SW Comics Rec: Afterlife With Archie, Vol. 1: Escape From Riverdale

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Afterlife With Archie Vol. 1: Escape From Riverdale

  • Writer: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
  • Artist: Francesco Francavilla, Jack Morelli
  • Published by: Archie Comics
  • Pages: 210 , Publish Date: June 4, 2014 Price: $17.99
  • Notes: collecting #1-5 of the sometimes monthly single-issue series

Synopsis:

“When Jughead’s beloved pet Hot Dog is killed in a hit and run, Jughead turns to the only person he knows who can help bring back his furry best friend — Sabrina the Teenage Witch. Using dark, forbidden magic, Sabrina is successful and Hot Dog returns to the land of the living. But he’s not the same… and soon, the darkness he brings back with him from beyond the grave begins to spread, forcing Archie, Betty, Veronica and the gang to try to escape from Riverdale!”

My Recommendation:

Jughead is hungry…for human flesh?!

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Yes! Afterlife with Archie takes place in an alternate, less cartoonish continuity of the popular Archie comics. Who thought, Archie Comics could be a source for modern horror, suspense, and drama? Yet here we. The result is terrifying, brilliant, and fun.

As a fan of horror and comics, I was hooked from the opening page. Not so much for the tired gimmick of zombies; but the attention to what makes the best of this sub-genre wonderful: the stage environment and the players present. We have suspense and supernatural horror mixed with casual social commentary. When done well, any overplayed genre can be made fresh and enjoyable.

And, I love the biting and screaming; which does well for suspense and horror elements, and for fun campy, and darkly campy comedic moments.

The overall tone is more than simply “Archie with zombies,” or a Walking Dead clone. The unique art style of Afterlife with Archie is the key. Instead of the familiar comical style we all know, we get a dramatic and dark atmosphere. The night environments, use of shadows, and angles all work together to produce a foreboding tone. Classic, spooky lettering sound effects are used well, with strategic placement to enhance the horror.

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The coloring is also superb – especially the use of red (Archie’s hair and the Riverdale “R” on his sweater) – as is the storytelling’s ominous change of background, and the biting and screaming. Much of these fantastically detailed visuals (with occasional surprise gore) go back to the classic horror comics like the EC Comics of old (Tales from the Crypt, The Vault of Horror, The Haunt of Fear) and the classic Warren Magazines (Creepy, Eerie, Vampirella).

The full story is grand and terrifying. For this Riverdale, the outbreak is real and out of control. The only way to have a sense of order is through survival. The horrifying circumstances here are based on the supernatural, where the usual hope in prevailing science for survival is further diminished. What makes Afterlife with Archie darker is how we lose familiar characters, or those we are just beginning to know, into the darkness. The terror seeks to consume, to overwhelm. We are left wondering who will survive, and keep the light, in the end.

However, not all is gloom and doom. We get some of that classic camp from the regular Archie comics. Some familiar tropes to modern horror present, such as lesser characters making light of the situation, or in an excessive state of panic. Many relationship angles happen, including the dilemma of Archie’s ongoing “intimate relationship” choice between Betty and Veronica. Others disconnect in some tragic, yet comically melodramatic ways (poor Ethel Muggs). Jughead comes full circle with his insatiable hunger, but no longer for just hamburgers. Such fun development keeps the comic enjoyable, without being too morbid.

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We also enjoy a return to classic heroism with our main character, Archie Andrews. He is brave, and a rule-breaker: a great lead character to root for, who is not concerned with impressing anyone or getting the girl. In contrast, it seems the rest of the survivors do, or at least fail to take control of their situation preferring to enjoy the comforts of safety while they can. Archie also deals with some serious, heartbreaking choices in issue four, adding maturity and development to a perpetually young character. I also feel the awesomeness of Archie’s shirt now: I feel the “R” is now a clear symbol of his boldness, and hope for Riverdale. His humble appeal and heroism make him the perfect, deserving protagonist in a plague-ridden apocalypse.

