Category: Comics (page 1 of 2)

Surgeon X

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Surgeon X from Image Comics is notable for several reasons, a big one being it marks the return of Karen Berger, founder and long time editor of DC’s Vertigo imprint, to comics after leaving DC several years ago. Another is that it’s probably the most meticulously researched comic to ever hit the shelves with a list of assorted medical professionals, scientists and learned types being thanked for their assistance in the credits.

Surgeon X is written by veteran TV producer/director Sara Kenney making her comics debut, a near future sci-fi horror about a Britain (and world) wracked by a medical crisis and in a state of political turmoil. Kenney’s comics debut came about after striking up a rapport with Berger via LinkedIn and in the process demonstrating that LinkedIn is responsible for at least one good thing in its existence.

London, 2036, and Antibiotics are largely ineffective due to humanity’s developed resistance and now rationed and reserved for the lucky few causing millions of deaths every year. Jim Powell of The Lionheart Party, a far right political party, is up for election as Mayor of London. Rosa Scott is a renegade surgeon and with the help of her brother Lewis, her sister Martha and Martha’s husband Jacob , sets out to help those in need utilising her medical skills and blackmarket medicine.

Surgeon X is something that suffers from trying to explain what it’s about in a few sentences, it’s a story that features myriad elements besides the unfolding and engrossing human drama featuring the Scott family. There’s social commentary, political commentary and a history of Antibiotics and why they’re so vital to humanity making up the landscape of Kenney’s impressive debut. A debut made all the more impressive by art team John Watkiss and James Devlin who conjure up a future Britain that’s recognisable and relatable but also nightmarishly different, that’s not forgetting letterer Jared K Fletcher.

More than that though the nightmarish scenario that’s depicted in Surgeon X isn’t some far fetched sci-fi concept it’s informed by very real science, which is why there’s so many learned types featuring in the credits. The most disturbing thing is when Kenney says when working on the story for Surgeon X medical professionals told her “You’re not being extreme enough in your vision at all”.

Surgeon X also has its own app which features  “animations, documentaries and other exclusive content” to quote writer Kenney.

For more on Surgeon X check out the official website.

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Cinema Purgatorio

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Anthology comics are a distinctly tricky beast , the first issue of a regular comic will give a creative team 20 odd pages to sell their ideas,characters, world and story to a reader in the hopes that they will come back for more, anthologies on the other hand offer 5 or 6 pages.

Trying to capture a reader with only 5 or 6 pages isn’t easy, combine that with being collected with a bunch of other 5 or 6 page initial instalments of other stories  and it’s easy to see why anthologies, aside from the established ones like long running British institution 2000AD and America’s Heavy Metal, are few and far between .

Acclaimed writer Alan Moore and artist Kevin O’Neill wanted to change that and together with indie publisher Avatar (and a host of other well known names in the comics field) pitched Cinema Purgatorio via Kickstarter and promptly got considerably more than they asked for. The campaign goal was just over $9,000 but ended with over $110,000.

The success of the campaign shouldn’t exactly come as a surprise given Moore’s name is still one of the most recognisable and high profile in comics despite distancing himself from his earlier acclaimed works (like Watchmen and The Killing Joke) and now happily doing his own thing for years via various creative outlets. Moore has worked with Avatar on several occasions though, from his nightmarish Lovecraft inspired titles Neonomicon and its follow up of sorts the currently on-going Providence, to his take on Garth Ennis’ Crossed which took place in the future reworking Ennis’ original ideas.

Cinema Purgatorio consists of a brief intro story by Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill in the style of old silent films and the first parts of four distinctly different stories by different creative teams,

Code Pru is blackly comical horror by Garth Ennis and Raulo Caceres about Pru who joins the FDNY as a paramedic and ends up being assigned to a special unit that deals with various supernatural creatures living in modern day New York.

Whilst it’s not really clear where this will go it definitely has potential and Caceres’ detailed art definitely makes an impression.

