Category: Comics (page 2 of 3)

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.

Death and the acrid smell of gun smoke – Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray’s Jonah Hex

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DC Comics might be best known for its superheroes like Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman but removed from the tights and flights action that makes up so much of DC’s output there’s another character, one who’s been around for quite a while completely removed from superhero antics – Jonah Hex.

Bounty Hunter Jonah Hex may have first appeared way back in 1971 created by Tony DeZuniga and John Albano but it’s in more recent years that theJonah-Hex-Volume-1-Face-Full-of-Violence character has really come to the fore. Back in 2006 critically acclaimed writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray started to write a new series featuring the scarred anti-hero. The pair would go on to write Hex’s adventures for 70 issues before the series ended and then the duo followed it up with 34 issues of the recently ended All Star Western featuring Jonah Hex. This was Hex’s new home when DC rebooted their whole comic line with the DC 52 launch. The pair also wrote the original graphic novel No Way Back in 2010.

What made their run on Jonah Hex so good was the deceptive simplicity. A comic set in the Wild West is pretty anachronistic in the modern age of comics, especially one coming from one of the “Big Two” publishers in comics. That’s part of Hex’s charm though in a landscape awash with do gooder superheroes flying around and saving people Hex was a surly, cynical, hard drinking, scarred anti-hero with a brutal past. Hex’s past included being sold to the Apache by his alcoholic father, being marked as traitor after being set up by a bitter love rival and being blamed for a massacre in the civil war which he found himself disillusioned with. Despite his belligerent nature though Hex had his own code that he lived by and would often help out those in trouble, even if he later regretted it.

Another reason that Jonah Hex stood out was due to the fact that the vast majority of its 70 issues were stand alone stories, which are a rare thing from DC or Marvel. Seldom is the case where you can just pick up an issue of a hex-explanation2comic and just read it and enjoy it without having to know lots of backstory and mythology. The test of a writer is whether they can tell an engaging fully formed story in a single issue rather than constructing a massive epic which runs for years.

The first issue set the tone as Hex is hired to find a missing boy, only to discover that the boy has been kidnapped by a circus forcing young boys to fight dogs to the cheers of a baying audience. The story was gritty and surprisingly brutal but not in a contrived manner.

The title featured some recurring characters too the most important of which being Tallulah Bell a woman who was raped, mutilated and left for dead by a group of nefarious bandits. Hex helps Tallulah gain vengeance on her tormentors, she is by no means a damsel in distress though and becomes a bounty hunter with a reputation to match that of Hex himself  with the pair eventually becoming on and off lovers as she drifts in and out of his life.

All Star Western transplanted Hex from the Wild West into the early days of the new DC universe’s Gotham City. Hex meets Doctor Amadeus Arkham who narrates the story and meets various figures from Gotham City’s past including Bruce Wayne’s great great grandfather Alan Wayne and Theodore Cobblepot great great grandfather of Oswald2014-09-28_1449 Cobblepot better known as The Penguin.

 Despite changing into an on-going story rather than a series of self-contained stories All Star Western still featured everything that made Hex great in his previous carnation. Hex was a fish out of water with a distaste for what he views as “civilised city folk” who  he finds are just as corrupt and vice ridden as those in the Wild West.

A host of artists worked on Jonah Hex and All Star Western including Hex’s co-creator Tony DeZuniga, Moritat, Andy Kubert, Staz Johnson, Darwyn Cooke and many more.

2010’s “Jonah Hex” film based on the character is one of the best examples of a missed opportunity in recent memory. The film does the character of Hex a massive disservice being an overwrought hamfisted mess instead of the gritty western it should’ve been and utterly wastes Josh Brolin as Hex.

IN THE DARK- A Horror Anthology

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IN THE DARK is a horror anthology funded via a Kickstarter campaign and is a testament to what can be achieved and produced by the crowd funding platform.

Inspired by the classic pulp horror comics of old Editor, Designer and in several cases Letterer Rachel Deering has produced a mammoth compendiumRain-3-26ebf that really should be on the book shelf of any discerning sequential art fan with a liking for horror.