The overall pacing and plot keeps us readers in check, looking forward to each new chapter. Afterlife of Archie is an instant classic. Buy this, as it is worth every penny. Also there are bonuses, with reprinted “From the Vault: Chilling Adventures in Sorcery” black-and-white classic stories, interviews, extra artwork, and more.

Then find a nice cozy spot in the dark with a small reading light. If on a digital device turn out all the surrounding lights. Keep your windows locked and your blankets near, then enjoy the read.

– Orion T

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SW Comics Rec: The Empty, Volume One TP

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The Empty

  • Writer/Artist: Jimmie Robinson
  • Published by: Image Comics
  • Pages: 104 , Publish Date: September 30, 2015 Price: $9.99
  • Notes: Now in a trade paperback format, collecting #1-6 of the monthly series

Synopsis:

Tanoor lives in an empty apocalyptic world of poison and decay. Her village is all that remains of humanity as they struggle against mutant beasts and rotting bones.But Tanoor finds a chance to save her people when a stranger drifts into town. A stranger armed with the power to grow life from death. A stranger who could change the world—if Tanoor can keep them alive in the deadly world of The Empty.

Personal Recommendation:

The Empty is a fantastic read for anyone seeking a wealth of adventure, wonder, and imagination.

Why? There are many reasons. For starts, there is that refreshing feel when a new series catches me from the beginning. It starts out fairly simply and builds from there. We have an empty desert-like world, and something out there beyond it all; which will eventually connect. We rely on a bold protagonist (Tanoor) who will defy odds of survival (not in her favor) and rebel against local prejudices, to befriend a mysterious outsider (Lila), as they take on a fantastic journey together. Out in the Empty are new friends and dangers, and answers that will surprise both our protagonists and readers as well.

And there is a sense of geography, though we are uncertain of the placement. From the beginning, we know of many benefits and dangers present, as they build a lifestyle and culture for the locals. We learn of the wild and fantastic dangers that feel like something out of an old pulp story, calling for action using what ever means are necessary. This includes the strange use of our heroine’s arm-shield devices, and the mysterious power of her new companion. We get many excited moments, from whatever it takes to survive and keep going..

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The characterizations are fantastic. Tanoor remains central to the story, though much of the plot revolves around Lila. We as readers I think can see this Empty world through Tanoor and her tribal ways, or Lila as the stranger. We learn about our characters and various groups they meet, with lots of new creatures and devices through character discussion and discovery, action and progression of the story. Nothing feels shoehorned in, just a nice natural flow through a pacing similar to the Wizard of Oz classic story. Every new friend adds to the story, as together they learn about themselves and the world around. Also, the fantastic theme of friendship and compassion is constant throughout, and shines well in the end of this first volume.

Along the way, many strange and wonderful creatures along the barren and otherworldly landscapes. Much of these species revolves around the mysterious roots poisoning the Empty land. There are hints of environmentalism, and the feel that something unnatural is at work which is slowly revealed to the readers. The answer is compelling, and thought-provoking.

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The art is fantastic, and feels unique to the overall setting. We get much of the story in two worlds. One is the Empty, a desert hot dry climate where options for survival are limited. Yet, the art makes it beautiful and dreamlike. The Empty is a place worth traveling through, as we know there is something waiting out in the beyond. That would be the other world, a world of farming and lush greenery which acts as a side story that will eventually converge.

At a glance, one may question the anatomy of the artist. Some may rush to prejudgment. But reading through, you learn such style has narrative purpose. The world is unusual, and so are its inhabitants. The Empty’s tribal inhabitants have longer arms, while Lila’s race have long necks and big eyes. It’s beautiful how creator Jimmie Robinson presents the two, as something normal but on how the meeting of racial and cultural differences can be wonderful, should the right connections follow through.

There are other subtle differences between the two races that deepen the story. Many of which, the reader will learn. Along the way are other subtle messages on familiar topics. Some of included but limited to environmentalism, government corruption, value differences, and new discoveries challenging old beliefs.

