ROGUE ELEMENT 116

Rogue Element #116: C2E2 2014


By Avril Brown

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! With the cosplayers posing and every nerd telling you ‘Han shot first!’ It’s the hap-happiest weekend of all!

Seriously, C2E2 rules.

I swear I felt my blood pressure drop as soon as I hit the convention floor Friday morning. Between the stress of getting my costume finished, hitting the gym like a mad woman and no beer for four weeks, I was more than looking forward to the fruits of my labors come April 24th, and it was all worth it in glorious spades.

There’s something about a comic convention, particularly a young one, that burrows its way into your geeky soul and brings forth a bevy of light, happiness and a love of all things fantasy. Gamers, comic book nerds, cosplayers and newbies all gather under one ginormous roof to celebrate what makes us different and identical at the same time. We are unique and we are one.

And we got our nerd on, hardcore.

As per my usual comic con schedule, Friday was spent in plain clothes as I walked the floor, greeted my out-of-towner fellow con groupies and just soaked up the awesome with a huge grin on my face. One of the many great things about a fledgling con is how it continues to improve with each evolution. The entirety of the vast convention hall was utilized, and smartly so. The booths were well spaced with sizable aisles, Artist’s Alley also boasted plenty of walking room (though the signage could have used an upgrade) and the autograph/celebrity sections were placed against the wall, keeping the long lines out of the way of general foot traffic.

Naturally the cosplay is far and away one of the most entertaining aspects of a comic con. Variety is the spice of life and the beating heart of every great con. Though I made note of every cool costume I was lucky enough to witness I focused my attention on characters, mash-ups and cross-genders I’d never seen before, and seethed with jealousy when I saw pictures of people I missed. I have to say, the guy dressed as the Doctor with a TARDIS present parked on his junk stole the show (for those not in on the joke go watch Justin Timberlake’s ‘Dick in a Box’ SNL skit on YouTube). Bumblebee went all out, and he reportedly spent over twenty grand on his costume (my opinion on blowing that much green on a costume notwithstanding, this dude and I need to hang out). There was a kid dressed as Stan Lee who undoubtedly got more smooches on the cheek that weekend than the real deal. Classic Mach I sentinel, huge Wampa with his sexy female counterpart, Bebop and Rocksteady, the McDonald’s chick from ‘Fifth Element,’ the list goes on and it is epic.

Then there was Savage Land Rogue. After months of working out and hours spent over spandex, the time had come to cosplay as my favorite character in comics: Rogue. Due to the nature of her mutant powers (ability to absorb the powers and life force of anyone she touched; uncontrolled, until recently) Rogue’s uniform typical has her completely covered from neck to toe. However, in the early nineties there was a story arc in which Rogue had temporarily lost her powers and found herself in the Savage Land, a tropical, dinosaur-laden oasis in the middle of Antarctica (‘cause comics), so naturally her clothes fell to pieces. Given my penchant for showing some skin at cons, this shredded, belly-baring, leg-showcasing ensemble was the clear choice for my Rogue cosplay. Jesse and his mother worked diligently on getting the right balance between tight, revealing and accurate, painting a red and black X on the chest and artfully ripping up the edges. I tied some feathers onto a headband, spoke softly and carried a really cool stick. Fabric was draped over the comfiest cosplay shoes ever (thanks for the Toms, Mom!), strategically placed scraps of cloth donned my arms and legs and white hair paint was shellacked to the top of my red-dyed dome, completing the outfit. All in all, I looked kinda awesome.

Though it felt like I popped fewer poses this year (what a difference two less inches of bare ass makes), I definitely received oodles of compliments, not only on the costume’s construction but on my particular choice as well. I dig inside jokes/references, the ones you have to really know in order to appreciate the full scope, so while the yellow and green spandex coupled with a trademark white streak clearly marked me as Rogue to anyone who has peeked at the X-Men show or comics, the folks who nodded appreciatively while they said, “Savage Land Rogue, excellent!” truly warmed my heart. Jim Lee, the illustrator of this story and several years of early nineties X-Men, remains one of my favorite artists, and his version of Rogue and Gambit are forever etched into my brain. ‘Crossroads,’ the compilation of issues with Rogue in the Savage Land and Gambit’s first interstellar adventure with the X-Men, was my first trade paperback purchase. I had little idea of what exactly was going on (I was snatching up everything that had Rogue and Gambit in it at the time trying to collect the entirety of their relationship) but I still enjoyed the story and adored the art.

