Friday, April 18, 2014

Attack on Titan : Before the Fall

Art by Satoshi Shiki
Story by Ryo Suzukaze

I suppose I got my wish, an Attack on Titan with prolific artwork. Before the Fall has been written and illustrated by two new people. Hajime Isayama is out of the picture. Don't get me wrong, the artwork is perfection. It's beautiful, detailed and each face is full of expression. Yet, the titan doesn't hold the same creep factor as the original books.

I like the story line so far. Remember how I told you that the titans can't full digest their prey? They just spew it all back up, half corroded by stomach acid. So this story is about a pregnant lady who's child survived the ordeal and comes out of his mother's womb alive. Now that back of the book says that Kuklo is cut from his mothers womb after she is spewed forth from the titans belly. That is incorrect. Kuklo was actually found delivered. Not 100% sure how that's possible but no the soldiers that find him, don't cut him out of his mother. This discrepancy could be due to the fact that the trailer released was publicized before the entire story was sorted out. It was not completely accurate either. Maybe the had the cover set in stone before they finished the story as well heh.

The biggest difference is how this story conforms to regular mainstream manga, unlike the original series. The one and only female character thus far, is a young, blond, doe-eyed girl.  She is of course a damsel in distress, waiting to be married off but apparently plans to run away. Yet the idea only occurred to her as this "son of the titan" offers. Maybe it'll turn around but so far not impressed. Maybe there will be a strong female lead? I won't hold my breath. Also, I only saw 1 person get eaten. That's disappointing.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

San Hannibal # 1 by Dan Schkade, JD Faith & Jesse Snavlin

Pop! Goes the Icon just yesterday, released issue one of San Hannibal. A noir mystery story about a missing persons search conducted by private investigator Ira. The search for missing photojournalist Savannah Loy brings him to a punk rock bar. He immediately encounters some odd characters.

San Hannibal is beautifully drawn and colored in two tones. Black and a fuchsia hue (check it out on the cover). I'm absolutely in love with this edgy artwork and it was my whole reason for picking up the single yesterday. The cover immediately caught my eye and as I slipped through the body of the book in the comic book store I said "not another noir story". Despite what might lay in the story, I felt the artwork over-all could probably carry even the worst writer. I was pleasantly surprised when I began to read the book.

The story itself gripped me. Even though it is just another missing persons mystery, the writer clearly has a unique voice. The story is narrated by Ira and written in such a way that you are able to get a good sense of who he is without fumbling to include arbitrary details. Ira's narration does set up the atmosphere of his surroundings descriptively but they are colored by his own personal outlook on life.

San Hannibal is intended to be a five part mini-series. I am really happy that I picked this issue up. I recommend it whether you like mystery noir stories or not. It has already sucked me in.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Skinned #1

Written by Tim Daniel & Jeremy Holt
Art by Joshua Gowdy

I got a digital copy of this today from Jeremy Holt and was most excited to read it simply because of the cover. By now you must know that covers tend to pull me in, however they don't make me stay (*cough* the buffy comics *cough*).

Mostly, this story is fits into the cyberpunk genre which is probably my favorite genre. After reading Jeff Noon's Vurt some time ago, I began writing my own cyberpunk story. So far that gives Skinned my attention.

The story takes place in a world where humans are given new lenses (literally) through which to view the world. A physical device invoking the old adage of rose colored glasses so to speak. They allow the viewer to see things as they choose and project your imagination visually. The company or agency responsible is called Occup-eye. Apart from that I haven't 100% learned their uses except that there appears to be a hacker afoot. Note to self - Must probe Mr. Holt for more details.

Due to what I can only imagine is the constantly shifting thoughts of a human being, the appearance of the world shifts from panel to panel. Although I like the changing architecture and fashion of the Occup-eye world, I'm not sure where this entire plot is going. "Reality is a disease" according to the agency responsible for Occup-eye. Makes sense to me but wouldn't there be all kinds of side effects? For instance, disorientation? Maybe something sort of like the bends or vertigo. If your world is constantly changing, even in appearance, does it not create an inability eventually to adapt to ones surroundings? I suppose this is another question for the writers as I still have yet to understand if people are actually projecting what they see in their minds to other people, or if that is in fact private.

I'm curious how the royalty fits into this story. I am unsure if they are responsible for Occup-eye or actually enslaved by it.