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The sequential form is traditional, with nothing fancy in panel transitions. Yet, the pacing and visuals through panels are fantastic and flows through like an animated movie.  When action happens, we get some cool shots and exciting angles. When conversation occurs, we get great attention to surrounding elements of nature and dwellings. The colors also fit and aid well to the settings.

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Overall, the Empty is a treat with more than I expected, with the right blend of action, drama, humor and intrigue. But, I hope I didn’t raise your expectations too much. I held back on why this series is fun and thoughtful, with great resistance on spoilers. I think new readers should discover for themselves, the wonderful fullness of The Empty, Volume 1!

– Orion T

SW Comics Rec: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutanimals

Mutanimals

Mutanimals

  • Writer: Paul Allor
  • Artist: Andy Kuhn
  • Published by: IDW Comics
  • Pages: 104 , Publish Date: August 19, 2015 Price: $17.99
  • Notes: Now in a softcover trade paperback format, collecting #1-4 of the monthly mini-series. So far, single issues are available in digital app from IDW app outlets, and through back issues.

Synopsis:

Old Hob, Slash, Herman the Hermit Crab, Mondo Gecko, and Pigeon Pete have become a force to be reckoned with. When someone close to the group is kidnapped, the Mutanimals end up on an adventure more wild and dangerous than they could have imagined! What mysteries lurk at…The Null Group?

Personal Recommendation:

For just plain ol fun and epic badassery, this series is freakin awesome.

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But, it’s not for everyone. It’s much for those who enjoy a world where talking mutant ninja turtles exist. It’s a lot for comic readers who delight in obscurity, love a good B-movie, and probably engage in some pretty interesting video games and cartoons. The Mutanimals simply take a formula for fun, based on taking cool animals and making them anthropomorphic badass perversions of science. Thrown in elements of the classic A-Team television series, as we have a unique team of fighters with different personalities.

The odd crew of interesting members of the mighty Mutanimals is what drew me in. These mutants much relate to the same Ninja Turtles lore, that I have come to know and love (especially the recent IDW series with co-creator Kevin Eastman). But, you don’t need to familiarize yourselves too much with the overall Turtles IDW comics mythos to enjoy the Mutanimals series. The Turtles are not even present in this, but merely exist in the same universe (as Hob and others have appeared in the TMNT series).

For the group, the lineup is awesome. We got Old Hob, a borderline one-eyed psychotic with a violent streak who has much heart for his mutated kind, and not much else for humankind. Hob is a leader, but not necessarily the best role model. But, there is a bizarre charm to his madness..

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Other team players include Mondo Gecko, a young skater lizard with a knack for being smooth and cool under pressure. We got Slash, a mutant turtle who is not a teenager nor a ninja. But he’s the tank with a soft heart deep inside that hard spikey shell. We got Herman the crab, who comes off as a sort of grandpa with a knack for explosives and firepower. Pigeon Pete is the messenger perhaps, who should stay out of the trouble..but ends up taking part anyway. The group has new members who join throughout the series, of whom I will save the surprise for those who will read the book. One of which, will be a delight to those who holding a nostalgic love for the old TMNT toys.

That being said, it’s a perfect classic set up; all mercenary revolutionary fighters for a cause. The story delveops their friendship as they work together against a common enemy..of which seems a bit generic but acceptable for a new series. The Mutanimals communicate with other outsiders, of which can be friends.

The action and pacing does not slack, with lots of fighting and shooting to thrill comic readers who crave such things. In between, there are little moments of background filler and connections to the TMNT universe…however not enough to alienate the less hardcore TMNT fan. But there the big fans of any age, there is plenty. Along the way, we get some light and dark humor, with some drama, and a lot of hell yeah moments.

The art is a great match for the book, with a lot of grit and hardness about it. The best of it lies in the character designs and expressions. We have the full spectrum of feels throughout the book, which is an accomplishment considering most of the main characters are mutated animals. Such intensities like what follows below, is what gets me to cheer and root more for the Mutanimals here.

