Comics

Although it might be the nation’s capital, Ottawa isn’t especially well-known for its big attractions. Compared to the neighboring cities of Montreal and Toronto, Ottawa’s does a fairly good job of living up to its reputation of being a sleepy government town. That being said, one thing I love about Ottawa is that when we do get a big event, everyone gets really excited about it. In Montreal, giant festivals are a dime a dozen, so for the most part, it always seems like the average person has no idea what’s going on in their city. This was the Ottawa Comiccon‘s second year running, which is pretty surprising when you consider that there were over 30 000 attendees. There are so few major festivals in Ottawa, that people who wouldn’t usually be interested in cons go because it’s one of the few major events available. For a con, the crowd is fairly casual, but that’s fine by me. Personally I just like to meet guests and buy merch, so I couldn’t care less about the “nerdiness level” of the average attendee.

Ottawa Comiccon 2013
Dates: May 10 – 12
Location: Ernst & Young Centre

One of the few cosplayer photos I took. My hands were way too full to take photos.

One of the few cosplayer photos I took. My hands were way too full to take photos.

Being that this is a sci-fi blog, I’m going to focus on the science fiction that was on offer. In terms of major guests, there were some pretty huge names from the world of sci-fi movies and television. Nathan Filion (Firefly), Wil Wheaton (Star Trek: NG), Gillian Anderson (X-Files), Michael Shanks (Stargate), James Marsters (Torchwood), Levar Burton (Star Trek: NG), Billy Dee Williams (Star Wars), Jewel Staite (Firefly), and David Prowse (Star Wars) all made appearances. Actually, now that I see all the names together, that was a pretty damn killer lineup!Unfortunately, unless your name is Sigourney Weaver, I’m probably not going to pay $6o for an autograph… My friends and I were able to see the actors from nearby, but none of us paid to get up close and personal. That being said, at one point Billy Dee Williams left his booth and walked past us towards a cluster of vendors. According to one of my friends, Billy was pretty interested in a Bruce Lee t-shirt that was on display!

Dave Ross and a really nice woman who I assumed was his wife/girlfriend.

Dave Ross and a really nice woman who I assumed was his wife/girlfriend.

If there’s one bit of advice I would give to anyone who’s relatively new to conventions, try to avoid buying heavy stuff early in the day. I should’ve known better, but I ended up spending the majority of my cash in the first 10 minutes… There’s a vendor I’ve seen at several east coast cons that specializes in art books, most of which are Japanese. I almost stepped on the owner’s kid the moment I entered the booth. He had made a little home underneath one of the tables, and I nearly crushed the little guy. Personally, I love seeing kids at conventions. Thanks to my comic-collecting uncle, I used to be one of those con kids, so it’s always nice to see a healthy injection of new fans. Anyways, I ended up purchasing Hardware: The Definitive SF Works of Chris Foss, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind: Watercolor Impressions, and an Arzach art book. Cumulatively the books must’ve weighed 60 pounds, which was way too much for my horribly out-of-shape body. To make matters worse, I didn’t bring a backpack or satchel, so I had to deal with plastic bags digging into my hands for several hours. Lesson number 2: if you plan to buy things, bring your own bag!

Billy Dee Williams Ottawa Comiccon 2013

The man in the trench coat with the cane is none other than Billy Dee Williams.

Continuing onwards, I got into a discussion with a guy who plans to start an Aliens USCM outfit in Ottawa, kind of like the Star Wars’ 501st Legion. I overheard him mentioning the new Neca series of Aliens figures, which is how the conversation started. He works at a local comic shop, so I’ve actually bumped into him once since then. If his endeavor ever happens, I’d love to be a part of it!

Dave Ross posing for a photo with me. Take note of the Xenomorphosis t-shirt!

Dave Ross posing for a photo with me. Take note of the Xenomorphosis t-shirt!

For once, I actually prepared a list of the guests that I wanted to meet. First on my list was Dave Ross, who penciled the Aliens: Xenogenesis comic, as well as many Star Wars comics. On the plus side, the lineup to meet artists are almost always nonexistent, on the downside, the number of people interested in meeting talented comic artists is mostly nonexistent… It’s a real shame, but there was essentially no one waiting to meet Dave Ross… He was a really nice guy and was happy to oblige me wanting to talk on and on about his work on Aliens. At one point, he mentioned that he had done a Darth Vader vs. Aliens commission for a fan, and told me that he’d love to work on a full version of this crossover. I’d hazard a guess that there’s a fairly large audience of people who’d love to see this happen. After talking to Dave for a while, I decided to ask him for an Aliens commission. His memory of the xenomorph’s details was pretty foggy (I don’t blame him), so I actually managed to find him a cheap set of Aliens figures to use as a reference. He ended up spending at least an hour and half on my piece, which I though was well worth the $60 price. Personally, I love how it turned it out! To me, it looks pretty similar to the cover of the Alien: The Illustrated Story from 1979. Obviously he had no idea what I was talking about.

 

Aliens Dave Ross Commision Illustration Art Xenomorph Xenogenesis Small

The xenomorph commission that Dave Ross did for me. I think it looks great!

