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211

God of Comics: Saucer State #1

God Of Comics, Reviews

May 23, 2017

Saucer State #1 (IDW Publishing)

This has been a weirdly political week, I think. Why not end it that way?

Check this out: there was a comic called Saucer Country that was about alien abductions taking place within America, and it was a lot of fun. There was a democratic governer that was abducted and had to deal with the fallout of that while playing politics that were as ruthless as anything you’d see on, say Game of Thrones or House of Cards. Do you know Charles Fort? He once said “The Earth is a farm. We are all someone else’s property.” This governer came face to face with that as a reality and was then stone-walled by various people in the know.

She managed to make it out of the initial run with her political career intact, though it took some doing – seriously, read Saucer Country, it’s one of the best comics that came out in 2012, it’s fourteen issues long and you can grab it in trade by clicking here – and now she’s upped her game and pulled an Underwood and become President of the United States of America.

Her goal is to find out who and what abducted her and why using the resources now at her disposal, and to wage war to protect America and the world as necessary. Did I mention she’s PoC? She’s PoC and politically brilliant. This comic is amazing.

Saucer State is the brain child of Paul Cornell, who you might remember as the genius behind Demon Knights, one of the few bright spots of the nu52, and the awesomely complex new iteration of Vampirella. He’s being joined by Ryan Kelly, the artist who worked on the original Saucer Country and has proven that he can capture the social complexities and weirdness that comes with having memory alteration be part of your story while juggling alien science-magic.

This is going to be incredible, and both Cornell and Kelly have promised you don’t need to be familiar with Saucer Country to dive right in to Saucer State – but I would recommend reading it anyway because it is seriously that good.

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209

God of Comics: Samaritan #1

God Of Comics, Reviews

May 23, 2017

Samaritan #1 (Image Comics)

Computers and the internet have changed the world.

It’s funny – I remember watching sitcoms in the eighties where computers were likened to a passing trend – I think it was Married… with Children that called computers “the pet rock of the eighties.” The popular opinion was that they were overpriced and useless and I had one and loved it because I could use it to write.

Now, of course, computers are everywhere. Computers and the internet have forced every industry to re-evaluate itself because when people don’t like an industry they will talk about it and there isn’t a lot that those industries can do about. It’s one of the reasons that industry keeps trying to kill the internet: they can’t control this thing that has become vital to life in the modern era, so they try to choke it, kill it, shove the genie back in the bottle.

Another thing that internet has done has given us a growing understanding of things like wage theft and the wage gap and the one percent, the undeserving oligarchy that has been strangling progress and innovation for decades to keep themselves wealthy while the rest of us struggle and die so they can have just a little bit more.

There’s been a number of stories about that struggle, about people realizing how badly they’ve been screwed attempting to fight back: Mr. Robot, Person of Interest, Alif the Unseen, Hacktivist, and others all come to ready mind – stories of people using computer wizardry to strike down their oppressors like the literal wizards of older tales.

Samaritan is the latest story in that vein.

Writer Matt Hawkins plays in a house he is very familiar with, given his prior work on titles like Think Tank and IXth Generation. This is a man that is very comfortable working in both hard science fiction and science magic, often crossing between the two to drive home the core concepts of the stories he tells.

Here, the largest military contractor in the world has crossed the wrong woman, a hacker who has decided that she’s going to bankrupt them for their crimes against humanity. Her plan? Steal all their data and make it open source, giving it away to anyone that wants it and laying their every secret bare before the American Government kills her for exposing their secrets.

I’d say that’s far-fetched, but Chelsea Manning was imprisoned for embarrassing a corporatist regime and Edward Snowden is still on the run for doing the same thing. These two heroes had their lives destroyed for exposing crimes committed to make those aforementioned affluenza-sufferers richer, so… maybe not that far-fetched?

Atilio Rojo dares to illustrate Matt’s fever dream, and the two of them have worked together before on the excellent and underrated Eden’s Fall, which is another comic that you might want to hunt down and read. If Samaritan ends up being even half as good as that title was, we’re in for something special – get in now, because this is going to be awesome.

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225

God of Comics: Rat Queens #3

God Of Comics, Reviews

May 23, 2017

Rat Queens #3 (Image Comics)

Yes, it’s the third issue of Rat Queens and the third time I’m talking about Rat Queens in that time. Can you tell that I’m happy this series is back?

Rat Queens is the brainchild of Kurtis Wiebe, one of the more progressive writers in comics with a liking for stories that deal with complex characters and modern issues set against a background of whatever genre has caught his eye. In the case of Rat Queens, this means classic Dungeons & Dragons fantasy tropes.