Though there were not as many panels this year I was interested in attending, the few I did really hit the spot (see my C2E2 2014: The Panels column!). I took pictures, had my picture taken, did a spot of shopping, trolled the Alley and hung out with friends. Essentially, I enjoyed the hell out of my con. C2E2 is swelling with each year, the roster continues to expand and the marketing is evolving. I considered throwing down the cash for the C2E2 exclusive Winter Soldier hoodie, but when I inquired at the store on Sunday I was informed they sold out on Friday before the end of the show. They’re now being hocked on eBay for roughly two hundred dollars.

Over the weekend my head was filled with the sounds of nerdom: people squealing as they point out their favorite cosplayers, admirations of art and more Doctor Who references than you can shake a sonic screwdriver at. Kids posed with Wonder Woman and Captain America and jumped into action stance when they were the ones in front of the camera. I overheard a girl who must’ve been around thirteen or so tell her father she was ready to sit down again. “I’m not!” he cheerily replied. Right on, my nerdy brother. Because that is what we are: one big happy nerdy family, and damn it felt good to be home.

GRAPHIC NOVEL ROUNDUP

GRAPHIC NOVEL ROUNDUP
Written and Drawn by Various
Published by Various


Reviewed by Marc Mason

Taking a look at four new books from the last couple of months…

There’s a lot to like about THE JOYNERS IN 3D (Archaia/Boom) by writer R.J. Ryan and artist David Marquez. Set about fifty years in the future, George Joyner is the world’s finest creator of new technology, and he has a new breakthrough ready to happen that will change the world again. He also had a family that is falling apart and a gift for philandering. That second part is, as you might guess, going to bite him in the ass. Ryan creates an interesting group of characters here, the leads well-rounded and multi-layered. Neither George, nor his wife, is entirely good or bad and each one bears part of the blame for the disintegration of their union. Marquez’ art is equally adept with the character stuff as it is in designing the future milieu, and his storytelling is crisp. What doesn’t quite work here is the gimmick: the 3D. Sure, it’s well done, but there’s no real need for it. This is a quiet story, really, and not a single sequence in the book feels truly enhanced by the 3D experience. I liked the book overall, but I would have liked it a little more not having to wear the glasses.

Writer/artist Danica Novgorodoff, who impressed so much with SLOW STORM, returns with THE UNDERTAKING OF LILY CHEN (First Second), which is the best double-meaning title I’ve seen in recent memory. The story involves “ghost marriages” – an old Chinese tradition that involves marrying the dead so that they may be happy in the afterlife. While this sounds like something that would have only happened a long time ago, there has been a resurgence in the last decade or so. Here, the book follows a young man named Deshi who is sent by his parents to find a female corpse who can be married to his newly deceased brother. Along the journey, he meets Lily Chen, a young woman who wants to leave her rural, sheltered existence behind and live a life of her own, as she attaches herself to him. To Deshi’s hired “matchmaker” (grave robber) the solution is simple: kill Lily and marry her off to the brother. But things are rarely that simple, and they certainly aren’t in this story. Novgorodoff creates a story that fires on all cylinders; her characters are interesting and gain depth as the tale moves forward, she offers up an even-handed look at a culture that could easily be misunderstood or mocked, and the sense of design in her artwork is stunning. The journey does drag in the middle, but it recaptures its energy later in the book and delivers a strong, solid ending. Fascinating stuff.

It’s nice to see writer/artist Jesse Lonergan back on shelves, as it’s been a while since JOE & AZAT came out. ALL STAR (NBM) tells a deceptively simple story of a small town high school baseball star named Carl Carter. He’s the kid the whole community rallies behind, the one with a chance to play college ball on scholarship. His best friend, Edsen, is different, though. Edsen’s from a broken home, has a track record for screwing up, and is going nowhere. This fazes neither of them, though, until in a moment of pure stupid, they pull a “prank” while drunk that sees them get arrested by the cops. That’s when Carl begins to truly see the world and its double-standards for the first time, as he and Edsen are given wildly differing punishments. Lonergan does get things right at every turn. His town feels right, the people who live there feel right, the reaction to what happens feels right, and the angst Carl feels over it feels right. There’s a universal recognition of the human condition here that works. Having grown up in a town like this, I saw the truth in it. The art has a crisp, cartoon-y look about it, and the ending, while feeling a little manufactured, resonates in the final panels. Solid stuff.

