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God of Comics – Secret Weapons #2

God Of Comics, Reviews

July 19, 2017

Secret Weapons #2 (Valiant Entertainment)

Holy gods. Did you see Arrival? This is a comic written by Eric Heisserer, the guy that wrote that screenplay. He’s moving in and taking the reins of mythologies set in place by Harbinger and Imperium, two of the best comics published in the modern era, and is dealing the complexities that Toyo Harada has left for everyone else.

Oh, Harada. You make everything harder for everyone.

Toyo Harada is a psiot, which is basically Valiant for mutant. He’s a mix of Charles Xavier’s dream of a better world and Magneto’s ruthless drive to acquire it and enough power to think himself god. He started a corporation and used his power to fight a shadow war so he could drive the world towards becoming a post-scarcity utopia where everyone would be better off, which pissed off the rich and powerful who really did not want to reveal him to the world.

No, the people he pissed off on the other side of the spectrum did that. See, Harada has a tendency to not see the forest for the trees and a distinct inability to see people as people – everyone and everything are pieces of a game to him, and he managed to alienate the only person with powers equal to his own, a terrible mess of a human being named Peter Stanchek.

What makes Harada and Peter unique – aside from their incredible power – is a single ability that sets them apart from any other meta-human on the planet: they can activate latent psiots. Basically, if there is a chance that you could have a super power, either one of these two can awaken that power within you. Peter is better at it than Harada, who kills about one in every four people he tries it on, but those are the risks Harada is willing to take.

Sometimes, though, the powers he awakens in others aren’t… well, they’re not that great. Take, for instance, the guy that can make inanimate objects light up. Or the girl that can talk to birds. Or the dude that uncontrollably sometimes conjures things to his hands and can’t control the when or where of it. They’re not useful for Harada’s cause but he can’t get rid of them and still feels responsible for them, so he sets them up with housing and lets them alone.

The problem is that when Stanchek and friends revealed Harada to the world, they did so by exposing his email account and spreading out all the information he was carefully keeping hidden, including the housing he had given these psiots who basically had no training and no place in his plan. There’s plenty of other people who would like to get their hands on or kill these kids, though, so they’ve had to go into hiding or to make their own way in the world.

Not that that’s going to stop the people that want them from hunting them down.

Thankfully, these questionably powered individuals do have one ace in the hole – a psiot who calls herself Livewire, who gained the power to interface wirelessly with any machine. She was Harada’s second in command until she called him out on his mistakes, then ended up leading Unity (Valiant’s big super team) and is one of the most powerful people on the planet. She’s awesome. She’s also obsessed with making up for Harada’s (many) mistakes, and so she’s going to do her best to protect these kids from the people that are hunting them.

So, as mentioned, this comic is being written by Eric Heisserer, and he’s joined by Raúl Allén of Wrath of the Eternal Warrior fame. Check this comic out – Valiant is doing stuff with superhero comics that are like nothing you’ve ever seen.

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144

God of Comics – Lazarus: X+66 #1

God Of Comics, Reviews

July 18, 2017

Lazarus: X+66 #1 (Image Comics)

Yesterday, we spoke about Generation Gone and how that comic looks woke AF. Apparently, Image Comics isn’t done with us, because they’re doing some truly interesting things with one of the best comics they’ve ever published: Lazarus.

And, yes, we have discussed Lazarus before. Everything we said then still holds true, though we did go and pick up the hardcover and now have a greater understanding of that world.

It’s a world where oligarchies became more powerful as time went on, doing away with nation-states in favor of corporate ones, a place where people that don’t have direct corporate employment of family connection are just called the waste. It seems sort of fitting, I think, especially given all the things we talked about yesterday.

But, while Generation Gone is a story that takes place during the move from free society into oligarchical hellscape, in Lazarus that’s already happened. The world has ended. There are no superheroes or hackers or anyone else that could stop the move into material corporatism and the only superpowers that do exist come from advanced technology and work exclusively for the corporate monarchy that exists in this world.