Modded by Kieron Gillen and Ignacio Calero is a bit like a post apocalyptic nightmarish take on Pokemon which introduces the rather timid Fringe and Fluffbumble, the unhinged Tommy Zero and the badass Bloody Susan and Mister Boom.

Probably the best of the offerings here Gillen’s ideas together with Calero’s excellent art make for a good combination and it’s always good to have a new kickass female character. I can see Bloody Susan and Mister Boom becoming the iconic characters of Cinema Purgatorio. The characters here would make for great action figures/statues too because the designs are so great.

A More Perfect Union by Max Brooks and Michael DiPascale is an alternate take on 19th century American history.

Brooks’ story stands out because it’s so different to the other offerings here both setting and storywise and art wise. DiPascale’s art contrasts massively with the hyper detailed offerings elsewhere, not that it’s bad it’s just different and the story whilst is probably the least appealing initially could definitely have potential when it gets going.

The Vast by Christos Gage and Gabriel Andrade is a story about mankind fighting gigantic kaiju style creatures.

The Vast is the shortest offering here so has little space to work with but Andrade’s art definitely sells the appeal of giant creatures rampaging through cities as seen in classic monster movies like Godzilla and Pacific Rim.

Cinema Purgatorio is definitely worth checking out the stylistic approach to have black and white art throughout is interesting and reminds me of 2000AD in the early days. I’m curious as to what the future holds, hopefully this will be a hit for Avatar and have other creative teams approaching them with ideas for future stories to be included but only time will tell.

Hellina #1

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Hellina is one of several Bad Girl comics recently relaunched by Boundless Comics an imprint of Avatar Press. Whilst Avatar might now have carved out a niche with various creator owned titles they originally started out in the 90’s mainly publishing Bad Girl comics, Hellina being one of them.

Relaunched via a successful Kickstarter Hellina is back with Jai Nitz writing and Gabriel Andrade on art, with colours by Digikore and Jaymes Reed on letters.

Hellina is Hell’s Adjudicator, sent in to clean up when supernatural entities and creatures of the night get out of line. Heaven and Hell waged a war that lasted for millenia, with the bloody battle spilling out into various worlds and dimensions. Then Hell won. Now 500 years later Heaven’s angelic horde is making an appearance and is more than willing to fight dirty to change the status quo.

Whilst Bad Girl comics in themselves are a distinctly niche market, one that might even seem a little anachronistic, they aren’t without their fans. That being said the only thing Hellina really has going for it is Gabriel Andrade’s art because the writing makes this come across like an unintentional satire of Bad Girl comics, as though it’s just ticking boxes rather than telling a story with a narrative – gory violence, check, unnecessary sex, check.

Nitz establishes little in the way of a world for anything that actually happens here. The back story about the war between Heaven and Hell above is taken from the Kickstarter campaign description, rather than the comic itself. A  protracted fight sequence between Hellina and a horde of vampires, werewolves and other creatures which are  fighting each other makes up the bulk of the story here.

The fight then comes to a rather abrupt end after the leader of the vampires, Simon, says “I’ve lived over 500 years I’d rather go out fucking than fighting at this point”, cue apparently obligatory sex. There’s no indication as to why Hellina would accept this offer unless it’s her usual tactic for defusing battles? Why this stops the werewolves and vampires fighting isn’t really explained either.

If Simon was some former paramour that Hellina actually knew from some time in her past then at least this would make sense rather than some random vampire guy. If Hellina is a highly sexed nymphomaniac who lives for bloodshed and fucking why do they then go to some appartment somewhere, leaving all the various creatures behind, instead of just having animalistic sex on the battlefield?

There’s nothing wrong with sex in comics if it’s done well and actually works in the narrative like in the excellent InSEXts from Aftershock Comics by Marguerite Bennett and Ariela Kristantina or the critically acclaimed Sunstone from Image Comics by Stjepan Sejic but here it just seems to be awkwardly shoehorned in.  For a comic aimed at a niche market and deliberately sold as an adult oriented Bad Girl comic the sex in Hellina is no more explicit than in Avatar’s titles like Ferals, this isn’t The Young Witches by Ricardo Barreiro and Francisco Solano López .

