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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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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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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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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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God of Comics: Regression #1

God Of Comics, Reviews

May 9, 2017

Regression #1 (Image Comics)

And we’re ending things where they began this week, which is kind of fitting given this title: this is a comic about past life regression therapy, a thing that some people do where they try and remember things from previous lives. It’s a fun challenge if your faith includes reincarnation and a bit of witchcraft if you’re faith tells you that you’re going to face eternal reward or punishment for the things you do over, generally, fifty to seventy years.

It’s also being written by horror maestro Cullen Bunn, who knows a thing or two about this sort of story. He’s the guy what wrote the Sixth Gun and Hellbreak and the Damned and all of this leads me to believe that Cullen Bunn must be seeking something and is using his talent to try and find it.

The story here follows Adrian, a modern man in the modern world who is harrowed by waking nightmares that haunt him even in his waking hours. Someone mentions the past life thing to him and he decides to go through it because, hey, why not? Valerian root is doing nothing for him. He settles in for the hypnosis and gets a full view of some scene his soul was caught in before, a monstrous moment that he comes back screaming from.

Problem being, something followed him back to our time from that era.

Cullen guides us into a terror-filled world from which there is no escape – a place where the occult lurks just out of sight, where reincarnation is just as real as insanity and mysteries man was never meant to unravel tease half-seen in the twilight shadows. This comic is a Hasturian whisper, an invitation to try a tale that will seduce you with horror and leave you shivering, trapped in tendrils of intrigue that will never let you go.

Danny Luckert and Marie Enger provide shade and depth to life and death and life again, pulling forth color from darkness but letting the dark linger like a half-remembered dream lover. This is horror at its very best, a story invested in a sense of inescapable dread, here to pick up where titles like the Clean Room and Nailbiter and Coffin Hill left off. Get in now and know that you will never leave.

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God of Comics: Black Cloud #2

God Of Comics, Reviews

May 9, 2017

Black Cloud #2 (Image Comics)

Of course, it’s Jason Latour.

He’s the guy that invented and continues to write Spider-Gwen over at that company that shall remain nameless. He also does art and co-created Southern Bastards with Jason Aaron, and you can see snippets of both here – the unbridled creative drive of Gwen mingled with the seedy underbelly of Bastards, and it makes for a heady trip.

The story here is that stories are real and come from an overlapping reality that interacts with our own. There’s history here but we only see hints of it, as main character Zelda tells us what she feels like sharing and hordes the rest of her secrets like a wisdom miser, using what she must to do what she can.

She’s human, sure, but it looks like her people went into that other world, but circumstances have landed her in our world and she’s not happy about it. She understands our world and how things work and she’s got advantages when it comes to narrative manipulation, but she’s lacking any sort of identification or proof of existence. She has no contacts, no prospects, nothing she can do and no safety net.

You get the sense she royalty wherever she was from, but she’s turned hard and cynical from doing what she must to survive. She’s grifting her way through the world, all-too-aware that she’s a parasite but just wanting to survive. She moves from targeting people that can’t handle loss to those who can, the selfish upper-crust affluenza-sufferers, selling them on the idea that her power to move through reality is drug induced.

And this is where things get interesting: she manages to snag a politician’s son during an election year. The politician loves his son but recognizes there’s some flaws there, so when both his son and his son’s girlfriend confirm that something happened with Zelda he contacts her.

It is an election year, and the politician would really like his son out of the way where he can’t draw attention and complicate things. He sees Zelda as a happy solution and offers her anything she wants to take his son away, at least until he’s re-elected. She agrees and he thinks he’s getting the better end of the deal, but neither he nor his son know Zelda’s circumstances… or that her flexible morality will let her abandon the son in that other place to save herself.

All that? That was issue one. That’s the sort of powerhouse writing that Jason Latour can pack into twenty-two pages when he’s on his game, and he very much is here; he’s working with Ivan Brandon, too, who you might know from Viking and the Cross Bronx and NYC Mech, and if you don’t know those comics you should look them up. The two of them have Greg Hinkle on art and Matt Wilson on colors, and those two are doing some impressive things with the layout of the book and shifting nature of two different worlds and Zelda’s influence on both.

