Review: A Hard Day’s Work with She-Hulk #1

Fresh from the successes of female-led titles like Captain Marvel, Black Widow and Ms. Marvel, Marvel Comics finally brings one of its most enduring characters back to the page with She-Hulk #1. Since her first appearance in 1980’s Savage She-Hulk, Jennifer Walters has made numerous appearances in the pages of Fantastic Four, Avengers, and Incredible Hulk, as well as several separate runs of her solo Sensational She-Hulk. In that time, Jennifer has been around the block, not only as the hulking green hero but as a savvy New York attorney, offering legal counsel to many of her fellow heroes.

In February Jennifer finally came back to the shelves in her own anticipated ongoing solo title. Fresh off her recent major role in FF from Matt Fraction and Lee and Mike Allred, Jennifer is back to basics. This new book is helmed by the creative team of writer Charles Soule, artist Javier Pulido, and color artist Munsta Vicente, and offers a fun ride for readers new and old.

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An upbeat title that takes several cues from its predecessors, the opening issue follows Jennifer’s misadventures as she balances her life as a superhero with her career.  Realizing that she was only brought on for her connections in the superhero community, Jennifer quits her position at Paine and Luckberg, LLP. to find a more appreciative firm. After this incident she goes out to drown her sorrows at the nearby lawyer bar. There she runs into Holly Harlow, the widow of a recently deceased villain and inventor.

Holly, alone with two children to raise, has reason to believe that Tony Stark stole some of her husband’s patents before his death. She wants Jennifer to represent her in court, hoping to support her family on what little legacy her husband left behind. Although hesitant at first, Jennifer agrees to take the case, using her longstanding relationship with Stark to settle matters out of court. What seems like a simple case quickly takes a strange and frustrating turn for Jennifer, sending her into battle against lawyers, robots, and Stark’s very intimidating one-man legal department, Legal. Despite the obstacles thrown at her, Jennifer finds a way to solve Holly’s troubles and makes a pretty penny in the process, giving her enough capital (and confidence) to open her own practice.

A fun romp into the flipside of the superhero business, She-Hulk preserves the wit and charm of her earlier titles while still doing something new. Soule delivers a solid script here, maintaining a likeable playfulness in showing off Jennifer’s legal savvy as she maneuvers through Stark’s obnoxious corporate defenses. Pulido brings this quirky world to life with a strong sense of storytelling, buoyed by the retro sensibilities of his line work and several clever comedic flourishes throughout. Vicente’s clean bright color palettes help to develop this cool visual aesthetic, making for a fun visual experience from start to finish.

Overall this issue is just fun, reviving a character with a rich history and an eager readership. Longtime She-Hulk fans will love the playful writing and entertaining artwork, while new readers will find plenty of love in Jennifer’s continuing adventures. If you’re looking to a lighthearted and engaging superhero book, I highly recommend She-Hulk #1.

Magen Cubed –  http://www.eonism.net

Indie Creators: Devin Kraft

Originally from Roswell, New Mexico, Devin Kraft is an indie comics artist and illustrator from Cheshire Cat Studios (http://cheshirecatart.com/index.html). A transplant from the desert, he is currently based out of Dallas, Texas, which is just down the highway from me here in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. I first encountered Devin’s work while trawling the convention floor at Dallas Comic Con in 2012, grabbing a business card and heading home to follow his efforts online, keeping an eye on his projects and illustrations. Devin is currently hard at work on the third volume of his creator-owned comic Dragon Slayer, a dynamic blend of Eastern/Western fables and genre-mashing, resulting in an intriguing hunting epic. I had a chance to talk to Devin about comics, writing, the local indie comics scene, and a whole lot more.

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Q. Your big project right now is your comic Dragon Slayer. What do you want people to know about it?

A. How much of a labor of love this comic is! It has been one of the most challenging projects I’ve ever done, and not just in terms of writing or illustrating, but promotion and distribution as well.  Minus some much appreciated editorial help from my cousin Brooks and some graphic design help from his brother Matt, I’ve done Dragon Slayer primarily alone, which means I have to field every job at some point or another.

First I have to write, pencil, ink, tone and letter each issue, then I have to design the book, promote it, and distribute it.  I self-publish, so I have to hand mail every copy sold through the Kickstarter, or sell them via comic conventions.  It’s definitely a lot of work, but I love it.

I came up with the concept for the book in 2009, and I started working on the book late 2012.  Usually I just sell comics at conventions, but I wanted to use Kickstarter hoping it would help get people interested in the comic.  Kickstarter has been huge for me, as I have been able to engage my audience as well as get immediate feedback from issue to issue.  Dragon Slayer is definitely a product of that collaboration with fans of the book, and that’s what I’ve always wanted from comicking.

Q. I’ve read a bit of Dragon Slayer so far and I really enjoy visual blend of Eastern fable with Western sci-fi/fantasy. That’s an aesthetic that I often see but isn’t always integrated successfully. What are some of your influences for this comic? Any particular homages?