Aside from Hellina herself Simon is the only other character who is actually named here, and he isn’t around for very long, so it’s hard to really get invested in anything that happens. Whilst Nitz’s writing might be lacking Andrade, an artist with plenty of experience at Avatar (working on Ferals and Uber amongst others), at least makes that that fight impressively kinetic and is quite experienced at depicting bloody carnage. One page impressively uses Hellina’s whip to break up the panels depicting the on-going fight. If Hellina has anything going for it, it’s definitely Gabriel Andrade’s interior art because he really is in his element here and some good (and rather bad) covers, it’s just a shame that the writing is so lacking. Maybe

The actual concept of Hellina – a trash talking whip wielding agent of Hell that happens to be a sexy badass woman – is pretty solid,  only Nitz does very little with it here.  Maybe expecting good writing in a Bad Girl comic is like expecting good acting in a porn film?

Palmiotti and Gray return to the Old West with Abbadon

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Based on a screenplay by Spencer Marstiller and written by long time writing partners Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray, Abbadon is the latest crowdfunded graphic novel from Paper Films this time co-produced with Adaptive Studios.

Palmiotti and Gray are returning to the Old West something the pair have ample experience of having written one of the most consistently impressive and underrated comics from DC Comics in Jonah Hex and it’s successor All Star Western for several years. This time though the pair aiming squarely atAbbadon_2 mature readers .

The Old West, America circa 1880 and Abbadon is a sprawling Old West town and whilst it might be poised to have an influx of investors the town is still a vice ridden den of inequity where money, influence and power can get you just about anything. Things are getting distinctly worse though as Abbadon is plagued by a series of brutal and grisly murders with Abaddon’s Sheriff Colt Dixon and U.S. Marshall Wes Garrett, a man famous for tracking down notorious killer “Bloody Bill” who left a trail of mutilated men, women and children in his wake before being apprehended. The pair are on the hunt searching for the elusive killer but in a place like Abaddon everyone is a suspect.

For some reason despite the vast number of comics being produced Western comics still seem rather rare, a gap in the market that Paperfilms are all too happy to take advantage of in style. Despite being a self contained story Abaddon reads like what could be the pilot episode for a HBO style TV show, probably owing to its origins as a screenplay it’s easy to see how the titular town could serve as the fertile setting for a wealth of stories.

The various tropes associated with Western stories are here but executed with style there’s the mayor of questionable integrity in the form of Jacob Sullivan, the grizzled rogue Sheriff Colt Dixon, the out of town lawman U.S. Marshall Wes Garrett and Rosie the madame of Abaddon’s whorehouse The Rose Petal.

Abbadon_1Abbadon’s story is a taught and propulsive narrative with no filler and all the better for it as Dixon and Garrett try to uncover the identity of the elusive killer who keeps leaving grotesquely displayed corpses for the pair to find. What’s interesting is the way that the narrative plays with the contrast of perception versus reality, Sullivan isn’t so much bothered about the apprehension of the murderer for the safety and well being of the citizens of his town but rather the perception that he has been caught and how that will reflect on him as the mayor and a businessman looking for investors for his town.

Palmiotti and Gray’s writing is just one element though the art is another and artist Fabrizio Fiorentino along with colourist Alessia Nocera deliver with style. The discovery of the first victim is a particularly gruesome but impressive introduction to how things are in Abbadon and the imagery which accompanies the story of Garrett’s famous encounter with Bloody Bill is another highlight.

Paperfilms have produced numerous books via crowdfunding and Abbadon is just the latest example of why each campaign is successful.