Every corporation in Lazarus has one person that they pour all their tech into, and that person is called a Lazarus. They act as champion, commander, bodyguard, and warning. The protagonist of this story is a Lazarus, a woman named Forever Carlyle who was created and brainwashed into serving the Carlyle family, but her whole identity has come into question now that she knows that she was made and not born.

It’s pretty bad timing, too, because one of the Carlyle heirs failed a coup and went to the Carlyle’s worst enemy for help and that kicked off a massive war that has thrown the uneasy peace of corporate greed into utter chaos and no everyone is fighting everyone else and a whole lot of Lazarusi just got killed by what was basically a dragon.

And that brings us to this: chapter six of a critically acclaimed series. Greg Rucka – who just wrapped up an incredible run on Wonder Woman for DC Comics and you should go read that, too – is at his absolute best here, working on a rich mythology that feels a little too close to home for comfort, and he’s joined for this chapter by Eric Trautmann, an old ally who was also involved with Checkmate, the Old Guard, Black Magick, and others. These are two writers who bring out the best in one another, and, as a point of evidence, we present this comic.

Michael Lark and Steve Liever are on art, and the style they’re using here is both haunted and washed out, driving home the desolation and emptiness of a world that has fallen into a pit of greed and ambition without limit and the ruin that those two vices have inflicted on everything. Their work is savagely beautiful, all heavy inks and judicious color, and it will stick with you long after the final page has closed.

There’s a very good chance of this being the best comic out this week. Don’t miss it.

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208

God of Comics – Generation Gone #1

God Of Comics, Reviews

July 17, 2017

Generation Gone #1 (Image Comics)

So… we’re kinda fucked. Millenials and Xellenials, we’re kinda being destroyed by the people that came before us. Their greed and shortsightedness is basically costing us everything, and making sure there won’t be any generations after us. Boomers accuse us of killing everything from the diamond industry to capitalism in general, all while fostering the murder of every living thing on the planet.

It would be nice if there was something we could do about it.

There doesn’t seem to be, at least not within the systems we grew up with. The Boomers rig everything and then seem horrified when their worst case scenarios play out – Congress shutting down, Donald Trump as President, the death of the American Dream. It’s why so many of our heroes, now, are criminals.

We’re told crime doesn’t pay by people who are legal criminals, accepting bribes and working against the best interests of anyone that isn’t a corporation, and what we got for our legal lives is spat upon and uncertainty and nothing. Meanwhile, the people that are supposed to be upholding the law break it, the people that are writing the laws break them, and the very wealthy ignore the law and shit on the rest of us.

Of course, our heroes are criminals. If you’re going to die and be miserable because the law says you must, that is a law that is no longer moral. Fighting against that system isn’t just a moral choice, but a human one.

Here’s the thing: we invented society and corporations and everything else. If they are no longer working for us or are actively killing us (currently they are doing both), then we need to change those systems.

That sort of culture shift is already being presented as an idea in comics like this one, because art and literature are where dreams are born and fostered and anything worth living for comes from. Writers Andre Araujo and Ales Kot presents three poor and angry hackers living in what’s left of America circa 2020, and they realize they have nothing left to lose.

They’ve also got superpowers they never wanted, a weird capacity for sun travel and weird black goo, high passions in nuclear factories, and all the love, hate, anger, and loss that comes from living on the very edge of survival. This is what it means to be young in the world in 2017 – to work harder than any generation in history and get nothing for it, and then be told to shut up when you complain because the one thing Boomers do better than ruin everything is gaslight.

Andre Araujo has worked some Spider-Man comics at Marvel and some Assassin’s Creed comics for Titan and some The Legend of Isis comics at Blue Water. He’s good people and the sort of writer who works some strong young versus old and evil themes into a lot of his works. Ales Kot is, if anything, even more woke: this guy worked on Zero and Occupy Comics and Liberator. If people are supposed to write what they know, these two are writing what they live and breathe, and this is going to be awesome.

They’ve nabbed Chris O’Halloran for art, too, and he’s the pen behind James Bond and a host of other comics at both Image Comics and Dynamite Entertainment.

