The Dark Delights of Gideon Falls

Galls1.jpg

You probably didn’t think that one of the best books you’d read this year would be about a mysterious small-town, supernatural impossibilities and obscurity surrounding organised religion. Yeah, I’ll tell you right now that we’re not talking about something conjured up by the almighty Stephen King, but rather a book that’s put together by two comic book luminaries at Image Comics.

gfalls2

Gideon Falls has several of King’s tried and tested tropes like the ones I’ve just mentioned, but the list of reasons you should read this book doesn’t end there. Even the chapter title ‘The Speed of Pain,’ mirrors that of a Marilyn Manson song from 1998, which makes you wonder what other creepy parallels await readers in the coming issues. What else can you say about a comic that’s first panel shows the protagonist upside down? Metaphors much? This is the mark of elevated comic book writing, which is no surprise when you consider mighty Jeff Lemire buddied up with the phenomenal Andrea Sorrentino to put this book together.

gfalls3

Having done this comic blog for a while now, I’ve got enough experience to say that one of the best ways to gauge an artist’s prowess is to choose a featured image to go alongside text, and with this issue I was pretty spoiled for choice. Andrea Sorrentino is just a tour de force of talent and makes you really want to slow down and look at each panel, admire their arrangements and think about the placement of lines and curves that he opted for. Dave Stewart’s colours are used to optimal effect, adding sombre and engaging tone to an already eerie and unsettling story.

gfalls4

Lemire and Sorrentino’s time together producing the Old Man Logan series has given these guys a sense of familiarity with each other’s work style, to the benefit of themselves and readers alike. Like any great musician, Lemiere gives his colleague lots of room to showcase his talents, in a way that allows the unit to produce something truly beautiful. All those uncaptioned panels and lack of dialogue seem the ideal choice when you stop and look at that artwork, and maybe other comic producers would better themselves by emulating these kinds of choices if their stories permit them to do so.

gfalls5

Meanwhile, Lemire’s love letter at the end of the issue throws a lot of light onto the genesis of the series, which could also bring a sense of appeal to readers. I think it’d be a safe bet to say that I wasn’t the only one who dived right into that post-comic section to hunt down more clues about the murky, cryptic story that is Gideon Falls.

Advertisements

Don’t Mind the Mental Health

Leg1

You have to hand it to writers who steer away from the norm and tackle stories that most people would instinctively avoid. Let’s take a moment to appraise Peter Milligan for his work on Legion and highlighting, in some way, mental health and its grave implications.

 

Before we say anything else, it’s only fair to say big ups to the writer for taking on the Herculean task of trying to write this story in a way that could be monetised. This is meant to be an entertaining story in a comic book, not Time magazine, or the New York Times. At the same time, he’s writing a story that poses several challenges for anyone in the writer’s seat. If you take a moment to look at it, there’s actually plenty to help him along the way though. For instance, it would be logical to assume that the world’s greatest mind would be the ideal candidate to solve David’s mental issues. But with Professor X ‘dead’ in this reality, where does he turn? Why is he convinced that celebrity psychotherapist Dr Hannah Jones has what it takes to cure him?

leg5

Sure, a less gifted writer could put together a scenario where all the action of the story reveals in its final moments to have all been the product of an addled, troubled mind, or maybe in a brain that’s in a state of physical disrepair. But Milligan has other plans, and we, the readership are the luckier for it. Then again, could that actually be where the crux of David Haller’s troubles lay? Are all the happenings, voices and thoughts caused by a physical imperfection that has created all what we see depicted as some kind of coping mechanism? It makes me wonder about the correlation between madness and creativity and the whole concept of the mad scientist persona.

leg3

If you’re anything like me, you might wonder about how deliberate the choices were when it came to choosing the book’s various colour schemes and overall visual tone. Maybe you’re thinking the lifelike renditions of Esad Ribic would’ve been a more suitable fit for subject matter that’s as heavy and humourless as Legion. But then again, gentle reader, we both know that the overriding decision was that the finished product had to be one that appealed to the greatest common denominator as possible to make the most cash. This is why Wilfredo Torres and Dan Brown were chosen to visually represent Milligan’s script – and their task was clearly an uphill battle.