Heathen by Natasha Alterici

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As anyone who follows my incredibly random and erratic utterings on Twitter will know I’m a big fan of crowdfunding and how it lets indie creators make things that they otherwise might not have the opportunity to make, even though it can sometimes go a bit awry for backers. One of the problems now though is crowdfunding is such a big thing that you often have to sift through numerous different campaigns, sorting the metaphorical wheat from the chaff.

One of my latest findings is Heathen by  artist/illustrator Natasha Alterici.

Set in a time of bloody and brutal warfare, slavery and the subjugation of women Heathen is the story of Aydis, a young viking warrior woman, who is on a quest to challenge the gods, namely all father Odin and end his tyrannical reign. On her journey Aydis will make friends and enemies as she encounters, gods, demons and various other creatures from Norse mythology with help from legendary valkyrie Brynhild and her trusty steed Saga.static1.squarespace.com

Why is Heathen so appealing? Norse mythology and vikings have always an enduring appeal, partly because it’s so inherently grim and brutal but also because it features various elements which are now common fantasy tropes, various races, different worlds, fickle and capricious gods and more. A major appeal of Heathen though is it’s something a little different – A story set in the age of the vikings but featuring two women as the main characters rather than serving as supporting characters for a male protagonist.

Whilst this is definitely one of the appeals the other is Alterici’s art which is sublime, you can see more of it over at her website – alterici.com 

Check out Heathen on Kickstarter

Why Uber is one of the best on going comics right now.

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Uber created by writer Kieron Gillen with art from Canaan White, Daniel Gete and Gabriel Andrade first appeared in early 2013 and since then has consistently been one of the best written, engrossing and thought provoking on-going comics around.

A million miles away from the superhero antics of Marvel and DC Uber from indie publisher Avatar is a dark tale of an alternate history which starts in April 1945 days before the fall of Berlin and collapse of the Third Reich. The Germans have been hard at work with a secret programme to develop enhanced soldiers, a breakthrough leads to certain defeat becoming an unlikely victory opening a new chapter of the war.

The story is in essence an arms race between the various different factions on the world stage, only instead of munitions, the arms in question are super powered soldiers. Gillen’s writing has a depth that makes this far more engrossing than some throwaway “what if Nazi’s had superpowers?” escapism. The tone and approach is just as serious as if this was a historically accurate retelling of the story of World War II. The story is packed with historical detail with Gillen doing plenty of research along with hashing out the underlying framework for the narrative before even beginning the story.

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The story features a large cast of characters including historical figures like Adolf Hitler, Winston Churchill and Josef Stalin amongst others as the scene of the action shifts from various locations in the global conflict. Some of the various other characters include Freya (real name Stephanie) a deep cover British agent who has been working on the Nazi’s top secret Projekt U, Maria a Russian sniper and the three Nazi Ubermensch or “Battleships” Klaudia, Markus and Werner who have the codenames Sieglinde, Siegfried and Siegmund.

Projekt U has resulted in various different manifestations for the Nazi’s varying in levels of power. The Ubermensch or Battleships Siegmund, Siegfried and Sieglinde are the most powerful and change the course of the war. The trio are capable of decimating whole platoons of soldiers , demonstrating invulnerability being able to shrug off gun fire and heavy artillery, massively enhanced strength being able to pick up tanks and the ability to project devastating energy blasts which shred flesh and bone with ease. The trio are walking weapons of mass destruction with the Nazi’s on a seemingly unstoppable path.

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Projekt U, the Germans top secret project is derived from resources of unknown (alien) origin, a text which has only been partly translated. This is a move which leaves plenty of potential for future developments narratively and mirrors the constantly changing reality of war with trying to develop new weapons, distribution methods and tactics being part of any war effort.

Unlike most stories though this isn’t a narrative based around protagonists and antagonists and there aren’t really any main characters as such with the narrative shifting from location to location initially focussing on the Germans and the British before shifting to look at other nations in the conflict. There’s a moral ambiguity which permeates throughout about the costs of war, Stephanie for example is party to horrendous and horrific experiments working on Projekt U to gather intel for the British war effort whilst the Nazi’s after being portrayed as stock villains or harmless bogeymen in countless stories are terrifying.

