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God of Comics – Dishonored: Peeress and the Price #1

God Of Comics, Reviews

September 27, 2017

Dishonored: Peeress and the Price #1 (Titan Books)

What what? Another video game comic? We seem to be doing a lot of these. Is Dan Watters writing this one, too? No? Who is… it’s Michael Moreci? The dude from Hoax Hunters and Roche Limit? I love it when comics give me reason to talk about other comics that I keep meaning to talk about – the other two are titles that were recommended to me by Big Pete a while back and they’re all sorts of great.

They also tie nicely into the world of Dishonored.

Hoax Hunters is a tale about a group of highly trained professionals hunting down and covering up legit supernatural events and making them look like hoaxes. Remember that guy in Hellboy who has to explain away whenever Hellboy slips up and someone catches him on camera? It’s a team of that guy, only they’re likable and doing a thing that is necessary because humans are nervous violent animals who cannot handle anything they’re not expecting. It’s awesome stuff and you should be reading it.

Roche Limit is one of the best high-concept science fiction comics that needs to be a high-concept science fiction series done by someone with an appreciation for story and character. It’s about a space station where humanity is just managing to hang on and the weirdness that happens out there, far away from anything humankind might know. The first volume is subtitled Clandestiny and it’d be worth your time to track down and read to give you an idea of what Michael Moreci brings to the table.

Because what he brings to the table is amazing.

Dishonored is a video game story about a royal bodyguard who failed and was dishonored and had to put the rightful heir back on the throne, uncovering murky conspiracy and unlocking arcane power. A tale of vengeance turned to one about justice and was all the better for it, and the sequel saw the rightful princess become a queen and then have it all stolen from her, forcing her to reclaim what was hers.

Conspiracies and crimes and cover-ups and arcane lore, all lurking about in the halls of power. Fates decided, destinies murdered, and complex characters forced into situations they never expected. There’s drama here. Madness. Chaos. A threat to the crown and the kingdom and the world, secrets to be uncovered and justice to be found.

Emily and Corvo, royalty and bodyguard, return to Dunwall after the events of the second game. There, they run into a dangerous rival in the form of Archibald Dufrane, a man only mildly less dangerous than the serial killer that is haunting the city… and whose presence is made all the more deadly when the arcane might that keeps Emily secure starts to crumble.

It’s good times, is what we’re saying. High political drama with danger, magic, and enough shades of gray to fill a shadowed kingdom. Michael Moreci is the perfect writer for this.

He’s joined by Andrea Olimpieri and Mattia Iacono handling the carved lines and woven colors that bring his tale to life. The former you might know from the Evil Within or Dark Souls, another couple of video game adaptations that are worth your time to track down. The latter has been right there with him on the Evil Within and Dark Souls, so you’re going to be looking at the work of a team that know and bring out the best in one another.

For those of you that don’t know the game, this will make a hell of an introduction. For the rest of us, what can we do other than make our way to our comic stores of choice and grab what we need? Because – trust me – you need this. Like oxygen.

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God of Comics – Wolfenstein #1

God Of Comics, Reviews

September 21, 2017

Wolfenstein #1 (Titan Books)

Feels like we were just talking about writer Dan Watters last week. What was he working on? Little Nightmares? Assassin’s Creed? No, no, it was the Shadow.

I want you to take a look at that list, though. Those three comics and what the narratives of those games deal with. Little Nightmares is about the grotesque rich and an all-consuming gluttony resulting in the loss of soul and eventual destruction. Assassin’s Creed is about a war through time between religious zealots and those that have sought to stop them. And, of course, the latest iteration of the Shadow deals with finding out what evil lurks in the hearts of men and causes greater degrees of evil, the root causes of the symptoms that are killing every living thing on our planet.

Combine the darknesses inherent in those three villains and you have Nazis, which means that Dan is well equipped to deal with the horrors of this comic.

