NEW SHADOWLINE

NEW SHADOWLINE
DEBRIS written by Kurtis J. Wiebe and drawn by Riley Rossmo
HARVEST written by A. J. Lieberman and drawn by Colin Lorimer
Published by Image Comics


Reviewed by Marc Mason

Two new books from the Shadowline imprint at Image, with three familiar faces listed in the credits box. The good news: each book represents a leap forward for a creator. Let’s take a look.

DEBRIS #1 gives us a somewhat traditional dystopian future tale, featuring a world where water is scarce and mechanical monsters slither through the wasteland leaving death and destruction in their wake. That said, writer Kurtis J. Wiebe does his level best to keep the story interesting and moving at a blistering pace. First, he sticks a young female warrior at the center of the story, which we don’t see as much of in these tales, and second, the society he creates is intriguing, but not over-complicated. There’s no need here for him to bury us in exposition, and that seriously makes the book better. But the real breakout star here is Rossmo’s work. I’ve always been interested by his stuff, but at times I think his storytelling has suffered with his “sketchy” style. That isn’t a problem here. The artwork in DEBRIS is far more mature and precise than we’ve seen from Rossmo previously. The storytelling is also stronger. In short, this book looks great and has a story that captures the imagination. Solid stuff.

Writer A.J. Lieberman has shown he’s capable of doing interesting work through his first couple of series, but HARVEST #1 sees him take a giant leap forward as a plotter and storyteller. HARVEST follows a young doctor – who happens to be a junkie – as he takes a fall down the rabbit hole into a new life as an underground surgeon and organ transplant specialist. It’s seedy, disturbing, and heartbreaking, and at every turn, you feel the author’s confidence in what he’s doing. I love comics like that. He’s aided and abetted nicely by artist Colin Lorimer; Lorimer’s artwork is dark, moody, and evocative of the setting and emotional tone that Lieberman is trying to get across. I was hooked.

Ever so quietly, Jim Valentino’s Shadowline imprint has become one of the best places to find new and developing talent on the shelves today. I’d like to see more imprints like it.


OMNIUM GATHERUM 74

Omnium Gatherum #74: What A Short, Strange Trip It Was


By Vincent S. Moore

Howdy, folks, and welcome once again to the Omnium Gatherum.

Last week was that grand old time held in San Diego known as Comic-Con International.

Now, I was unable to attend the 2011 edition of the show. Boohoo for me.

This year, I originally thought I wasn’t going to attend either but a few last minute business opportunities showed up on my doorstep. Being desperate as I am for new things to do, I couldn’t pass any of these gems up. So I planned to make a trip down to Nerd Prom as it has been called on Friday the 13th of July.

Maybe I should have paid more attention to that date.

Or maybe I shouldn’t have indulged in my seemingly innocent mental preparation ritual on the Thursday before.

I didn’t pay attention in either case. So I should not have been surprised by how my relatively simple day trip did not go as planned.

My original plan was as follows: wake up early Friday morning, gather items for the trip, have the Faithful Assistant drive down to San Diego, park at Petco or nearby, hit the ground running, come back home late night. Relatively simple, right? Sure there were going to be some bumps. However I didn’t think anything major could go wrong.

Silly me.

Even though dealing with some business at the Omnium Gatherum Ashram initially disrupted and delayed my pre-trip prep, I eventually settled down to watch one of my favorite films, to get my mind ready to cope with the chaos that is Comic-Con International.

My choice of movie may have been my real mistake.

The film in question was Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas, starring Johnny Depp and Benicio Del Toro, directed by Terry Gilliam, based on the book of the same name written by Hunter S. Thompson.

Just as the movie was wrapping up, the Faithful Assistant entered my office with an offer I maybe should have refused. The Faithful Assistant had a friend who makes props and dons costumes of a superheroic bent to wear at shows like CCI. This gentleman was in desperate need of a ride down to San Diego Thursday evening because his partner in crime found himself stuck between Ontario and Las Vegas on his way to LAX. The gentleman had a potential opportunity present itself that he could not resist (I knew the feeling) and so, reached out to the Faithful Assistant for help. In return of our aid, he would kind put gas into the Faithful Assistant’s chariot (better than an offer of gold in California) and spare some floor space in the condo he booked for the show.