If you’re looking for something that’s strange and new and going to take you to unexpected places, a faerie-tale con-job set in the urban political arena, then you need to pick this up with the same urgency that you need oxygen to breath. It’s awesome.

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God of Comics: Plastic #1

God Of Comics, Reviews

April 19, 2017

Plastic #1 (Image Comics)

With Nailbiter done, we’re in need of a new serial killer comic to keep our urges in check… and Image Comics is happy to give us the thing we crave.

Check this out: a serial killer named Edwyn Stoffgruppen gives up killing for the girl he met online, a lovely little thing named Virginia. When I say thing I’m not using a euphemism: Virginia is a sex doll that Edwyn purchased from somewhere on the internet, and the doll soothes whatever it is that makes him need to kill. The two of them are driving through America, enjoying the backroads and one another, and everything seems to be as okay as they’re going to get.

Or, rather, they seem to be okay until a billionaire kidnaps (steals?) Virginia and holds her (it?) hostage in an effort to get Edwyn to kill in exchange for her (its?) safe return.

Robert Kirkman, writer of the Walking Dead, describes this comic as “The weirdest shit I’ve ever read.”

No foolin.’

There’s something amazing in the idea of a billionaire taking the one thing that keeps a killer in check for his own personal amusement, and thinking that somehow this won’t backfire and make things worse for (a) everyone around him and (b) himself. I know billionaires suffering from affluenza tend to think the things that affect/kill the people around them won’t touch them, but Edwyn is very much a serial killer and he took away the one thing that makes him not a serial killer.

Couldn’t he just poison a water supply of an entire state in the name of profits? That works for most. Or imprison an entire group of people for bullshit reasons and funnel them into a for-profit prison? There’re politicians that will help with that. Taking the stop gap away from a serial killer, however, is probably the worst idea – no one profits from that, man, except maybe eventually anyone not in the 1%.

Worried by me bringing politics into it? Don’t be. Writer Doug Wagner is going to do that – this is the man who did Immigrant and Customs Enforcement and Average Joes over at 12 Gauge Comics, and if you haven’t read those, well, read this. You’ll understand. The weirdness is being brought to line and color by Laura Martin, who you might and should know from her work on Planetary and Daniel Hillyard, who has been with Doug from the beginning and knows his way around the printed page.

No lie, April 19th is my birthday and I’m considering this my present from Image Comics.

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God of Comics: Monstress #11

God Of Comics, Reviews

April 19, 2017

Monstress #11 (Image Comics)

It amazes me how many people have gotten into comics to read this title. It’s high-concept, story and art wise, the sort of thing that you wouldn’t expect people to go for, but the perfect mingling of every aspect of this book makes it more than the sum of its parts.

Let me explain.

Marjorie Liu is one of those talented writers that flies underneath far too many people’s radar. She’s got a subtle knack for world building and characterization that brushes every page; this is a writer who loves language and you get a sense of that in every sentence. She wrote the best version of Laura McKinney (in NYX and X-23), a character you might know as the girl Wolverine from Logan.

She also wrote some of the most heartfelt X-Men comics Marvel has ever published, concentrating on individual characters and finding the heart in each. Those of us that have read her novels (the Dirk and Steele and Hunter Kiss stories) know exactly how good she is at making you care about her characters and the worlds that they live in, and Monstress is one of her most powerful works in that regard.

Set in a fantastic matriarchal society with heavy Asian influence, Monstress tells the tale of semi-magical creatures that can sometimes pass as human and the humans that use them to fuel their magic. This usage sometimes kills and often hurts those being used, and as a result, the magical ones are dehumanized, degraded, broken and discarded – and so our protagonist is one of their number investigating the death of her mother at the hands of wizards.

It’s a tale of faith, of friendship, a fable that digs deep into the guts of institutional racism and the evils of both war and slavery. It’s incredible meaty stuff and every panel is lovingly rendered by artist Sana Takeda. Seriously, every panel in this comic is a portrait – it’s one of the most beautiful comics on the shelves today, and it’d be worth picking up just for the artwork even if the story wasn’t so good.

But by the powers of Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda combined, well, Image Comics is publishing something magical. Whatever else you might grab this week, do not miss this.

