Review: Afterlife with Archie

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Story by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
Artwork by Francesco Francavilla
Lettering by Jake Morelli

“All hell breaks loose when a fateful accident sets a series of events in motion that will threaten the town of Riverdale like never before! When the dead begin to rise, craving human flesh, it’s up to Archie, Betty & Veronica to fight for their lives against the zombie hordes led by their former pal, Jughead…”

“This is how the end of the world begins…”

The cover exclaims “All new chilling tales!” and this description couldn’t be more spot on. Aguirre-Sacasa throws us right into the action which, of course, begins ‘in the dead of night’. From the outset the narrative is powerful and engaging, we’re immediately set on a tumultuous path. A path paved with witchcraft, necromancy and ultimately, the undead. It had to be difficult for Aguirre-Sacasa to envisage a way to introduce this chilling tale, as the title of the book is a huge giveaway to the premise. Despite this, Afterlife with Archie #1 is compelling and exciting and manages to be unlike any zombie fiction I have seen or read before. It has all of the conventions to make it a zombie book but none of the flavourlessness that tends to accompany the genre. Aguirre-Sacasa injects life into an age old tale. The narrative has tremendous pace, it carries the reader from start to finish seamlessly. There are no dull or lackluster moments, only moments filled with tension and suspense.

Francavilla’s artwork was a deciding factor in my reading of this book. His style is ideal for a book called “Afterlife with Archie”. Both his regular cover and his awesome variant are creepy, dark and perfect for the kind of thing this book is going for. With Francavilla, I always think I can know what to expect, being such a huge fan of his work. However, as with every other book bearing his name, he manages to surprise and excite me. Francavilla was meant to draw horror. If you follow him on Twitter you’ll have probably seen his posters for various classic horror films, now imagine a comic book filled with that dark, perfect artwork and you get Afterlife with Archie. The colour palette used in this book is really something to marvel at. The oranges really give the book a spooky, Halloween feel. He uses so few colours, yet manages to appear to use the whole spectrum. You could describe his work as minimalistic but then you would be overlooking the fact that to make something look so beautiful and perfect, it takes a certain degree of genius and a whole lot of time.

As my first venture into the world of Archie Comics, I never felt like I was missing something. Both Aguirre-Sacasa and Francavilla have done a great deal to make this book accessible to those who don’t usually read Archie Comics and that in itself is a huge achievement. There’s a great balance of suspense and humour which will bring me back for the next issue. It has all of the makings of a great comic and hopefully it has the readership too.

10/10

 

Review: Fashion Beast

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Script: Alan Moore
Story: Alan Moore & Malcolm McLaren
Sequential Adaptation: Antony Johnston
Artist: Facundo Percio
Colours: Hernan Cabrera

“Fashion Beast follows Doll Seguin, a sassy coat-checker who escapes into the carefree lifestyle of fashion, music and decadence while the world outside fears an oncoming nuclear war. It’s a re-telling of the classic fable Beauty and the Beast that immerses readers in the rich, living characters of of its dystopian future setting.” 

Originally written as a screenplay, for a film never realised, in 1985, Fashion Beast is a collaborative piece from the minds of Alan Moore and Malcolm McLaren. In a long, yet interesting foreword from Moore we learn a lot about the inception of the story and how the two came to work with one another. I often skip over introductions such as this one but having so little knowledge of this project, I was intrigued to learn more. Learning the history of this story only fascinated me more. Moore’s introduction could be conceived as long winded or unnecessary by some. As a younger member of society, I’m only vaguely aware of who Malcolm McLaren is, so, for me, it was important to learn more about this man. Not only his work on this book but the impact he has had on society. 

It’s important to remember that Fashion Beast was written around the same time Moore was writing Watchmen and V for Vendetta. I say that it’s important to remember this fact because these stories are all social commentaries and all share similar themes despite the fact that the three books are inherently different. Although it is called a “re-telling” of Beauty and the Beast, I would call it more of a re-imagining. McLaren and Moore have taken the classic tale and shook it about, the outcome is something altogether unique. As always Moore’s writing is stellar. His dialogue is powerful and his characters dynamic and realistic. All of the characters have motives, dreams. They are layered and deep, the characters are what truly bring this story to life, the world they live in is a mere coincidence. The protagonist, Doll, is a woman that was once a man, a transexual. Moore never turns her into a cliche or a joke, she is a human being, and that is important. Moore leads you to believe that the story concerns one thing when in fact, that’s not the case.  Fashion Beast is a tragic tale, everything from the dystopian setting to the decrepit characters screams hopelessness. Even the ending, which you are made to believe is a promising one is tainted with the darkness that often comes with a book featuring the name of Alan Moore.