The Queens are an all-female group of adventurers that address a multitude of backgrounds and concepts: the atheist cleric who knows her god exists and doesn’t care, the half-demon and half-elf necromancer with more chip than shoulder, the literal manic pixie dream girl, and the tradition-smashing dwarf warrior who leads them.

All four of them are troubled and come from places that demanded that they make a family rather than rely on the ones they were born into, and their histories haunt them as much as the monsters that they face. There’s a lot to unpack here, and the first run of the series inspired a host of imitators and echoes that can’t quite capture the same feel or complexity of the original.

The newer iteration, then, is amping up the complexity of character and issue to further set itself apart. The cult that the atheist cleric escaped from would really like her to come and rule them. The necromancer really wants to be left alone. They’ve adopted a transgendered half-orc into the family. The dwarf warrior’s older brother has come to town with his own group of mercenaries and adventurers, the Cat Kings, in an effort to show up his sister.

The Cat Kings have a mushroom druid and the manic pixie dream girl is trying to get high by eating him.

It’s… well, it’s pretty much comic perfection, the most accurate portrayal of the best kind of Dungeons & Dragons campaign. Rat Queens perfectly captures the creativity and madness of campaigns run amuck and characters risking all for the sake of cool, because that’s what Dungeons & Dragons is.

New artist Owen Gieni proves worthy to the challenge of Kurtis’ scripts, inventing monsters on the fly and making me wonder what the stats would be for a Dire Canadian Goose. The normal ones are vicious bloodthirsty animals, but a dire one…? Yikes. He also handles magic and violence and sexy well, and all of these things are important because that, friends, is the heart of this comic.

If you like fun, give this a read.

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214

God of Comics: Rapture #1

God Of Comics, Reviews

May 23, 2017

Rapture #1 (Valiant Entertainment)

I get a lot of people accusing me of loving everything Valiant does. It’s mostly true – Valiant is doing the mature superhero comics that Marvel and DC Comics keep talking about, but focusing on story and character rather than shocking swerves for quick sales boosts that lead to ever-decreasing returns (I’m looking at you, Marvel, with your Captain Nazi: Nazi Empire).

But they do not do everything right: the initial run of Shadowman was overly ambitious and not very good. A lesser company might have tried to retcon the problem away, but Valiant has done something much more better: they ran at the problem full tilt and are fixing it by expanding upon it, keeping the problematic stuff in continuity but bringing it back into the fold and making it retroactively better.

Shadowman is a divine loa riding a human forever. The two of them can draw on one another, and the loa in Shadowman is one of the most powerful beings in the Valiant-verse. It is supposed to watch the boundaries of the living and dead worlds, but fell victim to a necromancer who then tried to overrun the living with the dead. It took the entire Valiant universe to stop him, but the consequences were pretty damn dire.

When that happened, though, Shadowman was taken in by MI-6 and they’ve recruited a woman named Punk Mambo to help him get his power under control. Good for them. The necromancer’s plan involved twisting the life-force of the planet into something it was never meant to be and allowed a new Geomancer into the world – a young girl named Tama who now has access to all the living knowledge and power in the world.

She knows that there is a war coming: the man whom the Tower of Babel was named for is coming to reclaim his home, and it turns out the necromancer that nearly killed everyone was cribbing Babel’s notes. Lucky for us, the spirit that inspired tales of wandering barbarians has taken up residence in the Tower and has no desire to give it up, but even the truth that inspired Conan’s legend isn’t enough to stand against a power like that, not alone.

Normally, Tama would call on the Fist and Steel of the living Earth to deal with her problems, but the Eternal Warrior hasn’t been the same since tangling with the necromancer and so she’s got to look elsewhere. MI-6 is right there, so she’s grabbing Punk Mambo and Shadowman and MI-6’s illegitimate lovechild of Batman and James Bond, the man we call Ninjak.

It’s five against one, but the one has an army and has already pierced heaven once – and if he does it again it could mean the end of everything, forever.

Matt Kindt is writing, and he does his best work when Valiant lets him run wild like he is here (see also X-O Manowar #3, out this week). The artist mortals call Cafu is playing with a lot of heavy concepts and different worlds, but this is where Cafu thrives and you can tell. Better still, as complex as I’m making all this sound, Valiant does a damn fine job of making their stuff accessible. If you’re looking for an alternative to DC Comics and especially Marvel, Valiant might be just what you’re looking for.