As a result of not really having a main character for the narrative to hinge on the story becomes completely unpredictable and shifts, twists and turns to impressive effect. The dynamic between the three battleships and the power plays within the higher echelons of the Nazi forces drive the narrative in Germany. One of the best narrative feats that Gillen has achieved is managing to craft a story which makes the Nazi’s a genuinely terrifying threat but also renders them as people rather than just “evil”.

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The 3 distinct battleships are a great example, whilst initially they are rendered somewhat distantly as the human tanks they are for the war effort later their characters emerge more, Klaudia is haunted by her past and fuelled by vengeance but takes little pleasure in the slaughter of innocents and is all too aware that they can never win the war merely ensure everyone loses, Markus by contrast is a psychopathic hardcore fanatic steadfastly loyal to the Nazi cause and revels in the slaughter and carnage he wreaks on the battlefield which puts him at odds with his fellow battleships, Werner meanwhile despite being a loyal and patriotic soldier like Klaudia doesn’t enjoy the carnage and as the first battleship deployed experiences first hand how the people actually see him and the other battleships – as the stuff of nightmares.

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Combat in Uber is just as grim and brutal as you might expect with unwary allied forces being slaughtered in initial encounters with the battleships. Later cities and civilians become collateral as the German battleships fight against allied enhanced soldiers and regular forces. This sweeping carnage plays to Klaudia’s idea of nobody winning and everybody losing in a race towards mutually assured destruction. Avatar has built a reputation for “no holds barred” titles aimed at adult readers and this is fundamental to Uber’s success. Free from editorial constraints the story is as grim, brutal and horrifying as any story rooted in World War II is only more so. Uber has been accused of being morally and ethically questionable (Gillen has written addressing these concerns and how he struggles with them himself) some have even accused Gillen and co of being Nazi sympathisers which considering Canaan White has created most of the art for Uber is pretty ignorant.

The story, like any war story, is just as much about the manoeuvring and tactics of war far from the battlefields as it is about the actual battles themselves with scenes in the Cabinet War Rooms of London, Bletchley Park and various other places as things unfold.

The art throughout Uber is impressive from the claustrophobic confines of Churchill’s War Rooms to rubble and corpse strewn streets and much more besides. Uber is definitely not for the squeamish with stunningly visceral art throughout which never loses its punch and is just as endlessly surprising as the narrative itself.

The first three volumes of Uber collecting together the first 17 issues are on indie comic shop shelves now, go buy them there they’ll appreciate the business.

A shorter version of this article originally appeared in a somewhat different form over at Backseatmafia.com

Lee Bermejo & Matt Hollingsworth’s Suiciders is 80’s dystopian cinema in comic form

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I’ve always had a fondness for 70’s/ 80’s cinema or a particular strain of 70’s/ 80’s cinema namely the bleak or darkly satirical dystopian sci-fi that seems to be associated with that period. Whether it’s George Miller’s Mad Max, John Carpenter’s Escape From New York, Roller Ball or The Running Man . There’s always been something inherently appealing about works that portray the collapse of society due to some cataclysmic event or other, this is often combined with humanity’s repressed darker side coming to the fore as demonstrated brilliantly in the latter of the films mentioned above. Roller Ball features a brutal sport played by armoured sociopaths in a dark future with looming corporations casting a shadow over everything, The Running Man SUIC-1-Preview1meanwhile features a lurid gameshow where contestants have to run for their lives whilst armed assailants hunt them down and try to kill them.

Both the above films are a play on the classic “bread and circusses” phrase, the idea that the general populace can be appeased and distracted by some grand spectacle often as a smokescreen for some heinous acts being perpetuated by those with power, this date back to the Roman empire with its infamous gladitorial contests.

Suiciders from the duo of Lee Bermejo and Matt Holingsworth is a brilliant example of this idea in the form of a comic. Set in a dark future after a massive earth quake referred to as “The Big One” hits the West Coast and decimates Los Angeles, the U.S Government turned its back on the city leaving survivors to fend for themselves.