What we’re trying to say is this comic has a high chance of being a sleeper hit, the sort of thing that people will talk about in the same breath as V for Vendetta or Transmetropolitan… provided we’re all still alive in five years or so.

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405

God of Comics – Mage: The Hero Denied #0

God Of Comics, Reviews

July 14, 2017

Mage: The Hero Denied #0 (Image Comics)

Matt Wagner returns to the world of the Hero. These comics were everywhere when I was a kid and with good reason: they were so damn cool and they’re just as cool as they ever were.

Check this out: the Heroes of old don’t die or fade away but are reborn, time and again, to continue defending humanity through the ages. They’re often born not knowing who they are or what they’re capable of and the forces of evil have no problem hunting them down and killing them before they get a chance to know anything about themselves, and that brings us to Kevin Matchstick.

Kevin is a down-on-his-luck nobody with an awesome shirt, a noble guy who can’t seem to get his shit together. He met a rather shaggy wizard and the two of them went on adventures, the wizard teaching Kevin about the world and showing him how to summon the power of Excaliber to his baseball bat.

He can do this because he is Arthur Pendragon reborn.

All that happened in Mage: the Hero Discovered. You can get that story in collected trades and it’s well worth the price of doing so – this is an awesome comic, the writing quality up there with the likes of Sandman and Transmetropolitan, but it has lacked any real resolution because writer Matt Wagner had a trilogy in mind.

The chapter titles of Mage: the Hero Discovered were all taken from Hamlet. The second chapter, Mage: the Hero Defined, were all taken from Macbeth. Here, Kevin moves into the wider world and discovers some of the other heroes wandering the world. He’s lost Merlin but gains a homeless person who is also a wizard, makes friends with Kirby Hero and Joe Phat (Hercules and Coyote, respectively), and the three of them go on some epic quests marred by discovery, triumph, and heartbreak.

It’s here that Kevin meets his future wife, learns that he never truly understood what he was supposed to do, and learns that he is also the incarnation of other great kings, like Gilgamesh. He becomes alienated and withdrawn, the once-and-future king entwined to the Wyrd Sisters by way of his wife. There’s tragedy here, and that second chapter ended darkly and fans of the series have been waiting for the third part to begin since 1997.

And here it is: Kevin Matchstick, returned to redeem himself and the world in a time of greatest peril. All hail the once and future king – this comic is designed to bridge what’s happened before to what is about to happen, a device Matt has used to frame transitions in this story before.

Get ready as best you can: nothing can prepare you for what lies ahead.

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251

God of Comics – Immortal #1

God Of Comics, Reviews

July 13, 2017

Immortal #1 (Keenspot)

Hey, Rat Queens artist Owen Gieni is co-creating a comic with Rob Potchak. That’s pretty cool. Owen’s got a good eye for design and emotion and I have no idea who Rob Patchak is, but Owen’s a good enough artist and the comic sounds intriguing enough that I’m willing to go in on this sight unseen.

Immortality is one of those things that children seem to think is a really good idea but would be kind of horrible to actually have. If you’re the only one that’s immortal than you get to watch the people you care about wither away and die. If other people are immortal with you there’s a chance of over-population and feuds without end. Memory slips away into vague recollection as trauma stays because that’s how our minds work. Faking paperwork and making sure people don’t know you’re immortal for fear of them burning you or dissecting you or however this century’s culture has decided to treat people that are different.

And that’s before you factor in the boredom.

Immortality takes away risk while providing the means to see and do anything. Given centuries there’s nothing you couldn’t do or see or experience. And all that brings is to Elisa, a noblewoman from seven hundred years ago who found herself Immortal and is the protagonist of this comic. She’s seen it and been there and done that. She partied with Nostradamus just so she could see if the boredom would ever stop.

These days, she’s a sword-swinging adventurer who is also a librarian and she’s bored, peoples, so bored, but she’s about to discover that there’s always something new if you know where to look, a new adventure to be had if you’re just willing to pick up your sword and fight.

Immortal is set in 1997, back before America went fully insane and we could still lie to ourselves and say things like “Republicans and Conservatives are responsible people.” Maybe her quest will take her in that direction and stop the cult bent on killing everyone and themselves and the Evil Empire they create, one that stands just south of Canada and just north of Mexico?