leg4

The cover of issue 2 continues to convey the idea of the untamed and unpredictable nature of Haller’s mind, with a number of jungle animals aggressively scowling and brandishing their teeth, while the upper portion of David’s head is visible above a pool of water. If the creative team was using the analogy of the iceberg then they ought to pat themselves on the back, because even despite what little we know about David’s problems, we can agree that what’s on the surface is symptomatic of the deep and murky chaos and pain that troubles him. It’s the little things like that that’ll make me want to pick up this comic when it comes out in trade.

Death of Love

DoL1

 

For any comic book fan that’s fending off Valentine’s Day blues, maybe a good dose of humour is the best thing for it. Enter the Death of Love. Despite the morbid title, this isn’t one of those melancholic laments about a crestfallen Romeo. Instead, we’re given a story that seems familiar and relatable, which is why this comic ought to appeal to more than it actually will.

Dol2

 

As someone with a history of loneliness and alienation, it was easy for me to empathise with the protagonist, Philo Harris. Like millions of people, Philo is a nice guy whilst simultaneously being an asshole, and, as such, has a warped idea about romantic love. He’s unable to move out of the friendzone Zoe has put him in, and like millions of insecure guys have done, Philo’s desperation makes him turn to the advice of misogynists. It turns into something reminiscent of that track from Blink 182’s 2001 album Take Off Your Pants and Jacket (you know the one, if not, look it up). So now you’re wondering where exactly is all the humour I had mentioned earlier, and this is one of the major virtues of this debut issue.

Dol3

As you read this story, you’ll notice how writer Justin Jordan drops some major truth bombs, usually voiced by Philo’s best friend Bob, and it might make you take a good hard look at your own situation. Surely that’s a mark of great writing, isn’t it? Bob’s knowledge of the Zoe situation affords him a perspective that is objective and honest, and I think I wouldn’t be alone in wondering how differently things would have turned out for myself had I been given this kind of a dose of tough love way back when I was growing up. But it’s not all just introspective seriousness. The comedy vibe in Death of Love is clear and present throughout, which is something readers like yours truly could really appreciate. Jordan has managed to guilefully blend the seriousness of Philo’s struggle with the feel-good humour that’s often observed in the interactions between best friends and bros. The art of Donal Delay, Omar Estevez and Felipe Sobreiro is also largely responsible for the lightness of the subject matter, without taking away the desire to see how the rest of the story unfolds.

DOL5

With four issues left to go, readers will wonder what happens next for Philo and his lonely friends, and about the origins and motives of pill-pushing demon Eris. Will he eventually find love with Zoe? I have my reservations, because these kinds of stories usually need another female character to be into the protagonist for his love quest to be resolved. Let’s hope the rest of the series delivers as much cupid-killing fun as the debut did.

Misguided Dopamine, Adolescence and PolitiX

XMR1

OK kids, today we’re gonna talk a little bit about politics, emotions and other trivial points, so put down your gluten-free kale shakes and get ready to get triggered… I mean #triggered.

xmr5

 

A curious theory says that certain people are addicted to what some people call negative emotions, like sadness and sorrow. I used to be one of those people, before my heart and mind changed; I turned over a new leaf and resolved to channel the energy from those emotions into different outlets. It’s not as easy for others as it was for me and everyone has their own path to self-realisation, and, like everyone else, I have beautiful days and others that just aren’t as sunny. Sometimes I wonder just how different of a person I would be today if I had chosen a path of optimism instead of being addicted to what I now see was pessimism in my adolescence. When I meditated on that thought a long, long time ago, I realised that on some level I was addicted to being sad and didn’t want to be happy because I was so used to being sad that it, ironically enough, comforted me. In somewhat the same vein, I’m kind of wondering if the X-men are almost self-sadistic and happy to wither away and live a life of struggle and failure before Xavier’s dream can be realised.

