Archive for the ‘Avatar’ Category

Narcopolis, Issues #1-4

September 1st, 2008 by Martin

Narcopolis was absolutely phenomenal.

This four-part miniseries was essentially about a future in which one city, (or citystate, we don’t really know how big it is), has colonized the world. This is meant in the historical “exploiting the indigenous cultures” sort of way, except that, as far as we can tell, the entire rest of the world is part of the exploited culture. But all we really see of it are a few African tribes getting blown to smithereens, so I guess that part isn’t especially explicit.

Anyway, you don’t really know whether the main character, named Gray Neighbor, is a freedom fighter, or just one lucky bastard who manages to escape the fascist state a few times, and ends up ultimately in training for the police force.

The first thing that really stood out for me about Narcopolis was the dialog. Anyone who has read George Orwell’s 1984 will probably be reminded of newspeak. As with reading 1984 for the first time, I felt the language really set the book apart from standard fiction (in this case comic book fiction), and really just sounded and felt totally different from what I’d consider to be every day conversational English. You could also tell that writer Jamie Delano really put a lot of thought and effort into the dialog, mostly because it never felt forced or unrealistic.

The parallels to 1984 don’t stop at the dialogue. There are all kinds of elements of the police state at play here, but I don’t want to say too much about plot, because the sense of discovery is part of the attraction of this comic, or it was for me anyway.

The art in Narcopolis is also pretty spectacular. Jeremy Rock appears to have a pretty publishing limited history, (especially when compared to Jamie Delano), but he more than holds his own by giving us a vivid glimpse into this distopia. I should probably mention that there is quite a bit of nudity in this comic, and it’s not for children both visually and thematically.

In short, Narcopolis absolutely blew me away. I am so far behind in reading stuff that the first three issues of this had sat unread on my shelves until this week when issue #4 came out and I resolved to read them all forthwith. Mostly I just wanted to make sure I’d read them before any more issues came out and I would then have had to decide whether to buy another issue of something I hadn’t yet read. Turns out, issue #4 was actually the last in the series, so I needn’t have worried. But I’m glad I did, because it gave me the push I needed to finally read these, and damn was it worth it!

Black Summer, Issues 0-7

July 24th, 2008 by Martin

Well, the new Black Summer came out today, and it’s time I finally wrote some kind of review about the series.

When I first read issue #0, it really floored me. I’d never been that surprised and excited about a comic, I don’t think. At least, not right off the bat. What happens in that first issue is something I consider to be the stuff of legend. Honestly, I have no idea if other comic books have done it before. Hell, maybe it’s commonplace for comics to be this anti-government, but this was the first I’d seen of it. Anyway, as you can probably see from the Issue 0 wrap-around cover shown here, in that first issue, we see the President of the United States of America, killed by a superhero.

And at first, the premise alone was enough to get me to read the comic. But, as the story wore on, honestly, I started to lose interest. Yes, it’s still good, but in comparison with that one first deliberate act of insane marketing prowess, the rest of the comic honestly just fails to live up to it for me. And that was never more true for me than in this final issue.

Read on for continued discussion of Black Summer, including spoilers. (more…)

Warren Ellis super-human roundup

June 26th, 2008 by Martin

This was initially going to be a review of the new No Hero Issue 0, written by Warren Ellis and drawn by Juan Jose Ryp, but then I started thinking about the similarities between this title and Black Summer, which was done by the same creative team.

Aside from the art, which is quite interesting in both projects, I think the biggest reason for this observation of similarity is that these are both comics about people who gain superhuman powers in our generation, in our time. They are set in our universe, and they are essentially near-future science fiction superhero comics. There is no magic, no mythological talismans of great power, and no “black box” plot devices. This is the kind of science fiction that I really go in for. It’s also the kind of science fiction that, unless it’s done really well, often dates itself, and thus has a relatively short shelf-life.

In a way, Black Summer already dated itself by using the president’s name (I think) right away in issue 0. No Hero dates itself by using actual dates in this issue, which more or less just sets up the story. I guess that also makes it alternate history. We’ll see in 2011 whether its still readable after the main part of the story would have already happened. That makes three genres in these comics: superhero, near-future science fiction, and alternate history.

Warren Ellis is also writing Freak Angels, which I believe to be one of the most interesting web comics I’ve ever read. It could also get thrown in with these as another near-future science fiction, although it involves telepathy (and probably telekinesis) which in my mind at least makes it more fantasy than science fiction. In Black Summer it’s technology that gives the super-heroes their meta-human abilities. In No Hero it’s chemistry and drug use. We don’t really know what gives the Freak Angels their abilities. It hasn’t yet been explained.