Arthur Suydam Ottawa Comiccon 2013

Arthur Suydam in what was definitely the most attractive artist booth.

Next on my list was Arthur Suydam, the well-known cover artist responsible for the Aliens: Genocide covers. I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that his Aliens covers are easily some of the nicest renderings of the xen0morphs I’ve ever seen. I actually told Suydam that I thought his xenomorph depictions were second only to Giger’s. This was his exact response: “yes, I would agree with that”. I guess when you’re as talented as Suydam, there’s no point in being overly modest. It turns out he’s personal friends with Giger — there’s something ridiculously cool about being two degrees of separation from the legend. I asked Suydam if he could tell me anything about Giger that isn’t commonly known. The best response I got was: “well, he likes to get baked and make art.” No surprises there. I managed to get Suydam to autograph my copies of Aliens: Genocide, but not without having to purchase one of his (thankfully inexpensive) sketchbooks. Of everyone I met, he definitely seemed to revel the most in his fame, and although the lineup to meet him was basically 4 people, that was more than for any other artist.

Aliens Genocide 1 Arthur Suydam Signed

Aliens Genocide Issue 1, signed by Arthur Suydam.

Ben Templesmith showing me his sexy face.

Ben Templesmith showing me his sexy face.

The last artist on my list was Ben Templesmith, who some people might remember for the first Dead Space comic’s art. Templesmith was actually really fun to talk to, and definitely knows his sci-fi horror. In fact, he told me that he’d love to work on another sci-fi horror comic. He’s also got a great sense of humor, and wasn’t afraid to tell me what he thought of comic artists that charge for signatures *cough Suydam*. Apparently he got really well paid for his Dead Space work. As he explained to me, video game publishers like EA are able to flaunt a lot of money, and pay what he called “video game money”, which is much more than your average comic publisher. Pro tip from Ben Templesmith: if you want to make money in the world of comics, try to work on media tie-ins. Along with Dave Ross, he liked my Xenomorphosis t-shirt design, so he was an instant winner in my books! Also, free of charge, he drew the most adorable necromorph on my Dead Space trade!

Dead Space Comic Ben Templesmith Convention Sketch Autograph

The necromorph sketch that Ben Templesmith drew for me. I LOVE it.

Elephantmen TP 00 Starkings Moritat Cover

Expect to see some Elephantmen coverage sometime in the future.

Having met everyone on my list, and feeling pretty happy with myself, I nearly called it quits, that is until I saw Richard Starkings’ booth. Richard is respected for his innovative comic lettering, and recently made it big for writing the series Elephantment. I’ve never read the series, but I’ve always been really impressed by its incredible artwork, which often features some of the nicest coloring I’ve seen. Although I’m not usually interested in anthropomorphic animal characters, Elelphantment handles them tastefully, and has a really interesting sci-fi setting. Anyways, I ended up buying the first two trade paperbacks, which happen to have the nicest packaging and presentation I’ve ever seen in a trade. There are no less than 30-something pages of concept art at the back, and the pages are thick and glossy. It was money well spent, and Richard did some quick sketch signatures for me. Later that day, I read the forward in the first trade, which was written by none other than Dan Abnett. I personally consider Dan to be the best living military sci-fi writer. Apparently Dan used to work for Richard in the 80’s, which I wish I’d known when I was talking to Richard.

Overall, I had a great time at Ottawa Comiccon. Diehards might consider it a small appetizer to larger cons like Fan Expo, but I still had just as much fun as at any larger con. It’s really impressive to see what a huge show they put on, especially considering it’s only their second year in existence. No less than five years ago, I went to a comic convention in Ottawa that had maybe 1000 attendees, nearly all of which were purist comic collectors. To see such a massive con five years later, in Ottawa of all places, was pretty surreal. Even compared to last year, the quality has jumped noticeably. Anyways, I can’t wait to see the guest lineup for next year, and I might even apply for a press badge!

Britain’s classic comic anthology 2000AD has treated comic fans to a consistent flow of science fiction-themed series since its inception in 1977. Thanks to the popularity of Judge Dredd, 2000AD is relatively known here in North America, but unfortunately it doesn’t seem to get the attention it deserves. Sure, everyone’s heard of the classic comic icons who got their start thanks to 2000AD, like Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, and Grant Morrison, but they’re remembered more for their contributions to American comics than for their original works. Unfortunately, I fall into the camp of people who are aware of the magazine’s existence, but have little to no experience with it other than through Judge Dredd. Luckily, the rise in popularity of trade paperbacks has made many of these series available to us ignorant Canadians and Americans. Being the fan of military sci-fi that I am, I immediately bought the first compilation of 2000AD‘s Rogue Trooper series when I saw it on store shelves. Admittedly, my first introduction to Rogue Trooper was when the 2006 spinoff video game was released. I distinctly remember my reaction being: “what’s with this blue guy – he looks pretty lame”. Now that I’m older and wiser, I still think Rogue looks pretty lame, but luckily his character design doesn’t reflect the quality of the comic. I’ll be approaching this review from the perspective of a Rogue Trooper newbie, so you’ll probably get more value from this post if you’re also new to the series.

