Men comic, made more poignant by Wolverine’s reaction when he learns the news. The devastation on his face alone makes my soul ache, and when he popped his claws on one hand and uttered his nickname for his friend, ‘Elf,’ I cried. Some of the most human, emotion-packed moments in X-Men comics are thanks to this duo, tossing back beers and just enjoying life the way only best friends can.
Boondock Saints: Connor, Murphy and Rocco
Who doesn’t love this film? There are oodles of reasons why this is one of the best movies ever made, from the soundtrack to the way it was shot to Willem “Freaking Awesome” Dafoe, and one of those reasons is the overwhelming bromance. Connor and Murphy are twin brothers so it goes without saying they have a bond that cannot be breached, but they let another into their world. Rocco is a bit of a fuck up, but he’s their fuck up, and they take care of their own. Each brother has a different relationship with the Italian mobster package boy, and while Murphy appears to be closer to Rocco they both love him dearly, and both are devastated by his death. After a string of vendetta killings the trio is finally caught by Rocco’s former boss, and when it’s clear the Irish twins are hard as nails and have no intention of giving up any intel mafia don Yakavetta puts a bullet in Rocco’s chest. Connor cries to the god he believes in so intensely, begging him not to let Rocco die, while Murphy manages to throw himself next to his friend so he could look in his face as he breathed his last. After Rocco manages to utter his last words, telling his brothers to get out and keep ridding the world of evil, Murphy breaks down in a tragically beautiful display of love and loss. The brothers manage to fulfill Rocco’s request: they get out and transform their rage into one of the most stunning displays of revenge ever delivered.
Vampire Diaries: Damon and Alaric
I know, I never shut up about this (now) shitty show, but the sarcastic, badass vampire and the honest, badass vampire hunter duo deserve a shout out. Like most relationships filled with ardor, Damon and Alaric hated one another quite thoroughly. Alaric’s wife Isobel was a scholar with a passion for vampire lore, and the last time he saw her she was in Damon’s arms serving as a late night snack. He spent years trying to track down his wife’s murderer and when he finally found him and confronted him, Damon snapped his neck. Thankfully for their future friendship Isobel was not one hundred percent heartless bitch (only ninety-five) and she’d gifted her husband with a ring that resurrects the wearer from a supernatural death. Learning that Isobel wasn’t dead and simply in fact an evil vampire who asked Damon to turn her was the first step on the long road to forming a relationship (whiskey certainly helped), but it was worth it, bumps (like Damon snapping Ric’s neck again just ‘cause he was pissing him off) and all. Naturally their bromance ended in complex and asinine tragedy, but fans got a couple more glimpses of good buddy moments when Alaric was a ghost in season four, the best being at his grave. Damon takes a bottle of whiskey and his frustrations to his friend’s final resting place and proceeds to bitch about how he’s stuck “taking care of the kids” now that Alaric’s gone. He leaves him the rest of the bottle and ghost-Ric, who’d been watching the rant, sighs after his friend and says, “I miss you too, buddy.” Tear.
Blissful Reality: Sir Patrick Stewart and Sir Ian McKellen
Unless you’ve been living under a sad, lonely rock the last few years, you HAVE to know about these boys. Clearly the most famous, and adorable, bromance in the entire world, these two Brits are just too cool for school. From my understanding they met, and fell in brotherly love, on the set of ‘X-Men’ back in 2000 and they’ve been inseparable ever since. Their practically perfect friendship is a joy to witness, and witness you can as they are all over Twitter, Instagram and Buzzfeed. It is impossible to ignore how much they care for one another, and how much damn fun they have together. They’ve done films and plays together, they travel and take totally awesome pictures together, and Sir Ian officiated Sir Pat’s wedding. They recently did one of those ‘how well do you know your spouse?’ gigs and got the answers almost completely wrong, and it was hilariously charming. Seriously, they just cannot not be cute. The exception to the rule, there is no animosity surrounding these besties, proving that reality can often be better than fiction.
Relationships are simply amazing. There are so many variations, so many complex and colorful emotions packed into these ties that bind. One could wonder how we can put so much faith and effort into something invisible, but love is far from invisible. In fact, it is blindingly bright and glaringly obvious, whether or not you know to look for it. A blind man can hear it, a deaf man can see it, and even with minimal senses one can feel it. Helen Keller said that the most beautiful things in this world cannot be seen or touched, but must be felt with the heart. Go out and feel the love, people, and bring on the bromance.
