Thursday, September 3, 2015

Weekly Review - Plutona, We Stand on Guard, Silver Surfer & Jupiters Circle

I decided to do something a little different for my weekly review of comics that are currently available to the public. I tend to binge read my comics on release day if I haven't reviewed them early. I always save a couple of my favorites for release day so that I can read them on paper rather than the digital review copies I receive from the labels. I tend to read debut issues digitally before release so that I can let you know what I think. I was thinking last night that it makes much more sense to write up a little weekly review of the books I subscribe to. I will warn you this article will contain SPOILERS because these issues have already been released.

Plutona #1

Last night I started my night off with Plutona by Jeff Lemire and Emi Lenox. Image Comics is calling Lenox an amazing new comer but I don't see her as being a new comer at all. Certainly not to the artistic world. Image has collected her comic EmiTown back in 2011 and I remember it pretty well. Anyway, here she has teamed up with one of my favorite writers, Jeff Lemire. This time he's telling a different kind of superhero story, one who's focus is on children rather than the heroes themselves. The issue starts out by giving you a glimpse of what each child is dealing with at home and at school. The awkward social interactions between the kids, who I presume to be around 13-15 years of age (because a couple of them are more at that rebellious stage), happens to be exactly what grabbed me and sucked me in. I wasn't a fan of school as a child. It wasn't a pleasant experience for me for the most part but I found myself sympathizing with all the kids in the story, even the bully who you suspect hasn't had the best home life.

The story was actually written by both Lemire and Lenox which is perhaps why it doesn't feel at all to me like the average Lemire story. It has a lighthearted and grounded feel. It's direct and to the point. When was the last Lemire story you read that felt like that? um... hmm.... um... I'm drawing a blank. It starts to feel more like a Lemire story when the kids stumble on a fallen superhero. I told myself I wasn't going to add any more series to my subscription list until the new years... but I have to make an exception for this one. I absolutely love the artwork and the tone of this issue. I have to give it FIVE STARS for being outstanding, bittersweet and original. I'm adding it to the sub list.

We Stand on Guard #3

I was pretty taken aback with this issue. Brian K Vaughan has always been known to push the boundaries of what your brain is willing to deal with in terms of uncomfortable situations (that's the understatement of the year, seriously). But here... here I was shocked

If you've already read this issue, I bet you're wondering the same thing I first pondered: Why, when there is a female prisoner, does the torture always becomes sexualized? Every time I see the portrayal of women in uniform, be it military, law enforcement, etc, the violence is always sexualized. In this issue of We Stand on Guard, the leader of our Canadian Rebellion has been captured by the US and set to torture. Cruel torture which is implemented by means of virtual reality. This meaning that she's not really experiencing her face being lit on fire, but she thinks she is. This allows the torturers to do it over and over again because she's simply not going to die. The future ladies and gentlemen... Yet the story quickly takes a nose dive for me and hits the ultimate point of horror when the interrogation techniques fail to provide the interrogators with the whereabouts of the rebel base (all Empire Style right?). So the lady in charge uploads a new interrogation tactic which presents the image of her father to the subject who then proclaims that he will "make love to her forever". Yeah I'm feeling sick too.

This is what Vaughan is good at. Its thought provoking but perhaps not in the way you'd assume. I started analyzing in my mind why it always has to get sexual with a female prisoner. My mind settled on one answer: because it probably would in real life too. So I thought about whether this tactic would be used on a male prisoner and I thought, yeah it probably would. So why didn't Vaughan write THAT into the story. Would he have even thought to write that torture tactic if the leader of the Canadian troops had been male and not female? Probably not. Even though a male character in the same position would have been equally as vulnerable and defenseless, Vaughan would likely have written a typical torture story of arm slicing and amputation. I really can't see him writing a male prisoner as being seconds away from being raped by his father. That's when I started getting kinda angry about the sexualized violence in media, comics... everything, AGAIN. I get angry about it a lot.

Thankfully, the prisoner gave up before we had to see THAT event unfold in the story. It didn't do much for most of us as the thought was already out there and the artist might as well have drawn the whole horrific event as far as I'm concerned. That's not to say it wasn't completely a compelling point to make about the future of interrogation tactics lol. I can totally see the US military doing this. So much more effective than waterboarding... all I'm saying is that, if the character were male, do you think the interrogation scene would have been written that way?