Well, I think I'll write a couple emails and find some answers! Stay tuned! ;)

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Starlight #2 by Mark Millar

I had it all wrong when I was typing up what I thought about Mark Millar's Starlight. A friend pointed out to me that the story is inspired by Edgar Rice Burroughs and is a sort of fan-fiction in a way for John Carter of Mars. I have not read many of those novels so it didn't immediately jump out at me as such. Not to mention that fact that I didn't watch that awful movie adaptation (it looked just terrible). My friend however is a big fan of Burroughs and has read MOST of his novels. If not all.

Anyway, issue 2 opens up with a small child-like, purple haired person stepping out pleading for his life. He's only 86, so don't shoot! He's from the same planet that Captain McQueen saved 40 years ago when his air force jet flew through a rift in time and space. Here he is being asked to go back and save the planet from a new threat. This one is an alien race, there to pick off all the resources and most likely enslave the entire race. At first McQueen is reluctant, assuring the boy-man that he is too old, but of course he gives in because there would be no story otherwise.

So far, the story is fun. The artwork appeals to me and my love of a retro look and feel. It's an easy read, not heavy and there's really not much hiding in the motives of any of the characters (at least not yet). You can pretty much take them all at face value, which is perhaps because Starlight is intended for a younger audience? I'm use to Millar's gory side. I don't really see that happening here, but it's Millar... it could happen.

Before I write an article on any book or single, I keep myself from reading other peoples opinions on it. I don't want it to influence how I naturally perceive a story. Therefore, I know very little about the intentions of Millar with this story. I didn't  even want to read his interview with CBR. I'm really excited to see where this story goes without all the spoilers. ;)

Monday, April 14, 2014

Chosin: Hold the Line & To the Sea

Written By Richard Meyer & Brian Iglasias
Artwork on Hold the Line by Thomas Jung
Artwork on To The Sea by Otis Frampton

Hold the Line and To the Sea are two stories detailing the true story of the Chosin Reservoir Campaign of the Korean War. It was the largest seaborne evacuation of ‘enemy’ refugees in world to this day.  

My knowledge of the Korean War is limited. It's not something they teach in Canadian high-school history classes, but I have seen various movies over the years. I can't account for accuracy however. 

As expected, this is a story of American bravery and triumph. Hold the Line is told almost entirely from the American perspective. It details the difficulties experienced by the Americans in unfamiliar territory under extreme environmental conditions. They faced sub-zero temperatures unlike that which they were use to at home. The portions of the story which show the Korean troops (when they aren't depicted as glowing, red-eyes monsters) details the hardships, terror, and forced militarization the Korean Men experienced. This is all a bias of course but then again, I say this realizing that it's pretty difficult to say nice things about North Korea.

While Hold the Line is told from the perspective of soldiers, To the Sea is told from the perspective of the North Korean refuges. Two children are orphaned by Chinese troops and flee towards the American camp to seek refuge. They are eventually boarded on the Missouri and flee North Korea.  

Chosin is moving and articulate, documenting real events and using the names of real soldiers. The story is not particularly gory although there is violence, some blood. Most is implied and un-glorified gore. In my opinion this tells the story a sensitive subject, like the events of war, in a respectful manner. An awesome read and highly recommended for the war enthusiast. I am especially taken with the art work in To the Sea by Otis Frampton. It personally appeals to me although clearly, both books have been completed by talented artists. 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Q&A with JAR and Mira Mortal: SPLIT a Graphic Novella

This week I had the privilege to preview a graphic novella entitled SPLIT, a collaborate project by John Rodriguez aka JAR and Mira Mortal. I get a lot of submissions from independent artists and writers. Although I read all submissions I only write about those that I truly feel excited about. SPLIT is JAR's third comic project, clearly a labor of love, filled with so much heart. Once in a while I come across a project like this that makes me dig around, get more info and spread the word. I was lucky to get some questions in with Mira and JAR. 

To help support Split please visit the Kickstarter page HERE!

The Frog Queen: Can you give us a brief description of Split?

Mira: SPLIT is about a family that has experienced something so traumatic that they close in on themselves in an attempt to cope. This choice is backfiring, and their isolation is doing much more harm than good. It's a tragedy with a psychological element.
This is not even necessarily the kind of story JAR and I typically tell; we both have varied tastes in comics. At the time we decided to try working together, I asked JAR what he was in the mood to draw, and he said "Something dark." And I said, "I can do dark." SPLIT was just a bunch of notes and thumbnails in a notebook, and I turned it into a script for him in a day and sent it. I'd actually drawn out a few pages myself, but didn't show those to him until recently, I think.