For those of you that don’t know, Wolfenstein is a video games series about a Jewish soldier named B.J. Blazkowicz who was captured by Nazis, taken behind enemy lines, and then killed his way through every last bastard that wanted to make the Fatherland Great Again, because you cannot talk to people who are advocating for genocide. Ask anyone that spoke with the Nazis about peace treaties how well that went… or take a look at the American South, and the cancer that is now killing the American Dream because someone decided they did not want to hurt the feelings of fascists and slave owners.

It’s interesting: the Nazi party borrowed some of their ideas and culture from the American Confederacy, those traitors that went to war to keep slaves and who used the slave trade to bolster their economy. The Nazis then used the inertial constancy of European antisemitism to advocate for genocide and made the world complicit in their action when they offered to send the people they were going to exterminate to anywhere that wasn’t Germany.

Germans know about this. They’re taught about it in school. They learn about their history, the good and the bad – and there is good there, a manic genius that has informed much of the world for the better. Americans do not because they edit out the parts of their history they don’t like. This is why Neo-Nazis are allowed to exist, why people think the Confederacy turned traitor for reasons other than slavery, why Republicans are the way they were – if you don’t understand where you come from you cannot control where you’re going.

Recent Wolfenstein games have been brutal on this point. They dig into the horror of Nazism, the sheer vicious inhumanity of it and still come up short because it’s hard to fully capture the degradation that genocide entails. Still, they try as best they can and the most recent version decides to expose the horror in a whole new light:

Makes your skin crawl, doesn’t it?

This is the world that Nick Spencer and his ilk are fighting for, the one that moderate liberals will let happen because they would rather talk when someone is calling for the execution for African-American and LGBT+ and Romani and Jewish and Hispanic lives, among others. This is the world that Dan Watters will look at unblinking, and ask you to do the same. It is not an easy task, or a pleasant one. We do not want to fight but there is little choice when you have actual Nazis pushing actual genocide into the public discourse.

Dan is working with the art team of Piotr Kowalski and Ronilson Freire, the former a resident of Poland and the latter a resident of Brazil. Poland was the home of Auschwitz and the worst of the Nazis’ offenses, while Brazil is next to a place where many of the Nazi leadership fled after the war. Both countries have suffered the taint of that evil, and both of them understand the importance of this comic.

This war should be over but it isn’t. Look into what America being made great again by Trump and his ilk looks like. Take a good long look by reading this comic and decide of that sort of fear and murder is something that you can stomach. And then, for the love of the morality you claim to love so much, go out and punch a fucking Nazi.

It’s up to us.

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God of Comics – Little Nightmares #1

God Of Comics, Reviews

May 30, 2017

Little Nightmares #1 (Titan Books)

I talk a lot about narrative structure here and pretty much everywhere else, too. Narrative and story are my thing, my over-riding passion and obsession, and a good chunk of where I cut my teeth learning about these things was in horror.

Horror as a genre is often ignored by anyone not involved in creating it. This allows creatives in that genre to explore with relative freedom and often talk more about the social structures of the times in which those stories were crafted. Even then, however, there are different types of horror and different kinds of fear. Most creatives settle in for cheap and easy jump scares, which are startling rather than scary. They’re easy. Anyone can do them.

There’s better kinds of fear to try and invoke, better and more complex flavors, and the stories that use them are the ones that stick with us. It’s why American Mary lingers in the public consciousness when the last Friday the 13th movie is something no one remembers. The former spoke to the world in which it was created while the latter was a dull echo of a time gone by, lacking meaning and, therefore, an audience.

One of the most difficult types of fear one can hope to inspire through story is dread, the sense of creeping fear that comes from knowing what’s out there and knowing that it cannot be reasoned with, cannot be plead with, the knowing that you are helpless and if that power ever stops hurting you it will not be because that power cared.