Rogue Trooper Tales of Nu-Earth 01 -- Cover

You might recognize this layout from the Judge Dredd Case Files trades.

Rogue Trooper Tales of Nu-Earth 01
Publisher: Rebellion
Volume: 1
Originally Serialized: 2000AD Issues 228-317 (1981-1983)
Main Writer: Gerry Finley-Day
Guest Writer: Alan Moore
Illustrators: Dave Gibbons, Colin Wilson, Cam Kennedy, Brett Ewins, Eric Bradbury, Mike Dorey
Release Date: May 2012

Rogue Trooper Tales of Nu-Earth 01 -- Colin Wilson 3

Rogue Trooper Tales of Nu-Earth 01 — Colin Wilson

Rogue Trooper: Tales of Nu-Earth 01 collects the first 89 issues of Rogue Trooper, as originally released in volumes 228-317 of 2000AD. Each issue is about 5 pages long, meaning the compilation has roughly 400 pages of content. 400 pages is pretty massive for a comic, so at the retail price, this compilation packs quite a bit of value. The quality and presentation are very similar to Marvel’s Essential or DC’s Showcase Presents trade paperbacks. The edition that I own is the May 2012 North American release, but there was also a UK release of the same trade back in 2010. 2000AD used to release their trade paperback in North America courtesy of DC, however, the recent North American 2000AD trades have been published by Rebellion, who are also known for developing the AVP FPS games (weird huh?). I find the quality significantly better than the DC editions. The covers are better, the paper quality is better, and there’s less of a guessing game as to what each compilation contains. As far as packaging and presentation are concerned, Rogue Trooper: Tales of Nu-Earth 01 is excellent, and a step above similar types of compilations (Essential and Showcase Presents).

Rogue Trooper Tales of Nu-Earth 01 -- Dave Gibbons

Rogue Trooper Tales of Nu-Earth 01 — Dave Gibbons

Rogue Trooper was originally serialized starting in 1981, and tells the story of a genetically altered super soldier called Rogue Trooper who is entangled in a perpetual war on the far future planet of Nu-Earth. Nu-Earth is so devastated by war that toxic chemicals clouds permeate its atmosphere. Thus, the average human must always don respiration masks, except when in sealed domes. Rogue Trooper’s enhanced abilities make him impervious to the lethal air, as well as to other means of chemical warfare. Two factions fight for supremacy of Nu-Earth: the Southers, and the Norts. Technically, Rogue Trooper fights for the Southers, but as a result of an ambush that killed all his fellow super soldiers (called genetic infantrymen), he has gone rogue in an effort to track down and kill the traitor who was responsible for leaking information that lead to the ambush. Thus, the entire story arc in Rogue Trooper: Tales of Nu-Earth 01 follows Rogue’s exploits as he tracks down the traitor, and finds himself continuously aiding Souther troops along the way. Rogue’s only companions are the “personalities” of three of his dead squadmates. When a genetic infantryman dies, his consciousness may be placed in a “biochip”, which can then be installed into an infrantyman’s gear. The Southers have technology that can take the consciousness from these biochips, and implant them back into a physical body. Thus, Rogue’s three squadmate’s are technically still alive, however, the only abilities they have are that they can speak, and they can manipulate the article of equipment that they inhabit. These three squadmates are Helm, who inhabits Rogue’s helmet, Gunnar, who inhabits his rifle, and Bagman, who inhabits his backpack. Although Rogue could potentially have his companions resuscitated at any time, he’s dead set on tracking down the traitor first, which seems pretty selfish if you ask me. Rogue Trooper is a comic, and thus you have to suspend your disbelief when it comes to some of the more nonsensical plot points. Why doesn’t Rogue Trooper make it a point to resuscitate his comrades? Put simply, it’s because the main premise of the comic is that you have a soldier with talking gear.

Rogue Trooper Tales of Nu-Earth 01 -- Colin Wilson 2

Rogue Trooper Tales of Nu-Earth 01 — Colin Wilson

Rogue Trooper is the brainchild of writer Gerry Finley-Day, who is an excellent “ideas man”. Other than the awesome artwork, Rogue Trooper‘s biggest strength is that each issue contains some of the most original concepts you’ve ever seen in military sci-fi. For the first 30 or so issues, each story is relatively self-contained, and features the introduction of a new type of threat that Rogue must thwart. Among the concepts are gigantic blackmare tanks, flying decapitators, kashar drill probes, nort cavalry raiders, hard arrow rain, sealbursters, snow troopers, hallucinogen-spraying dream weaver commandos (my personal favorites), militant computers, bio-engineered ape warriors, the paragliding sun legions, and many more. Don’t worry if you don’t know what any of that means, what matters is that each enemy sounds cool. The creativity is really fun, and manages to feel somewhat gritty, but in a lighthearted way. To be honest, the tone reminds me quite a bit of the original G.I. Joe comics, albeit with much more death. For whatever reason, I was expecting the same level of graphic content from 2000AD as you would expect from Heavy Metal, but I was mistaken, because Rogue Trooper skews quite a bit younger. The violence is a step above your average American comic from the early 80’s, but there’s almost no blood, and there’s definitely no nudity. I would imagine the target audience was teenagers.