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God of Comics: Rose #1

God Of Comics, Reviews

April 12, 2017

Rose #1 (Image Comics)

We’re covering a lot of fantasy this week. It’s unavoidable when you have this many good fantasy titles; not mentioning the other comics that we’ve discussed this week would have been criminal. So why are we discussing another one? What possible thing could this comic do to set itself apart from the others?

The art is a good place to start. We’re typically more interested in the writing – and we will come back to that- but Ig Guara is handling the art on this title. You might remember Ig from his work on the Avengers and Wonder Woman, given that he’s become something of a go-to at Marvel and DC and Image. Ig’s penchant for lighting and space are both going to play well to this story, which, well.

Meredith Finch was responsible for Little Mermaid over at Zenescope and Wonder Woman over at DC Comics, and jumping between those characters and companies requires more than a little finesse. When someone capable of that sort of breadth decides to tackle classic fantasy you know something good is coming.

And something good is coming. The story here is about a female knight looking to become the guardian her broken world needs so badly. She’s got a giant panther-thing that is more properly called a Khat-Thorne-to, but Rose just calls her Thorne because she has a sense of humor about these things.

Her world was broken by a sorcerer named Drucilla who has a whole whack of demons at her beck and call and is more than willing to use them to destroy her enemies, and Rose certainly counts as such. Thing is, there’s a scared little girl that has drawn Drucilla’s ire and the attention of her horde and you know things are going to go from bad to worse.

So, we’ve got a nimble writer with a penchant for complex female characters paired with an artist you does fantastic imagery working together on a book about a lost knight and her giant panther fighting an evil sorceress to try and repair a broken world. Read that last sentence again and tell me that doesn’t sound cool.

I can’t wait to get my mitts on this – it sounds like the perfect analogue to Rat Queens, a darker take meant to compliment the lighter tone while still keeping the mature focus and surprising capacity for depth. This has high sleeper hit potential, so be sure to get in now.

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God of Comics: Rat Queens #2

God Of Comics, Reviews

April 12, 2017

Rat Queens #2 (Image Comics)

There is a giant dragon goose. I did not see that coming.

We typically try to avoid drawing attention to the same comic one month after another, but this is Rat Queens and you will bow down to the Queens. Kurtis J Wiebe found a new illustrator in Owen Gieni and the two of them look to be having a blast with the all-female adventurer troupe that works out of the small town of Palisade.

If you’ve ever played a sit down role-playing game, you will immediately see the appeal of this comic. If you haven’t, this is the sort of thing that will make you want to play one. It’s so good that the Critical Role crew once cosplayed as the Queens for Halloween, so good that you must read it right now.

Rat Queens is also one of the most LGBT+ friendly comics you could hope to find, with positive portrayals of transgendered, gay, and interracial couples throughout. There’s stories of acceptance, the family hardship that comes with bucking tradition, and so many other complex themes woven into a deceptively simple narrative that it is, simply, mind-blowing.

Once you see how good this comic is it is impossible not to see it.

Also, there is a giant dragon goose monster.

The giant dragon goose monster is a recent addition; the Queens were hired to do a job and are easing their way back into things. Their leader, a dwarf named Violet who shave her beard and left her clan because she couldn’t stomach the conservative traditions of her people any longer, took the job and then ran into a problem: her younger brother.

Dude was sent to bring her back home and got his ass stomped by Violet. This was not a good moment for him, so he’s shaved his beard and recruited people that mirror the Queens in an effort to annoy and outdo Violet. He’s even named his adventurer group the Cat Kings because he’s kind of a dick. He thought he was doing pretty okay until a giant goose dragon attacked and broke his party.

Violet saved his dumb ass, but their rogue got ate in the process and is currently stuck facing off with a merchant in the literal belly of a beast. Meanwhile, Violet is about to lead her Queens into the most violent fight they’ve ever had, because normal geese are vicious monsters and dragon geese have to be worse.

If that isn’t enough, Patrick Rothfuss – the guy what writes the Kingkiller Chronicles – is doing a backup story this month. Why? Because he loves the Queens. You should, too.

Look, it’s Rat Queens. It’s awesome. Buy it, read it, love it.

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