Silver Surfer #14

My heart. Dan Slott and Mike Allred have my heart. This issue is just so adorable the whole way through. It's so cute to see Dawn struggle with the idea of rebuilding a world she barely knew. Most of all I love the ending. Just when everything is going swimmingly, it's just all too perfect for our surfer. CRISIS.

Unfortunately for you, I really don't have anything to complain about with Silver Surfer (do I ever?). I love the series and I'm really glad that it's surviving all this Battleworld nonsense (I don't even like Doom). The artwork in this series is still fabulous as always and I keep daydreaming about a hardcover edition being published at some point because I need it to sit next to my collection of Madman and X-force(X-Statix) collection.

Jupiters Circle #6

Okay let me talk about one more. I'm following the prequel to Jupiter's Legacy because I really like Mark Millar's books. I actually don't know anyone else reading this and haven't been able to discuss it with anyone. I haven't completely got a good grip on what anyone anywhere else thinks of the series. All I can tell you is that I think the first book (issues 1-6) have been pretty fabulous. It's kinda like Madmen with capes... and superpowers. Everyone is smoking, the men are behaving poorly, the women are treated more-so like objects (even the super ones) by the men and homosexuality is not acceptable. If you didn't realize, this is the story of the parents from Jupiter's Legacy. They are young and fighting crime. They also really, really suck at relationships.

Issue six marks the ending of Book 1, but it's not over. Millar has more coming our way and I hope Frank Quitely continues to do these amazing covers. I posted on instagram yesterday saying "If you can't get Quitely to illustrate a series on time for you, then get him to make covers. Fucking, Amazing, covers!!" Look, I just quoted myself. I think I'm done here.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Royal Jelly: September 2nd 2015

8House #3 Kiem Part One
The Dying and the Dead #3
House of M #2
Jupiters Circle #6
Lazarus #19
Miracleman by Gaiman & Buckingham #1
Plutonia #1
Silver Surfer #14
We Stand on Guard #3

Lady Killer TP
Neil Gaimans Teknophage TP Vol 1
Sweet Tooth Deluxe Edition HC Book 1

I think I've got everything listed up there! It's a pretty big week for me personally. There are few titles there that I've been anticipating for over a month now. I'm pretty interested in Neil Gaiman's Miracleman and Jeff Lemire's collaborative efforts with the new title Plutonia has peeked my interest as well.

I'm psyched to see the latest Silver Surfer. I've been so worried about the Marvel universe upheaval affecting my Surfer. So far it remains pretty awesome as always and I hope it survives. As far as I know, the series will continue but all this Last Days stuff... lol... well...whatever.

And honestly, I would write way more right now but I'm having this issue with my eye and it's super difficult to write with limited vision so... Peace!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Exclusive Interview with Xurxo Penalta

I feel as though the world requires a lot more buzz around 8House. The first installment of this unusual series entitled Arclight seemed to have appear without warning. Of course I had seen the odd sneak preview of artwork whispered through facebook and knew that I had to of course read this book. The concept that drives the series begins with eight separate houses and therefore separate stories. The first story Arclight had an extremely medieval feel driving the artwork and inspiration. Arclight was shrouded in magic and mysticism. The next installment Kiem debuts tomorrow and tells a very different story of an astra projection soldier who is about to embark on a secret mission. This story is illustrated by Xurxo Penalta who's work I became enamored with after following his posts on facebook. The incredible detail in his ink work and use of colors pulled me in. I started having Moebius flashbacks and that was about it, I knew I had to read Kiem

If you haven't read the first two issues of 8House don't worry because Kiem is a completely separate story and you can certainly jump right into the series with issue #3 with no worry. Today with the easy access to the world of digital copies however, missing issues is of no real concern. You can most certainly get up to date with Cosmixology.  (Finally something good about digital comics lol I mean...)

