Month: January 2015

Judge Dredd: The Mega Collection

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Judge Dredd: The Mega Collection is a new series from Rebellion and Hachette Partworks featuring some of the best stories from Dredd’s nearly 40 year history. These stories are presented in well designed, well produced hardback graphic novels which feature an introduction by 2000AD editor Matt Smith and a “story so far” setting the stage for the stories contained within.

The stories are arranged thematically in six over arching groups Democracy, The Dark Judges, Psi Judge Anderson and Others, Robot Rampage, The Mega Epics and Mad City. The first issue costs only £1.99 so picking it up is a no brainer especially for anyone with an interest in checking out the world of Judge Dredd. Wisely the first book features one of the best Dredd stories there is – America.

America originally appeared in the Judge Dredd Megazine back in 1990 and quickly became known as one of the best stories in Dredd’s long history. Oddly though Dredd himself isn’t the main character in this story but rather a looming figure in the background of the story of lovers Bennett Beeny and America Jara. The story ,written by Dredd veteran John Wagner with art from Colin Macneil, is narrated from Beeny’s perspective and told in flashback as he relates a tale of young love turned tragic due to the reality of growing up under the oppressive shadow of the Justice Department. Beeny becomes a famous singer but America becomes involved with a rebel group intent on overthrowing the oppression of the judges and the Justice Department.

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America is notable for several reasons one being a citizen’s perspective on growing up in the world of Judge Dredd, a world where stories of the Judges are used to scare children into behaving, and the story also packs an emotional punch not usually associated with Judge Dredd. The book also features several follow up stories continuing the saga of Beeny and America and their entangled relationship with Judge Dredd and the Justice Department.

The main problem with the Partworks approach is generally interest drops off part way into the series, whatever it is, and the series becomes financially untenable for the publisher leaving the people who are picking it up with only part of a collection. One of the crucial things that will either make or break  Judge Dredd: The Mega Collection is whether Dredd fans think it’s a worthy investment for something they may already have in a different edition.

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Rebellion have made a good effort regards previously unavailable content, with cover gallerys, artist sketches and contextual essays, this is alongside collecting together stories from both 2000AD and the Judge Dredd Megazine that were in some cases seperated by several years. There’s a rather epic 80 books planned and collected together they will depict a piece of art featuring Dredd and various characters from his world.

Judge Dredd: The Mega Collection may appeal more to fans who want to cherry pick different issues as and when they are available rather than subscribe, also this series is aimed at newsagents rather than just comic shops. Whether newsagents will be stocking it is a different matter, a number of fans have already posted about being unable to find issue 1 on the Judge Dredd The Mega Collection Facebook page.

Harebrained Schemes returns to Kickstarter for Shadowrun: Hong Kong

For anyone that doesn’t know Harebrained Schemes Kickstarter campaign for Shadowrun: Hong Kong is now live. This will be the third Shadowrun game from the indie developer following Shadowrun Returns and Shadowrun: Dragonfall – Director’s Cut, for my thoughts on the last Shadowrun game then go here (TLDR it’s excellent).

Whilst the first two games were born of a phenomenally successful Kickstarter campaign which raised over $1.8 million, utterly smashing their target of $400,000 into pieces, this campaign is a little different.

This time around Jordan Weisman and the crew at Harebrained Schemes had Shadowrun: Hong Kong all planned out and ready to be delivered but like any indie outfit they have more ideas than budget and that’s where Kickstarter comes in.

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As well as a new setting of Hong Kong 2056 which features a culture that is steeped in “guanxi” – a network of influence and relationships based upon a combination of social status, and prestige – this new game features an all new gang of Runners to join you on runs through the shadows: Gobbet a street shaman, Duncan a security specialist and Is0bel a Dwarf decker. Other additional characters were set to be added to the roster if the funds were raised including Rachter, a Russian rigger with a custom drone and Gaichu. Gaichu seems like the most immediately interesting of the crew, a former member of the Renraku Corporation’s elite Red Samurai security force. He was infected with the Human Meta-Human Vampiric Virus (HMHVV) on a mission gone wrong, forced to abandon his pure-human unit as the virus slowly twisted him into a ghoul he is now a shadowrunner.

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The law of diminishing returns dictates that people will be less interested in this campaign, the target for Shadowrun: Hong Kong was $100,000 and that was smashed in two hours. The current total sits at over $455,000 and that’s with 32 days to go.

Harebrained Schemes have a solid setting for their game, a world of Cyberpunk meets fantasy Shadowrun recently celebrated its 25th anniversay, more than that though they have the man that created it heading up the team. Along with the setting they have a solid game engine to build from and demonstrated a talent for engrossing writing and characterisation with Dragonfall.

The Shadowrun games have been a brilliant example of how games don’t have to be visually flashy to be engrossing, often it’s the opposite. Harebrained Schemes have carved out a niche here for games that feel like you’re playing an interactive novel of sorts in the best way. There’s a lot to be said for letting players imagine what characters sound like for example, which ties into the pen and paper aspect of the source material.