Rogue Trooper Tales of Nu-Earth 01 -- Colin Wilson 4

Rogue Trooper Tales of Nu-Earth 01 — Colin Wilson

Although Gerry Finley-Day’s ideas are great, the narration is about as old-school as they come. Every single action has to be explained either through dialogue or monologue, and to be honest this style was a big deterrent for me. Expect a lot of: “to thwart this bad guy I’ll need to reach into my tool belt and fetch my mines”. The degree to which you enjoy Rogue Trooper will really depend on how well you can stomach this style of writing. Personally, I can (sort of) handle it because I’ve read many comics from the 60’s and 70’s, but if you’re fairly new to comics, you’ll likely find the writing pretty impenetrable. Furthermore, the self-contained stories make it really difficult to get invested in the overall plot. We know the traitor is the main bad guy, but it’s hard to feel all that much animosity towards him, because we don’t know who he is or if he even exists. If anything, Rogue seems like the real monster for not reviving his squadmates! Not that you’ll care for them too much, because every character is extremely one-dimensional. Gunnar is reckless and violent, but Bagman and Helm have virtually no personality, and are completely interchangeable. As the series progresses, the story arcs start to become longer and more interesting, but don’t expect to feel involved until at least two-thirds of the way into the book. To re-iterate, the concepts in Rogue Trooper are really fun, but the storyline is very straightforward, even compared to other comics of the early 80’s.

Rogue Trooper Tales of Nu-Earth 01 -- Dave Gibbons 7

Rogue Trooper Tales of Nu-Earth 01 — Dave Gibbons

Fortunately, the artwork is fantastic. The first few issues were illustrated by Dave Gibbons, who you might remember for a little-known comic called Watchmen. I’ve always loved his line art. Everything looks so tight and crisp. The proportions, perspective, shading, and actions are all excellent. In addition to his technical prowess, I really dig his character designs. Expect plenty of gas masks and interesting military outfits. That being said, I really don’t like Rogue’s design. The shirtless look is unoriginal, his helmet looks way too big and dorky, and he has a lame mohawk, which I guess was slightly more novel in 1981. This might be the only comic where every character looks better than the protagonist. In addition to Dave Gibbons, artists Colin Wilson and Cam Kennedy are also featured prominently. Somehow, they manage to match, and maybe even exceed Gibbon’s illustrations. Their style is so similar to his that it’s almost difficult to tell them all apart. I still can’t believe how much talent they managed to cram into these issues, and I’d rather not have to choose a favorite artist out of the three. Lets just say that if you’re visually oriented, and you like military sci-fi, Rogue Trooper is a treat for the eyes. Featured to a lesser extent are Brett Ewins, Eric Bradbury and Mike Dorey, all of whose art is also good, but less memorable due to their more limited contributions.

Overall, Rogue Trooper: Tales of Nu-Earth 01 is a series that you will either really love, or find really boring. The degree to which you enjoy it will depend on how much you like the pacing of silver age comics, and how much you love lighthearted military sci-fi. By today’s standards, this is a fairly shallow comic, but the art is amazing, and the creativity is overflowing. If you were a fan of the series back when it was originally serialized, this a great edition, and a no-brainer if you’re looking for a nostalgia trip. The storyline was starting to get much more interesting by the end of the series, so I’ll personally be keeping a look-out for Tales of Nu-Earth 02 when it eventually hits store shelves. Despite my criticisms, this is probably the best bang for your buck if you’re looking for a military sci-fi comic.

Clicking this link will bring you to this product’s Amazon page. Should you choose to purchase it, I will get a small commission, which will then be reinvested into the site. Although I’m including this link, my review’s and opinions will never be influenced by the opportunity to make a commission. This site is a labor of love, but costs money to maintain, so think of any commissions as a donation to the site.

Clicking any of the following thumbnails will open a gallery of images from Rogue Trooper: Tales of Nu-Earth 01

 

 

 

Ever wondered what would happen if Blade Runner went on a drug-fueled nightmare rampage? Look no further than Frank Miller’s miniseries Hard Boiled, an early 90’s twist on Philip K. Dick’s classic novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sleep. If there’s one term I wouldn’t associate with 90’s comics, its subtlety. For the most part, everything was big, in your face, and edgy; Hard Boiled is certainly no exception. That being said, HB is clever with its edginess. If anything, it reads like a satire of violence and sexual imagery in modern pop-culture. Either that, or Frank Miller just really gets off on good old ultraviolence. Complimenting Frank Miller’s writing is the amazing artwork of Geof Darrow. Darrow’s artwork is easily some of the most detailed line-work I’ve ever seen; it’s pretty incredible. Combined with colorist Claude Legerist, the art looks like a fusion of Moebius, with the most detailed manga technology concepts you’ve ever seen (think Battle Angel Alita).