xmr3

The X-Men are as revered today because of the gargantuan power of nostalgia and the whole idea of viewers seeing themselves and relating to characters they view. X fans can relate to the adolescent vulnerabilities, petty rage, identity quests and relentless grudges we see in the X-books. So riddle me this, is the X factor in these X books some kind of hybrid love of doom/failure/sadness mixed with some audacious optimism and idealism? There’s no way the X-men will ever succeed in fulfilling Xavier’s dream for mutants to live harmoniously with humans. They are fighting a losing battle in their bid to protect a world that fears and hates them. And this is probably what endears underdogs, others and misfits like you and yours truly to them so much. Sure, maybe a boatload of us stopped giving a fuck when the X books lost the calibre that they held in the 80s and 90s, but with stuff like X-Men Red, things are starting to look and feel a whole lot better.

 

xmr4

In X-Men Red, Jean Grey is alive (SLOL – Sarcastic LOL), and getting all political in her bid to keep Professor X’s dream alive. But for any story to be compelling there needs to be conflict, and before too long mutant ambassador Jean Grey realises she may have stepped onto a battlefield she should’ve studied a few plans for ahead of time. I wondered, why X-Men Red? Is it a reference to Jean Grey as team leader? Maybe subtle foreshadowing of some horrifying bloodshed to come in upcoming issues? Perhaps it’s a reminder of the ever-present danger that mutants live in. (Maybe its just in keeping with the theme of the ongoing X books being colour coded). Whatever the reason, Red is possibly the best X book currently out there.

Old heads, like your friendly neighbourhood comic blog writer, would surely love the old-school feel of the tried and tested X-men fodder – the civil rights struggle, the fear and hatred towards mutants, the futility of their heroism and the chemistry between the characters that we’ve known for decades such as Namor, and Nightcrawler. Meanwhile, to thwart the tiredness of familiarity, the roster includes youngsters such as Gentle, Honey Badger, Trinary and X-23. As it stands now, I’m in a WTF place trying to make sense of the inclusion of these unknown new gen players, but hopefully as more issues come out we’ll start to warm to them a bit more. Tom Taylor deserves accolades for his treatment and for having the cojones to tackle writing duties for a series that features heavyweights like the once-dead Jean Grey. I’ll admit that I was surprised with the way the debut issue went. On more than one page ending I thought, “OK, this is it, they’re ending it kind of safely, which I can live with.” But the reason I’m so eager for the trade now is because of the resolution this well-written story is begging for.

Artists- Mahmud Asrar and Ive Svorcina

 

Is 2 in 1 Better Than 4?

Is 2 For 1 Better Than 4?

 

M2n1a.jpgThe Fantastic Four are dead. Long live the Fantastic Four. The wise amongst you are aware on some level that the only constant in this life is change, and that nothing lasts forever. And so when megalomaniac Marvel decided to kill off their first family during the Secret Wars incursions we were all left wondering how they were going to inevitably bring back the Fantastic Four. This was probably just some kind of fixed term deposit/timeshare deal, because the wheels of commerce tend to turn mercilessly, and the monopoly machine knew that it was only a matter of time before they owned all the rights and intellectual property they needed to sustain capitalism until our own world faced its inevitable impending implosion. We still don’t know how Reed, Sue and the kids will be reinserted into the existing Marvel multiverse/universe/whatever they’re calling it these days, but it will happen. In the interim, we can check out Marvel 2 in 1 Thing and the Human Torch.

