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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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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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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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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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God of Comics – Rat Queens #4

God Of Comics, Reviews

July 5, 2017

Rat Queens #4 (Images Comics)

Violet’s got some problems.

I mean, clearly. She’s a dwarf who shaved off her beard in defiance of tradition, left the mountain keep that was her home, and started a small-scale adventuring company called the Rat Queens. Her reasons have a lot of to do with the misogyny and isolation of her native culture, but she left that all behind her.

And she’s done so many things since! Created a family for herself, exposed the corruption lying at the heart of her new home, waged war against an army of orcs to defend her new home, and even saved the world from a Lovecraftian cult that nearly drove everyone she has or would ever meet insane.

Those accomplishments, though? It’s hard to remember when family comes to town.

Family, in this case, is her brother, Barrie. He shaved his beard mostly to annoy her and has been living in her new home city also mostly to annoy her. He’s built up his own band of adventurers called the Cart Kings because seriously, Barrie, we need to talk. I’m pretty sure that mushroom thing isn’t even sentient.

Anyways, things have been weird for the Queens and they’ve just added a new member to their party, a half-orc named Bragha who might take the edge off, so to speak, by adding another edge to their side. It’ll keep Violet from getting cut as much, is what I’m saying. And this is a good thing, given that the Queens are heading into the depths of a dungeon full of traps, monsters, and sentient decor that all wants to kill them.

Seriously, Barrie, the dungeon found sentient decor and you’re stuck with the mushroom thing? I think it might just be your druid’s familiar. Or the start of an invasion from the mushroom kingdom. Because you are not the sharpest axe in the keep.

Kurtis J. Wiebe pens another tale to keep us going, the sort of fable that feels like it spilled off the table of a really good DM and into a comic. We talk to him about that a bit, actually, and you can read his words by clicking here. New artist Owen Gieni adds his special kind of madness to the setting, including giant Canadian Geese because the small ones aren’t bad enough.

If you like tabletop role-playing, you’ll love this comic. If you’ve never done tabletop role-playing but have heard of it and want to see what all the fuss is about, this is a pretty good introduction. Rat Queens is awesome. 

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God of Comics – Shirtless Bear Fighter! #1

God Of Comics, Reviews

June 22, 2017

Shirtless Bear Fighter! #1 (Image Comics)

We do a lot of deep delving here at Living Myth Magazine. We try to look at the impact and history of characters and story concepts, what they mean in the context of their time and what they add to the living narrative we all exist within. We look at mature comics and comics that are actually mature, comics meant for kids and teens and adults. We dig into the guts of a thing to learn more about a thing. Subtext is everything. Nothing happens in a vacuum and there’s always more to a story than just the story itself.

Except sometimes… sometimes there isn’t. Sometimes there’s just a naked man in the woods who fights bears.

Shirtless Bear Fighter, they call him. They say he was raised by bears after being found in the woods as an infant, already fully bearded. He grew up among the bears, learning their ways, but he was always an outsider due to his human appearance and great bloody strength. He was raised on flapjacks – never pancakes, just flapjacks – and maple syrup. He fought with the bears to protect the land from human greed… but then something happened. A tragedy.

And now?

Now, he fights bears.

Now, he protects us from the bears.

But the bears have come anyway. They cannot be stopped or reasoned with, devil bears that tear through the puny military might of humankind. Only one man can help us and he might not own clothing. Thankfully, he has a bearplane. And a bearhouse. He can, must, and will fight all of the bears. All of the bears.

Somewhere out there, his adoptive brother awaits: Brother Bear. The mightiest bear that ever lived. A terrifying presence with nothing but contempt for humanity. Brother Bear cannot be stopped or reasoned with. Shirtless Bear Fighter is not sure if can protect us from Brother Bear but he will die trying.

Writers Sebastian Girner and Jody LeHeup dare to bring us the comic retelling of the greatest warrior humankind will ever know: a shirtless man who fights bears. Artists Mike Spicer and Nil Vendrell have the courage needed to render every punch, every kick, every German Suplex. Come. Witness. There is much glory to be had in the tale of Shirtless Bear Fighter!

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God of Comics – Crosswind #1

God Of Comics, Reviews

June 20, 2017

Crosswind #1 (Image Comics)

It’s a brand new comic that we’re promoting sight unseen for one very important reason: Gail Simone.

