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

 

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Skottie Young Signing

So, today was a pretty great day. I met Skottie Young at a signing at my LCS, Travelling Man. We got there fairly early because I was looking for something to buy (in the end I didn’t get anything because I was feeling indecisive). The signing itself was awesome, Skottie did sketches, free of charge, for anyone who asked. One of the main things I took away from meeting Skottie is that he’s such a nice, genuine guy who is also amazingly talented. Here are the covers I got signed. Thanos Rising #1, FF #1, Infinity #1 and Thunderbolts #1.

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I also had a few prints that I wanted to get signed. I had Guardians of the Galaxy, Avengers, Infinity and I managed to grab a Superior Foes of Spider-Man one. Here they are.

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While I was extremely chuffed to have all of my stuff signed the icing on the cake was the sketch Skottie did for me. After hearing that he did some sketches at the Newcastle signing I had been racking my brain trying to think of what I wanted to get. I was stuck between Batman, Adventure Time and Captain Marvel. In the end I decided on Captain Marvel and I’m so glad I did, check out this sketch.

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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.

Q&A With David Brown

David Brown is a comic book writer whose upcoming collaborative project The Wisdom of Fools: A Graphic Novel Horror Anthology is currently being Kickstarted, you can check it out here. David wrote the short comic The Magician, which I reviewed recently. The Magician will feature in The Wisdom of Fools alongside 9 other stories and can be read on the Kickstarter page.

How long have you been making comics?

I’ve been making comics since I was about eight years old or so. Granted, they weren’t very good but I was making them! I continued making them through high school and it’s just something that has never left me. No matter what’s going on in my life, I’m either thinking about story ideas or actually writing…I’m addicted!

What do you enjoy most about making comics?

I’d say what I enjoy most about making comics is bringing things to life that otherwise would have never existed. The comics medium is so unique in that you can literally do anything without fear constraints. If you can dream it, you can put it in a comic book. I love the endless possibilities.

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What is the hardest part of making comics?

The hardest part of making comics for me is knowing when a script is finished. I’m constantly going over scripts and re-writing, editing, moving stuff around, playing with dialogue, etc. At some point you have to just put it down and convince yourself that it is complete. Then you hand it to an artist and they move stuff around anyway so really it’s futile. So yes, I’d saying being satisfied with a script is the hardest part for me.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

My inspiration is sporadic. Sometimes I’m void of inspiration for weeks and then i’ll see something out in the world that will inspire me in the strangest ways. I’ll give you an example. I was in the grocery store shopping for cereal (because that’s the most important food) and this little old frail man comes roaring down the aisle, hunched over his cart. He’s grabbing items from the shelves with surgical precision without slowing down. And the best part, he’s muttering to himself the whole time. I went straight home and wrote ‘The Magician’! Just taking that situation and running it through my brain’s filter provided one of my favorite stories.

Is there anyone that you admire in the comic book industry?

Yes, there are several people in the business that I admire the hell out of. Alan Moore for his Swamp Thing work, Greg Capullo for his attitude and Batman of course, Terry Moore for his flawless story telling, Matt Kindt for his willingness to step well outside mainstream style to deliver the stories he wants to tell and George Perez because he’s George Perez! There are lots more creators I look up to but those guys I mentioned are tops on my list.

What is your favourite story in ‘The Wisdom of Fools’?

I get asked this a lot and the answer changes regularly. Right now it’s a tie between ‘The Magician’ and ‘Sweat’. ‘The Magician’ is special to me because it’s the first tale I wrote under the 5d Comics banner. ‘Sweat’ is a really cool tale that actually occurred to me in a nightmare. I was having a very lucid, horrible dream and I kept telling myself to write about this when I wake up. Basically I kept waking up from one nightmare into another nightmare and the idea of being caught inside a world made of nightmares stuck with me for weeks afterwards!

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How long did it take to put this project together?

Well, the seed of the idea has been with me for years but specifically, it’s been a solid couple years in the making. The art and production part of it has been happening for the last year or so. It’s really satisfying to see something you’ve worked on for so long finally come to fruition! I feel like I’ve watched my child grow into a man!

Why did you choose to Kickstart this project?

A couple reasons for Kickstarter. Firstly, we simply could not afford to publish the book on our own. Off set printing is very expensive and crowd funding was really the only option. Secondly, there seems to be a lot of comics fans hungry for independent work right now, mostly due to the big two becoming a little stale. Kickstarter is the place most people think off to find some quality indie projects so that’s where we wanted to be!

What can readers expect from ‘The Wisdom of Fools’? 

Readers can expect ten quality stories, incredible art, and a book that is completely packed from cover to cover with professional level content. We poured our hearts and souls into this book and I know you guys will love it! Thank you so much!