Anthologies by definition for the most part are a pretty mixed bag, a hit and miss affair due to their nature,a roll of the dice, especially given that many feature upcoming unknown writers looking for a chance to make an impression. IN THE DARK contrasts starkly with the idea that anthologies are a risky business, featuring numerous names that should be recognisable to any horror fan, Steve Niles, Brian Keene, Cullen Bunn,Tim Seeley and Scott Snyder are just a handful of the writers that contributed to this anthology.

The intro by Scott Snyder details his love for the genre growing from watching numerous horror films in his youth and goes on to describe the appeal that Horror has and why so many people are enthralled by the shadows, the things that go bump in the night and fear itself in its myriad forms.

There’s nothing that tests the skill of a writer more than crafting a memorable but effective tale in the space of several pages, without the safety of 20 + pages or even numerous issues to play with there’s no space for literary indulgence. In The Dark is an education in the economy of plotting a story into a sharp finely honed edge and sticking with that metaphor In The Dark houses an entire armoury of blades with 24 razor sharp tales.

MurderFarm-4-35307The stories on offer avoid being about just one aspect of the genre, ‘When the rain comes’ by Steve Niles is potent with atmospheric dread, ‘The Unseen’ by Justin Jordan is a Lovecraftian tale of the best kind, ‘Murder Farm’ by Cullen Bunn is an ode to how things can always be worse than you think they are, ‘Guilloteens’ by Michael Morecci and Steve Seeley is a riff on classic cult horror The Monster Squad and these are just a handful of the tales on offer.

 Horror is often associated with zombies or vampires but there are many facets offered here, the writing is just half the story though with numerous artists contributing with a plethora of different styles and panel compositions featured.

Along with the stories there’s also an impressive pin up art gallery and an extensive essay on the history of classic horror comics by Mike Howlett featuring numerous images of horror comics of old like E.C’s ‘Tales From The Crypt’ and ‘The Vault Of Horror’.

In The Dark is not only an excellent anthology but it’s also an example of excellent design from oversized format to the cover art from Christian Wildgoose and Jordan Boyd to the interior cover art by Tradd Moore to the vintage style ads throughout for ‘Monstervision specs’ and the like, it makes for highly impressive and polished look.

Squarriors: Teeth & Nails

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Crowdfunding has become a great way for creators to fund projects that otherwise would never get a chance the downside to its popularity though is searching through the different projects can be a tiresome affair. Kickstarter’s comics category has over 100+ live campaigns but here’s something worth your attention.

Sqaurriors created by writer Ash Maczko and artist Ashley Witter, also known as Team Ash, have team up with publisher Devil’s Due Entertainment for a story of animal tribal warfare in a post human world.

After the demise of man animals have evolved to sentience but have to deal with the dichotomy of their new state, a battle between reason and their more savage natural instincts. The animals are tribal in nature and the initial story from Maczko is based around the the power struggle between two of these tribes the Tin Kin and the nearby more hostile Maw tribe.

 The Tin Kin tribe has 40 members altogether and are lead by a tribal council of elders which is made up of seven characters Cheeks, a squirrel who is the commander and trainer of Tin Kin’s militia, Eli, a fox, Meo a mouse and Treejump, a flying squirrel are officers and Jobe, Jacko and King are a trio of squirrels who make up the tribes Adviser, Second in command and Chief.

These two tribes are amongst thousands of others which now inhabit the land and have their own territory.

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Whilst Maczko’s concept might seem intriguing what that really makes Squarriors stand out is artist Ashley Witter and her highly detailed and lush art, with interiors that are just as impressive as the covers. One of Witter’s popular images, which is now one of the covers, lead to the pair coming up with the concept for Squarriors.

The pair have been working hard to spread the word about Squarriors at conventions across America but they need help fund their creation hence Kickstarter. The world that Witter and Maczko have created is a vast one with potential for numerous stories featuring other tribes and characters.