Gail is fresh off wrapping up Clean Room, a mind-bending exploration of themes that leaked out of Twin Peaks and Lovecraft and was one of the better high-brow horror comics to simmer in the comic consciousness over the past couple of years. Gail is good at horror: the best comic to rupture out of the enforced grimdark nu52 was her take on Batgirl, which was both grim and dark and led to her run on Red Sonja.

When Red Sonja is the light and happy alternative to Batgirl, DC Comics was doing something wrong. They fixed that, thankfully, and we still have Barbara Gordon dealing with her serial killing brother and a complete take on the Red Sonja legend, so really every world is better off.

Gail is working with artist Cat Staggs, best known for some of the crispest line work you’re going to see in comics. Cat’s worked on a plethora of titles ranging from Indiana Jones to the Avengers to X-Files and Supergirl, and she brings an incredible level of detail and shifting perspectives to each. She’s got a talent for spotting the angles that work best for each tales she works on, and both Gail and Cat have come up with something that sounds like it could be a lot of fun.

We all remember Freaky Friday, right? Or any of that ilk of story, where two minds swap bodies (see also Farscape, because everyone should see Farscape)? It happens to people in fiction sometimes – Wolverine and Spider-man, for example. In this comic, it’s happening to a deadly Mafia hitman working out of Chicago and a random but downtrodden housewife.

So, good-person housewife is in the body of a killer and is going to have to deal with his politics and problems. The hitman is in the body of a housewife in a bad relationship and a bad place, and his tolerance for all of that is probably not going to be great. The reason for the swap is something they’re both going to have to discover but after Clean Room, well, I’ve already bought the ticket and I’m here for the ride.

You should be, too. This is going to be awesome.

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God of Comics – Injection #13

God Of Comics, Reviews

June 6, 2017

Injection #13 (Image Comics)

As Warren Ellis settles into the third arc of Injection it becomes increasingly apparent that he’s going somewhere with this. I should have known this, but I had forgotten – Warren doesn’t do ongoing comics that drift off into whimpering messes, he does pointed stories. His pen is a weapon that he has sharpened to a razor’s edge and he used it with the deft skill of a master swordsman.

Injection won’t go on forever. It’ll go on long enough for us fully explore the world presented and the characters that inadvertently created as they struggle against the ever-increasing stakes of the intelligence they created to make the world more interesting.

For those of you that aren’t in on this already, Injection is a comic about a think tank called the Cross-Culture Contamination Unit that was put together years before – a group consisting of some of the most unique minds on the planet that were asked to come up with a response to a plateauing progress of humanity that some other thinkers were worried would come and keep humanity from moving culturally. The think tank included a sociologist (she’s a physicist – ed.), a hacker, a spy, a detective, and a reluctant Scottish wizard, and the lot of them created an artificial intelligence and the wizard gave it the power to alter physical reality.

They let this thing into the world and it has been a mess ever since. We were introduced to the sociologist in the first arc, the one that put the team together and is borderline insane due to the consequences of her actions. The second arc followed the detective trying to outwit the machine he helped create as lives ended all around him. Now we’re dealing with ancient signals playing havoc with modern computer signals, so the hacker has been called in to collect.

That means the spymaster and the wizard are left, and there are no guarantees that either of them or any of them will make it to whatever the endgame is here. The only thing we know for certain is Warren is going to take us on a hell of a ride and we’ll never see the final destination until we get there, breathless from the mad journey.

Warren is working with Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire, which means the whole book is work of art – between the lines, shading, and coloring, this book is a true work of art. It’s stunning, every panel, every page.

This comic is Lovecraftian sci-fi, and the whole creative team is pouring their very best work into it. The result is something that feels magical and disquieting, a ritual that seeps through your skin and into your soul at $3.99 a pop. Take my word for it and take the Injection – it’ll make your life much more interesting.