How could I turn down such an offer? Especially with the Faithful Assistant wondering how we were going to manage even one day at Nerd Prom without some sort of staging area. Also in helping out a stranger I would be helping out myself, right? Giving spirit that I am, I agreed to accept the mission presented and promptly set about rushing together the essentials for what was now a day and a night trip to Comic-Con International: San Diego.

The strangeness was about to begin.

Traveling out to the valley, to North Hollywood, the Faithful Assistant and I soon found and picked up the Gentleman from Florida as I will call him here (just look up a prop shop called The Snikt Shop to find him and his wares) and with a couple of quick stops for supplies and gas, we were soon on the road.

The drive down to San Diego was uneventful. A blessing, given what was about to happen. The only drama was the ongoing phone/texting dialogue between the Gentleman from Florida and his Sancho Panza who was just getting into LAX while we were halfway to San Diego.

We arrived in two hours’ drive time to just outside San Diego, to the event the Gentleman from Florida hoped to attend as a promotional stunt. The basic sketch was this: the Gentleman, garbed as Wolverine, would show up at a Stan Lee sponsored party, armed with a water gun loaded with vodka, and get a few photos with Stan the Man, ideally being hit with or feeling threatened by the vodka gun. That was the plan.

The reality was no Stan Lee, an uncertain event promoter, a quick beer for the Gentleman, some disappointment, no photos, a wait in the chariot, and then back on the road into downtown San Diego.

This was just the beginning.

Before I go on, I want it understood I am not blaming anyone. I went into this situation with my eyes wide open. If anything, I was starting to regret having watched Fear And Loathing because some of its juju appeared to be rubbing off onto me. At least I have this awesome story to tell y’all from this experience.

Pulling up to the streets outside the condo complex where the Gentleman from Florida had arranged for lodging, I was back on familiar territory. Having attended CCI for nearly two decades, this area was nearly as familiar to me as my own neighborhood. I had even stayed at a residence hotel across the street from where we parked.

The Gentleman disappeared into the building, to open up the condo. His Sancho Panza had the garage clicker but, quite in contrast to its reputation, we found a spot to park on the streets of San Diego. Which was fine as there was only one parking spot in the garage anyways.

The Gentleman returned with a more disappointed and frustrated look on his face, lower than it had been after the failure at the night club.

It turned out the person renting the condo to him for the weekend had not left town yet.

It further turned out this person would not be leaving until 6 am, roughly.

It was already 1 am or so.

Oh, boy, the strange part of the trip was starting to take hold.

With Sancho Panza quickly making his own way to San Diego, the first order of business was to find a place to bivouac for a number of hours while waiting.

Fortunately enough, there is always one good place to spend the night, killing time: Denny’s.

Our party pulled into Denny’s about 2 am.

The Gentleman from Florida offered to pay for food, so the Faithful Assistant and I each ordered something light but fattening from the menu.

In time, one of the Gentleman’s friends, a fellow cosplay model and actress, would arrive and break bread with us. I would hear such tales of that lifestyle that would shock me while we ate and talked. I won’t repeat them here even if I could remember them. It was a fascinating glimpse into that part of comic convention life I never knew before.

In time, Sancho Panza, weary from his own travails, arrived and joined the party.

So there we sat.

About 5:30, feeling weary myself, I suggested we retreat back to the condo, to see if the lady had left yet. With some reluctance, the party retreated from Denny’s and journeyed by to the condo complex.

Only to find the lady still at home, slow to be gone.

We ended up sitting in our cars, waiting it out.

By 7 am, she was gone and the condo was now open to us.

But there was no rest to be had. For I had important tasks to do and the day had already begun!