I was very lucky to have the opportunity to ask Xurxo a few questions about Kiem. I am of course most interested in the amazing architecture he constructed. The dessert city is particularly impressive and that picture alone is worth reading the issue. Luckily the entire issue is also fantastic and every panel an involved masterpiece to behold. No one could possibly be disappointed with this stunning issue. So without me prattling on further, here's our Q&A:

TFQ: How did you get involved in 8house?
Xurxo: Through Brandon. He invited me to do a backup for Prophet, came out on #44, and from that point on there was talk about 8House coming together.

TFQ: How many issues are you illustrating for this unique series?
Xurxo: Initially Kiem is going to be 4 issues but, I hope we get to do more stories within the 8House universe right after that.

TFQ: 8House has a completely unique universe. Can you explain to me where the story you illustrated takes place in correlation with Arclight?
Xurxo: All books take off from different points but it all occurs within the 8House universe. Some familiarity with terms and concepts will build up as the issues of each series come out.

So far, only 3 in, you can start to see some patterns with the different uses of similar technologies, a common place culture of a ritualistic nature and a firmly hierarchical cast system, the 8 Houses.

TFQ: How did you begin constructing the architecture for Kiem? What did you use for reference or inspiration?

Xurxo: Brandon had a couple of references for the city sunk in the desert, like the rock carved buildings from Cappadocia, but they turned out more like the city of Shibam -name which I did not know until someone saw the pages and told me about it- then for the central constructivist complex of block-like buildings Brandon had a tiny picture of Habitat 67 by Moshe Safdie -which I also didn't know at the time- but in general, and other than on that page, nothing is substantially referenced.

TFQ: When working with Brandon Graham, how much direction does he give you on about the appearance of the world and characters?
Xurxo: We chat a lot about random things and from that we get a pretty good idea of what we're into.

There's some feedback and some selection when I send sketches, but it's all pretty logical -"this is way better than that" type of thing- I really admire his visual style, design and enjoy his sense of humor a lot, so I also try to have that surface when I doodle something new.


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Exclusive Interview with Antony Johnston on Codename Baboushka

I am very pleased to kick off this release day with an exclusive interview on an upcoming release. I've once again had the pleasure of interviewing Antony Johnston who just announced his newest series Codename Baboushka. The series is currently available for pre-order and makes it's debut through Image Comics in October. This espionage adventure is illustrated in vibrant colors by Shari Chankhamma.

Each issue will feature two covers; a regular 'silhouette' cover by Shari Chankhamma and an 'art cover' by an all-star line-up of female artists including Tula Lotay, Annie Wy, Leila del Duca and Canadian Martimes' own Kate Leth.

So, I'll skip my praddling on and get right to the good stuff. The interview:
Cover by Tula Lotay

TFQ: What inspired you to write this story? 

Antony: The original inspiration came when I was watching FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE, one of my favourite Bond movies, and suddenly thought that I’d love to see a version of the story from the point of view of Tatiana Romanova, the Russian spy sent to entrap 007.

That got me thinking about female spies, female action leads, and historical characters like Modesty Blaise, Emma Peel, and Purdey. They were all groundbreaking characters in their time, and it’s pretty shameful that 50 years — half a century! — later, female action characters like them are *still* regarded as unusual and innovative.

There’s also a serious dearth of leading female action characters in comics, outside the superhero universes. It’s only really in the last several years that a few creators, many of whom I’m proud to count amongst my friends, have begun to redress that balance. We’re still nowhere near any kind of equilibrium.

I wanted to create a character who could be that leading female action hero, a fighter and survivor who was in charge of her own destiny. A character that could endure, and find herself in any number of stories and adventures. Someone with an iconic look, an interesting and shady history… and a very bad attitude.

Baboushka was born.

TFQ: Can you tell me a little bit about this mysterious central character, the Contessa and did you base her on anyone in particular?

Antony: Contessa Annika Malikova is the last scion of the House of Malikov, an old noble Russian line. They fled Russia after the October Revolution to live in Switzerland, intending to return when the Bolsheviks collapsed.

Of course, the Bolsheviks didn’t collapse, and the Malikovs soon frittered all their money away. By the time Annika was born, they were penniless.

When the rest of her family died in mysterious circumstances, Annika — then just a teenage girl — took matters into her own hands. She returned to Moscow, determined to re-make her fortune by any means necessary. She doesn’t talk about what happened, exactly, but it didn’t take long for her to turn to a life of crime.