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203

God of Comics: Destroyer #1

God Of Comics, Reviews

May 23, 2017

Destroyer #1 (Boom Studios)

It’s like an article torn from today’s headlines: cops shoot black pre-pubescent in less than a couple seconds for no real reason and get away with it, media tries to villainize kid, and before anyone can say black lives matter the cops take a paid vacation before heading back out on the streets where they can continue to terrorize the populace they’re supposed to protect and serve.

Good evening, overseer. Traded in a whip for a gun, but I guess both still crack – they make a loud noise, break communities, and terrorize many for the glory of a few. Well done.

Things are set to be a little different this time around, though: this child leaves behind a grieving mother who is also the last surviving descendant of a certain Victor von Frankenstein. She’s totally done with waiting for a justice she knows will never come – a justice that will not give her back her murdered son – so she’s going to crack open the family medical journals and find herself a solution.

Victor’s genius did not stray from the family line. His many-times-removed grand-daughter, Baker, has exiled herself to deepest whitest America where she can mourn in peace and work on her science and generally be left alone. It’s working out for her and she’s making progress, but, well…

The monster has been sighted.

Mary Shelley originally envisioned the monster as a thing of beauty, the ugliness only coming later as a means to convey that the monster was a dead thing. This story falls into the latter camp, with the monster being a massive horror that just wants to be left alone. Sadly, climate change and whaling bring the monster out of isolation, and he murders two barges and a whole town on his way back into civilization.

His anger at humanity has not abated and has, if anything, only gotten worse.

Writer Victor Lavalle is looking to explore love, loss, and vengeance in the modern world where ancient horrors still lurk and kill us. He’s an award-winning author whose written some incredible work – the Ballad of Black Tom and the Devil in Silver being the stand outs for me, but the curious may also want to check out the Big Machine and Slapboxing with Jesus. The art team is equal to the task of the story, given Dietrich Smith and Joana Lafuente, and this comic plays well with a lot of the other horror comics Boom has published (Hexed, Day Men, the Woods).

Get in now. This is going to be great.

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377

God of Comics: Wild Storm #4

God Of Comics, Reviews

May 16, 2017

Wild Storm #4 (DC Comics)

Wild Storm? Again? Really?

There’s other comics I cold mention, surely. Marvel’s got some interesting titles I’d love to discuss, but they’re in the process of killing them off while putting actual Nazis in charge, both in their comics and in their offices while blaming their fans for the flagging sales when it’s actually a problem of their own making, so I’m not going to talk about them. Seems fair: if they’re going to push a philosophy that encourages people to kill me, I’m going to do my level best to do the same to them.

Kids, the Holocaust wasn’t bad because Nazis did it. Nazis are bad because they did the Holocaust.

Thankfully, there’s plenty of other good comics being published right now: the four I’ve already talked about today, sure, and a host of others. Valiant, Boom, Dark Horse, Action Lab, Image, Dynamite, and others are all pushing some truly epic comics right now and mingling them with more down to earth ideas, peddling hope and stories of interest.

DC Comics has very much gotten on that bandwagon and is doing their best to make up for lost (nu52) time with Rebirth, and this comic spills out of that drive. Merging the characters from the DC Universe with those from Wild Storm doesn’t work, because the heroes from the DCU would, be definition, stop the Wildstorm problems from existing before they happened (see Grant Morrison’s JLA/WildCATs crossover to see exactly how that would have played out).

Thing is, the Wildstorm characters and stories are still good ones, even if they don’t fit in the proper DCU. DC Comics is combating this by setting a retelling of the Wild Storm in its own universe, a twenty-four issue series penned and plotted by Warren Ellis.

Ellis is pretty much the best person for this job, a talented writer who sifts through complex and layered mythologies the way that most people breathe air. He gets to pick and choose the best parts of Wildstorm and rework them into a modern setting, building up the conspiracies and aliens and other assorted madnesses of that world and reframe them, building them into a tale that grabs, haunts, and traps the reader while offering new takes on familiar characters.

It’s awesome.

We’re four issues in and Miles Craven is just setting up International Operations in his image, hunting down the Engineer as she seeks help from Halo Enterprises. This has resulted in a wild covert action team being spotted by Miles, a small team of killers led by Cole Cash – Grifter. Stormwatch is watching, Grifter is running, and Miles is trying to get a handle on everything before the storm gets too wild to control.

Jon-Davis Hunt excels at bringing small details to a world that needs them, and Ellis is doing that thing where he reminds the rest of us that he is probably the best at writing whatever genre of comics catches his interest (see also: Nextwave, Transmetropolitan, Injection, Supreme: Blue Rose).

Do yourself the favor: hunt this comic down and devour it. You will like it.