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I also like the use of colors, which strategically places vibrancy well, usually to express emotion through highlighted backgrounds. Otherwise, lots of gritty tones and night effects going on throughout. Much like the TMNT world, Mutanimals shows us the possible excitement of city life that we could be missing. To do that, this style is necessary and works out.

Overall, I enjoyed the hell out of TMNT: Mutanimals for its cut-loose style of writing and classic comic book action i loved growing up. I hope for more beyond this volume, as I hope more potential readers will give it a chance. Perhaps with a growing fandom of its own, we could drop the TMNT selling point in the title as they could earn enough respect to simply call it Mutanimals. That would be awesome.

– Orion T

SW Games Rec: The Stanley Parable

The Stanley Parable (2013 remake version)

    • Genre: Interactive fiction, 1st person
    • Release Date: October 17, 2013 (remake by Galactic Cafe)
    • Development: Davey Wreden, Galactic Cafe
    • Platform: Windows PC, MAC OS, Steam
    • Official Site: www.thestanleyparable.com 
    • Notes:  The original release date was July 27, 2011 by original creator Davey Wreden , an earlier version of the game with some changes in visuals and gameplay.

Synopsis:

“The Stanley Parable is a first person exploration game. You will play as Stanley, and you will not play as Stanley. You will follow a story, you will not follow a story. You will have a choice, you will have no choice. The game will end, the game will never end.”.

Personal Recommendation (based on Steam Version on Windows):

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This is a story….

The Stanley Parable is a game of narratives, not so much the challenge of gameplay. The demands are little, other than seeing a story to its end. However, finding the right path that suits you (or Stanley, or the narrator, or an audience perhaps) is really where the fun sets in.

The brilliant starts begins with the mundane, familiar setting.  We have something familiar to the working white-collar 1st world worker; living death for some, a satisfying simple life to others. Suddenly, people are gone and that puzzle which begins the mystery. The first idea is to unlock the mystery, and find the bigger picture of it all. A voice guides you to its logical or illogical conclusion. The choice along the way varies..

For full enjoyment, play The Stanley Parable for repetitive times till the game feels like that classic Groundhog Day movie. Because you as the player, deal with decisions led by your narrator on suggested processes. To go through with them, you must choose and challenge your surroundings. Often, that will mean whether or not to listen to the narrator. I suggest rebellion.

So that is the joy of The Stanley Parable, which leads into the aesthetic look and feel of the game. There is emptiness, perhaps an unease on the loneliness of it all. The narrator provides a little company, with wit at times. An almost bonding happens, which for the sake of the stories saves Stanley from suffering of an existential nightmare. Some endings there is a sense of company..which may not be better. For the best ending, Stanley should be truly happy and free..which can be questioned by the player.

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The layout is genius, where at first may seem to have little purpose but to provide environment. There is some wicked humor and jabs at the everyday mundane life of the cubicle worker. Prepare for the sound of constant locked doors and beeps that do nothing, should you decide to freely explore the game looking for..something else.

The controls are fairly simple. You have full mobility with no forced direction. You can touch things and duck (which for some reason, I have yet to find a reason to).

To my knowledge there are eighteen endings to this game, as I have yet only found six. To progress and find them all, is perhaps the true ending for me to complete the game 100%. This becomes an experiment in thinking. The game gets into my head, and I must get into the head of the developers. Resist conformity, linear traps, and good endings to dig deeper into the weirdness of the game. There is a fantastic joy in repetitive exploration, to look for those missing variables, and unlock something new and perhaps grand.

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The art is also playful, ranging from almost minimalist to complex and complicated. The numbers on the door, the wall art, the colors of things and surfaces…everything has a narrative purpose. Also playful is your scale and dimensions, where the game can start small in your cubic prison to the opposite in dimensions. The question becomes on just how big a picture did you get, and who must you go against to get that.

The Stanley Parable is clever and wonderful. Stanley would play it, and so should you.