She adopted the nickname BABOUSHKA, became a gang boss in the Russian mafiya, and quickly built a criminal empire.

(Exactly why she took the term for “grandmother” as her nickname is a whole other story, by the way.)

Baboushka was soon a renowned crime lord, a ruthless killer feared throughout Moscow… until the other mafiya bosses joined forces against her, and forced her to flee the country with her second-in-command, Gyorgy Gyorgyov.

They wound up in the USA under their civilian names, claiming political asylum. That was three years ago, and they’ve been keeping their heads down, laying low the whole time. Until now…

Annika isn’t based on anyone in particular, but is definitely inspired by those historical characters I mentioned before, and more modern female action characters like Black Widow and Misty Knight.

TFQ: For this story you have teamed up with Thai artist Shari Chankhamma who many of also remember from your other Image series The Fuse. What made you decide to do another collaboration with Chankhamma?

Antony: Well, most people only know Shari as an amazing colourist, from her work on THE FUSE and SHELTERED. But she’s also an awesome artist, with graphic novels and web strips to her name.

Shari’s work is modern and energetic, a mixture of manga influences and American storytelling that comes from her unusual background; she’s Thai, but she reads, loves, and works in the US market.

She has a great eye for character, draws some downright sexy women *and* men, plus — because she’s such a great colourist — readers are getting a full-on Shari art experience, from layouts through to final colours. It looks fantastic.

TFQ: Is Baboushka intended to be an long-run, on-going series like Wasteland for instance?

Antony: “The Conclave of Death” is Baboushka's first ‘mission’, running for five issues.

Her second mission, “Ghost Station Zero”, will follow some time in 2016, though right now we’re not setting a final date. We’ll see how everyone’s schedule looks.

Long-term, we want to release at least one new mission each year. The stories will build on each other, telling Baboushka's continuing adventures, but they'll stand alone well enough that people can pick up any mission and read it, without needing to know the others.

It'll be like getting a new spy movie every year ;)

TFQ: Something that always shocks me with comic book writers, is how many plots and characters you're able to write simultaneously. It must take a very organized mind to write so many concurrently running comics. How do you keep it all straight?

Antony: It’s all about compartmentalizing, really. Even before I started writing professionally, I was always doing several things at once; running multiple role-playing campaigns, playing in bands, writing fiction, building my design career… I think the urge comes naturally.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that *doing* all that stuff comes naturally, at all, and I do have to be pretty organized with my time and schedule — especially now you can add “making podcasts” to that list!

But the solution, for me, is quite lo-fi and simple. I make a lot of notes, I write *everything* down so I won’t forget it, and my calendar kind of rules my life. But that’s what enables me to do a bunch of different stuff, so I’m fine with it.

TFQ: The main characters are from Russia. I get the impression you know a lot about Russia and it's people. Have you lived there or did you simply conduct a lot of research?

Antony: I’ve never had the chance to visit Russia, let alone live there, though I do hope to. Mainly it’s a combination of research and social folklore; Russia fascinates me in many ways — as a political entity, as a culture, as a military power, and of course as our Great Enemy during the Cold War.

That said, I’m not trying to write social analysis or a political treatise, here. I use Russia, both in CODENAME BABOUSHKA and THE FUSE, as background and flavour to inform characters and events around them. Russia is still a pretty exotic and misunderstood place to many people in the west, and that’s very useful. After all, I’m writing adventure fiction, not a history book…!


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

We Can Never Go Home #4

You know it's really weird how I got attached to this series and I don't even know how many issues it's suppose to be. I originally thought it was going to sit at four issues and now I'm like... maybe it's an on going? So far, it seems that I could follow these characters around for a long time. For a murderer, lead character Duncan is pretty entertaining! His irrational and split second decisions make for good action and Madison who unfortunately takes the role of the angry matronly figure rather than potential girlfriend (despite what Duncan thinks) actually kicks the most ass while she's cleaning up after Duncan's shit antics. Despite having super powers and an uncanny ability to meet trouble, the two are a crack team who have basically not accomplished anything successfully so far in the story. I'm starting to imagine them flying off some cliff in a convertible. That being said, it'll more likely be a Honda Civic or a pick up truck.