That might be too much to ask of even an Immortal at this point. She can build up to it. One adventure at a time.

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276

God of Comics – Harbinger: Renegades #5

God Of Comics, Reviews

July 12, 2017

Harbinger: Renegades #5 (Valiant Comics)

Harbinger was an important part of the Valiant line-up back when they first relaunched. It was more down-to-earth than the operatic X-O Manowar, more serious than Archer & Armstrong, more compelling than Shadowman, and more thoughtful than Bloodshot. There was a lot going on here, a lot of high concepts broken down and made relatable through excellent writing and characterization.

This is the story of two men: Toyo Harada and Peter Stanchek, both alike in power and both alike in their flaws. They are what Valiant calls psiots – essentially their version of mutants, with Harada playing the role of both Xavier and Magneto and Peter being a very damaged child who only sees what is directly in front of him. They’re both heavyweights, the most overtly powerful beings on the planet, but they are diametrically opposed to one another.

See, Harada sees that late-stage capitalism is killing the planet and he’s doing everything in his power to save it: he started a corporation to do so, trying to move the world towards more progressive views in order to build a utopia. Sounds good, doesn’t it? The thing is, Harada often doesn’t see the forest for the trees and he’ll break the world if that’s what it takes to save it.

Peter is very much among the broken. His powers manifested when he was a child and he broke his father, broke his mother, became a drug addict to dull his power and fled from a government that he knew wanted nothing but the worst for him. He did terrible things for which no one has forgiven him and has tried his best to make up for them, never expecting to be forgiven for what he’s done.

It’s made for a very complex story.

Harbinger was followed up by the incredible Imperium, where we got to see the fallout of two gods battling it out for control of the world, where Harada was outed and Peter fled. Harada tried to rebuild his empire and save the world from itself, but the corporate overlords that have enslaved the world kept attacking him, kept attacking him, kept attacking him, and we got to see the horrific lengths he was willing to go to.

Peter was largely ignored, given that he had removed himself from the world. Now, in the fallout of Imperium, he’s been forced back into a world he believes he doesn’t deserve. One of Harada’s old proteges, a psiot and genius by the name of Alexander Soloman, has the ability to analyze and predict potential futures. He’s using this power to make a play for himself and he’s got a bunch of Harada’s old goons and psiots desperate for protection backing him up.

See, the American government has a system to make use of psiots: they capture and vivisect them, drug them into unconsciousness while doing nothing for their pain, and then plug a bunch of tech that tends to drive people insane into soldiers so that they can make use of powers stolen from those victims. It’s pretty horrific. The people that do this are good patriotic Americans who do their duty without questioning it, because patriotism.

This is the comic where theses three powers meet and find themselves exposed to the world, and if you think writer Rafer Roberts is going to make this anything less than epic and heartbreaking than you need to track down the back issues and understand what you’re getting into. Artist Darick Robertson, likewise, will lovingly craft every line of agony and hope and terror and…

Look, Marvel is having issues right now. DC Comics is doing better but who knows how long that will last? If you’re looking for an alternative to the big two, for an integrated world full of progressive superheroes and complex stories that really are the best the medium has to offer, this is it. This is the mature storytelling that everyone talks about and then misses done properly, this is the wonder and scope and scale that comics promised you.

This is also meant to be a jumping-on point, so jump on. You will not be disappointed.

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277

God of Comics – Dragon Age: Knight Errant #3

God Of Comics, Reviews

July 11, 2017

Dragon Age: Knight Errant #3 (Dark Horse Comics)

We seem to be talking about this comic a lot but we’re just kinda eager for more Dragon Age. We’ve got a history of tragedy in these games, having romanced Morrigan, Anders, and Solas, and we need to know what mage is going to break our hearts in the fourth game – of which there are no details other then it’s maybe happening?