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388

God of Comics: The Wicked + The Divine 455 AD #1

God Of Comics, Reviews

May 16, 2017

The Wicked + The Divine: 455 AD #1 (Image Comics)

Speaking of series I love…

The Wicked + the Divine is a hot holy mess of a mythology, a blending of gods and monsters with some interesting things to say about faith, humanity, and belief. The main story takes place in the modern era and features a world where mortals are chosen to be gods every ninety years or so. The catch is that they only live for two years before dying, but during that time they have the powers of whatever god is incarnating through them.

We’ve had a number of revelations since then about the nature of these gods and their cycle, what it is they’re fighting and what’s going on behind the scenes. We’ve dealt with themes of sexuality and appropriation and delicious blasphemy, of being endless and young and dead all at once. This is one of those comics that shows off the strength of the genre as a whole, so when writer Kieron Gillen decides he wants to go back and explore eras lost, we follow.

In this case, we’re going back to Rome.

Rome holds a weird place in history as told by western civilization – they were slave-owners who went out and conquered other peoples and, later, spread the faith of Christianity while destroying other cultures, faiths, and works of art. Roman culture is one of colonialism and their legacy is as much about horror as civilization, given their horrible views on, well, everyone. They were not a good people, even by the context of modern western morality.

Still, so many western viewpoints extol the virtues of Rome, the glory of Rome, the grandeur of Rome. Here, we have Lucifer refusing to fiddle while Rome burns, Kieron come to vandalize popular history the same way he vandalized mythology and turned it into something great. He’s also brought along Andre Araujo to handle art duties this time around, which should lend itself well to the temporal shift.

Of special note: for those of you, like me, that collect trades but not individual issues, this issue will not be included in forthcoming trades. Get it here or miss it forever. My recommendation, as noted by this review: get it now.

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274

God of Comics: Miraculous #11

God Of Comics, Reviews

May 16, 2017

Miraculous #11 (Action Lab)

Got some weird feedback last week when I covered Medisin, a new horror comic from Action Lab. People seemed to like the review but were weirded out that I’d mention Miraculous in the same sentence, especially when calling on titles like Awake, Herald, and Tomboy.

I thought it weird that the people commenting didn’t mention Princeless, but we’ll get there.

Miraculous is kid’s stuff,” seemed to be the general takeaway.

Okay.

Well.

Steven Universe is kid’s stuff. Avatar, both the Last Airbender and Legend of Korra. Adventure Time. My Little Pony. Hell, comics are considered kids’ stuff by far too many people, an entire medium relegated away for reasons I’ve never understood.

But, let us discuss the concept of kids’ stuff: the idea that something is meant for young children doesn’t mean that it has to be bad, simple, or even unpalatable for adults. Grimm’s Fairy Tales was kids’ stuff. All kids’ stuff implies is that it is (a) meant for children, and (b) understandable by children.

Stories written by kids’ stuff can be more adult than the adult fare we’re regularly served up, often talking about difficult concepts and breaking them down into component ideas that are easier to discuss and digest. They give us a greater breadth of language by which to communicate and become the bedrock from which we can form identities. This is important, as this becomes the basis of what we will make of our lives going forward.

Miraculous is startlingly good at this. It builds a world that is familiar enough to our own and introduces characters that are recognizable, dealing with different classes within the context of western society and dealing with the negative connotations of that society: the monster-of-the-week villains are victims of abuse whose pain allows the actual villain to take advantage of them, empowering them to destroy themselves to further his ends. Defeating them involves finding the source of the abuse and dealing with that source, not just taking care of the symptoms.

For example, this part of the story features a young girl scared to play her part in a horror tale who runs from the mockery she faces. This one moment allows the villain to seep into her life and turns her into a monster that will save her from the fear she feels by inflicting that fear on everyone around her, a monster that feeds on fear and becomes more powerful as it spreads terror. Our heroes, the Miraculous Ladybug and Chat Noir, will have to help her find her courage instead of just putting the monster down.

Heady stuff in a very simple, easy to digest package… and that’s why I like it. All delivered to you by Zag Entertainment.

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301

God of Comics: Equilibrium #3

God Of Comics, Reviews

May 16, 2017

Equilibrium #3 (American Mythology)

Everyone remember Equilibrium? No? Okay… you need to hunt this down.

It’s basically Fahrenheit 451 and… no. No, it isn’t. It’s a future tale about a world where humanity pulled itself out of the ashes of another world war caused by greed and humanity did something stupid: someone decided “dur, emotions = bad” and decided to get rid of emotions by drugging the populace. This had the effect of getting rid of art, literature, anything that wasn’t designed for strict production.