M2n1d

We’re all patting ourselves on the back as we ponder the immense power that nostalgia can wield over those who cherish a bygone ideal, tale or even an emotion. Is that a consolation or an acknowledgement of our shared awareness? I leave that to you, gentle reader, to decide.M2n1c

 

You’re clearly curious about Marvel 2 in 1, or wondering what other readers thought. Maybe my opinion comes from having been off comics for a while (strange enough for someone who ‘maintains’ a comic blog), but this felt familiar and friendly. Would you call this a safe read? Yeah, why not. The first 2 issues are full of familiar faces and places and literary devices that writer Chip Zdarsky and others have undoubtedly put out before. But the human is indeed a complex animal, with a potential to harm and also to heal, and while I’ll give this story a thumbs up, others might flip it off.

 

M2n1

There is enough luscious art in these pages courtesy of Jim Cheung, John Dell, Walden Wong and Frank Martin to satisfy your everyday aesthete, while the story will have haters, and lovers in equal measure. I consider myself more on the latter, but not completely. There’s enough to make you turn the pages and resist the urge to pick up a PS4 controller and game instead of putting down ideas onto a page and writing a blog post about it, at least in my case. Others will disagree, but I couldn’t find anything I disliked about these 2 issues, and would happily recommend you reading them. I can understand why some people might not buy these books – on principle and because of simple economics. Don’t work overtime just to be able to buy each issue, I’m sure it’ll be just as much fun to read as a collected omnibus.

Dark Fang and the Cynical Beauty of Truth

DF1.jpg

 

You know how they say variety is the spice of life? Well, some might argue that the same principle applies when it comes to comics. Not every issue, debut or otherwise, is a home run. But does my ominous intro reveal my thoughts on the debut issue of Dark Fang?

DF3

I know that the majority of you, my constant readers, aren’t looking for the shortcut or the hack. You’re far more intelligent than the average, a blue chip player and a diamond in the rough. And so, you wouldn’t just stop reading after I say that maybe Dark Fang #1 isn’t the easiest book for readers to sink their teeth into. Whilst slipshod in places, the book wasn’t as watered-down and soulless as this one standout failure that Marvel put out months ago. (I won’t mention the comic, but I’ll say that I’d reviewed this debut issue months ago, and received the vitriol of a bona fide reviewer type whose opinion people pay to read. Write me and I’ll reveal all.) But was I being too harsh with that comic that didn’t leave a lovely aftertaste in my mouth? Was the bona fide reviewer right in judging/hating on me for telling my truth? This isn’t terra nova guys, so let me be implicit with the answer to that question.

DF4

Dark Fang is a brilliant reminder that comics need to vary in style and delivery. Not everyone is looking for the meaning of life in these panels. Sometimes we just want to kick back and relax and have something to take our minds off of the grind. And I hear your next question gentle reader : what’s at stake when we can’t sink our teeth into Dark Fang? Well my friends, we can get all meta about this and say that the creative trio of writer Miles Gunter, artist Kelsey Shannon and letterer Taylor Esposito are trying to remind us about the pointlessness of our lives and that the real wisdom lies in enjoying the ride while we can and not be a dick to our fellow human beings, the creatures we share this world with and to the world itself! How’s that for anti-cynical? I don’t know what the good folks I just named were aiming for in the debut, but I can say that it was a fun read, despite the few tell-tale rookie elements in certain areas.

Dark Fang does a great job of disguising social commentary as the thoughts of a meandering vampire who is out of time. Despite her tragicomic backstory, she doesn’t seem to bear the cross of loneliness as say a Lestat, or Frankenstein’s monster did in their own stories. She has found a way to land on her feet by exploiting the inhabitants of the world she is now a part of and apart from, which makes us wonder how much of that is taking place around us without us even realising it. Does your government really care about you? Oh snap! I hope I don’t upset anyone by speaking my mind about political stuff! And so close to Christmas too! What will Santa make of this?