Freshly showered and clothed I ran over to the convention center to pick up my badge. I felt like a voter in Pennsylvania with the time of times I had to show my ID card before I was given that very badge. I think next year I will have to give a blood sample or saliva to prove who I am.

From the convention center I walked briskly to the Analog Bar, to a brunch hosted by Lion Forge , a new new media company. I was invited graciously by Brandon Easton, writer of the Shadowlaw graphic novel and for Thundercats. It was a good gathering, with some old friends in attendance like Todd Harris and Geoff Thorne of Genre 19, Robert Roach, creator of Menthu and The Roach , and Brandon Thomas, writer of Dynamite’s Voltron. I also met a couple of new people as well, including Anthony Montgomery from Star Trek Enterprise and his own comic Miles Away, co-written with Brandon Easton, and Jason Reeves of 133art . It was actually just good to sit for a while, eat some more food, and talk.

While I was sitting, I did note that I was missing out on The Black Panel. Which was good for my nerves but not so good for my politics from what I ended up hearing.

Soon, it was time to get back on the road. I was a working man that Friday. I had places to go, people to see.

I made my way to Marriott Hotel, next to the convention center. I had promised the lovely Valerie Perez I would try to see her film, Paula Peril: Midnight Whistle. I know her from the day job at Comics Ink. She is good people. And I wanted to show support for her. It was tough fighting fatigue in the darkened ballroom. But I sat forward and watched. It was a good film. It is nice to see someone bringing back the tough girl reporter genre. I hope there are more films in this franchise to come.

Next was the main room of Comic-Con itself.

The maddening amount of human beings, sights, and sounds all crowded into what seems like a small space was amazing. I love Comic-Con! I had a few stops to make. Namely go by and talk with John Layman of Chew fame who I had bumped into briefly while running to the film. John was busy, so I said we’d talk later and move on the next target on my list, the Top Cow booth.

I was stopping by to see my friend Lori who is working for ThrillBent, to say howdy and to see about the party they were hosting that evening. We chatted for a bit before I had to go and meet with a new editing client.

A meeting that went rather well in my opinion. I’m keeping quiet on this front for the most part because things are early. Nothing to show yet, nothing to discuss but I am excited about this opportunity.

From there, I had to return to the condo as the Faithful Assistant had summoned me. The Gentleman from Florida, as was his right, had plans for the evening in the condo that did not include our involvement. We had to collect our things quickly and put them back in the car. Luckily, we had secured cheap parking on the streets. I felt a bit like an Ugly American for taking that spot all day and night, but one has to take what offerings the land provides.

Much of the rest of the day was a blur of meeting more friends, talking about comics and the madness that is the show. I even made a couple of new friends as well.

At one point, while sitting and waiting for my phone to charge up, the Faithful Assistant and I ran into an old friend and his son. To back track a bit, Hannibal Tabu, brilliant mind behind The Buy Pile and Komplicated, had mentioned me on Facebook in regards to The Black Panel. Something had happened, something outrageous. As I learned from my friend who had been there, it seems a toy gun had been pulled by Michael Davis as a gag. Oh, brother. This friend found it and finds the antics of Mr. Davis to be very funny. In retrospect, I wished Dave Chappelle had appeared over my shoulder to slap this man several times for finding this outrageousness funny. I don’t know. I find it sad that three years after I wrote about The Black Panel, jiggabuffoonery as usual has returned. I could go on, but enough.

The quest for food, as the Faithful Assistant reminded me more than once, kept us moving like sharks for several hours. The blur resumed.

We ended up killing some time watching anime at the Marriott.

Soon, it was time to prepare for the ThrillBent party.

Along the way back to the car for a quick change of shirt, I received a text message from the masterful Marc Mason, the owner and operator of this very website. He wanted to meet up before I ran myself out of town on a rail. Fortunately, it was well within the route I needed to take to the party, so the Faithful Assistant and I crashed his table at Nathan’s Steakhouse. It was good to see Marc, since I didn’t attend last year’s show. It turned out we had some business to discuss as well. Once that was done, good conversation continued with Marc and his friend Neal Pozner) until it was time to leave for the party.