Squarriors is an example of well utilised anthropomorphised animals as featured in some classic critically acclaimed examples of sequential art like Pride of Baghdad by Brian K. Vaughan, Elephantmen by Richard Starkings and Why are you doing this? by Norwegian cartoonist Jason.

For more details visit Squarriors: Teeth and Nails

Witchblade: Borne Again

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Borne Again marks the return of writer Ron Marz to Topcow’s Witchblade.

Marz wrote previously Witchblade from issue #79 to issue#150 and in that time the writer completely changed the perception of the title, gaining critical 78f2bcaeb0c6dfb7c14ae57b8397b6d6acclaim with main character Sara Pezzini becoming a fully fleshed character rather than just pin up fodder who fights monsters.

A lot has changed in Sara’s world as it’s revealed that Pezzini gave up her life of an enforcer of the balance and wielder of the Witchblade. Moving from Chicago to Upstate New York, Pezzini is now a small town sheriff. The quiet life isn’t as quiet as Pezzini hoped though as a string of bizarre murders have occured and Sarah faces the ultimatum of deciding whether to embrace the Witchblade again to face the killer in their midst.

The opening page of Borne Again pretty much sells it, a full page image featuring a bemused pair from the Sheriff’s Department looking up at a body obscured to the reader, the only dialogue being “So…..where’s the head?”.

Not only is this a great opening shot of what the story is all about, it’s a great example of Laura Braga’s art. Often full page images or splash pages are a messy affair, however this is the complete opposite being a brilliant example of image composition. Braga works in a background, various emergency response vehicles set against the backdrop of the woods, middleground, the two members of the Sheriff’s department looking at the body, and foreground, two trees that the body is is displayed in front of. The trees also act as a framing device for everything directing the readers eye to the centre of the image.

Marz’s Witchblade finds the balance between the police or in this case sheriff drama, small town drama and the otherwordly elements and it blends them in an impressive manner. Pezzini finds herself dealing with a petty Witchblade_172-9chauvinistic Mayor who doesn’t appreciate her feisty attitude and blames her for the recent brutal murders, she has a good partner in Kate though who is also sick of living in a town full of brain dead hicks. The story also features flashbacks to Pezzini’s past which explain her current situation, and feature appearances from other characters like The Magdalena and Tom Judge.

The theme underscoring Borne Again is you can’t escape your past no matter how hard you try and it’s something that Pezzini learns in a rather brutal manner. Marz’s Witchblade is a great example of blending character drama and fantastical action.

Laura Braga’s art whilst completely different to Stjepan Sejic ,an artist synonymous with the title, is a good fit. BragaWB171-Press-9-60643 deftly handles the numerous different elements well from Pezini knocking back shots in a dive bar to detailed establishing shots of The Vatican and plenty of action too. Betsy Gonia’s deft colouring adds nuance too.

Marz keeps things from being impenetrable to the new reader but Borne Again also features a comprehensive breakdown of the somewhat convoluted backstory for Witchblade and its various characters, including other artifact wielders, which is ideal for new readers that might not be familiar certain aspects.

Witchblade continues to be one of the best non-superhero comics around with the team of Marz and Braga working well together.

Brian Keene’s The Last Zombie

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The Last Zombie created and written by Brian Keene is a different take on the zombie apocalypse comic popularised by Robert Kirkman’s smash hit The Walking Dead.

Keene is better known as a best selling horror writer, with 2003’s “The Rising” often credited (alongside Kirkman’s The Walking Dead and Danny Boyle’slast-zombie-page-01 28 Days Later) as being one of the factors leading to the modern pop culture fascination with the zombie apocalypse.

Published by small indie publisher Antarctic Press, The Last Zombie is the story of Doctor Ian Scott, a man on a desperate journey through a post-apocalyptic U.S.A. Scott is part of a team sent out from a secure FEMA bunker beneath the Colorado Rockies to try and re-establish contact with another secure bunker in West Virginia, the woman he loves, Jennifer, is also stationed in this bunker.

Given its indie nature there’s a good chance you’ve never heard of The Last Zombie. Whilst bigger publishers were churning out mountains of comics every month and recycling ideas whilst hoping no-one noticed Antarctic Press was producing one of the best horror oriented comics around.