The darkness that is ever present in this story’s narrative is reflected beautifully through the artwork. Percio’s dystopian world is a bleak and unforgiving one. One extremely important decision in terms of artwork was to have the pages behind the panels black instead of the usual classic white. This makes the book literally dark as well as metaphorically so. Artist and colourist have worked together in beautiful harmony to translate Moore’s screenplay. Regardless of my love for cinema, a film would not have done this story justice. However, Percio and Cabrera have not only done it justice, they have stolen the spotlight. They make you forget that this is another Alan Moore book, they stake their claim to it, they make it their own. The dialogue-less pages of Fashion Beast are the easiest to appreciate, the beautiful artwork is left to tell the story and it doesn’t disappoint. The detail of the artwork is something to be marvelled at. Backgrounds are often just as interesting as foregrounds in many of the panels and the little intricacies are what make this book.

Fashion Beast should be a classic. It should have been released as a graphic novel a long time ago. The story is deep and meaningful and everything I have come to expect from Alan Moore. The artwork is beyond phenomenal and truly brings this story to life. I only wish this book had been released sooner. However, its messages are as important and meaningful in todays world as they were 30 years ago when this story was born. An absolute delight to read.

Review: Devil May Cry: The Chronicles of Vergil

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Writer: Izu
Artist: Patrick Pion

Based on the re-imagination of Capcom’s stunning Devil May Cry™ videogame, the series divulges the shocking secrets behind this world-famous saga.

Set against a contemporary backdrop, Devil May Cry depicts a duplicitous world where nothing is ever as it seems and the line between good and evil is constantly blurred. This comic prequel reveals the crucial backstory of the franchise’s hero, Dante, and his twin brother Vergil; with never-before-told revelations about these iconic game characters!

I have to admit, I was slightly apprehensive before reading this graphic novel. In my experience, comics based on video games, films, etc. can be a bit hit and miss at times. Also I’m not too familiar with the Devil May Cry games. I was pleasantly surprised upon reading this comic, it’s a prequel to the games so a vast knowledge of the world was not essential. The narrative is clear and easy to follow throughout the book. The story is intriguing and had my attention from the beginning. Despite my lack of Devil May Cry knowledge I genuinely enjoyed this book and while I didn’t jump to play the game, it certainly made me want to know more about the characters and the story.

The artwork in this book was a highlight for me. There’s some beautiful juxtaposition created through expert colouring. From the cover alone you can see the quality of Pion’s artwork, the interiors are even more impressive. There are beautiful splash pages and some excellently creative panel layouts. The art was unlike a lot of the artwork you see in mainstream comic books but by no means is it any less remarkable.

I didn’t believe this book would be to my taste before reading it but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Whether you’re a fan of the games or just looking for something good to read The Chronicles of Vergil is what you’re looking for.

Review: The Magician

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Writer: David M. Brown
Artist: D.N.S.
Letters: Philip Nolte

Earlier today, while on my break from selling tickets, I received an email from the writer of this book and co-founder of Fifth Dimension Comics, David Brown. Attached to the email was this comic. The Magician is a short six-page comic that I believe is planned to be part of a larger anthology collection. Fifth Dimension Comics will be launching a Kickstarter project in September sometime for this anthology.

Eugene Roberts is the titular Magician whose big trick is making people’s problems disappear. This short story follows Eugene on what, for him, is an average day. I don’t want to say too much about the story as it would take away from the reading experience, I feel. However, I will say: The Magician is a dark, haunting tale and well worth a read.

While there’s not a great deal of dialogue or even monologue over these six compelling pages there is, evidently, a great deal of narrative. Brown clearly understands that this is an instance where less really is more. He has you wondering if The Magician is good or bad. In just six pages Brown has created and developed a complex character, that’s pretty impressive really. Sometimes, short comics can feel rushed or you can feel unfulfilled after reading them. This wasn’t the case with The Magician, it did, however, leave me wanting more of this character.

The artwork in this comic set’s the tone wonderful. It’s dark and moody but subtly beautiful. I know that “art” is often seen as something that expresses emotion and is best achieved by “creative types”, but behind this artwork I can see a calculating mind, someone extremely intelligent. Everything that is done is done for good reason and that only aids the invoking of emotion from the reader. D.N.S. has shown me some of the best artwork I have seen in an independent comic book.

I really enjoyed reading The Magician, no matter how short of an experience it was, and I certainly look forward to the upcoming anthology from these guys. Watch out for a Q&A from the creators of The Magician here in the next few days and in the meantime check out the Fifth Dimension Comics website.

Review: Superior Foes of Spider-Man #2

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Writer: Nick Spencer
Artist: Steve Lieber
Rachelle Rosenberg

Superior Foes follows Boomerang (AKA Fred Myers) and the Sinister Six (it’s actually five) in their various villainous pursuits. Issue #1 saw Fred locked up and this issue deals with the aftermath of his release. The great humour is still there. Fred and the guys are attacked by The Punisher while holding up a restaurant but they manage to escape with their lives. Despite the name of the book, Spider-Man doesn’t actually feature, which is fine because it doesn’t need Spider-Man to be a great book.