Now 30 years later the city of New Angeles is thriving thanks to the popularity of brutal bloodsport Suiciders, a televised contest which pitches opposing gladiators enhanced by drugs and technology against in each other in an arena full of deadly obstacles trying to kill them.

The world Bermejo has created sounds like the best 80’s film never made ripe with potential and perfectly suited to the modern world which is becoming more and more like the dystopian future featured in the Running Man every year. The main character of Suiciders first issue is The Saint a charismatic but equally Suiciders_1_pg2enigmatic fighter. One of the identifying features of The Saint is the large tattoo of St Michael slaying the Devil on his back which is a keen insight into the mentality of the fighter. The idea that the fighters have their own pit crews which prepare their armour and weapons is an interesting touch too.

The fights themselves though ,which feature enthusiastic commentators and an arena with garish neon lights depicting the word “KILL”, are just the backdrop to a larger story featuring the contrast of the life in and outside of New Angeles which is surrounded by a vast wall patrolled by guards with an underground market for smuggling people across the border.

Even if the story wasn’t so rich with potential this would be worth noticing for the phenomenal art. Lee Bermejo has done some amazing work in the past both as a cover artist and as the artist for graphic novels like Batman: Noel or limited comic series like Before Watchmen: Rorschach. Together with colourist Matt Hollingsworth Bermejo has produced what is one of the most visually stunning comics you can pick up. Suiciders shows that DC’s Vertigo imprint might not just be living on past glories after all.

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.

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.

Mike Wolfer’s The Curse Of Ragdoll

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The Curse of Ragdoll first appeared 15 years ago serialised in the adults only anthology Raw Media Quarterly published by the then fledgling AvatarRAGDOLLpreview-5 Press.

Over a decade later creator, writer and illustrator Mike Wolfer decided he wanted to return to the character he’d created years earlier. This version of The Curse of Ragdoll is different though unnecessary explicit scenes ,which got in the way of the narrative, have been excised and the story has been reworked to incorporate 17 all new pages and a brand new ending. The cost of producing this new edition was covered by a successful crowdfunding campaign.

The Curse of Ragdoll is heavily influenced by classic pulp horror comics like Tales From The Crypt and The Vault Of Horror and it isn’t for the squeamish or the easily offended. The story itself has a framing narrative, which features geologist Peter Wyndham on an expedition in the mountains of 18th century Romania. Trapped by a vicious storm and abandoned by his guides he makes shelter in an icy cave. Whilst sheltering from the raging storm he finds the pages of an old journal, it’s the words written on the pages of this journal that form the basis for much of the story.

Ragdoll, the protagonist of the story, is a mix of avenging spirit and Frankenstein’s Monster. She is made from a patch work of body parts, body parts which belonged to murdered women and it’s the story of these women that makes up the bulk of the narrative via flashbacks. Ragdoll then seeks out the transgressors punishing them for their crimes.

The trail of bodies left in Ragdoll’s wake are being investigated by Inspector Pike and Sergeant Claus, the pair obviously inspired by the classic literary team up of Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson with Pike being the more deductive of the two and also sporting some classic one liners.

comicpageThe anthology origins of the story are indicated by the episodic nature of the narrative which is split into 7 chapters. Whilst the explicit material has been jettisoned this still very much an adults only story not only does it feature several classic monsters with werewolves and vampires appearing it also packs in some nunsploitation for good measure along with plenty of entrails and viscera. This approach gives the whole thing a cult B movie tone. Wolfer’s grey toned black & white art adds to the Hammer/ B movie vibe of the story as events unfold.

The Curse of Ragdoll is the first book to feature the character with Wolfer planning on a follow up with the distinctly Hammer style name of “Orgy of the Vampires”. As a precursor to that book though Wolfer is currently crowdfunding a one shot comic featuring notorious vampire Countess Bathory.

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