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.

Preview: Chronos Commandos: Dawn Patrol

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Issue Number #3 (of 5)
Full Color
Publisher: Titan Comics
Cover Price: $3.99
Release date: September 11 2013
Writer/Artist: Stuart Jennett

Synopsis: Trapped in the past, surrounded by starving velociraptors, and liberally daubed in blood, the Sarge and his squad are in their tightest spot yet!

But there’s no time to linger on their slim chance of escape – they’re sharing the Cretaceous with the Nazi time crew who’ve stolen an Allied Chronosphere – a piece of tech that could tilt the Time War in the Nazis’ favor! It’s up to the Sarge to take it back – or die trying!

Pulse-pounding painted pulpcore action, just like Mama always made!

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Q&A With Stephen McGee

It’s been a while since I posted a Q&A so I feel like it’s about time I got back to it. Here’s a Q&A with Stephen McGee, creator of the webcomic Rain Dogs. Stephen can be found on Twitter @raindogcomic.

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How long have you been making comics?

I’ve been making my webcomic, Rain Dogs since 2010, however, I didn’t launch it until 2012 due to the amount of prep work I wanted to do beforehand. I had always casually drawn since I was 10 but I never really had the courage to do anything with it. I would try to emulate Todd MacFarlanes work A LOT, but it would take close to a month for me to finish just one of his covers. Over time, I realized that the only thing holding me back from turning this into anything was self-doubt…that horrible, utterly merciless beast that artists battle with on a daily basis.

What made you want to make comics?

The catalyst to starting a webcomic came when someone introduced me to the Perry Bible Fellowship. I had never seen anything like it. I wasn’t even sure what a webcomic was at that point. I was immediately hooked, and soon afterwards, I had roughly 30-40 bookmarked sites that I followed religiously including Space Avalanche, Loading Artist, Fatawesome, Channelate, and many others. Then during a lunch break one day I started sketching in a 3-year old notebook with 4 drawings in it, that I never had the time for. I filled it in 3 months.

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What do you enjoy most about making comics?

My favorite part of making comics is that fleeting moment when you realize you’ve just done something new that works. It’s brief, but when it’s there, it’s enough to convince you that maybe you can actually make this happen.

What is the hardest part of making comics?

Writing. Webcomics are often updated anywhere from daily to weekly, so the constant demand of material can stretch one thin creatively. With Rain Dogs updating 3 times a week, I am constantly on a mission to outdo myself or make an idea funnier or more clever. I probably aimed high coming into the scene with no experience and such a rigorous update schedule, but it’s forced me to go beyond my comfort zone as an artist.

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Where do you get your inspiration from?

Most inspiration comes from visiting record stores or going to shows when possible. A lot of the time I bounce ideas off of my wife to gauge her reaction. Other artists are a large part of that too. Twitter has been a huge source of inspiration and camaraderie for me. The webcomic community there is so understanding and supportive. I’ve met so many wonderful people through there that have become true friends whom I respect for their talent and determination.

What was your first comic book?

I’m not sure if this was the first or not, but one of the most memorable was “The Comet” by Impact Comics in the early 90s. My family was at the beach and my dad took me and my brother to pick up some reading material from the bait shop. My brother grabbed a copy of the “The Fly”. The shop was carrying a bunch of origin stories from the “The Crusaders” heroes of Impact Comics. We loved them so much that we made paper cutout toys of them and made our own adventures.

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Is there anyone that you admire in the comic book industry?

1) Christopher Grady of Lunarbaboon.com. He’s one of the first artists I reached out to in the webcomic community. At the time, we were expecting our first child, and I instantly became a huge fan of his strip about fatherhood. His artwork and writing style are so clever and relatable. He’s the next Bill Waterson.
2) Kenneth Rocafort. Kenneth Rocaforts style is absolutely fascinating. His linework is so beautiful, and he has such a mastery of color and style. I’ve been religiously following his Mitografia tumblr series in sheer amazement.
3) Dave McKean. Dave McKean’s work has shown me that the bounds of art can always be broken through and reinvented. His collaborative work on Signal-To-Noise was such an inspiration for my secret mission of wanting to learn more about anatomy and pastel work.

What’s your favourite comic book right now?

Most of what I read stays in the Graphic Novel realm, and I’m always reading 3 or 4 at the same time. My current favorite has been Power Nap, an online graphic novel by Maritza Campos (powernapcomic.com). I just finished Asterios Polyp by David Mazzuchelli, which I fully recommend. It’s so intelligent and well-written. Also, new Sandman this year, so that’s extremely exciting.