Well known prose writers writing comics is becoming more and more common, although it’s often overlooked that there’s a big difference between writing prose and writing for comics, excelling at one does not necessarily mean excelling at the other, Keene makes the transition look easy though.

What’s so refreshing about Keene’s take on the zombie comic is the story is set just after the zombie apocalypse rather than during. There’s plenty of stories based around weary survivors having to avoid hordes of ravenous living dead, The Walking Dead is an example that even people that have never read a comic know, Keene’s story takes the concept of the zombie apocalypse and skips ahead to the post-zombie apocalypse – the zombies have been and gone mostly but that doesn’t mean it’s safe.

Dr Scott and his military escort lead by Sergeant Warner have to navigate their way through the ruins of the old world, disease is rampant, packs of feral animals rove the shattered landscape, raging fires burn and marauders lie in wait.  Some of these might seem like familiar post apocalyptic tropes but it’s the execution that matters and there’s plenty of others that are less expected , an early one being a brilliant example of subverting expectations.The-Last-Zombie-A

One of The Last Zombie’s best assets is its finite nature, it’s still a pretty lengthy tale running for 25 issues (collected together in 5 volumes) but there’s no “filler”, often a major problem for long running comics which are just open ended.

Alongside the on-going narrative there are often flashbacks to before the zombie outbreak which explain the back story of individual characters which make up the group. Not only does this help establish why these characters are the way they are but it also provides a contrast with the present the characters find themselves in.

What could have been a faceless group of military grunts actually become a group of memorable characters as the story progresses, with Planters aka Kowalczyk being one of the best. Keene’s years as a best selling writer definitely show as the characters here react and interact realistically and believably, with the soldiers having plenty of realistic banter.

Rather than going for a desensitizing gore fest which quickly becomes inane Keene’s story runs on ominous atmosphere and characterisation so when grisly events do happen they have far more impact, this isn’t for the faint of heart.

The art from Fred Perry, Joseph Wight, David Hutchison, Ben Dunn, Brian Denham and Chris Allen is perfectly pitched boasting a lo-fi indie quality eschewing colour for more apt grey tones and black and white and often packed with detail .

The Last Zombie was recently collected together and published in a “zomnibus” funded by a rather successful crowd funding campaign.

You can buy the zomnibus from the Antarctic Press website .

Horror comics you should be checking out.

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In recent years horror comics have had a resurgence here are a few you can pick up right now.

Based on Clive Barker’s film and his book Cabal ,on which the notoriously butchered film is based ( sidenote a long awaited Director’s Cut is set to arriveNightbreed01_PRESS-5 soon, if you’re in the U.S anyways) Nightbreed from BOOM! Studios is story of a race of “monsters” that have lived in the shadows alongside man since the dawn of time.

Now though they are fewer in number and scattered.

With a story from Barker and written by Marc Andreyko the first issue has several narratives in different time periods playing out concurrently. As the story unfolds it introduces several of the characters, Lylesberg is an elder of the Nightbreed and is seen talking to someone out of frame in the present day, back in 1845 we’re introduced to Peloquin who finds himself entangled with a lynch mob chasing some runaway slaves in Louisiana, whilst in 1940’s Boston it’s revealed that Shuna is working in a high end brothel providing services for select clients like Senator Emery.

Nightbreed_02_PRESS-8This narrative continues to unwind with the various different threads coming together for a great final image.

From the start the story introduces the very different members of the Nightbreed, both in appearance and mannerism. Lylesberg’s beard and robes indicating his status of an elder of some sort who is relaying the past of the Nightbreed and their struggles to find their home Midian a vast Necropolis hidden underground. Peloquin meanwhile has a somewhat reptilian appearance sporting dreadlock like tendrils rather than hair, he is the most visibly hostile too brutally attacking his assailants with no mercy and mocking their cries to God as he disembowels them. The third character Shuna is an example of how some find the Nightbreed exotic, intoxicating and attractive rather than repulsive creatures to be shunned. A humanoid with porcupine like quills along her body Shuna is the secret of the high end brothel she works in.