Hard Boiled -- Cover

Hard Boiled — Cover

Hard Boiled
Writer: Frank Miller
Artist: Geof Darrow
Colorist: Claude Legris
Letterer: John Workman
Editor: Randy Stradley
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Country: USA
Featured Edition: Dark Horse TPB 1993
Original Release Dates: September 1990 – March 1992 (3 issues)

Hard Boiled -- Frank Miller Geof Darrow 11

There’s an unwritten rule in Hard Boiled that every panel must include at least one item of real-world (or semi-real-world) merchandise.

Set in a near-future, albeit clearly dystopic, Los Angeles, Hard Boiled tells the story of an “insurance investigator” called Carl Seltz who seeks out various target individuals. Within the first few pages of the comic, we realize that Carl Seltz must be a cyborg, or perhaps an android, and that he actually works for a major corporation. Carl Seltz lives in an ideal suburban home with a wife, two kids, and a dog. To add to the general vibe that there’s something “off” about Seltz, we see him sleeping with his wife while his kids stand nearby, and then the kids proceed to dope him with some random narcotics… Typical suburban stuff, right?

Hard Boiled -- Frank Miller Geof Darrow 4

I could go for a mermaid massage about now.

As I mentioned in the intro, HB makes no pretenses at subtlety. The future vision of Los Angeles is clearly cyberpunk-inspired, and therefore rampant commercialism and evil corporations ooze out of every frame. Every panel is literally packed to the brim with variations of real-world products and brands, albeit with a satirical twist. For example, in one scene, a medical apparatus appears to be powered by baby fetus’, M&Ms, Snickers, and Baby Ruths. Perhaps I’ve been jaded by the dozens of cyberpunk movies, books, comics, and games that have been released since 1990, but the overabundance of brand parodies in Hard Boiled was almost too gratuitous for my tastes. We get it, the future will be overwrought with rampant, hopeless advertising and disposable pop culture, but do you really need to include a Coca-Cola can in every second panel? Then again, Hard Boiled seems to intentionally revel in exaggeration and tackiness.

Hard Boiled -- Frank Miller Geof Darrow 9

If you look really closely, Waldo is snuggled halfway between a prostitute and drug addict.

Carl Seltz/Nixon might not be a superhero, but he sure takes a beating like one! Hard Boiled is about 10% dialogue, and 90% action. Of the action scenes, nearly all of them feature Nixon either being thrown through a building, bus, or subway, or throwing another character through one of the aforementioned inanimate objects. I thoroughly enjoyed the action in HB, but we warned, it’s pretty damn violent. I’m fairly desensitized to fictional violence (but not to real-world violence, those are two very different things), and even I found the comic hard to stomach at times. Hard Boiled manages to fit more dismemberment and gore into its panels than almost any other comic. Frank Miller and Geof Darrow clearly set out to raise the bar for comic violence as high as they possibly could.

Hard Boiled -- Frank Miller Geof Darrow 13

In the time it must’ve taken to draw this splash page, other artists probably could’ve illustrated an entire issue of a comic.

Hard Boiled -- Frank Miller Geof Darrow 7

It wouldn’t be cyberpunk without plenty of riot police.

As if the violence wasn’t enough, nearly every second panel is chalk full of random sex and nudity. Within the first few pages, Nixon is smashed through a building in the “Pleasure Sector” of town. Nearby is a cage full of debauchery; as spectators watch, couples have sex, all while dominatrix-like women walk around with chainsaws and dismember the couples. What I love about HB is that every splash page is so full of detail that numerous stories are implied through events in the background of each scene. I’ve seen Geof Darrow’s artwork aptly described as being like a Where’s Waldo book; the only difference is that most of HB’s denizens are either naked or taking drugs. Although Hard Boiled is short, you can easily spend ten minutes per page absorbed in details.

Hard Boiled -- Frank Miller Geof Darrow 1

This is a good look for Harrison Ford.

My favorite comics are able to tell a story visually without having to rely heavily on monologues or dialogue. Hard Boiled does an excellent job in this regard. There’s actually very little text, but the narrative is able to flow nicely thanks to clever angles and visual cues. Frank Miller is an excellent visual storyteller, and he only includes as much text as is absolutely needed. This was nice and refreshing, especially after the last comic I read, which felt the need to explain every little detail.

Hard Boiled -- Frank Miller Geof Darrow 14

Nixon’s probably in need of an oil change about now.

Overall, I would highly recommend Hard Boiled to anyone who’s interested in cyberpunk (duh), or anyone who appreciates experimental storytelling in comics.The average sci-fi fan will definitely appreciate the artwork, but the extremely graphic content might turn-off even fairly hardcore genre fans. HB is unforgiving with its gratuitous display of sex, drugs, and violence, but these acts are never glamorized. Instead, the story serves almost as a cautionary tale against overindulgence in these vices. There’s nothing particularly sexy about an enormously fat man being massaged by naked android mermaids (yes, that actually happens). I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Hard Boiled’s political message is especially clever; every cyberpunk tale cautions against the overabundance of various vices. Also, it could be argued that Hard Boiled revels a little too deeply in the content that it parodies. Regardless, the readers of this blog can probably handle HB’s hardcore content, so I recommend reading it if you haven’t done so already.