– Orion T

SW Comics Rec: Divinity (collected #1-4)

Divinity

Divinity

  • Writer: Matt Kindt
  • Artist: Trevor Hairsine
  • Published by: Valiant Comics (valiantuniverse.com)
  • Pages: 164 , Publish Date: July 15, 2015 Price: $9.99
  • Notes: Collects #1-4 of the monthly mini-series, now available in comic retail stores and apps

Synopsis:

“From New York Times best-selling writer Matt Kindt (THE VALIANT, Mind MGMT) and blockbuster artist Trevor Hairsine (X-Men: Deadly Genesis) comes a shocking new vision of 21st century science fiction!

At the height of the Cold War, the Soviet Union – determined to win the Space Race at any cost – green lit a dangerously advanced mission. They sent a man farther into the cosmos than anyone has gone before or since. Lost in the stars, he encountered something unknown. Something that…changed him.

Long thought lost and erased from the history books, he has suddenly returned, crash-landing in the Australian Outback. The few that have been able to reach him believe him to be a deity – one who turned the scorched desert into a lush oasis. They say he can bend matter, space, and even time to his will. Now the rest of the world’s powers must decide for themselves – will the enigmatic Divinity offer his hand in friendship, or will Earth’s heroes fi nd themselves helpless against the wrath of the divine?

Personal Recommendation:

A science fiction tale for those who enjoy post space-age drama set in a superhero filled universe, being the Valiant one.

Divinity tells the story of one man who is unlike others, also for reasons before developing his god-like power. Abram Adams from the beginning is special, with no information given on his birthplace or parents. He is adopted by others in the Soviet Union, and recognized for his intelligence and dedication to excellence. He is also dark-skinned, and considered Russian because he grows up in this adoptive homeland. It’s hard to accept with my ignorance on race relations in the Soviet Union of that time, but it’s believable in this book for one to find acceptance and do further within a society that pushes for excellence at any cost.

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That is where this book goes but not for the Soviets, as Abrams himself has a destiny to fulfill in the stars. He becomes the first astronaut in the Valiant Universe, to be sent into deep space. A classified mission from the start, for reasons I think could lead to an embarrassing failure, should the project fail. But, the idea of what was possible considered during our own historic Space Race by the main world powers fascinates me. I imagine this fantastic time, where the great thinkers of the world become unrestrained in thinking what humanity can achieve.

And what comes back of course, if also interesting. The mysteries of deep space will always give some interesting stories. In addition, we also have this strange world of time travelers, immortals, ninjas, mystics and other fantastic sorts. We began with something familiar to our own and end with the fantastic. But with Divinity, we need not familiarize ourselves with the assortment of interesting characters without. Their part adds interest to an interesting situation, and does not push upon the reader to read other titles set in the same universe (also available to read). There is more room however, to learn about the other characters further, and delve further into those titles, should any be of interest.

Meanwhile, the focus of Divinity is on a metamorphosis through Abrams’ trip which never ended with the space travel. We get a forward to the present, where we find the result; a living god who has come back to Earth.

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What follows is some action, and interesting uses of his power. The present day story is mostly set in the Australian Outback, where Abrams confronts some of the best humankind has in taking him down. There is a twist, to his past that brings changes in him and perhaps those around him. We look to what makes him more human, even after godhood, which brings the character to its full development.

The art is beautiful and fitting..with moments full of emotional expressionism in the faces and surroundings. I love the positioning and transition of story elements here, leading me through the pages of this grand drama. The colors and inking brings some fantastic sequential art depth to the story as well, giving some excellent filters to the uncommon setting, putting all into great context for the reader to enjoy.

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Overall, a compelling read I highly recommend.  One does not need to familiarize with the current Valiant universe setting, as it brings a wonderful accessory to the drama. The story itself is enough, for anyone who loves comics to enjoy.

The first volume of this is a great experience on its own and worth checking out. There, is room in the bittersweet ending for more story, with a Divinity II story in the works, by Valiant. If that continuation brings more goodness and further similiar storytelling, than I look forward to the overall epic of the Divinity saga to be told.