The GRAPHIC CLASSICS series continues to be an evergreen for Eureka Productions, as the 3rd volume (of 24!) heads back into print, now with 80 new pages of work. GRAPHIC CLASSICS: H.G. WELLS offers up “The Time Machine”, “The Island of Dr. Moreau”, “The Invisible Man”, and “The Inexperienced Ghost” in one volume, and the material here is quite strong across the board. Not only are the stories done well, but they are ones that any fan of Wells’ work would want to read. Creative types like Simon Gane and Rich Tommaso can be found doing some of the art, so the book looks fantastic. This series of books is not likely to ever make an enormous splash in the comic shop market, but it is just about perfect for bookstores and libraries. It’s a smart move by GC majordomo Tom Pomplun to target those markets and fill a severe need. Recommended, as always.




SHUTTER REAL HEROES

SHUTTER/REAL HEROES
Written by Joe Keatinge and Drawn by Leila del Luca
Written and Drawn by Bryan Hitch
Published by Image Comics


Reviewed by Marc Mason

I’m a sucker for stories that engage one’s sense of childlike wonder, and SHUTTER #1 does that quite well, mixing exotic milieus, strange creatures, and youthful angst in a potent science fiction brew. When we first meet Kate Kristopher, she is a seven year-old girl who has been dragged along on her father’s work, and she is boooooooored. Of course, his work has him exploring the moon, so she lacks a certain sense of her good fortune, but before long she learns to embrace the family calling and becomes a renowned adventurer. Of course, life is prone to unexpected change, and when we meet her in the “now” she has renounced it all and gone her own way to lead a quiet life.

Quiet lives rarely last for adventurers.

Suffice it to say, trouble comes calling, and destiny is unavoidable. But it never feels trite in the execution because Keatinge and del Luca give the whole package a feeling of energy and joy that is infectious. You can feel them having a great time making the comic and that carries over. A mystery is set up, the character fights purple ghost ninjas, and it all just works. This is precisely the kind of comic I enjoy supporting.

After entrenching himself on the A-list drawing incredibly popular books written by guys like Warren Ellis and Mark Millar, Bryan Hitch has finally decided to take care of the writing chores himself. REAL HEROES #1 is his baby, and the results he produces are a bit of a mixed bag.

The concept can be described like this: GALAXY QUEST with the cast of Marvel’s THE AVENGERS. While attending the premiere of “Olympians 2” a real-life bad guy attacks and starts slaughtering bystanders. But before the actors can be killed, they’re pulled away to a world/dimension where their characters are real… and dead… and where there is the hope that the actors can take the place of the dead superheroes.

It’s a clever conceit, and one that has a huge amount of potential that we’ll have to wait and see if Hitch can develop over the course of the series. And certainly the book looks spectacular – no one draws superheroics like Hitch can. Many of the pages here are absolutely jaw-dropping and invite the reader to stop and soak in the details. But the characters never really come to life, remaining ciphers in part to some dull dialogue.

This is far from a deal-breaker. At the very least, I’m interested to watch Hitch develop the concept (as well as his characters) going forward to see if he finds some unique ways to use the setup. REAL HEROES is not a smash, but it’s far from a burn, either. Let’s call it a curiosity and go from there.








CAPTAIN AMERICA THE WINTER SOLDIER

CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER
Starring Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Anthony Mackie, Robert Redford, and Samuel L. Jackson
Produced by Marvel Studios


Reviewed by Avril Brown

There are sequels which are a satisfying continuation of a story, there are sequels which are such a colossal let down you pretend they don’t even exist, and then there are sequels which stand alone. Movies that are so unbelievably epic you can’t stop talking about it while the credits are rolling and you’re already planning on seeing it again to catch all the little stuff you might have missed while your mind was busy being blown.

Unsurprisingly, ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’ falls into the later category.