Reviewed by Marc Mason
Two recent debuts, two wildly different approaches. One works… one, your mileage may vary.
I read very little of the character’s earlier adventures, so I came into MAGNUS: ROBOT FIGHTER #1 with a very clean slate. But thanks to some skillful scripting by Fred Van Lente, this was not an issue. We open in what is obviously a flashback, showing Magnus as a martial arts teacher for young children. We also get a glimpse that it is somewhat forward in the future, as technology has advanced quite a bit on the robotics and artificial intelligence side of things. However, once we get into the “current world, the mystery of what has happened to the world, and what role Magnus is to play in it really takes off.
The execution is fantastic.
Van Lente’s take on the character makes him feel real on the page. The art, by Cory Smith, effectively tells the story and his action sequences (when Magnus finally starts fighting some robots) are handled well. And at each turn, the book treats the reader like they know nothing and gives them what they need in order to get immersed in the world being built here. A perfect jumping-on point for both new readers and old.
Next up, I cracked open THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN: SEASON SIX #1, and it takes an entirely different approach. This book has a built-in advantage over MAGNUS, in that it stems from a television show that was a pop-cultural phenomenon during its heyday. I was part of the generation that loved and watched the show, and I owned the action figure of Colonel Steve Austin.
Being a continuation of the show, the book jumps right in, setting in motion a plot involving a space probe that has possibly brought home some alien life. A major subplot is set up as well. Just like a TV episode. But here is where I ran into a problem: the book does not actually set up the characters.
Sure, you expect the reader to know who Steve is. I even vaguely remember his boss Oscar. But there’s a character named Rudy who is supposedly really important, and I have no memory of him on the show. It’s been over thirty years! There’s also another character who may be from the show who seems to be on the same side as Steve and company but is working against them all the same. However, we get no setup for him, either.
Writer Jim Kuhoric does a terrific job in putting together the script in every other way. The plotting and pacing are strong, the characterization of Steve, the danger he runs into in the book… it reminded me a lot of what I watched as a little boy. Juan Antonio Ramirez’s art looks great, and he takes some chances with his layouts that are really nice to look at. It’s a well-executed comic, and I enjoyed it.
But a new reader could potentially get lost quickly. Perhaps they will walk away intrigued and stick with the book to see who these characters are and what they mean to one another, buying future issues. Or, maybe they’ll get confused, like I did. Maybe they’ll even research the show and learn more about it that way. Any of these scenarios is possible.
As always, your personal mileage may vary.
Two solidly done comics, two different approaches to getting underway. That’s comics for you, in a nutshell!
Reviewed by Avril Brown
The final installment to CHEW’s eighth story arc, ‘Family Recipes,’ delivers just as much heartfelt relationship-centric moments and vague plot development as readers would expect from such an amazing chunk of issues. With such a bittersweet and enigmatic ending, there is no telling where in the universe CHEW may take us next.
The twin sibling Chu are reunited!…on an alien world. Well, not really. Tony has eaten the specially prepared Gallsaberry fruit and he is tripping balls while having a conversation with his dead sister. Or, as Toni herself put it: “You’ve just eaten half a psychedelic space fruit, in full bloom, and at peak potency, then slow-cooked in the juices of genetically-engineered psychedelic amphibian. You’re really freaking stoned right now.” However, Toni is on hand to pass along some more important information about the mysterious sky writing which debuted several story arcs ago and what doom it may portend, in addition to some sincere advice for her brother, and an apparently shocking bit of news (still hush-hush) to her niece.
There’s also a hilarious side story as ghost-Toni encourages Tony to join his partner John Colby on a mission, despite the fact he’s still picturing himself as a blue bunny. Naturally Colby helps himself to a solid bite of the freaky fruit before heading out, and sure enough, wackiness ensues. And when it comes to CHEW, you know that is wacky, indeed.
Guillory gives us a lovely opening page look at Altilis-738, and Layman balances this story arc out nicely with some touching family scenes, great character growth and just enough plot development to keeping things moving, but still in the shadows. Readers should be looking forward to the next evolution!
Reviewed by Marc Mason
Lots of new stuff flowing out of the offices in NorCal. Let’s take a look at some of it, shall we?