Clicking this link will bring you to this product’s Amazon page. Should you choose to purchase it, I will get a small commission, which will then be reinvested into the site. Although I’m including this link, my review’s and opinions will never be influenced by the opportunity to make a commission. This site is a labor of love, but costs money to maintain, so think of any commissions as a donation to the site.

Clicking any of the following thumbnails will open a gallery of images from Hard Boiled

Comics seem like an ideal medium for science fiction. From an artistic perspective, the possibilities are near infinite, and unlike in other visual mediums (i.e. movies, television, and video games) you’re free to be as imaginative as possible, without having to worry about budget restraints. Narratively, you might not have the same freedom as in a novel, but you should be able to at least parallel the storytelling of any visual medium. Furthermore, the serialized nature of comics lends itself well to an ongoing saga. With all that in mind, you would think that 70-something years of comics would have given us all kinds of classic sci-fi. In places like Europe and Japan, this is the case, but in North America, there’s still a lot to be desired. Sure, the States has given us a million different superhero comics, each of which exhibit elements 0f science fiction, but none of them are what I would consider true sci-fi (or at least not the sci-fi I’m looking for). I doubt my readers will be shocked or offended to hear that I really couldn’t care less for most superheros; sorry folks. The only sci-fi sub-genre that has gotten a decent degree of attention in the States is cyberpunk; perhaps because it’s so visually appealing, and it’s often fairly near future. Otherwise, you’re mostly relegated to media tie-ins with movies or video games; Halo, Gears of War, Star Wars, Ender’s Game, and Aliens come to mind. Luckily, the recent reboot of Prophet is a huge step in the step in the right direction. This review focuses on the first six issues of the reboot, which can be found in the Prophet: Remission trade paperback.

Prophet Remission -- Cover Art Simon Roy

Prophet: Remission TPB Cover — Art Simon Roy

Prophet: Remission TPB
Publisher: Image Comics
Volume: 1
Issues: #21 – 26
Main Writer: Brandon Graham
Illustrators: Simon Roy (Issues 21-23), Farel Dalrymple (Issue 24), Brandon Graham (Issue 25), Giannis Milogiannis (Issue 26)
Colors: Richard Ballerman (issue 21-23), Joseph Bergin (Issues 24, 26), Brandon Graham (Issue 25)
Release Date: 2012

Prophet was originally an Image superhero comic that debuted in 1992. After eleven issues, it was put on hold, and then later continued for another eight issues in 1995. In 2011, Image announced that it had plans to reboot the Prophet series. For whatever reason, they decided to continue the series at issue #21, rather than just starting back at #1. The content of the reboot has (from what I understand) nothing to do with the original series, so I can’t imagine why they bothered to continue with the old numbering. Suffice to say, I’m sure it was due to some strange politics or marketing within Image.

Prophet Issue 24 -- Cover Farel Dalrymple

Prophet Issue 24 Cover — Farel Dalrymple

The revamp comes to us courteousy of writer and artist, Brandon Graham. Previous to Graham‘s work with Prophet, he wrote and illustrated several indie comics that I haven’t read, but have heard are quite good. I spent some time reading Graham’s personal blog; it’s obvious that he’s a big sci-fi fan, and his inspirations range from Miyamoto‘s work on Nausicaa, to Moebius‘ contributions to Métal Hurlant in the 70’s. Anyone with those inspirations is a winner in my book.

Prophet tells the tale of a man named John Prophet who awakens in the distant future, on a planet that seems very alien. His mission is to reignite the empire of man, which has been dormant for (assumedly) many years. To accomplish this task, John must travel to a distant mountain, around which orbits a satellite that he can use to relay a crucial message. After a few issues, the story arc takes a slight turn, and we realize that the world of Prophet is actually incredibly expansive. Apparently Graham has gone on record for saying that one of his goals with the comic is to “one-up” Conan at its own game. Like in any Conan story, Prophet is constantly referencing individuals, places, and events that the reader is likely unaware of. This creates the allusion of a rich universe and backstory, but is also fairly confusing, considering that we have no idea what anyone’s talking about. Another comic that comes to mind is The Metabarons series by Alejandro Jodorowsky.

Prophet Issue 24 -- Farel Dalrymple

Prophet Issue 24 — Farel Dalrymple

Prophet Issue 21 -- Simon Roy

Prophet Issue 21 — Simon Roy

Prophet is refreshingly creative, and constantly challenges the norms that we’ve come to expect from sci-fi. Within the first couple issues, John explores a meat farm, a city that’s fashioned out of a giant decomposing organism, and a living creature whose inhabitants travel around in like a train. The later issues feature even more imaginative locales, and within the first six issues contained in Remission, we explore several planets. Graham, who was the chief writer, does a great job of blending grim sequences with effective comedy relief. Issue 24 (chapter 4 of the tpb) is extremely dark, and features a twisted doppelganger version of the protagonist stalking him through endless corridors. On the flip side, issue 25 is really light in tone, and features a fun planet-hopping robot.