As a side-note, I should get to meet Warren Ellis later today at Wizard World.

Anyway, I love these gritty (bloody) near futures that Warren Ellis is creating for us. I’ve been waiting to write about Black Summer until the last issue comes out, but its been one that just keeps getting better with each issue (and it started out pretty damn spectacular). I can’t wait for the conclusion of Black Summer, and I’ll definitely be looking forward to reading all of No Hero as it comes out.

Warren Ellis Roundup

April 8th, 2008 by Martin

Gravel #2How does Warren Ellis write so freekin’ much?!

First off, I read Gravel #2, and it wasn’t terrible! It didn’t really have much in the way of plot development or story, but it was pretty, and there were ghost-horses and spilled brains! (Literally, brains. Brains are a bit too graphic me for some reason. The blood I didn’t really mind, the the brains? Yeesh.) So yeah, if you’re not a fan of man on stallion action, then maybe this isn’t the book for you. There were about six pages of ghost-horse chasing Gravel, while he flips and jumps and gets hit and finally finds his special ghost-shooting gun. It’s cool, but not super cool.

The latest issue of Freak Angels, on the other hand, is absolutely fantastic. Awesome art and a compelling story. My only qualm with the series thus far is that we’ve got a lot of characters we’ve now been introduced to, and I’m not sure whether the plot is really moving along at all. We have some notion of the “bad guy”, an outcast Freak Angel, but otherwise we’re really just getting glimpses into the lives of the characters so far.

I do have to wonder whether the comic is supposed to generate revenue at some point, or what the goal is exactly here. There aren’t any ads thus far, but the site does seem to have some affiliation with Avatar, since the about page links to Avatar’s flickr stream. (Incidentally, there is lots of cool stuff on that flickr stream, I’ve added it as a contact.)

Anna Mercury #1Finally, I also just read Anna Mercury #1, and damn if it wasn’t awesome. This book was swashbucklingly spectacular. We basically get thrown into a steampunk-like world where there are magneticly powered space ships that fly to the moon. Anna Mercury herself is a red-haired firebrand secret-agent type who is clearly not afraid to break a few eggs to crack the case. We even glimpse her mission control in the comic’s last page, which makes us wonder where exactly Anna is at this time.

As with these other comics, I felt a little let down that more didn’t happen in this issue. We did get introduced to a so-far-so-intriguing world, but we got left with a big cliff-hanger, and not much else. I wonder if the answer to my initial question is that Ellis is stretching himself pretty thin. He can write a bunch of comics each month because each one is really only a few pages of story, with a bunch of filler thrown in for good measure. Don’t get me wrong, none of these are all filler, but all of them felt a bit padded to some degree. Surprisingly, the one that felt the least like it was padded was the one without any page-length constraints whatsoever. If you haven’t started reading Freak Angel yet, now’s as good a time as any to get started!

Gravel #0-1 by Warren Ellis

March 8th, 2008 by Martin

Gravel #1 - wrap I read Gravel #0 and Gravel #1 just now, without any prior knowledge of the character or universe. Each issue gives you a complete story, while still tying in with a larger story arc about “The Sigsand Manuscript”. The tone of these comics is dark, featuring regular killings and gore, so if that’s the kind of thing you actively dislike, stay away, but otherwise the story seems to be fairly well written and compelling.

What I didn’t know, until I read through Issue #1 and found an ad at the back, was that Ellis has written about William Gravel before! Apparently the character was created for Strange Kiss, a three issue b&w miniseries that went on to inspire another three issue b&w series called Stranger Kisses. I am now tempted to find copies of these to read (hopefully from the library).

Gravel #0The character William Gravel is a “battle mage”, which, aside from making it sound like Ellis made up him up while playing D&D, actually makes for a pretty interesting premise. He’s basically in some special arm of the British armed forces, one that has no qualms whatsoever assassinating terrorists in Issue #0. Gravel does this in the first few pages without being seen, and then we get to the beginning of the real plot which loosely revolves around the “rediscovery” of the aforementioned Sigsand Manuscript.

The Avatar Press website page about the new Gravel series invites you to google for “The Sigsand Manuscript”, Thomas Carnacki and William Hope Hodgson. A good summary can be found over at the wikipedia page on Carnacki, who was author Hodgson’s creation. It’s all sounds very Lovecraftian, and maybe (since I finally read The Call of Cthulhu last month) this is the year for that. I’m tempted to also find a copy of Carnacki the Ghost-Finder when I make that trip to the library.