DF2

Like many bands during the whole nu-metal tsunami of the late 90s and early 2000s, it seems that the creative team decided to keep things ambiguous on their cover. Simply going by the cover page we can only assume that the figure of a fanged woman biting into a globe is a grotesque Eve with the fruit of the forbidden tree. The theme of temptation continues on the following pages as she learns about the art of seduction and control and how to wield her powers over men and women. (P.S. let’s give Gunter, Shannon and Esposito props for making it clear that females can dig females too and that doesn’t have to be weird.) I’m not giving this debut issue any votes for comic of the year or anything, but the optimist buried somewhere within the realist that is me believes that past all the sleek feminine curves and blatant sexuality there are hidden messages out there for anyone willing to look a little closer and just a little deeper into the darkness.

It wouldn’t surprise anyone if the creative heads of Dark Fang got their share of fan(g) mail based on this debut issue. Is this going to win any Eisner Awards this season? Probably not. Is this the pinnacle of comic book writing in these hideous, heartless times? I wouldn’t say so. But fuck it dude, it’s a fun read, the way any horror comic ought to be. Besides, it’s just the debut issue. Who cares that we haven’t been given the protagonist’s name other than on the mail page? Let’s just keep reading with our fingers crossed. Stay gangsta.

 

 

Writer – Miles Gunter

Artist – Kelsey Shannon

Letterer – Taylor Esposito

 

Horror – Evolved

Evolution #1

Evo1.jpg

 

Yeah, yeah, I know…I should’ve read Evolution #1 like three days ago or whatever, but guess what, I’ve already kicked my ass about missing out, so give a flaw-abiding citizen a break will ya?

Evo2

On long, introspective commutes to and from work like many good people, I ponder the whole human condition and wonder how much I’d shape things differently if the clay was in my hands. This makes for a dangerous mix of mischiefs, because in the end it would all add up to something that would meet my own selfish desires, neither corrupt nor kind, yet entirely both and with several twisted caveats. For instance, I’d make myself the tallest person on the planet, without gaining any height. Everyone else just had to be shorter than my current, average height. Sure, the woke amongst you will recognise that this infantile desire is typical of any misfit, and you’d sooner or later argue either for or against the beauty of nature’s choices. People are meant to be a certain way and variations are what has helped the human race to survive all these years. People aren’t meant to live past a certain number of years because nature has selected them to leave this world. Looks like everyone’s subject to it – everyone you know, everyone you will ever know and everyone you’ve ever known. So, why hasn’t the human race evolved yet to become more than just a temporary resident of this planet? Maybe it’s because we’re not supposed to, but anyways, let’s talk about how awesome Evolution is!

Evo3

It takes a village to raise a child, and Evolution’s parents can be proud that all hands were on deck for that monster debut issue. The guilty parties this time around are artists Joe Infurnari and Jordan Boyd and writers James Asmus, Joseph Keatinge, Christopher Sebala, Joshua Williamson. Guys, these people have put down some amazing pages that’ll make you eager for more. When you look at his illustrations you really get a sense that the artist invested bundles of attention, and love into his work, with tight, deliberate shading that has been used to great effect in every panel. Boyd sparing use of the obvious colour red in this horror comic shows his pedigree, as does his colour palette for the story’s varied characters and settings. The writing team shows us how it’s done, guys, with triple plotlines under a single umbrella story. They haven’t given us knights in shining armour, or boy-scout blue-eyed aliens to aspire to, which holds a lot of water. The characters who seem aware of the impending pandemic are miscreants and upstarts who have been forced into, in a sense, servitude. What comic book fan worth their weight in graphic novels couldn’t get behind that?

 

Evo4

Part The Exorcist, part The Walking Dead and part 28 Days Later (I think – I’ve not watched either of the latter, but my spider-sense tells me I’m leaning more on the probably correct side of things on this one), Evolution is a badass read. If you’re a horror comic noob like yours truly, you’ll probably want to brace yourself for some R Rated fun, and turn pages slowly. Oh, and read it alone in a dark, candlelit room, with the curtains drawn and Vozes Da Tranquilidade playing at some kind of audible level.

 

Writing team – James Asmus, Joseph Keatinge, Christopher Sebala, Joshua Williamson

 

Art – Joe Infurnari and Jordan Boyd