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God of Comics – The Shadow #1

God Of Comics, Reviews

August 11, 2017

The Shadow #1 (Dynamite Entertainment)

I’m never quite sure what to think of Dynamite Entertainment. On one hand, they do thoughtful looks at things like feministic theory set in a fantastic backdrop (the Gail Simone run on Red Sonja) or weirdly introspective time-travel heist stories about confronting the worst parts of one’s self (Miss Fury from a few years back) or weirdly deconstructive stories about the nature of the medium (the latest Vampirella run) or genre (the last Vampirella run). On the other…

Well, there’s a heavy nineties influence in a lot of their titles and some art choices that keep the Escher Girls going, so they have that going for them. They’ve started doing more thoughtful and less tits-and-ass and it’s working out well for them so far, resulting in an increasing amount of attention on their characters and brands. They keep things tight and self-contained, drawing on character history with respect to those characters and working to the strengths of the medium – in effect doing the exact opposite of what Marvel is doing.

It’s weird watching Dynamite be a considered voice in the industry while Marvel shoots itself in the face, but these are the times we’re living in and that ties directly in the comic we’re here to talk today.

The Shadow is an old figure, an icon that has been the subject of movies and television shows and radio plays and books and comics. He’s this weird amalgamation of different mythologies, taking the concept of the white savior adopting foreign powers, but then subverting a trope by directly confronting the emptiness of his own culture. He knows the darkness that lurks in the hearts of every living human being, including himself.

And there is darkness there: the Shadow is a sinister figure, a ghostly giant of a man with two pistols and weird tricks of the mind, a swath of scarlet scarf the only color he offers other than the black of his clothing and the darker black of his eyes. He’s a horror movie monster who haunts the other monsters, Batman taken to the logical extreme: an isolated nightmare that hunts the human monsters that prey on all of us.

This comic gets that. It pulls no punches – we’re given a lot of exposition here, but we get it from the perspective of someone the Shadow saved long after his guns have gone silent. She should have been the victim of a school shooting but the Shadow knew and she walked away. She’s a nurse who is heartbeats away from being a doctor and there’s a burned man who came in, naked and still fierce and strong, a man with no memory of who he might have been.

But she knows. She heard him laugh and that laugh still keeps her up at night – and she was one of the ones he saved.

Writer Simon Spurrier is a name you should recognize. He did the Spire over at Boom and we raved about that. He’s written some of the better Ghost Rider stories, some good Judge Dredd, the awesome and haunting Godshaper. He cuts to the quick of the mythologies he works with and pries out surprising tales that draw strange and relevant parallels to the world we live in and right from the start he’s stated his ambition here: to confront the darkness of political corruption, corporate greed, distractive culture… the grounded crimes that are far more likely to kill all of us than some mere supervillain.

Dan Watters is also on board, doing the writing thing. We’ve talked about him before, too, because he was the guy that wrote the Little Nightmares comic. He’s done some comics for Assassin’s Creed and is working on a tie-in for the latest Wolfenstein, too. This is a writer who knows how to delve deep into the guts of a mythology and pull out the best parts, and it should be interesting to see how he works with Spurrier; the two of them seem like the types that will bring out the best in one another. Time will tell.

Over on the art front, Daniel HDR and Natalia Marques have their work cut out for them: they need to handle flashbacks that harken to the classic tales, the modern era as it happens and as a flashback, and they need to make everything different enough that you can tell at a glance what’s what but still find a cohesive visual language for the whole. It’s a difficult challenge, but one the two of them handle with deft skill.

If stories like this are what Dynamite is moving towards, you better believe that you’ll be making mine Dynamite. Pick this up and find out why.

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239

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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196

God of Comics – Red Rising #2

God Of Comics, Reviews

June 13, 2017

Red Rising #2 (Dynamite Entertainment)

A wave of dystopian science fiction has come out recently, but few come even close to the quality of Pierce Brown’s trilogy of Red Rising, Golden Son, and Morning Star. Not even close, not in terms of writing or character or concept or execution. It’s amazing, and if you haven’t read the books yet, well…

Check this out: a man and his people have been genetically engineered to be miners on Mars, helping to terraform that planet for colonization to save the whole of humanity. The work is dangerous and many of them die and there is risk involved. They live short and fragile lives for the betterment of our whole species, and when he’s caught breaking the law by going to a park with his wife, he and his wife are punished by whipping. His wife sings a song that’s been outlawed during this punishment, a peaceful protest that gets her executed.

The man goes to claim her body and is set for execution because of it, but he survives the execution. A group of rebels – the Sons of Aries – rescue him, but he wants nothing to do with them. Yes, what the authorities did to him and his wife is terrible, but they’re working for the betterment of the species, to make Mars habitable. The actions of the terrorist rebels will only make things worse, only slow things down so that his people continue to suffer until Mars is ready for habitation. Nothing they argue or show him can sway him from this, or so he thinks.

He is shown that the terraforming was completed centuries ago.

His people were left down there to die for the greed of others.

That’s the first few chapters of the first book. I’m not spoiling the rest, you really should go out and read them all because they are very much that good, and after that you should read the comics.

A lot of writers come to comics and do the easy thing, the adaption. I make that sound like a simple process but it isn’t, and I know that – the difficulty of translating a work from book to comic is hard and leads to the debate of which is better or deeper (read the Last Unicorn for an example of a work where it could be argued either way). Pierce Brown and Rik Hoskin took a different route, however, and decided instead to take a look at things from the perspective of a different character.

Think of the comics, then, as Ender’s Shadow and the books as Ender’s Game. This isn’t an accurate allusion but it is close enough to cover the general concept of what is being built here. Artist Eli Powell has his work cut out for him, bringing the rich tapestry of culture and science that Pierce Brown wove to visual life, and he succeeds at something that many would consider impossible.

Red Rising is a difficult book that looks at the complexities of revolution and how things change, about what a toxic society looks like and what can be done to fight it. It’s beautiful and challenging and amazing, and if you like the idea of stories that will make you think and inspire conversation then this is something you really should look into.

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