I adore the first film; I thought it was an incredibly well-crafted, believable origin story which did the character and the time period justice. To compare the first and second ‘Captain America’ films, however, would be comparing apples to oranges. ‘The First Avenger’ is an introduction to Steve Rogers and how he went from scrawny kid from Brooklyn with the heart of a lion, to badass Captain America with the chiseled body of a sexy lion and a mission to save the world.

‘Winter Soldier’ is a story of Steve Rogers truly coming into himself as Captain America here in the present time. When he lived and fought in the Second World War, things were somewhat simpler: rescue soldiers, take down Hydra, and get the girl. He wakes up in the digital age where wars are fought over oil and boundary lines, nothing is private, and his girl had to live her life without him. Despite the confusion of the modern day, Captain Rogers has landed on his feet, and the confidence he exudes in everything he does is an overwhelming turn on.

This is not simply an action movie, though there is plenty of that, and it is AWESOME. ‘Winter Soldier’ is not just an espionage film either, though there are oodles of twists and turns, some you see coming, others you might not. One thing it is not is a romance story, thankfully, though naturally there are a few nibbles on the line (how could there not be? Dude’s like sex on a stick, and I don’t normally go for blondes).

‘Winter Soldier’ is largely about taking control, and having faith and trust not only in one’s self, but in the people around you. Steve Rogers is a man working for S.H.E.I.L.D, but he never once compromises his morals in the line of duty, and in fact is the type of man who brings out the best in people. Hardened spies with serious trust issues find themselves trusting a man in a spangley outfit (which he totally owns).

The action is jaw-dropping, no doubt, and the fight scenes are masterfully crafted. Watching a fight scene with men who know how to kick some ass can be problematic if the fighting is poorly done, but my expert brawlers were pleased and impressed with the choreography. With the Black Widow as a featured costar it was inevitable that at least one woman would have plenty of amazing action sequences, but I was thrilled to see two more women step up to the badass plate and not be found wanting. You got to hand it to Marvel, they have quite the variety of superheroes to choose from, whether they be men, women, any race and sexual identity. Every character was brilliantly cast and the new faces brought a lot to the table.

One of my favorite parts about ‘Winter Soldier’ was that it was a game changer for the film/television Marvel Universe, and there is every indication that the ripples are going to be felt, and best of all, acknowledged, throughout the rest of their projects. When Joss Whedon signed on to direct ‘The Avengers’ he did so with the caveat that Marvel follow his long-term plan for the subsequent films. If I have one long-suffering complaint about comics it is that there is very little consistency among the different books despite the frequent sharing of characters. At the moment Havok is both in the present day spying on his ex-girlfriend, and at least seven years in the future on Planet X ‘cause Earth was destroyed. Fantomex is working on Cable’s X-Force crew whilst speaking like Pepe le Pew, and he’s exiled himself in a prison in a micro-world on Logan’s desk at the Jean Grey School. Oh, he also attended his foster son’s graduation. Coordination, people; it’s not just for novels.

‘Marvel’s Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D.’, a television program on ABC, has been rocky from the start, but the episodes have perked up a bit as of late, and that world is going to be shattered come Tuesday. They have been planning for the changes incurred by ‘Winter Soldier’ for awhile, probably from the beginning, and the timing is perfect. Knowing a large portion of their audience will likely be flocking to the theaters this weekend for a date with Captain Rogers, the producers are blazing full steam ahead with the next episode reflecting the major shift made by ‘Winter Soldier.’ Fans are finally getting some follow-up, and I am thrilled.

Go see ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier.’ See it for the action, see it for the story, see it for a buffed out Chris Evans in a white tank top (he really should’ve taken it off, it was ever so dirty). See it again for the delightful nods to other films and hints at characters sure to pop up in the near future. Go see ‘Captain America’ because it is an excellent, fun film that is actually worth the ticket price. And for love of Pete, keep your butt in that seat until after ALL of the credits.

Wake up and smell the solid script DC, ‘cause Marvel is on fire. Fingers crossed future films will just keep fanning those flames all the way into 2028 because I’m going to be there front and center, the whole wild and crazy ride.