There was more intel on the new Metroid game(s) than on the fourth installment of Dragon Age. And, hey, Anthem looks interesting and Andromeda wasn’t as bad as people seem to think and that’s a miracle given the horror story that is that game’s production cycle, but…

We like this comic. We like it a lot. For those of us that are trapped by obsession on Thedas, this comic is the first story that takes place after the end of the last game. It’s in canon. We’ve returned to Kirkwall, the location of the second game and the former home of Marian Hawke and her ill-fated family. Seriously, you want tragedy? Bethany died! Carver’s a Warden! Mom was chopped into pieces and turned into a zombie that you had to kill! Uncle lost the family fortune and then found out he had a daughter who nothing bad has happened to (yet)! Boyfriend one is a murderous traumatized elf! Boyfriend two started a war! Marian herself is trapped in the Fade! At least the dog is okay…

Anyways, Hawke’s best friend is a Dwarf named Varric who was just made the Viscount of Kirkwall, a position that has been empty since the last one was beheaded. Good for him. Varric has been pretty great in two games now and he’s a writer and spymaster. He’s got good business sense and has seen some terrible things, so he’s probably got this.

The coronation is kind of a big deal and a lot of people were invited, including a knight whose best days are behind him and his apprentice, an elf named Vaea. Vaea has also seen the worst humanity has to offer because being an elf in Thedas hasn’t been easy for a while now, and she’s currently being blackmailed by members of the Inquisition maybe who want her to pull off a job for them.

She’s got to navigate the political intrigue of the upper echelons of society, including the holier-than-thou Prince Sebastian of Starkhaven and the somehow even worse Seneschal Granger while not exposing her knight to the job that she’s being forced to undertake on the side.

We’ve mentioned in the past that this comic is being expertly written by Christina Weir and Nunzio DeFilippis, a writing duo who very much get the appeal of Dragon Age and the feel of Thedas. Artist Fernando Heinz Furukawa does a good job of capturing the feel and space of Kirkwall and is going to give us a look at Starkhaven in this very issue.

It might not be the visit to Thedas that we’re waiting for but it is worth the price of admission. Buy the ticket. Take the ride.

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221

God of Comics – Centipede #1

Uncategorized

July 10, 2017

Centipede #1 (Dynamite Entertainment)

Wait, what?

Really?

Someone is basing a comic on an old Atari video game, one of those titles that’s so old it didn’t really have a story so much as an objective? Ah, okay. Sure. What?

Alright. Centipede. This was a game where you controlled a block that could shoot other blocks as a longer block came closer to the bottom of the screen. You could shoot the longer moving block, but every segment that you shot became a place for the next long moving block that would try to get you. Also, there were other weirder blocks that would bounce around you. The instruction manual mentioned something about aliens, but how many other people read those things? Here’s a look because, well… I need you to see what this is.

… and that’s the game.

Someone saw that and decided to expand upon that story. Better still, they came up with a good way to do it: a terrifying creature from beyond the stars attacks the earth, growing in size as it devours everything in its path. Our hero, the man that humankind once called Dale, is the only thing that stands in its way, but here’s where this veers from your typical alien invasion story.

The Centipede has already won.

Dale’s world is gone and he might be the last human left. He’s certainly on the few survivors. He’s out to fight this thing not to protect our world, but to avenge it. There’s nothing else left for him, nothing else he can do except try to take out the monster that ended all life on Earth.

Max Bemis, who you might know from his recent run on Fool Killer and Worst X-Man Ever (no, it wasn’t the obvious choice. Good guess, though.) somehow came up with a way to apply story to a game so old that it had none. He’s joined by Eoin Marron, who you might know from the Sons of Anarchy Redwood Original.

Sometimes you just need to talk about and see a thing to believe it and this is one of those times.

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268

God of Comics – Samaritan: Veritas #2

God Of Comics, Reviews

July 7, 2017

Samaritan: Veritas #2 (Image Comics)

Sometimes, I need to sit back and educate myself. There’s so much that happens in this medium, so many good stories that exist that it’s hard to pay attention to them all and some just slip through the cracks.