A. I hope I pull the aesthetic off successfully!  My favorite stories and art styles are hybrids of Eastern and Western culture.  I love Japanese artists who pay attention to anatomy, and American or European artists who know when to let anatomy slide in favor of more expressionistic storytelling.

As far as specific examples go, the three biggest spiritual influences have been Katsuhiro Otomo (primarily in how lavishly he portrays destroyed cities in his work), Matsumoto Taiyou (for pacing, and allowing his stories to breathe), and Terada Katsuya (for his brilliant sense of design).  All three were heavily influenced by Moebius, but I’d be hard pressed to think of any artists who have a more distinctly “Japanese” style.

DevinKraft1As far as storytelling goes, my main influences for Dragon Slayer are Neil Gaiman, Aesop’s Fables, the Coen Brothers, and Quentin Tarantino. I’m hoping the end product will be a viable mix of traditional and contemporary storytelling resulting in something fresh and original.

Q. I know a lot of creators across many fields have mixed feelings about crowdfunding projects. Some love it, some despise it, and it always seem to be a well-debated topic all over the web. Having Kickstarted your comic twice now, how have your experiences with crowdfunding been so far?

A. I personally love crowdfunding, as that is what has allowed me to continue writing/drawing/producing Dragon Slayer. When I first went to the Dallas Comic Con in 2012, I printed up five comics I had drawn thinking I would sell through my stock.  I quickly found out how difficult it is to pitch an original idea to people at a crowded convention, so I was worried about getting the comics I did finish into an audience’s hands.

Kickstarter was a great platform to present the idea to an audience as well as interact with people interested in the concept.  There’s always a point in each issue where I burn out a bit because I’m fielding three people’s jobs or so, and having people who care about the story and are excited for the next issue is what keeps me going sometimes.  I hang on to all the fanart people send me and I decorate my room with it as a reminder that people do actually care about what I’m doing.

Q. How long do you plan for Dragon Slayer to run? Will it just be three volumes, or is there more story to tell?

Dragon Slayer is going to wrap up with the third issue, which will be about the size of the first two issues combined.  I always thought of it as a self-contained story, but the more I played around in that world the more short stories I came up with.  I might base a future comic in the same world as Dragon Slayer, for sure.  If I could pass off the art duties to someone else, I’d love to do write some shorts fleshing out the world a little bit more.

Q. While digging through your older comics, I found myself very much intrigued by the imagery of many of your one-offs, specifically Devil and Dr. John. Do you find yourself drawn to one-offs more than serialized work, or vice versa? Do you prefer one format over another?

A. Being an independent comic artist, I don’t have the infrastructure that the average comic has.  It takes a lot of work just to finish a single issue, and I usually do the short comics for myself keeping in mind they potentially may never reach an audience.  Devil and Dr. John, for example, was written and illustrated while I was an exchange student in Japan when I was 21.  I didn’t print it up until 2012, roughly five years after I had finished it.  I put the pages up for free on Deviantart and Facebook, and I even had it translated into Japanese to submit to some manga contests when I was job hunting in Japan in 2009, but even with all of that I’d be surprised if more than ten people read it before it was physically printed.

In college I would draw comics instead of doodling in class, figuring it would be better (and more focused) practice than aimless scribbles.  By drawing a page or so a day, I ended up completing twenty comics that I had no clue how to get to an audience.  My first comic was a Chinese noir inspired riff on Alice in Wonderland that I finished about five issues of, and towards the end of college I finished five issues of a comic called Paradise about an omniscient horticulturist fighting an omnipresent murderer (trust me, it’s cooler than it sounds, and it had zombies before zombies got played to death).

I think you have so much more room to play with and subvert tropes with serialized storytelling, so as a writer I much prefer that, but it takes a colossal amount of effort to wear both hats, and without any audience backing you up drawing serialized stories can feel like a lot of effort for a potentially empty room, so that’s why I did one-offs back in the day.

I really just want stories to have a solid thesis statement and to stick to that, and sometimes serialized media can lose the plot over time.  Alternatively, sometimes you need more room to properly explore your concept, so it becomes essential to tell it over several episodes.

Q. I noticed on your site you have a nicely cataloged visual resources page, which spares from me having to ask you where you draw inspiration from. I have to ask (as someone who’s far less fastidious in keeping track of her own resources): do you find that it helps to have all of your influential material organized and within reach? And where else do you mine for art-fuel?

A. I once heard that a good way to engage your audience was to create a learning environment, and that was one of the concepts behind my website.  I wanted to educate fans and future artists about artists who they might not hear about anywhere else.  There are widely known artists who work on Marvel and DC’s flagship titles, then there are the artist’s artists who have never gained mainstream attention for whatever reason.  My goal was to at least present people with these artist’s works in hopes they would serve as an inspiration to aspiring artists as well.

Case in point it took me years to find out how awesome Moebius was.  I actually had come across his book DevinKraft340 Days in the Desert in a Japanese bookstore, but I never knew how influential he was to my favorite artists. I also spent the majority of my time in Japan hunting down obscure artbooks, and this exposed me to a lot of alternative Japanese illustrators, and I wanted to pass this knowledge on to any budding artists who were looking for something new.