One of the highlights of this book is the dialogue between the villains which at times is just hilarious. Spencer has created an entertaining dynamic between the characters which is both compelling and easy to read. It never feels like a chore to read as some comics can. It’s been compared to Matt Fraction and David Aja’s Hawkeye and this is possibly the best way to describe the book. It’s lighthearted and downright entertaining. It’s rare for me to laugh out loud at a comic but it’s something I’ve found myself doing while reading Superior Foes. This book has surprised me especially since I never intended to pick it up. Spencer has me rooting for these pathetic villains with their ridiculous schemes.

Lieber’s artwork is fun and quirky, unusual but not overly so. It compliments Spencer’s lighthearted narrative expertly and gives the book its upbeat tone. The balance between detail and simplicity is exceptional, it’s unlike a lot of what’s currently on the comic book market. Everything down to the panel layout is executed with brilliance and it’s evident that each detail has been thought about in a great deal of depth. Rosenberg’s colouring further heightens the quality of the books artwork.

The story is just beginning in this issue and it looks like it’s going to be fun, entertaining and most of all a must read. The inspiration for this book is evident throughout but it never takes away from its quality. Superior Foes isn’t perfect but it’s close to being at that high level. I expect more hilarity and nonsense from this book and I can’t wait to see how it develops.

8/10

Review: Hunger #1

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Writer: Joshua Hale Fialkov
Artist: Leonard Kirk
Colours: Jesus Aburtov

Hunger is billed as part of the ‘aftermath’ of Age of Ultron, however, when I read it, it never really felt related to the recent event. Rick Jones is a teenage boy who has been chosen by The Watchers to serve as the ‘Champion of Creation’, it’s not something he ever wanted to do. There is a Kree/Chitauri going on but something much more sinister is about to put that on hold.

One of the things I liked about this comic was the lightheartedness. It’s something that a lot of titles are going for at the moment and not all of them get it right. The lightheartedness is balanced with quite a grave story, again this is something Fialkov does very well. The narrative is vey direct, there is little in the way of unnecessary exposition and Fialkov avoids going off on tangents. While the high quality of the writing cannot be questioned, I’m not a huge fan of the story on a whole. I would have liked to see more characterisation of Rick Jones as I’m not all that familiar with him but that’s just me.

There is some really beautiful artwork in this issue, I particularly enjoyed the splash page later on in the book. The panels that depict outer space are, at times, phenomenal and, as someone who has a horrible fear of space, haunting. I really like the look of Rick Jones when he’s in space, kind of like a golden Silver Surfer. The artwork is highly detailed, I could honestly spend hours just studying each page and it’s little intricacies. The use of purples and pinks in the colouring is a clever little touch, it’s almost thematic since this is about Galactus, of course.

Despite the fantastic writing and excellent artwork this issue didn’t quite come together for me. I will, however, be picking up #2 as I can see potential shining through. This is a really solid book and definitely worth a read if you can get a hold of it. Also, what a damn good cover.

7/10

 

Review: Captain Marvel #14

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Writer: Kelly Sue DeConnick
Artist: Scott Hepburn with Gerardo Sandoval
Colours: Andy Troy

This is the conclusion to the mini-event The Enemy Within and what a conclusion it is. The event saw the return of Yon-Rogg now called The Magnitron. Embedding himself in Captain Marvel’s brain he grew ever more powerful and dangerous. He awakened an army of Kree sentries to wreak havoc on the world. In this issue Yon-Rogg’s motive is revealed: he plans on destroying New York and having New Kree-Lar take its place.

This issue was an emotional one. I have grown attached to Carol Danvers after recently picking up this series and this is all due to DeConnick’s masterful characterisation. Carol is such a relatable and ultimately likeable character, to see her suffer in this issue hurts. Carol’s internal struggle is the one that touched me the most. She knows she is the cause of the problem and she knows that only she can end it, DeConnick communicates this so well through her narrative. The juxtaposition of the physical and internal struggle is just exquisite and DeConnick’s talent and intelligence really shines through in this issue as it has for the whole event.

I really love the cover of this issue (by Joe Quinones), as I have all of his covers on this title. The interior artwork is also something to be marvelled at. Hepburn depicts the characters’ emotions with such truth and intensity. He has taken the words of Kelly Sue and has created beautiful visuals that are just a delight to behold. Credit has to be given to Troy for his excellent work colouring the pages. Rather than using flat colours for backgrounds, he uses subtle gradients and patterns. The colours really bring the artwork to life and, at the risk of sounding cliche, they make it pop.

Captain Marvel is an absolute must-read for all comic book fans and this event has highlighted that for me.

P.S. I feel like now is a great time to brag about the fact that Christopher Sebela sent me Carol Corps dog tags which Kelly Sue gave him to hand out at SDCC. Chuffed isn’t the word.