One of the reasons we started this whole God of Comics thing in the first place was to showcase some comics that people might otherwise miss, some really good stories that deserve more attention than they get. It’s why we’re so eager to talk about Hexed and Nailbiter and the Woods and Quantum & Woody. These are comics that we feel a lot of people would enjoy, and we know so many people that got lost in the mire of Marvel and DC Comics.

So, this: Matt Hawkins is one of the heavyweight writers over at Image Comics. He’s an excellent human being and excellent conversation at conventions, and we try to make a point of seeing him each year at Emerald City Comic Con. He’s the guy who looked at the Witchblade cosmology and moved that whole world into the future, creating a science-fantasy world that is unlike anything you’ve ever seen.

He’s also the guy who has been quietly writing his own little world for a number of years now, a high-stakes political thriller that spans multiple titles and deals with a variety of real world issues. Matt is kind enough to have an appendix that explains the story so far, highlights the comics you might want to read those stories in (and you will), and where to find out more about the issues he’s trying to address.

And what issues? Religious and political corruption, mostly. This comic stars a hacker named Sam who went off the grid and gave it up, got out of the political game after exposing a horrible human being for being horrible. Problem is, she then finds out that dude became President of the United States, which is how we know this is fiction. People would never vote for a violent rapist and sociopath with a serial track record of failure and dishonesty.

The president in question is a corporate puppet and she’s out to stop him from destroying America and the world, but she’s literally up against the dominant powers of our era and limited to whatever resources she can get her hands on after a year out of the game. The digital trail is there if you know how to look, but will people care when soundbites and alternative facts are easier to digest than truth?

Doesn’t matter to her – someone has to do something, and she will lay her life on the line to stop a group of selfish men from inflicting a nightmare dystopia that ends in genocide on the world.

If you like the politics of Mr. Robot or the political scheming of House of Cards, you’ll like this.

Atilio Rojo brings some of the best inks and colors you’ll see out of him to this project, and that’s not anything to blow smoke at. The man has a gift and he plays with shading and hue like a madman here, choosing what gets highlighted and what remains in the shadows with a master’s eye.

We typically do these things by week in alphabetical order, but we altered that a bit and threw this comic out last because you’re going to want to read it, you’re going to want the back trades, and you’re going to want to discuss this with people. Go to your local comic book shop, grab those back trades. Take the weekend.

Good hunting.

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193

God of Comics – Sacred Creatures #1

God Of Comics, Reviews

July 6, 2017

Sacred Creatures #1 (Image Comics)

We entered an age long ago where we stopped believing in Evil.

This isn’t about God or anything like that. There’s plenty of people that claim to have faith without the least idea of what their faith entails because it’s easier to echo a statement than to think about it – that’s why memes and talking points tend to rule out over facts. Without analysis, without reflection, it’s easy to get lost and Evil exists in every un-reflected life.

Doubt isn’t a test of faith, but a requirement of it.

This is a comic about Evil and, to a lesser degree, Good, in the modern world. It’s about a young college grad who is about to be a father, a decent enough guy with a loving girlfriend who he loves and how his life is torn apart by forces beyond his control, about lives toyed with and destroyed for the sake of a selfish few.

It’s also huge. Ye gods, sixty pages of glorious story that flits through time to show us the aftermath and what led up to it, hinting at things and slowly decaying the reality we know for one lurking just below the surface. It’s easy to see why people dismiss the horrors our protagonist suffers – why wouldn’t they? Those the gods would destroy they first make mad, and that is very much what they do here. Would-be gods driving their playthings mad, but their playthings are us.

But if you’ve been following the writerings of Pablo Raimondi, this is the sort of depth you’ve come to expect. He did Madrox over at Marvel, taking a joke of a character and exploring his psyche, and then did the Books of Doom with Brubaker. The man knows how to create tension and sliver apart the layers of any given reality with an expert’s scalpel, and he brings the full care of his craft here. Klaus Janson, likewise, has done amazing things previously at Marvel with Daredevil and the Dark Knight Returns and he continues to work his magic here.

Read this comic all the way through, consider it as a whole, understand what it is and know that you’ll be hooked by the time this story is done… and don’t forget the afterword. You’re in for one hell of a ride.

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