The art from Piotr Kowalski captures the various different moods of the narrative well, Lylesburg’s story is all flickering flames, shadows and tranquillity, Peloquin’s however is one of savage action with a frenetic pace and well utilised full page images. Both of these contrast with Shuna’s story with Kowalski capturing her sensuality (a key element of much of Barker’s work) vulnerability and fear as she realises what jealousy can do to a man.

Nightbreed is a brilliant example of intelligent horror, it’s not without its share of viscera but it all works in the narrative context rather than just catering to the gorehound contingent and it’s rare to see a comic with such potential and it isn’t just recycling tired old hackneyed tropes.

Originally appearing in the 70’s Vampirella was created by Forest J Ackerman with an iconic look designed by Trina Robbins. The first Vampirella magazine from Warren Publishing featured an iconic cover by world renowned fantasy artist Frank Frazetta.

Flash forward a few decades and Dynamite is publishing Vampirella.

The publisher’s approach to the title seems to be similar to that of one of their other titles, Red Sonja , which was somewhat unfairly overlooked until Layout 1acclaimed writer Gail Simone took over writing duties. Since then the perception of the title has changed with Simone’s writing gaining critical acclaim.

For Vampirella, another title often perceived as a sexist throwback to the comics of yesteryear due to the characters skimpy attire (despite it being designed by influential comics artist and writer Robbins) the publisher opted to ask acclaimed horror writer Nancy A Collins to write the new series for Vampirella’s 45th anniversary.

Collins take on the character is definitely one worth checking out, a modern take on the character which still embraces the character’s inherently pulpy horror roots.

 Layout 1Vampirella finds herself charged by the Vatican to investigate the kidnapping of a young girl by the nefarious Cult Of Chaos, lead by a figure from Vampirella’s past, only things don’t exactly to plan and Vampirella finds her world is thrown into turmoil. Suddenly friends become enemies and enemies become friends as she has to face a Vatican wet works team with help coming from the most unlikely of sources.

There’s lots to like about Collins’ take on the iconic character, there’s some great dialogue noting that if you can’t escape your past you should embrace it. This works both narratively for the situation Vampirella finds herself in and is also a knowing wink to the reader about her costume as we see her wardrobe is full of other “normal” clothes too. Also her wearing her costume under a trenchcoat is a neat practical touch and avoids things becoming too T & A which is one of things unfairly associated with the character and its proto Bad Girl roots. A good example of how this take on the character is set in the modern world is the way she finds herself evicted from her lush appartment and it also establishes that she’s living under an assumed name rather than having the name Vampirella on the paperwork, which would be a bit ridiculous.

Collins doesn’t waste time with stodgy exposition either, the narrative hits the ground running and things in Vampirella’s world just unfold and happen without clunky explanations as to who Vampirella is, why she isn’t like other vampires and why she’s working for the Vatican. Some might see these as glaring and confusing omissions but rather they are questions left to be answered to make space for the unfolding plot, this makes for a much better and more fluid reading experience.

Patrick Berkenkotter’s art matches the tone well too handling everyday real world elements like the young girls bedroom with its stuffed animals and the more pulpy elements like dark rituals in graveyards. The character designs are good too with Father Nicodemus, the leader of The Vatican’s wet works squad looking like a grizzled scarred war veteran.

Vampirella is probably better known as a pin up character, especially considering Frazetta’s famous painting but this shows there’s actually a story to go with the character.

Caliban from Avatar Press is the latest of several titles that acclaimed writer Garth Ennis has written for the publisher, an atmospheric sci-fi horror based 7b8205fd547ec5fd1037e37f092c5552around the titular space faring mining/exploration vessel and its crew.

The vast majority of the ships personnel, miners, scientists and more are in cryosleep leaving just a small crew to run the ship as it flies through warp. Things take an unexpected turn when the Caliban collides with an alien craft and fuses with it whilst in Warp.