All it took was one page for me to get sucked into THE MERCENARY SEA #1 by writer Kel Symons and artist Matthew Reynolds, and that was the opening splash page of the book. A gorgeous silhouette shot of a beach landing on a tropical island, it’s poster-worthy and it grabs your attention perfectly. The book itself them dives into a tale of 30s smugglers searching for treasure on the high seas and dodging the law along the way, and it’s a rollicking good time at every step of the journey. Cannibal tribes, rival pirates, double-crosses… all the components you’d expect from this sort of thing, and executed magnificently. As mentioned above, a big part of it is the work by Reynolds – as fun as the script is, Reynolds’ work takes it to another level. He demonstrates a flair for the material, and his use of color as a storytelling device is breathtaking. Looking forward to more of this, for sure.
If I had to summarize THE FUSE #1, I’d call it “HOMICIDE meets DEEP SPACE NINE.” Detective Dietrich arrives at his new home on a space station just in time to witness a murder victim drop in front of him. This leads to a madcap series of events wherein he meets his partner, dives into the investigation, bickers, and is assigned a murder of his own to take lead on… all before he can have a cup of coffee or even go to wherever his home is going to be. Crisp dialogue, fantastic milieu, intriguing mystery, involving and interesting characters… writer Antony Johnston and artist Justin Greenwood deliver it all in this one. I love the way they meld the genres and are able to stay true to the tropes of both while creating something that feels new. With all the hype around Image right now, this is one that flew under the radar a bit, but with something this good, people are going to swarm to it quickly.
There are different ways to tell a similar story. For instance, if you want to tell a story about a young boy going to a school that trains assassins, there’s the way Jimmie Robinson is doing it in FIVE WEAPONS. Alternatively, there is the radically different way that writer Rick Remender and artist Wes Craig do it in DEADLY CLASS #1. This is a much darker ride, focusing on a tragically homeless kid who is barely surviving, but who is also drawing eyes from the wrong kinds of people and about to meet a gruesome end before members of the School of Deadly Arts intervene. The violence has a sense of realness that catches you off-guard, and the danger presented feels like real danger, which is no mean feat. But the real star is Craig’s art, which is eye-popping. Inventive layouts, clever panel design… add in Lee Loughridge’s colors, and it’s one of the more striking books you’ll see on the stands. Definitely a book to keep an eye on.
By Avril Brown
“Crying doesn’t indicate you’re weak. Since birth, it has been a sign that you’re alive.”
I am a somewhat emotional individual. While I am not overly effusive in the demonstration of my emotions I do feel them, all of them, rather intensely. I suspect this is the reason I am so quick to cry. Sadness, anger, frustration and overwhelming gratitude all bring forth the waterworks, and the longer I’ve gone since the last time I cried, the worse the deluge.
To help avoid embarrassment should I find myself in a confrontational situation, and also simply to provide an outlet for my constant abundance of sentiment, I occasionally make myself cry. When the urge strikes I secure a box of tissues, a bottle of wine and a tried and true method for calling forth the keening kraken.
Book - “Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes”
This is the first book that ever made me cry, and with good reason. Based on the true story of Sadako Sasaki, a young Japanese girl who developed leukemia nine years after the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, this children’s book tells the tale of her brave and heartfelt struggle to fulfill a legend. The story says that if a sick person can fold one thousand paper cranes, their wish for health will be granted. Though young Sadako died after folding only six hundred and forty-four cranes, her classmates and other well wishers folded the remaining three hundred and fifty-six which were buried with her. Now a statue stands in her memory and the memory of the other innocent children lost to war, and sixty years later visitors continue to leave paper cranes in her honor and for her ultimate wish: Peace.
Movie - “Donnie Darko”
Anyone who knows me is also aware of my penchant for ‘happy ending’ movies. Typically if someone’s not riding off into the sunset or the world isn’t saved, I’ll pass. “Donnie Darko,” however, is a movie so filled with love, loss and some serious mind-fucks I couldn’t help but be drawn in, despite its (mostly) tragic conclusion. If you’re not familiar with the film it can be hard to summarize in only a few lines, but it is a young love story with a unique science fiction twist. Donnie is a brilliant but troubled teenager (his imaginary friend is a guy in a freakishly scary rabbit costume) who falls for the new girl in school. He ends up sacrificing himself to save his girlfriend’s life, but due to the nature of how he pulled it off (time travel wormhole is the best way to describe it) he dies knowing he saved a life, but his totally kick-ass family is left mourning his loss on their front yard. His father is wracked with sobs, clutching his youngest daughter, as the other daughter cries quietly nearby. His mother stands with silent tears, smoking a cigarette and sharing a moment with the young woman who, unbeknownst to her, is only alive because Donnie chose to die. For me, seeing a family grieving the loss of a loved one is carte blanche for unrestrained bawling.