You can get a copy of Shadowrun: Hong Kong, soundtracks to all three games featuring the excellent music of composer Jon Everist and wallpapers for $15, which works out just under £10, if that isn’t value for money then I don’t know what it is. Value for money underscores the whole crowdfunding process, if rewards don’t seem worth the amount required then people won’t back your project simply put.

Check out the video below and visit Shadowrun:Hong Kong for more info

Why you should be reading Stjepan Sejic’s Sunstone

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Erotica in comics is generally something that is sneered at, whilst they might actually feature some impressive art ( if you have any doubts check out The Young Witches by Ricardo Barreiro and Fancisco Solano Lopez) story on other hand is often somewhat lacking and merely serves as the frame work for the “action”. There’s also a big stigma around it too, as though actually admitting you like something that falls under the heading of erotica in comics makes you some sort of weirdo or freak who clearly never does anything with actual humans.

Sunstone created, written and illustrated by Stjepan Sejic will take any preconceived notions you have about erotica in comics and shatter them into a million tiny pieces and is definitely something you can proudly claim to be a fan of.

Drawing other peoples stories for a long time lead to frustration and burn out with the comics industry and feeling more like a machine than an actual person. Prompted by an earlier experience previous to making it professionally, Sejic decided start an alias on Deviant Art where he could explore fetishistic images. A series of BDSM oriented pin up pieces appeared which featured several characters, this slowly evolved into what Sunstone is now – an unintentional webcomic which built up such a big following that the first volume has just been published by Topcow.

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Pre-orders for Sunstone have made it Topcow’s highest ordered graphic novel ever and the book was riding high in Amazon’s charts with pre-orders for the second volume crashing into the chart too, so what is this book?

Sunstone, a name which will make sense once you’ve begun reading, is the story of Lisa a fledgling writer who has kept her submissive longings buried for silhouette-13years, and Ally a dominant woman who has found herself largely isolated from the outside world. Both have failed relationships behind them, but Ally is still friends with her ex Alan another dominant type who makes a living creating custom gear for discerning BDSM clients .The story, which narrated from Lisa’s perspective,  follows the pair’s relationship from early online interactions to their first meet up and beyond.

What makes Sunstone so impressive is despite its “adults only” nature this story is written with humanity at its core. Lisa, Ally and Alan are utterly believable as people due to the excellent characterisation which is a core feature of the story. Nowhere is this more apparent than a splash page which features both Lisa and Ally trying to figure out what to wear for their upcoming first real life encounter, with both imagining outfits before immediately deciding against them for numerous reasons.

Whilst not everyone will relate to Ally’s reasons for wanting a new bed, lots of people will relate to the anxiety meltdown that Ally and Lisa find themselves dealing with at the prospect of meeting each other in person for the first time.

silhouette-3Crafting a story based on a lesbian couple with a fondness for BDSM makes for a pretty easy target of accusations of sleazy exploitation, especially when comics already have a pretty bad reputation for objectifying their female characters. The magic here is the intelligence, wit and well crafted story will make you think all comics should be written this well.

One of the things that really stands out along with the distinctly human nature of the story is how funny it is. Generally speaking comics never make me laugh, which is kind of ironic I know, however there’s some brilliant wit to be found here, from the awkwardness of Lisa’s first meeting with Ally being ruined by the desperate and urgent need to pee to Alan walking in on Ally having some “alone time”.

The story also doesn’t shy away from the couples sexuality, it’s soon revealed that Ally has quite the collection of “toys” waiting for the right person.   This refreshingly human approach to sex makes Lisa and Ally complex, alive, flawed and believable characters in a story that just happens to feature kinky BDSM oriented sex.  As for that BDSM element that I keep referring to unlike another work of popular literary fiction, which shall remain nameless, Sunstone tackles the principles of the dominant and submissive relationship brilliantly – namely it’s about complete trust in someone and aftercare is also a big part of it, it’s not about abuse or emotional manipulation.

Sejic’s impressive and recognisable art has featured in various titles over the years including Witchblade, Artifacts, Aphrodite IX, Death Vigil and Ravine to name some. Whilst the art for Sunstone might not be as insanely detailed as his work on some of those, Ravine comes to mind, it doesn’t need to be. Reader’s unfamiliar with BDSM gear and culture will get a crash course finding out the relevance of the collar and will know their bondage hoods from their spider gags in no time.

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As an artist Sejic also has an impressive mastery of anatomy and his characters here (and in his other work) aren’t disproportionate fembots like so many female characters in comics but believable as actual people . For a guy Sejic is unnervingly good at writing from the perspective of women and it should be noted that this isn’t structured in some formulaic manner, which is the norm for most things under the erotica heading in comics.  This story unfolds like any other narrative and it’s definitely not a case filler waiting for the “good stuff”.

As Sunstone was just something originally done for fun which wasn’t meant to be “professional” the art and dialogue has been tweaked and polished forsilhouette-7 the new print edition which contains the first chapter of the story and also features some additional bonus content.  The first 4 chapters of Sunstone are free to read over at Sejic’s Deviant Art page but if you prefer your reading to be more tactile then seek it out at your local comic shop and if you don’t have one you can easily find it on Amazon.

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