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God of Comics – Eternal Empire

God Of Comics, Reviews

June 6, 2017

Eternal Empire #2 (Image Comics)

So, the world has gotten kind of weird and we’re getting a lot of dystopian literature out of it and they tend to get one thing wrong: the Big Bad Evil Guy does not set himself apart from the people if he or she wants to stay in power. Look at the real life examples: fascist dictators gain power by presenting themselves as being of the people, lying about sharing their hardships and claiming that they can make the world great again while feeding off those same people like a parasite. The truth is that no matter how many times they claim that they’ll make the country great again, all these fascists do is incite violence and bully away dissenting opinions by providing an alternative truth that is easier for their followers to accept than what is actually happening.

And that’s what’s happening in this comic: there was danger of maybe a group coming in and doing some damage to an ancient people, so they used ancient magic to create a savior they didn’t understand and now things have gotten bad. The Empress is a half-dragon half-human presence that we never see, but we do see statues of her and feel her eyes on everyone in this book – the slave protagonist and her peers, the soldiers that keep them in their place, and the reader on the other side of the fourth wall. The Empress is pervasive, dangerous, and the slave’s break for freedom is possible only because her keepers are certain it will kill her.

That was last issue, though, and we know she made it through.

And so now we turn to issue the second, where our heroine the escaped slave has bumped into a man who can control fire. We know nothing else about him, not yet, but we have suffered with how badly things have gotten and we know only one country stands against the Empress and her empire. Is this strange man from that final country? We’re going to have to pick up this issue to find out, and I very much will be.

Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn are co-writing this, and their combined efforts have given the world in this comic the feel of something worn and lived in, a place that is hauntingly familiar and feels like a warning. Jonathan is also doing the art and has taken a page from the likes of Avatar: the Last Airbender and Studio Ghibli, his designs being deceptively complex and speaking to the characters and their world.

This comic is a lot of fun, and you should read it.

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God of Comics – Romulus #4

God Of Comics, Reviews

May 30, 2017

Romulus #4 (Image Comics)

Anyone know Brooke Burgess? He penned an online animated graphic novel called Broken Saints what sometimes feels like a lifetime ago. He’s currently hosting a podcast called Buddha and the Slut, juxtaposed terms that do a pretty great job of describing him. Broken Saints was about a worldwide conspiracy using the word of God to try and commandeer the world, and the two of us used to talk a lot about conspiracy and history and politics and spirit and those conversations sometimes lasted days.

He was the second person I really did this with to that extent. The first also mentioned conspiracies, but he’d say things like “Never join a conspiracy you could betray because if you could, someone else will.”

Both of them informed my own writings on the subject and led to the creation of the Kinguim in my own novel, the Legend of Mercedes Ketch. It’s also the sort of thought that went into this story and it makes this story powerful.

See, here’s the thing: the various divisions that we see highlighted in society would be used by a single division to keep the rest of us from noticing that distinction exists. We joke about the puppets on the left and right of the political spectrum working for the same people and being infected by the same corruption, but it’s the sort of humor used to mask the things we’re not comfortable talking about.

That thing is this: there exists a group of people that dictate how we all live and we are becoming more and more aware of them. They’re called the oligarchy, and war is not fought for religion or even politics so much as it is to make them wealthy while the flash distractions at us so we don’t notice what it is they’re doing. Worse, they’re working with zero-sum games, meaning they’re going to kill all of us and themselves but they’re trapped by their own philosophies and unable to escape.

It’s horrifying, and Romulus discusses this without a shred of humor.

Yes, it’s dressed up in action-horror-thriller stuff: there’s a young woman who was trained to be an assassin and is the last of her kind, her order having worked for the conspiracy until the conspiracy figured this order would betray them. Now we know there’s two conspiracies – at least two – wrestling for control, one that seeks control and the other that wants revolution.

The ones that want control are terrifying not for the atrocities they commit but for the reasons they use to justify them, reasons that you’ll hear politicians and CEOs and Wall Street parrot. The divisions were never about race or religion or even politics, says this comic – those are distractions to keep people from noticing the real war, the one between control and revolution.

I can believe it. That’s what makes this comic so thrilling.

The stakes are five billion lives and the fate of every other soul on the planet.

Writer Bryan Edward Hill writes like someone I want to know, someone I want to go and have coffee with while discussing politics and philosophy, blood and magic. His words will tear into you and keep you hooked, make your soul howl and beg for more, and Nelson Blake II’s art will leave your breathless, his action plotted with the deft precision of a master at work.

You need to read this book. It is like oxygen. Go and do the thing.

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