At the risk of sounding overly positive, I need to point out that Prophet can be reasonably difficult to follow. As mentioned earlier, random events and people are frequently mentioned, sometimes at the expense of the main storyline’s clarity. Furthermore, nearly every issue features different protagonists, each of which have goals or motives that aren’t clearly explained. The protagonists are always in search of something, but what that is, or why, is often unclear. That being said, Remission only contains the first six issues; I have no doubt that things will start to make more sense in the later issues.

Prophet Issue 22 -- Simon Roy

Prophet Issue 22 — Simon Roy

Prophet Issue 23 -- Cover Simon Roy

Prophet Issue 23 Cover — Simon Roy

This wouldn’t be a Xenomorphosis post without a heavy analysis of Prophet‘s visuals. It should be no surprise that the artwork was the first thing that drew me to the comic. Within the first six issues, we’re introduced to no fewer than four illustrators, each of which were obviously inspired by french comics like those of the aformentioned Moebius. Like with Moebius, the art is heavily focused around detailed line drawings, and the shading is accomplished more through hatching than through solid black ink shading. The colors are vibrant, and each locale has a predominant color palette. Also like in Moebius’ comics, the coloring looks like a loose watercolor, although in this case it is clearly done digitally. I personally love this style, and I think it serves as a great tribute to the works that inspired Prophet.

Interestingly, the branching storylines are each illustrated by a different artist. Graham explained in an interview that this was intentional, and is meant to reflect the differences lens through which each character perceives the world around them. The only downside to this approach is that it makes the storyline even harder to follow.

Prophet Issue 25 -- Brandon Graham

Prophet Issue 25 — Brandon Graham

So, who are these artists? Simon Roy (Atomic Heart) for issue 21-23, Farel Dalrymple (Pop Gun War) for issue 24, Brandon Graham for issue 25, and Giannis Milonogiannis (Old City Blues) for Issue 26. Presumabely under Graham‘s direction, each artist does an excellent job of bringing Prophet’s imaginative world to life. Of the three, Graham’s style is by far the most surreal and “frantic” (in a good way). He’s clearly more influenced by Japanese pop-art aesthetics than the other two, which makes sense considering that he has illustrated comics for publishers that usually deal exclusively in Japanese content. Although his artwork is fairly different than the other two, it’s just as impressive, and serves to add to the overall quirkiness of the comic. Milonogiannis‘ art is also Japanese-inspired, just not with the same pop-art aesthetic.

For anyone like me who’s been waiting for a North American sci-fi comic that isn’t based on an existing intellectual property, I can’t recommend Prophet highly enough. However, be aware that you’re in for a crazy, surreal ride, albeit a ride that is grounded in a strong concept. Sci-fi fans who stick closely to traditional content might find Prophet’s dismissal of genre conventions off-putting. On the flip-side, even non sci-fi fans will appreciate the modern quality of the artwork and stroytelling. Graham’s art in particular would be right at home in magazine’s like Juxtapoz. I’ll definitely be keeping a close eye on this comic in the future. Hopefully Prophet inspires many more North American sci-fi comics!

Clicking this link will bring you to this product’s Amazon page. Should you choose to purchase it, I will get a small commission, which will then be reinvested into the site. Although I’m including this link, my review’s and opinions will never be influenced by the opportunity to make a commission. This site is a labor of love, but costs money to maintain, so think of any commissions as a donation to the site.

Clicking any of the following thumbnails will open a gallery of Prophet: Remission-related images

I must say, I’m starting to really get into Dead Space‘s story. Although the movies suffered from a poor artistic vision, their narratives met the quality I expect from the DS games. There’s a real consistency to the stories told in the Dead Space tie-ins. Although they may place too much emphasis on the Aegis VII/Ishimura arc, you can’t deny that they explore the situation from every possible scenario. And although they’re fixated on a particular sequence of events, we learn a new nuance about the major players involved with each successive installment in the cannon. Dead Space: Salvage is technically a prequel to DS2, but I would almost say it’s more fitting to call it a final chapter in the Ishimura saga. Ever wonder how the Ishimura was retrieved by EarthGov and brought to the Sprawl? Probably not, but Salvage will fill you in on the details, and you’re going to like it, goddamnit.

Dead Space Salvage Cover

Why can’t video game covers look this good?

Dead Space: Salvage
Writer: Antony Johnston
Artist: Christoper Shy
Editors: EA Comics (Robert Simpson), Studio Ronin (Emmalee Pearson, Tony Hughes, Kevin Stein, Leah Novak)
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Country: USA
Release Date: November, 2010

Dead Space Salvage 6

The art is sometimes confusing, but always a feast for the eyes.

Released in 2010, Dead Space: Salvage is the first DS tie-in I’ve reviewed that wasn’t released alongside one of the games. The man responsible for Salvage‘s art is Christopher Shy. I hadn’t heard of Mr. Shy, but thankfully a quick Wikipedia search shed light on my ignorance. Christopher Shy is better known for his design company, Studio Ronin. Studio Ronin provides concept designs for a range of products, including movies and advertisements. The obvious reason I hadn’t heard of him was because I’m certainly no expert on comic artists, but more importantly, Salvage is one of the Shy’s first comics. There’s no denying that the artwork is gorgeous.The style is so unique that I find it hard to define. Everything looks like a sort of messy collage of textures from actual photographs. This mixture of textures in each panel has been manipulated and altered to death, and each image looks as if it’s been run through a factory of digital effects. Many of the characters have a translucent quality, meaning you can see the lighting and features from their background. If this all sounds really vague, it’s because I’m trying to describe a unique one-of-a-kind style that I haven’t seen elsewhere. The scans in this post should speak for themselves.