One of the best things about Caliban is it takes its time to go places, slowly building up atmosphere and leaving plenty of space for character work. Early on tech whizz Nomi establishes that travelling through space and the warp is actually pretty mind numbingly tedious, to the point that it can actually have adverse effects on the crew despite undergoing rigorous screening and testing before they can join. This is told through a diary of sorts that she is writing whilst characters interact around her. Nomi’s right hand woman is San who fixes the tech, or as Nomi puts it “I only talk to them, you fix them”.

-012Whilst the crew is made up of a host of characters, Nomi and San are the main focus.

The story focusses more on a creeping sense of dread as the crew have to deal with an escalating series of events rather than high octane action pieces. It’s the way that characters react to these situations that makes much of the narrative as underlying sentiments come to the surface as the situation changes, like one of the crew members ranting at San “you and the other dyke get on with your jobs”, which the naïve and oblivious Nomi is confused by not even suspecting that her friend is actually a “dyke”.

Ennis utilises classic narrative elements well, exploring an alien environment, an unreliable communications system, a crew that has to split up, mysterious deaths. There’s a constant sense that something is going to happen but not really knowing what in a similar vein as Ridley Scott’s cinema classic Alien or Paul Andersen’s Event Horizon.

This atmosphere and creeping sense of menace is aided by Facundo Percio’s evocative and moody art which is also incredibly detailed, capturing both characters expressions and the various monitors, banks of buttons and various other functional looking tech that makes up the interior of the Caliban. The inks and colour palette colour from Sebastian Cabrol and Hernan Cabrera further add to the ominous atmosphere.    Later issues give an epic sense of scale too as the crew find themsevles having to venture out and explore.

All Star Western #30

Integrating Jonah Hex into the DC Universe sounded like the worst thing that could happen to the ill tempered , scar faced Old West bounty hunter. TheALLSW_30_3-665x1024 idea of Hex bumping into Superman or some other superhero or villain is so utterly removed from Hex’s adventures it seems bizarre. Long time writing buddies Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti (now veterans at writing Hex with over 70 issues) have managed to handle this really well and in surprising ways though, even if they might have alienated the odd reader along the way.

Following his time travel misadventures Hex now finds himself back in the Old West and it’s a sombre affair as Hex goes about burying Gina his paramore from the future who died in mysterious circumstances.

What makes Jonah Hex so good is he isn’t a superhero and he doesn’t have powers either, which makes him considerably different to most characters in DC’s pantheon. Despite being reintroduced to the DC Universe he still du9ced5j0d0l6t45b5h5m5dikpretty much exists in his own realm with its own characters as well as outlaws, moonshine and six shooters. Like most fringe characters you either get it or you don’t.

One of the characters that inhabits Hex’s world is Tallulah Black, who makes her return in this issue. The Ying to Hex’s Yang she is his counterpart, a scarred bounty hunter with a tortured past and the pair have a history and Tallulah’s reaction to Hex’s new unscarred face is deftly handled.

Staz Johnson provides some sublime moody art which features some classic Old West imagery aided by a suitably moody colour palette from Michael Atiyeh. All Star Western shares the same layout style featured in the pairs pre 52 Jonah Hex title featuring bold chapter headings.

The return to an inclusion of a back up story, this issue featuring Madame 44, gives All Star Western an anthology feel again which is both hit and miss, it’s always interesting seeing Palmiotti and Gray work on another character in the same world as Hex but it also means there’s less of Hex.

MULP: Sceptre of the Sun #1

MULP Sceptre of the Sun is an all ages tale published by Inky Little Paws which introduces Jack Redpath and his associates as they become embroiled in atumblr_n2omterLKS1s5h6cdo1_500 tale of mystery and intrigue which involves ancient treasure connected to a discovery at an archaeological dig.

Compared to the output of the rumbling juggernauts that are the “Big Two” ,which is contrained by the numerous rules of the comics publication machinery,  MULP is a breath of fresh air and a reminder of what makes indie comics so good.