SCRATCH 9 CAT OF NINE WORLDS

SCRATCH 9: CAT OF NINE WORLDS
Created and Written by Rob M. Worley and Illustrated by Joshua Buchanan
Published by Hermes Press


Reviewed by Avril Brown

Scratch the cat is at it again! This delightfully fun furry companion is not your ordinary feline: he is a brave and loyal buddy to young Penelope, who has no idea how special her friend really is. In times of danger, Scratch is able to summon forth one of his nine past lives, imbuing him with the powers of that particular cat incarnation.

Good thing Scratch is a superhero in kitty form as Penelope tends to find herself in trouble more often than not, this time at Camp Robo. What appears to be a fun getaway where children come to build robots turns out to be the headquarters of the evil Dr. Schrodinger, a mad scientist who has a few tricks up his sleeve for poor Scratch, taking our furry hero further away from his friend than ever before!

What is so enjoyable about SCRATCH 9 is the universally entertaining aspects of the characters and stories. Kids are sure to get a kick out of the talking cat who can morph into interesting creatures such as a saber-tooth tiger, and while Penelope remains clueless about her cat’s abilities she has a few herself, not the least of which is a working brain, a desire to do the right thing and a tough-as-nails attitude.

SCRATCH 9 combines the superhero world, talking animals and a smart young girl with sass, delivering everything youthful readers, particular the ladies, could want in a comic. Buchanan’s art is quite clear and expressive, giving all of the characters nice, rounded dimensions, and his action sequences really take the reader along for the ride. Scratch’s big wide eyes when he’s worried about his Penelope truly tug at the heartstrings.

SCRATCH 9 is a great comic for quite a range of ages and proves it by dedicating the last couple of pages to the ‘Pick of the Litter’: a letter and drawing from a young reader, giving fans the chance to creatively express their love for Scratch. Now here is a kids comic that gets it right.

POPE ROY

POPE ROY
Written and Drawn by Paul Pope
Written and Drawn by Simon Roy
Published by Image Comics


Reviewed by Marc Mason

Two excellent new trade paperbacks from the Image offices…

I’ve been enjoying Simon Roy’s work on PROPHET, finding it innovative and challenging, so I was intrigued to see a story collection of his solo work. Happily, once I dove in to JAN’S ATOMIC HEART AND OTHER STORIES I was rewarded with more phenomenal material from Roy. Diving into the strangest recesses of science fiction, Roy combines unique art and clever stories, delivering ideas that engage the reader and make him think. The title story is the superstar of the collection; Jan is a man who has been in a bad accident, and rather than being fully laid up in bed, he is given a loaner body, that of an aged robot. But as he meets up with a friend, he learns that this particular robot type is one that has been embraced by a terrorist group, and suddenly he realizes that he may have made a very big mistake. To tell you more would be criminal, so I’ll just say this: the result is brilliant. Honestly, there isn’t a dud story in the book, and it deserves a wide audience. Highly recommended.

Speaking of brilliant artists, you can’t have that conversation without talking about Paul Pope. MONSTERS & TITANS is excellent proof of why. This is not a graphic novel; instead, this is more of a tour program for Pope’s traveling art exhibition last year. BATTLING BOY hit shelves last fall, Pope’s first new work in a few years, so it was not a huge surprise to see the original pages make their way across country in a museum setting. This program shows the original art that went on tour, and it offers textual reflections on the pieces; what they mean, what Pope’s process was, and what his intent was for certain sequences. It’s informative, interesting stuff. The printing is over-sized, so it has a coffee table feel to it, and the text is done in English, French, and Italian. This is an unusual item for Image, but I love the fact that they did it. Recommended for sophisticated readers.


AISLE SEAT 2.0.81

AISLE SEAT 2.0.81: WRITING RED SONJA REDUX


By Marc Mason

A bit over two years ago, I wrote this, talking about the process of how my first comic book made it to shelves. It was an incredibly exciting moment for me, the fulfillment of a life-long dream. But in my head, the creepy little elves that like to take up residence did their best to eat away at my excitement, trying to convince me that it was a fluke, and unless I did it again, I had little to be happy about.

All that stuff you hear about writers being neurotic? Far too true.