– Orion T

SW Comics Rec: The Valiant (collected #1-4 edition)

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The Valiant

  • Writer: Mark Kindt, Jeff Lemire
  • Artist: Paolo Rivera
  • Published by: Valiant Comics (valiantuniverse.com)
  • Pages: 164 , Publish Date: May 27, 2015 Price: 9.99
  • Notes: Collects #1-4 of the monthly mini-series, now available in comic retail stores and apps

Synopsis:

“The Eternal Warrior has protected the Earth for more than 10,000 years. A master of countless weapons and long forgotten martial arts, he is guided by the Geomancers – those who speak for the Earth. During his long watch, the Eternal Warrior has failed three times. Each time, the Geomancer was killed…and a new dark age for humanity began. Each time, he was unable to stop The Immortal Enemy – a monstrous force of nature. A civilization killer. A horror that appears differently each time it arrives…and whose seemingly only purpose is to bring disorder and darkness to the world. Now, the time has come for The Immortal Enemy to return once more. But, this time, the Eternal Warrior will be ready. This time, he has a force greater than any single warrior. This time, he has…THE VALIANT.”

Personal Recommendation:

I missed out on the era of the old Valiant comics of the 1990s. I remember an impressive shelf presence and a dedicated reader base which had my curiosity, but not enough to pull me in. Two decades later, Valiant Comics now makes significant comeback, in the hearts of new readers both old and new. Lately, I have hungered for a new universe to jump into, feeling tired of the mainstream Marvel/DC melodrama. Now onto the Valiant universe where  I am curious again, and going in..

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Based on many rave reviews and a friendly invitation at a recent comic convention, I looked into Valiant’s recent Divinity and The Valiant mini-series. I heard both were good jump-on starters for Valiant, yet I need not familiarize myself with its extensive history and background. I will cover Divinity in a future SW posting for being a fantastic science fiction tale, and focus on The Valiant for its delivery as a gateway to this interesting new world.

The Valiant is a story of many characters re-introduced, though the focus is on a few main players leading the charge against an ancient immortal evil.  We have a fresh approach to each character in the book, giving just enough to see what makes them special. Part of the goodness of the series, is that the main character is up to the reader, as we see a balance between important characters not just to the series, but to the Valiant modern mythos. We have Gilad, the Eternal Warrior, who has carries on his heroic quest though he constantly loses in protecting the ones he loves. He meet the Geomancer, now a woman who carries on this generational title with the new responsibility of bearing Earth-based powers. We have Bloodshot, a nano machine infused killing machine. Keep going, and there are more cool characters who were the stars of their own series, and will be again. For this series, we have them all binding together, for a common purpose..and it’s awesome.

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Each come together to deal with an unkillable enemy, later known as the Immortal Enemy, or Mr. Flay. The origins of the evil are unknown, perhaps just an unnatural evil force that serves to torment the Eternal Warrior, and expand that suffering unto others. There is a binding fantastic heroism in combatting this horrible thing. which feels nostalgic and wonderful to the comics of old, where us readers can root for their hopeful victory in conquering this evil, and becoming stronger as a result. But not all is predictable, as the story leads us into some uncertain territories. Not all good wins, through the conflict makes for a good ending..or beginning if this book drew you in enough.

Plus, we have some great action and horror elements throughout these issues. The Valiant also does not hold back on the nightmares brought on by the master evil. Using all that is good in attempt to end the horror, kept me on edge. This fine dancing between horror, fantasy, and science fiction is what makes this universe interesting.

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More so, this read has an old school vibe to the way comics used to be, back when comics had more dialogue and better transitioned panel sequences. There seems more thought by the creative team to put fantastic detail into the background, ensure dramatic positioning of characters (to show emotion, not just unnecessary posing). I also enjoy the coloring and shading combinations throughout the book, to better bring out a cinematic feel to the overall story. Backgrounds, character position, expressions, color; all as important as the words themselves. With these elements and fantastic coloring, I felt some great classic appeal in the reading. Here is a good example:

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So keeping all this in mind, The Valiant is a worthwhile read.  The price of this trade paperback is only $9.99, a cheap price for those looking to test the waters of this new universe. There is plenty within that amount, to explore and enjoy.