Little Nightmares is all about that. It’s a video game about a little girl named Six who wears a hooded yellow rain slicker and has a lighter and is trying to escape a disquieting placed called the Maw. You’re introduced to the antagonists quickly and know what they can do to you but you have no way of fighting back – all you can do in the face of them is hide and pray that they do not notice you. It’s terrifying and nerve-wracking and perfect.

So, naturally, there’s a comic adaption.

Alex Paknadel and Dan Watters know their way around a video game license – they’ve been doing some impressive work with the Assassin’s Creed franchise, Alex’s work with Arcadia was stunning and deeply complex, and Dan converted the equally good video game Limbo into another stellar comic. The two of them will nail the pacing here, but this is a comic that really is only going to be as good as the art: thankfully, they have Nick Percival handling the artistic duties and he’s a killer choice, what with his prior work with Judge Dredd, Hellraiser, and Dark Souls. His aesthetic blends perfectly with the disquieting world of Little Nightmares and should result in something amazing.

Just don’t expect to sleep after reading this comic.

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God of Comics: Tekken #1 (Titan Books)

God Of Comics, Reviews

May 2, 2017

I’ve mentioned this before, but fighting games all have these weirdly detailed plotlines that go in all sorts of weird directions and have supremely strange character arcs. The bad guy in Street Fighter is a death-powered demi-god who pushes drugs and whose ultimate form is a cloned woman who escaped his grasp and now works for British Intelligence. Darkstalkers features a vampire god stalking a succubus who is also a god and her younger sister, who is actually a repository of her full power that was taken away from her and became sentient. Mortal Kombat is a mish-mash of classic martial arts tropes taken to their logical extreme.

Even given all of that, Tekken is fucking batshit lunacy.

The CEO of a multinational corporation that pretty much rules the world holds a one-on-one fighting tournament every year where he puts control of his company on the line. His son, who he threw off a cliff to try and toughen up, shows up one year and throws him off the cliff because apparently the devil is in his genes. The CEO returns to depose his son, but not before his evil son has a child with someone who is wholly good, so now there’s a grandkid running around who sometimes grows wings and shoots lasers out of his eyes.

Did we mention there’s a Bruce Lee stand-in? Or one for Jackie Chan? How about the street boxer whose kick buttons are replaced by dodges? That’s all fairly standard… okay, how about the cyborg bounty-hunting samurai who fights with a laser sword that he sometimes uses as a pogo stick or helicopter and who might be immortal?

We haven’t touched the insane military cyborg on the run, the luchador who died and whose guilt-stricken rival trained his replacement, either of the rich deletants who’re dancing their way through a murder investigation, the Aztec Demon who sometimes shows up for shits and giggles… it’s all kind of insane.

Handling the insanity is writer Cavan Scott, who has worked on much simpler fare in the past… things like Doctor Who and Vikings, so when we say simpler we do not mean by very much. Titan Books has also put Andie Tong on art, and he’s very much the sort of artist who can bring the technical skill that these fighters display to life while capturing the odd mosaic of emotions and motivations that drive everyone here.

There’s more than enough material and character here for this to be something truly special. We’ll see if Titan can pull it off… fingers crossed.

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God of Comics: The Forever War #3

God Of Comics, Reviews

April 19, 2017

Forever War #3 (Titan Books)

The Forever War is one of those seminal science fiction books that everyone should read and I’m kinda glad it’s being turned into a comic – the more places this story is told, the better.

Written back in 1974, the story is about a marine sent into deep space to fight a war he doesn’t really understand against aliens he might never see. Most of the first few chapters deal with military culture and the idea of taking planets that are utterly inhospitable to human life. When our hero finally sees action things go wrong and when he’s served his term the military offers to extend his contract, but all he wants to do is go home.

The problem is a simple one: you can never go home again. Anyone who’s traveled knows that things change in your absence and that the place you left is never the place that you return to. This is further complicated by dwindling resources and evolving societal trends, so the world our hero comes back to is more alien to him than the aliens he was fighting. He eventually re-enlists, because while war is hell it is, at least, familiar.