No matter what you think of the main characters, you're not going to be able to predict what happens in issue 4. I'm mystified that I can't stop reading because it's not exactly the type of book I'd stick with. I'm really not all comic book happy for the super powers type but We Can Never Go Home isn't your typical super power story. How many times have you heard that right? Seems like people are always saying that but in this case it's actually true. Mostly because super powers aren't really what this story is about. In my head, it's about two screw ups and that always make for excellent story right?

The fourth issue comes out tomorrow and if you haven't been reading, you should still be able to find the first couple issues as they went for a second printing. The series has been popular enough that Black Mask actually did a second printing with a bunch of awesome new covers. So you, go get em while you still can.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Royal Jelly: August 26 2015

We Can Never Go Home #4
Tomorrows #2 (of 4)
Teen Titans #11 (Bengal Cover)
Rumble #6
Spread #9
Rasputin #8
Low #9
E is for Extinction #3
Stringers #1

Effigy Vol 1
Return of the Living Deadpool TP

Hey! Another release week gone and another is right around the corner. I had a great week of comics to read, still not 100% through last week's releases but I'll fix that this evening. I got somewhat lost down the rabbit hole of Dragon Age Inquisition. I'm always late to the party when it comes to video games. The only one I plan not to be late to, will be the new Fallout. Knowing my luck, everyone will spoil it for me so I will get that one straight after release and then... you may not hear from me for a while.

Alright enough about games, obviously we got some good series continuing this week. I'm pretty sure I've talked about every single one of the above series at length. I'm really excited to finally read Effigy which is written by that crazy Revival author Tim Seeley. This one has been on my reading list for a while but I didn't get an itch to read it until a couple weeks after #1 was out and gone. Hate missing things but it does happen from time to time. The cover for volume 1 is from the awesome Dave Mack who's pretty epic with the Vertigo covers.

You should be seeing a few reviews from me this week and one very special interview!  Keep reading!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Fragments of Horror

It's no secret that I'm a huge fan of horror and that Junji Ito has been the god of all that horror for me since the first story I ever read. A friend of mine introduced me to his work a few years ago. The first story I read was The Enigma of Amigara Fault. I was needless to say, SOLD after that.

Fragments of Horror is Junji's first horror collection in eight years. We've had nearly nothing in the English speaking world for longer. They keep re-releasing editions of Gyo and Uzamaki which is fantastic but so many fantastic stories haven't made it here and even when they are released, they're very difficult to come by (i.e. Hotel of Horror aka Tomie).  It's not that he wasn't doing things, he actually did a cat manga, a little pokemon thing and various other stories which didn't really have anything to do with horror. Yet part of me wondered if he lost something...

At the very end of the book is a page from Junji detailing his reasons for not releasing a horror book in such a long time. One reason listed among them was about the passing of his long time editor who apparently had thought that Junji may have lost his touch with horror. It's funny because as I was reading the story I started wondering the same thing.

It was the story Dissection Chan which first made me think that perhaps Junji was a little off. The story was there, it was bang on and very much Junji creepy. It was the ending. It wasn't the typical bodygore I was use to seeing from him. It didn't really make sense as an ending and that took the horror away. I felt the book redeemed itself somewhat after reading the next few stories. The Gentle Goodbye although not exactly horror in the traditional sense was very well written and eerie. I particularly enjoyed the story of the of the winged woman who saved a fallen man by feeding him pieces of chewed meat although there was a piece of the story that just didn't seem to fit quite right.

One of the key ingredients for any good Junji story is insanity. There is always one character with a firm grip on what it reality while reality changes and every other character in the story accepts the horror as perfectly normal. It was present in a few stories but its power wasn't utilized in the same way it had been in the past with Uzamaki or even some of the smaller stories like Grease.

In the end, these stories are still pretty great and I'm glad that they are part of my library. I do feel that Junji Ito is right when he says that he feels he's lost something. That being said, I do feel it may be coming back. Maybe he's just out of horror practice? That being said I really hope he starts pumping stuff out and I especially hope we start seeing more work printed in English. Particularly, I'd like to get my hands on a copy of The Black Paradox, but that's a whole other can of worms.