– Orion T

SW Comics Rec: Copperhead, vol. 1

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Copperhead Volume 1: A New Sheriff in Town

  • Writer: Jay Faerber
  • Artist: Scott Godlewski
  • Colorist: Ron Riley
  • Published by: Image
  • Pages: 128, Publish Date: March 11, 2015 Price: 9.99
  • Notes: Collects #1-5 of the monthly series

Synopsis:

“Welcome to Copperhead, a grimy mining town on the edge of a backwater planet. Single mom Clara Bronson is the new sheriff, and on her first day she’ll have to contend with a resentful deputy, a shady mining tycoon, and a family of alien hillbillies. And did we mention the massacre? Questions swirl around not only the murder mystery, but around Sheriff Bronson herself. What brought her to a place like Copperhead? Is she running from something? Or towards something? Collecting Copperhead #1-5, the debut story arc in Image’s gritty new sci-fi/western mashup!”

Personal Thoughts on why it’s awesome:

The hybrid of frontier western and science fantasy fiction, remains an underrated sub-genre. What comes to mind are some alternative pop-culture hits with deep world-building, raising to earth somethings believable and exciting; using the old frontier time period as an influential backdrop. The result is storytelling with a lot of freedom, and heightened danger with the occasional dose of social anarchy. Examples of such include Joss Whedon’s TV show Firefly, the manga/anime Trigun, Weird Western Tales comics with Jonah Hex, the Bravestarr cartoon.

Copperhead is a wonderful, fresh addition to the sub-genre.

Copperhead delivers the greatness of fantasy western futurism, with a fresh approach. We have an overall new planet to explore, where native elements benefit and endanger. We have outside elements, that must adapt and change. Such includes, the spectrum of humanity and inhumanity across a variety of sentient beings. Nothing seems too weird, once we accept this new world and its familiar tropes of classic genre storytelling. Yet. the odd alien variety and added retrofuture tech gives it all, a heightened approach.

Then we have our heroine, Clara Bronson..

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She is a badass. It takes heightened bravado to slug a big, hefty giant-eyed alien. What’s more for Clara, is that she is not some high plains drifter, as often stereotypes do in these frontier fantasies. Clara is the new sheriff for a small very distant town, and a single mother; both demanding responsibilities to take on.  Her attitude is fearless, to the point to the point of feeling confident she can take on both.But, there are challenges as we soon see from the first issues, where she will have enemies and new dangers to face. It’s exciting for us readers to sort of live through her, and the high stakes both domestic and outside. A fresh start is in story for her, and us readers. 

The supporting cast is a campy sort any local yokel can cheer for. We have the furry giant deputy with a somewhat gentle spirit by the name of Budroxifinicus (Boo for short, but he would rather you didn’t). We have Clara’s son Zeke and his new friend of similar age, Annie. Together they look for a missing dog, which leads to new characters, and more danger. Also, we have the concept of the “artificial human” with a new character, Ishmael; which brings back some interesting moral dilemmas and speculations. Along the way, the cast (especially Clara) must come to an understanding what this environment brings and that violence is not always the best solution to solving problems.

However, not all is good fun. There is murder, with some violence and gore. We have a murder mystery, with interesting interventions and plot twists. The pacing is good as the puzzle kept me guessing, entertained. The result has heart, and a strengthening of the main character as a sheriff and a mother, as she must also use both developed instincts to bring about resolution.

Scott Godlewski’s art has great style, and well done for this series. The pencils are simple, but show great emotion where needed. The environments remind me of planet Tatooine (Star Wars) where recycled technology and structures made with whatever works gives practicality, and the beauty of living a simple life, no matter the situation.