Choosing not to take the drug would make you a sense-offender and is punishable by death. Because the people sent to deal with this lack imagination (that comes from emotion), they would regularly get beat until someone came up with the Gun Kata.

I hear you asking: what is the gun kata?

Is that in any way a feasible thing? No. Is it damn fucking cool? Yes.

And that is Christian Bale, so you get to see Christian Bale in an action movie that is a disguise for a philosophical treatise on the meaning of humanity and class struggles in late-era capitalism, as we discover that the ruling classes aren’t on the drug – it’s meant for everyone else.

It’s a pretty cool movie, one that holds up despite the age, and this comic acts as a direct sequel. The city fell into chaos and anarchy in the wake of Christian Bale, but the comic shows the city trying to crawl up from the ashes. They have a new means of making sure their emotion-suppressant drug is taken – they’re going to gas the city.

Thing is, Christian Bale and his kids and his dog went missing, so people have been looking for him and now they’ve found him and they’re going to drag him back into the fight. Christian Bale proved that someone using the Gun Kata with emotion is much more dangerous than someone using the Gun Kata without, so there’s a good chance a lot of very stupid people are going to die.

Any why are they stupid? Emotion allows us to dream, to find meaning and attach quality to our lives, yes, but emotions and passion drive us to do things we would not otherwise do. An emotionless people is cold, detached, and no trouble to manage. There is no raging against the machine from people that cannot feel. No sense of love, hate, faith, no real sense of anything.

But emotions come with a cost, and that cost is feeling. Some emotion-suppressing drugs are a good thing, as anyone on anti-depressants will tell you. There are entire religions and philosophies that come from the idea that attachment can become suffering. The movie was about that, about how some people might try to enforce a sort of enlightenment on others, and the comic follows suit and shows the damage inflicting belief can cause.

Writer Patrick Shand very clearly got the substance that made the movie cool and is applying it here but moving the themes and story forward in a way that is intriguing and plays to established mythology. This is awesome, balancing breathless action with a deep sense of consequence. Artist Jason Craig, likewise, does a good job of capturing the ruthlessness of the Gun Kata with the fragile humanity of those it is used upon.

Check this out. It’s good stuff.

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256

God of Comics: Birthright #23

God Of Comics, Reviews

May 16, 2017

Birthright #24 (Image Comics)

I love this comic.

Like, no lie. I really like fantasy, which is why we’ve got the Wicked Witch of the Web writing faerie stories elsewhere on this site, and why I wrote a high fantasy epic that’s elsewhere on this site. It’s why I love Rat Queens, it’s why I love Skull Kickers, why I love Critical Role and Mythica and fantasy in general.

Fantasy has it’s tropes, though, and a big one is the idea of someone being chosen to save the world by ancient forces. There’s usually a prophecy involved, or some special bloodline, or whatever. It has more to do with old royal lines and the idea of salvation than, say, Tolkien’s works, but it’s such a huge part of fantasy stories that some people have taken to lampooning it, twisting it into an entirely new form.

In the case of Birthright, the chosen one failed.

You can’t really blame him. Mikey was a child when he was stolen from his world and brought into a strange fantasy world and told he had to fight an evil god. His family was left behind, and time in one world passes differently than it does in the other: in the world Mikey was abducted to, twenty years went by. In our world, a single year passed and Mikey’s family imploded because of him vanishing.

It’s taken twenty-four issues for his whole family to accept who is and that he’s back, but the trick of coming back came not from conquering evil, but joining it. Mikey turned against his kidnappers, the ones that called him chosen, all so that he could return home. We’ve also learned that he’s the grandchild of a Mage named Sammael, one of four beings that left fantasy land to stem the expansion of evil from one world to the next.

There’s been family reunions and evidence of betrayals and all sorts of heartache and now we’re getting into more complexity, because Mikey hooked up with a winged woman warrior named Rya and got her pregnant, a thing he didn’t know when he abandoned her to come home. She’s very pregnant and the two of them are just getting back together while, all around them, an invasion of evil encroaches into our world and Mikey’s family struggles just to stay alive.

If this sounds awesome it is because it is. Joshua Williamson has spent two years exploring the consequence and weight of prophecy in the form of a scared and scarred boy forced to become a classic fantasy hero and his utter rejection of that fate so that he can be with his family. Andrei Bressan and Adriano Lucas capture every twist, turn, and moment of breaking with deft lines and deep colors. This comic is awesome and if you like fantasy at all you should do yourself a favor and read it.

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