It’s all the more interesting in that author Joe Haldeman is a Vietnam veteran, one of those war heroes that conservatives like in concept but rarely in practice. The story hits that line, with many classic space opera tropes turned on their heads: the war is a meaningless one, the inciting moment an accident that those with more greed than sense used to line their own pockets.

The book is one of those quietly influential stories, a Nebula-award winning tale that really should be taught in schools. As recently as March 2017, the book was referenced in the New York Times by writer Brian Castner, who said “The longest conflict in American history – from Afghanistan to Iraq, to high-value target missions throughout Africa and the Middle East – has been nicknamed the Forever War. Our country has created a self-selected and battle-hardened cohort of frequent fliers, one that is almost entirely separate from mainstream civilian culture, because service in the Forever War, as many of us call it, isn’t so much about going as returning.”

It should be noted that this comic has seen light before: Joe Haldeman did script out a comic that was illustrated by Marvano and published by NBM Publishing almost thirty years ago, but this is the first time we’ve gotten fresh prints of the tale in English since that time (there was a collected edition back in 2002, but it was only in French).

For those of us that are interested in the world we live in and the truth of what combat looks like and the difficulties of coming home, this is the cautionary tale we need. This story is an important one, a stark and honest report written by a veteran of a horrific war fought for reasons no one really understands except those that profited from it – the inciting incident of the greed-inspired wars that America is fighting today and reaping the consequences of.

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God of Comics: Penny Dreadful #1

God Of Comics, Reviews

April 5, 2017

Penny Dreadful #1 (Titan Books)

Please tell me you watched this series when it was on. It was three seasons of absolute and terrifying magic wrapped around Eva Green giving the sort of performance that should define a career.

Hunt this down. It’s worth it.

A brief recap: Malcolm Murray is the absent father of Mina Murray. She’s gone missing, his son is dead, and his wife wants nothing to do with him because he’s a terrible husband and father. He’s adopted Mina’s childhood best friend, a woman named Vanessa Ives who is also a witch and maybe knows where Mina has gone. They have a conflicted relationship and recruit some people to help them fight the Evil that has taken Mina, including an American Werewolf in London and Hipster Dr. Frankenstein. Also Dorian Gray sort of maybe is involved.

Terrifying things happen for three whole seasons and the story ended when Vanessa died. It was heartbreaking and necessary and there was no way for the show to continue afterward, but that didn’t mean that most of the stories were resolved: the werewolf has a new home and father and Malcolm has a new furry son, but Dorian is still out there, Frankenstein and his creatures are still out there, there’s monstrous things haunting London that need killing.

Here’s the story we get, the continuation into a dark world that is defined by the old penny dreadfuls of the Victorian era and is savvy enough to know them by name. Here’s the haunted aftermath of Vanessa’s death, the world after Dorian betrays those that loved him and murdered most of the women his undead lover liberated. Here’s the bitter and broken doctor, having conquered death and lost the will to live. Here’s the monster, having found his family and lost them all over again.

The thing about fighting back the darkness is that, if you’re good at it, the darkness notices you and never stops coming, never goes away, never leaves you in peace. It will kill you or shatter you or make you a part of it and it stretches off into forever, your presence just a glimmering star in the empty void that lies between them.

Penny Dreadful’s characters are only too aware of their fragility and mortality. They have been played with and mocked, destroyed and abandoned, scattered and put upon. They raged and fought against the dying of the light and they won the battle and lost everything they lived for. The comic continues their fight, shows them struggling to find things to live for, and that is intriguing enough to get us invested.

The question is whether or not writer Chris King and illustrator Jesús Hervás can keep our attention. Chris is the co-executive producer of the series and has plans to pick things up six months after the season finale. Jesús is the artist behind the rather excellent visuals on Sons of Anarchy, so that’s promising. We’ll see where this goes.

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