Dead Space Salvage 5

Kneeling in front of the marker, ’cause that’s what unitologists.

The obvious risk with abstract, experimental art in comics is that it can distract from the storyline. It’s one thing to have fancy pictures, but if the reader can’t tell what’s happening from panel to panel, the end result is an incomprehensible narrative. Salvage definitely straddles the edge of the cliff of incomprehensibility. Luckily, I would argue that it manages to avoid the plummet. That being said, it gets off to a rough start. The biggest problem with the art style is that several of the male characters look nearly identical to each other. To make matters worse, there are quite a few characters, and none of them are well introduced. In my case, it was only about halfway through the comic that I was able to distinguish between the various players. Although there’s little emphasis placed on developing each character’s personality, you’ll quickly start to become familiar with each individual based on the role they place in the story. Long story short, the characters are difficult to identify visually, but you’ll sort out who’s who, at least eventually. In fact, there’s a bio of each character provided at the beginning of the comic, precisely for that reason. So does the art detract from the story? Although I initially thought it did, by the end of the read I had really warmed up to the visuals and their ability to move the narrative along.

Dead Space Salvage 4

Isaac is that you?

Due to Christopher Shy’s atypical art style, the necromorphs come in all shapes and strange sizes. Instead of the typical variations we’re accustomed to, Shy explores all manner of exotic morphologies. Personally I think this approach works nicely, considering the organic nature of the necromorphs, and it almost makes me wish there was more enemy variety in the games. My biggest complaint with Shy’s style, other than the fact that certain characters look alike, is that there is very little detail in the backgrounds. Shy’s style doesn’t lend itself to precise details, so most of the backgrounds are just washes of wispy color. It’s not a big deal, but it’s rarely obvious what sort of environment a character is in.

Dead Space Salvage 9

All kinds of interesting necromorph variations.

To match the excellent visuals, Salvage was written by Antony Johnston, who also happens to have co-written the games and most of the tie-in fiction. Remember how I said there’s a consistency to the storyline between Dead Space‘s various spinoffs? Well, we have this man to thank. Of the various tie-ins, Salvage has my favorite story. Set in the year 2509, one year after the events of DS1, but several months before Dead Space: Aftermath, Salvage tells the story of a group of freelance miners known as the “magpies”. The magpies have a fleet of mining vessels, and use “shockrings” (picture a portable warp drive in the form of a large ring) to collect and transport minerals. Using a shockring, they mistakenly warp a large vessel to their location, which they later realize is the Ishimura. Meanwhile, EarthGov’s Defense Secretary David Chang is tasked with retrieving the Ishimura, which has been missing since the Aegis VII incident, and which they believe still contains the marker. Accompanying him are two shady EarthGov agents known as “oracles”. Oracles are ultra-elite operatives that seem to possess psychic powers. Chang eventually realizes the Ishimura is in the magpies’ possession, and sends the oracles and a squad of marines to eliminate them and retrieve the marker. Meanwhile, there are still plenty of necromorphs hanging around the Ishimura, so we’re treated to copious amounts of good old Dead Space carnage and mayhem.

Dead Space Salvage 2

Some of the pages from my comic fell out when I created these scans. IDW, if you’re reading this can I please get sent another copy? Pretty please?

As always with Dead Space‘s tie-ins, Salvage doesn’t add a whole lot to the cannon that couldn’t have been deduced from the games, but it is a fun diversion. Thankfully, Johnston did an excellent job with the dialogue. As someone who’s watched way too many movies involving a small crew in tight quarters, Salvage nails the element of interesting character interaction. The first third of the comic is mostly composed of banter between the various magpie shipmates, and to Johnston’s credit, the interactions are believable and fun to read.

As you may have noticed from the tone of this post, I really warmed up to Salvage. At first I thought the art was too obtuse (but still pretty), and that I’d never get the hang of the characters. Luckily I was wrong. The art is really impressive, as I’ve repeatedly stated. Completing the duo, Johnston’s writing is excellent as always. By this point, it could be argued that the “aliens on a ship” formula is getting stale, but we’re sci-fi horror fans, we’re not allowed to get bored with aliens on a ship. Salvage is the first DS tie-in I’ve reviewed that I feel meets the quality of the games. The other tie-ins had strong storylines, but left something to be desired from an artistic standpoint. All in all, Salvage is highly recommended.

Clicking this link will bring you to this product’s Amazon page. Should you choose to purchase it, I will get a small commission, which will then be reinvested into the site. Although I’m including this link, my review’s and opinions will never be influenced by the opportunity to make a commission. This site is a labor of love, but costs money to maintain, so think of any commissions as a donation to the site.

Clicking any of the following thumbnails will open a gallery of images from Dead Space: Salvage