JAR: Mira's description of the story is pretty spot on, so I'll give you some background from my perspective. I enjoy drawing dark stories and imperfect characters. I also enjoy trying to nail an emotion on a drawing, which I think is one of the most difficult things to do. Last year I was trying to find a writer to work with when Mira told me she had an idea. I had read quite a few scripts already that really were not a good fit for me, so I was a bit skeptical at the beginning. When I read it, however, I thought that this was definitely a story I could see myself drawing. The pain the mother is feeling, the happiness of the children for the little things, the annoyance of the older sister, all portray a great variety of emotions that made this book fun, but also very challenging to draw.

The Frog Queen: Split currently has a Kickstarter fund intended to raise money to hire a colorist for the book. Who would make the perfect colorist? What is your vision?

JAR: This is a difficult one for me, since I have yet to work with someone else coloring my art. I also know that the right colorist would make or break the mood of the art. I would say someone like Dave Stewart would be ideal, due to his work on line art by Mike Mignola. We may even try to hire him if we are extremely successful with the Kickstarter! (Though he's probably very busy right now.)

Mira:  Haha! We dream big. The mood for SPLIT is a little surreal, a little dreamy, and a little creepy. Alone in a crowded room kind of feel. For the colorist, we want someone whose skills are already developed, and who is willing and available to deliver relatively soon. We talked about a vision for a painterly style with a muted palette, but definitely getting a colorist with a confident hand is our goal.

The Frog Queen: Do you see Split being a story to carry forward from the original story?

JAR: I see SPLIT as a complete book. Maybe a prequel... but I'd be very hesitant about it. I would let Mira decide on that. We do, however, have a lot of story ideas we plan to work on. Mira will be writing scripts while I wrap up a comic for Action Labs. Hopefully at the end of this year or beginning of 2015 we are working full steam on our next project.

Mira: We've been referring to SPLIT as a graphic novella, and intended it to be presented as a whole short story, readable in one sitting. I think the story is finished as it is, but never say never. There is some backstory that we do not divulge in the book, though. It was more for our own understanding of the part of the arc we wanted to show. Maybe we should put those notes in the book if we get funded, JAR? Amy, what do you think?  :)

JAR:  I think showing the first drawings you did would be WAY cooler.

Mira: Yeah! So they can see why I needed you to get on board.

The Frog Queen: That sounds like an awesome idea actually! I love getting a peak into see artistic process. What are your plans for publication, be it digital and print?

JAR: If we hit our goal for the Kickstarter, we plan to get the book colored, make a small print run, and release it digitally on Comixology. If we do not hit our goal, I will take over the coloring and we still just release it digitally. One way or another, we plan to release the book.

Mira: Whether we get funded or not, this was a learning experience for me, and I found an epic creative partner. It's awesome (and he keeps me really busy). *But* to get SPLIT printed and into people's hands? That would be amazing. Fingers crossed!

For more information and news about Split, please visit 

Friday, April 11, 2014

Starlight #1 by Mark Millar and Goran Parlov

Most people are pretty familiar with Mark Millar and if you aren't, then you are at least familiar with Kick-Ass. Starlight is Millar's latest title (which I'm a little late at getting to, hey I'm one person and I have two jobs). At first I didn't know if I wanted to bother picking up this title. I thought it might be Image's answer to Saga. My love for Millar's writing got the better of me and I had to get it regardless of any suspicions.

Starlight is the story of a former space hero who settled on Earth and got himself all wrapped up in a family. With his recently deceased, he begins to long for the adventures of his youth. Those adventures happened to be helping save a nation on some distant planet. Luckily by the end of the issue, his wishful thinking becomes reality.

Parlov, having done a mixture of work ranging from the Punisher to Y The Last Man, has set the mood from the beginning of the book telling facial expressions of concern and regret while countering them in the flashbacks with vivid colors and unearthly skylines. The transition from what looks fantastical back to the world you and I know, got a strong grip on me. It just yanked me because I'm a big daydreamer and this sort of escapism I relate to. The best thing about the story and the big difference between myself and Mr. McQueen, is that his daydreams are actually memories.

I tried hard to grab a copy of issue #2 today but the local shops were out. I have a few more to check tomorrow but you can bet I'll find a copy tomorrow! Both my thumbs way up!