The party was a wonderful way to cap off the long day.

A few old friends were there and I made a couple of new acquaintances as well. More good conversations were had. I even got to meet Mark Waid, although he thought he had met me before. It could well have been. Who am I to argue with an Eisner Award winner?

Soon, the party was crashed by the Hilton themselves, even though the hotel was hosting it. That and the growing fatigue in the eyes of the Faithful Assistant meant it was time to get on the road home. One last introduction was made, to MF Grimm, and then we hit the open road.

A short drive back to the Omnium Gatherum Ashram, with a couple of pitstops for rest and stretching, ended the very long day and short trip to Comic-Con 2012.

All in all, I got a lot done and had a good time. One task was left undone, but with all I did get accomplished, I didn’t fret it. I only wished I had gone to the full show. I am pretty sure I will be there next year though. Plans a’plenty are in the works.

Until next time, folks.

Namaste, y’all.

EXTERMINATION 1

EXTERMINATION #1
Written by Simon Spurrier and Illustrated by Jeffrey Edwards
Published by BOOM! Studios


Reviewed by Avril Brown

With so many apocalyptic future stories running wild nowadays, new books have to either provide something new, or do the story better than it has been done before. At first glance, EXTERMINATION seems to offer both.

Personally, I do love a book that opens with some clever and antagonistic banter between the headliners, and Nox (the good guy) and The Red Reaper (the bad guy…sort of) clearly love each other as much as they love the bizarre and deadly alien that is chasing them through an ash-strewn wasteland. They do work well together, as evident by the way they take down their pursuer, but as the flashbacks interlaced with the ongoing narrative suggest, they only very recently started fighting on the same side, and for all they know, they may be what is left of the human race.

The aliens are creatively illustrated and appear to be the stuff of nightmares, literally, giving the book its dark side. There is also something not quite right about the ‘good’ guy, and Reaper appears determined to bring out the other side of Nox the no-kill detective, a side Nox seems intent on keeping buried, perhaps for good reason. A humorous element is introduced right off the bat, and major kudos go to the writer for injecting a Star Wars reference within the first three pages. Thus far, apart from a victim and the colorful, carnage-happy creatures, Nox and The Reaper are the entire cast of EXTERMINATION, and their bountiful personalities are more than enough to fill a captivating first issue.



HYPERNATURALS 1

HYPERNATURALS #1
Written by Dan Abnett and Andy Landing, and Illustrated by Brad Walker, Andres Guinaldo, Mark Irwin and Mariano Taibo
Published by BOOM! Studios


Reviewed by Avril Brown

BOOM! is taking a new crack at the superhero story with HYPERNATURALS, a group of heroes who use their abilities openly with public approval, and necessity. One of the different twists here is revealed at the beginning of this issue in a flashback scene from seven years ago when the world almost ended. The bad guy, an extremely smart and determined man named Sublime, declared the Quantinuum AI, which exists in the black hole core below the Quantinuum Platform where our heroes, and everyone else, currently live, needs to die for the abomination of running everyone’s lives. Utilizing a stolen nephilim fragment containing unknown powers, Sublime battles the Hypernaturals in attempt to “kill god.”
Confused yet? Too bad, because things do not get any clearer as the issue progresses. Now, seven years later, there is a new Hypernatural team that has vanished while on a recon mission and Bewilder, the face of the current regime and a former team member who fought in that fateful fight seven years ago, pulls together some new people and some old to figure out what happened to the current Hypernaturals.

There are a lot of nifty new buzz words in this book, but many aspects of the story and the look of the characters feel recycled (apparently half and half hair is trending again). There is an interview with one of the main characters at the end of the issue which is a nice touch and adds something to the general narrative while fleshing out the character herself, but generally speaking the story does not read as cohesively as an introductory issue should. HYPERNATURALS still offers plenty of characters with interesting powers and complicated personal lives, not to mention an entirely new world and reality-altering bad guys, but it’ll need to clean up and clarify its story if readers are to follow.