This the first of five parts introduces the characters and the world of MULP and that world is a joy to behold,  a world populated by anthropomorphic mice. Imagine Indiana Jones or the adventures of Allan Quatermain with mice. It should be noted that this setting this isn’t a case of an interesting world being the hook making up for an uninteresting story far from it.

tumblr_n2ond1L3Tk1s5h6cdo1_500The story from writer Matt Gibbs is one which takes its cues from classic pulp adventure stories. It opens up on a bustling market in the heart of Egypt and the reader is quickly introduced to Jack Redpath and Cornelius Field as the two head towards a dig site where there’s been trouble with thugs raiding the dig site and one of the research assistants has gone missing. It doesn’t take long for the pair to become embroiled in a globe spanning adventure.

To go with Gibbs story there’s some gorgeous art from Sara Dunkerton. There’s some great character designs and the action is handled brilliantly but what really stands out is the little details which add to the world. Details like “Acorn Airways” being emblazoned on the side of a plane seen in one of the first panels, the numerous real world landmarks that feature in the story like The White Cliffs of Dover and The British Museum and loads of other things, like a Rhinocerous Beetle being used like an ox to pull a cart in the background of one panel and mice riding lizards like horses. It’s great world building which makes a great setting for the story.

MULP is a brilliant example of what comics are about.

For more info visit MULPcomic.com

Chaos #1

Chaos! Comics was one of the surprising successes of the 90’s. Brian Pulido and Steven Hughes created their own publishing company as a home forLayout 1 their expanding range of characters. The name is mostly associated with T&A Bad Girl horror comics, one of the most well known characters being Lady Death. There were several other Bad Girl characters including Purgatori, Chastity and Jade amongst others. Evil Ernie is one of the most well known characters outside of the Bad Girl pantheon that Chaos! Comics are known for.

These characters would feature in intertwined stories often first appearing in one title before getting their own. Squarely aimed at older teen male readers chock full of violence and scantily clad anti-heroines, they were crass and lurid but that was part of the appeal and they were a big hit.

Lady Death became the archetype for a whole subgenre of comics pretty much.

When Bad Girl comics went out of favour though Chaos! Comics went into decline and then bankrupt, with Pulido selling the rights to the characters. They eventually ended up at Dynamite with the exception of Lady Death which went to Avatar.

Chaos is Dynamite’s first publication featuring the characters (aside from a mini series featuring Evil Ernie) written by Tim Seeley with art from Mirka Andolfo.

The story, as explained in a foreword, is a war of attrition between three different factions with Earth the battleground. Purgatori the vampire goddess seeks revenge against nemesis Mistress Hel and her accomplice Evil Ernie who are trying to bring about the apocalypse whilst The Chosen – a group of supernatural mortals – face off against both factions and the various creatures they employ.

There’s some great potential with so many colourful and twisted characters to play with so it’s disappointing that this is so underwhelming. Seeley is the creator and writer of Hack/Slash ,the popular long running horror title, which makes it all the more disappointing. Introducing a host of characters in a single issue is always tricky and readers not familiar with the characters will find themselves somewhat lost, wondering just exactly who’s who and what’s Layout 1going on due to a disjointed narrative.

Introducing the majority of your characters at the end of your first issue is a rather bizarre move narratively speaking and seemingly indicates that Seeley is just expecting readers to know who these characters are and not expecting anyone who isn’t a fan of old Chaos! Comics to pick it up .

The art from Mirka Andolfo fails to impress for the most part lacking definition and the murky colours courtesy of Walter Baiamonte really don’t help matters.

Updating Chaos! Comics characters wasn’t going to be easy without taking away the reasons they were so popular in the first place, i.e gratuitous T&A art and brutal violence. Chaos! Comics aren’t remembered for their in depth multi-layered narratives this should be crass and bad taste and gory but this is sanitised, bland and rather toothless. There’s definitely a market for (im)mature horror comics even if it’s as a Guilty Pleasure , Avatar publishes several.

Chaos could’ve been a flagship title for Dynamite but fans of old Chaos! Comics will be left wanting and new readers will just be bewildered.

One of the biggest ironies is a host of great artists have provided excellent covers including J. Scott Campbell, Carlos Rafael, Monte Moore and Tim Vigil amongst others.

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