Television - “Angel”
Who better to bring on the pain than Joss ‘I hate happy couples’ Whedon? There are actually several Whedon-inspired weepers I could choose from, but one has been removed from the docket due to hitting too close to home. ‘The Body’ is one of the more famous episodes in “Buffy” history; Buffy comes home to find her mother dead on the couch from an aneurysm. The episode is painfully well done and was shot in long takes with no musical embellishment, complete with stunning performances from the cast depicting very realistic reactions to an unexpected loss, and is more than enough to bring a tear to even the driest eye. However, my mother has an arteriovenous malformation (AVM) which is an abnormal connection of blood vessels on the brain. It is responsible for a few scares in recent years, so that particular episode, while very easy to cry to, gets me right where I live, and is avoided like the plague.
Therefore I turn to the ridiculously overdone “Angel” series. I still haven’t seen half of the series, but I have seen the fifth and final season quite a few times, particularly the episodes where Fred, the adorably bubbly girl genius, dies and her body taken over by an eons-old god. What kills about this two-part episode is not just that Fred is the only universally likeable character, but that she and paramour Wesley had finally gotten together and didn’t even have a whole episode of happiness (I think that was a new low for Whedon). Also, she was the think tank of the crew who had previously spent years in a hell dimension and who, by her own angry admission, “…would not be cut down by some monster flu; I am BETTER than that!” Seriously, all flights of fantasy aside, watching this strong woman slowly dying even as she struggles against the inevitable and tries to have faith in her champions, is guaranteed cry-material. As the infectious ancient entity Illyria ravages her body, Fred fights to experience every single second of life. Determined to the last to stay brave, she still can’t help but wonder at her final moment, “Wesley, why can’t I stay?” Gets me every time.
Comic - Garth Ennis, “Battlefields: The Fall and Rise of Anna Kharkova”
The X-Men have a phrase about death as it relates to their teammates: ‘That trick never works!’ In superhero comics, death can be somewhat of a revolving door; those who head out could just as easily be on their way back in. There have been a few passings in the world of spandex that are irreversible and have tugged hard on my heartstrings, but no comic has made me utterly dissolve like Garth Ennis’s “Battlefields.” Ennis is a war history buff and his “Battlefields” series tells the story of many real life superheroes from various conflicts, and he does it right. In WWII Russia had a squadron of women pilots whom were dubbed the ‘Night Witches’ by the Nazis they hunted. They would glide their planes into enemy territory in the dead of night, drop their bombs and hightail it out of there before the Nazis even knew they were being attacked. Garth told their story in his own unique way, with his own unique character: Anna. One of the successful ‘Night Witches,’ Anna was a naturally gifted pilot. She suffered the loss of her love before the wars end and fought her way out of a POW camp. In her subsequent story arcs, she’s injured in combat and nursed back to health by a Jewish doctor, learning a level of compassion she never previously understood along the way. Back in the motherland she is ultimately supported by a fellow Witch who has gained some status in the Russian government, and is granted a stay of execution, but her rebellious nature leads her to piss off the wrong people, and she and her friend are thrown into a work camp. Supportive of Anna to the last and her desire/right to fly the skies like she was born, and once encouraged by her country, to do, Mouse dies in the camp, leaving Anna alone with a pathetic excuse of a ‘leader’ who goes out of his way to make her life miserable. Yet Anna never loses her fighting spirit, and screws him over in the most amazing and heartbreaking manner possible. She steals a visiting MiG, the ultimate in Soviet air warfare technology, for one final flight. Anna pushes the plane to the limits and is eventually confronted by a fellow pilot, an American. When asked of her intentions, Anna weighs her options. She could return to Russia, and to her execution. She could continue along to an American base, defect and live out the rest of her days in which would undoubtedly be a rather cozy manner given the fact she would be gifting them an invaluable plane, but instead she chooses the only avenue she feels is right for her unique position as a born pilot and a loyal Russian, by taking her beautiful plane and “throwing her at the sun.” It took me an hour to pull myself together after finishing that book.
Needing a good cry isn’t a ‘girl’ thing necessarily; my mother is one of the least lamenting people I know. Crying is not the only external passageway for my passions, but it is an effective one, and every single individual has to have a release of some kind, whatever form it may take. Be not ashamed of your tears, be grateful that you are feeling enough to shed them. Grab a tissue and a cucumber for those morning-after eye baggies, and just let it out.