SECRET AGENT POYO

CHEW: SECRET AGENT POYO
Written by John Layman and Illustrated by Rob Guillory
Published by Image Comics


Reviewed by Avril Brown

“Nah, just kidding. None of that shit is true. Poyo is just really, really badass.” And that in a nutshell is SECRET AGENT POYO, a diverting stand-alone issue about everybody’s favorite killer rooster. Poyo has fought gangsters, taken out military hostiles, been shot multiple times with .45 caliber hollow point mercury tipped bullets, and yet he is still kicking ass and taking names, one of those being Beelzebub.

Though it took a six trillion dollar surgery to get Poyo back in action he is scarier than ever before, and his special talents are soon needed in jolly ol’ England to do battle with an evil weatherman. As if Poyo wasn’t the ultimate killing machine before becoming a rooster cyborg, now with his added enhancements this bird has more baubles than Bond and remains as cool as a cucumber under pressure, making him the deadliest secret agent known to man or poultry.

This silly solo issue focuses purely on showing off Poyo’s mad skills, but it also demonstrates a softer side to this cutthroat cock, perhaps hinting at a more maternal future for the pernicious Poyo. As per usual this issue is brimming with hilarious background pictures and phrases, and is a must have for every CHEW collector, particularly those who worship the rooster even the Devil calls “one bad-ass mother fuckin’ bird!” Readers are also treated to a Poyo-centered pin up gallery at the end of the issue with art from some of the hottest and most talented hands in the comic business today. For CHEW fans lucky enough to be prancing about the upcoming 2012 San Diego Comic Convention, there will be limited edition SDCC exclusive SECRET AGENT POYO “pink foil” issues available for sale at the Image Booth. Needless to say, CHEW continues to keep its fans tickled pink at every turn.


REVIVAL-SUNSET

REVIVAL/SUNSET
Written by Tim Seeley and Drawn by Mike Norton
Written by Christos Gage and Drawn by Jorge Lucas
Published by Image Comics


Reviewed by Marc Mason

Two interesting new books from the Image gang…

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty damned sick of zombies. For better or worse, the success of THE WALKING DEAD has led to a plethora of pretenders, and the genre has quickly played itself out. So when I saw REVIVAL #1 my first inclination was to put it aside and not even read it. Thankfully, I thought better of that, and opened the book. To my surprise, I had this all wrong from the start: this is not a zombie book. Yes, the dead are up and walking around, but they aren’t flesh-eating monsters. They’re mostly going back to their regular lives, and they talk like normal people. In the hands of writer Tim Seeley and artist Mike Norton, that turns out to be a surprisingly creepy and disturbing combination. As the government tries to figure out why it is happening, local law enforcement is stuck trying to keep things normal, which is where we meet Officer Dana Cypress, a local cop who gets stuck with “reviver duty.” But as she starts her new job, her first call goes off the rails, and we’re neck deep in horror. To tell you more would ruin it, but I will say that this is a high-quality effort that looks terrific on the page. I’ve gone from zero interest to strong interest on this one, and that should tell you plenty.

The preview to the forthcoming graphic novel SUNSET was the real winner for me in my recent readings. I’ve liked Christos Gage’s work elsewhere just fine, and Jorge Lucas has always been a solid artist, but the pages we get here are absolutely spectacular. Story-wise, it’s pretty simple: Nick Bellamy is a seemingly normal old man. A little cranky and not much of a fan of the modern world. But one day, as he does some shopping, a trio of armed gunmen confront him in the parking lot and we learn quickly that Bellamy is a whole lot more than meets the eye. Now he’s on a vengeance kick that looks like it’s going to get ugly in a hurry, and it’s going to be pretty sweet to read. The pacing and dialogue are excellent, and Lucas’ art is absolutely stunning in its level of detail. This did its job; I am definitely looking forward to reading the entire thing. For $1, you can’t go wrong with this preview.