The coloring by Ron Riley is also superb, and a perfect complement to the art within. We have lots of earthly tones during the day, with the natural effects one could expect in a dusty, heated open land. The night brings some nice moonlit tones, mixed with dramatic shadings; a nice addition to the drama and intrigue for the story.

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Overall, the first volume gives lots to look forward to, with an ending hinting towards more drama and action. Copperhead feels deserving, matching a TV show with at least six seasons. Check out the first volume, for a good casual read and escape into some great frontier fantasy.

– Orion T

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COMIC READING REVIEW: Little Nemo: Return to Slumberland

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Little Nemo: Return to Slumberland

  • Writer: Eric Shanowar
  • Artist: Gabriel Rodriguez
  • Published by: IDW
  • Notes: Monthly series

Synopsis (from IDW site):

“An all-new, all-ages series full of magic and whimsy from award-winning creators Eric Shanower (Adventures in Oz) and Gabriel Rodriguez (Locke & Key)! Spinning out of Winsor McKay’s brilliant early 20th century strip, Little Nemo in Slumberland sees King Morpheus’ daughter, in the Royal Palace of Slumberland, select her next-playmate: Nemo! Only Nemo has no interest in being anyone’s playmate, dream or no dream!”

Personal Thoughts (#1-3):

Little Nemo: Return to Slumberland brings us brilliant, intelligent writing by Eric Shanowar whose great works includes Age of Bronze (Image Comics), and various Oz comics (Marvel, IDW).  This new series brings the spirit of the classic Winsor McCay strips, but modernized for the current style of sequential storytelling. You will find much of the magic and visual styles familiar to the fantasy settings of the early 1900s, but with the added touch of modern developments in fantasy storytelling.

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The story setting takes us from a mundane world, with a new hero (his middle name is Nemo) as successor to the past Nemo of the McCay strips, then taking us into a fascinating realm full of dangers and fascinations; pushing the boundaries of imagination. I identify with our new Nemo as a child, thrust into this strange realm of wonders but at first reluctance and a little skepticism. There is some resistance as we also see hints of some mature development to our hero. Maybe he doesn’t want to play, or perhaps a part of him is still stuck in our reality of video games and TV. Yet, he finds joy with new friends, and wonders intended (and not) for him. He soon takes on new responsibilities in helping others, while drawing in danger to him. There are temptations in this dreamworld, which may draw our protagonist away from his heroic nature or perhaps a danger to others and Slumberland.  Some include but not limited to: forbidden areas, breaking rules, forces that lead him astray like Flip (a mischievous clown). Overall, there is great pacing and buildup for our character, and his destined place in Slumberland; which I think extends far beyond the role of the simple playmate.

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I was originally drawn to this book by its artist, Gabriel Rodriguez; after his fantastic work on Joe Hill’s Locke and Key series. His art in this revamp of Nemo is perfect, and so much more with the turn of every page. He does not try to copy the classic Winsor McCay comics, but combines visual elements as an influence to his own unique style. This was also done before this series, back in a short story to the excellent one shot, Locke and Key: Guide to Known Keys.

The backdrops and landscapes are gorgeous, extensive of the minds expectations with complex and grand architecture and curious situations. The characters he draws are full of emotion and playfulness. The colors are fitting, full of playful combinations and textures relating back to the classic McCay strips.  Together, this is world-building at its visual finest. The added situations and physics of Slumberland enhance the visuals; especially in the third issue as our hero undergoes some crazy Escher influenced obstacles and strange puzzles. There are moments where I stop reading, and find myself lost in the details and grandeur of this comic world of dreams.

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I recommend this series for anyone who loves a good adventure and craving something more than traditional storytelling. It’s great and fitting for all almost all ages. You need not familiarize with the classic strips of a century back, though it could add to the reading experience. In that, the single issues contain pages of the original works (and other cool extras).  Overall, just read let your inner child enjoy.

Where to find this: 

At comic books stores and digital comic outlets for IDW. There will likely by a trade paperback combining these early comics in the near future. Then perhaps, look for this at graphic novel/trade sections of retail bookstores and libraries. For more information idwpublishing.com