But I am breathing a bit easier at the moment, because the sequel to RED SONJA: RAVEN is coming this June from the fine folks at Dynamite Entertainment.
RED SONJA: SANCTUARY takes place a couple of years after RAVEN. It brings back characters from that first one-shot, and it follows up on ideas from that book. That said, you do NOT have to have read RAVEN in order to understand what is going on in SANCTUARY. One of the great things about editor Joe Rybandt is that he wouldn’t let that happen. He makes sure books are accessible. And I’m with him on that – I grew up on Jim Shooter’s Marvel universe, where the philosophy was always that any comic could potentially be someone’s first comic, so it needed to be understandable. I have always taken that to heart, as a reader and as a writer, and I promise you that SANCTUARY gives you everything you need in order to have a robust reading experience.

In a broader sense, I’m excited beyond just having the book coming out. Sonja is a great character, one of the richest and most interesting that comics have to offer. Being able to add to her legend is a privilege, one I do not take lightly. And the talent I’m surrounded by is fantastic. The first time it was Lui Antonio, this time it’s Noah Salonga. These guys are veterans. It eases the mind to know the kind of work they can do.

RAVEN came out during Eric Trautmann’s record-setting run, which was certainly a little intimidating. No one has done a longer consecutive run than he has on the character. But I made deliberate choices as a writer to separate my story from what Eric was doing on the main book. I did not want to even remotely interfere with his incredible storyline. Of course, it doesn’t get any easier this time; we’re right in the middle of Gail Simone’s absolutely epic run on the book, probably the most buzz the character has received in her entire history. Again, my story has nothing to do with hers. But I’m hopeful that the old adage that a rising tide lifts all boats applies, and hopefully some of the readers who have found Sonja because of Gail will sample SANCTUARY. If they do, I think they’ll like it.

So what is SANCTUARY about?

The first time I wrote the character, my story was based out of two concepts: the idea of Sonja being replaced by a younger woman, and using that character to pay tribute to Chris Claremont’s Professor X/Magneto dynamic from the classic UNCANNY X-MEN era. This time around, I took a far different route. In conceptualizing what I thought a sequel to RAVEN should look like, I started by digging into my own past.

As an undergraduate in college, a bit over twenty years ago, I was a Justice major. During my degree path, I took a class in domestic violence issues, and that course required community service outside the classroom. I spent almost six months volunteering at a local domestic violence shelter, mostly working with the kids. It was an eye-opening, life-changing experience. I’ve never forgotten any of it, really. The pain, the anguish, the heartbreak of those I met… that sticks in your brain. But the good we were doing was also amazing. I was always aware that I was part of something that was making a difference.

The question popped into my head: what would such a shelter look like in Sonja’s time?

The second question: why would Sonja lay down her sword and begin working there?

Question two gave me my primary theme for the entire book, really: aging. How old is Sonja? How long can she keep doing what she is doing? Isn’t her life a tragedy of mammoth proportions if she has no chance to retire and live a little bit?

SANCTUARY is a book about these types of questions.

This does not mean that it is a talking heads book. Far from it. In Sonja’s world, violence is never far away. There is plenty of fighting and carnage in this story. Fans who want things bloody will be quite satisfied. But hopefully those readers will enjoy the layers the tale has to offer.

Since RAVEN came out, I’ve been nicely busy as a writer, and honestly, CWR has suffered for it. I’ve written for a video game, I’ve written a travelogue called A LATE START that will also be a one-man show, I finished serializing an 85K word science fiction novel, I had my first young adult novel, SCHISM, come out, I had a story printed in a literary journal (and a couple of others are still in play), I have written six issues of a creator-owned comic book that my friend Cruddie Torian and I created, and my second young adult novel, BATTERY, just came out last week.

I’m not saying that this is an excuse for allowing the site to suffer; it’s just how things have worked out. I’m trying my best to keep it up and going, and if you think you might want to write for it, drop me a line.

What I am saying is that I’ve gained a lot of experience as a writer in the past couple of years, and I’m better for it. I hope that comes through in SANCTUARY, too. So that’s my pitch. If you want to read the book, let your retailer know to order you a copy. One-shots like this one can easily get “lost in the crowd” in the process of filling out the final order form, so pre-ordering makes an enormous difference. And thanks for reading this far. If you buy the book, drop me a line and tell me what you thought about it. I’ll be right here. I’ll be listening.