For art fuel I find myself checking my Tumblr a lot. I’m really picky about who and what I follow on Tumblr, so my feed has become a great mix of comic illustration tips, fashion, high art, and photography that always serves to plow through any artists’ block I may be struggling with.  Beyond that, I love going to Half Price Books or to comic shops and just checking through every single book on the shelf that I haven’t seen before.  I can kill a good hour or two at a decent bookstore.

Q. You’re based out of Dallas, which is just down the highway from me. Most of the American indie creators I keep up with these days are stationed on either coast or in Austin. They all have unique communities that they engage with, unique venues, things like that. (Obviously the internet and social networking opens up the indie community as a whole, so it doesn’t even need mentioning anymore.) But, from one local to another, how would you describe the indie comics world for us here in north-central Texas?

A. I’m from Roswell, New Mexico, originally, and it’s such a small town that it’d be really difficult to live solely off of such a niche form of art (comicking).  Coming to Dallas, I started attending conventions having only read about them in magazines when I was a kid.  It wasn’t long before I decided I was ready to exhibit at some of these conventions, and doing that has allowed me to connect with a bunch of awesome and talented people, both in the form of peers and in the form of fans.

Dallas has some phenomenal local talent that would be snatched up by the bigger companies immediately if they had headquarters here.  The artists I know here all employ vastly different styles from each other based on vastly different influences, so there’s a lot of diversity. It’s always a lot of fun at the big conventions to browse the booths, as every booth has such a totally different style from the next.

I’m guaranteed to forget someone in this list, but a few of my local favorites are: The Space Gun Studios guys, Robert Wilson IV, Chad Thomas, Evan Bryce Cranston, the Ghostwerks comics crew, Sho-Nuff Studios, Jose Ramirez, Jose Esquivel, and Kristian Donaldson, among others.

Q. Outside of comics, you do a lot of illustrations and commission work. I know you’ve had some success with your Studio Ghibli series in particular. Are there any favorites or highlights you’d like to share?

A. When I need to take a break from creator owned stuff, I do fanart, and I always try to have fun with it.  Until recently, I never really designed posters for conventions specifically-I’d draw them more for myself than anything.  It’s always fun to see which prints con goers gravitate towards at a convention, and at Sci-Fi Expo people really seemed to love my recent Sherlock print.  My Tardis design usually sells out pretty quickly, so I suspect people just love the BBC (as they should).

When I’m not working on sequentials, I’ll usually have one or two new poster concepts to post on my Etsy store (https://www.etsy.com/shop/cheshirecatart) each week.  I’ve been focusing on finishing off Dragon Slayer, but once that’s finished I’ll probably relax with some fanart for a few weeks.

Q. Your work draws from and incorporates a lot of different genres, which makes for some fun comics. Is there a particular genre you love more than the others? Is there a genre you’d like to tackle but haven’t yet?

A. It’s really tough for me because I love slice of life alternative comics as well as deep philosophical comics, but my art style is kinetic and lends itself to action, so I always feel like there’s a gulf between the stories I would like to write and the stories I would like to draw.  I’d love to write personal pensive stories like Craig Thompson, Daniel Clowes, or Adrian Tomine, but I would go nuts drawing talking heads all the time.  Maybe when I’m older and more comfortable with my style as well as more versatile I’ll grow up into the storyteller I want to be.

I’d love to dabble in each genre.  I think horror would be a blast to do. Junji Ito’s Uzumaki got me really inspired to do something in that vein.  I’d also love to write stories about relationships, but again, I’d hate drawing them.  I could probably have a field day with the action genre since I grew up on Chinese noir films when I was a kid.

Q. Before we wrap this up, are there any other projects coming up that you’d like to plug? Any upcoming convention appearances you want to highlight?

A. The collected edition of Dragon Slayer will be available on Kickstarter either April or May, depending on when I get all the pages wrapped up and the book designed.  The Space Gun Studios team is coloring the book, so it’s going to look amazing once all is said and done.  I’m already working on the comic after Dragon Slayer mentally, so that’s going to be fun to dive into.

As far as conventions, I’ll be doing Staple! March 1st-2nd in Austin, and then I’ll be doing The Heart of Texas Comicon in Waco March 7th-8th. I’ll definitely be at Dallas Comicon in May as well, hopefully with finished copies of Dragon Slayer!

As far as social media goes, I’m on just about everything. I kind of have to be, but I’m pretty active on each platform, so if anyone messages I’ll catch it pretty fast.

Thanks so much to Devin for talking the time to talk to me. Be sure to follow his work at Cheshire Cat Studios (http://cheshirecatart.com/index.html) and stop by his Etsy store for more (https://www.etsy.com/shop/cheshirecatart). I look forward to seeing more from him in the future.

Magen Cubed  –  http://www.eonism.net

Retro Comics: Havok and Wolverine: Meltdown #3

By far the most interesting issue in the series up to this point, Havok and Wolverine: Meltdown #3 follows Logan as he tracks down Alex and Quark. Incorporating horror elements into the book’s already impressive visual narrative, this issue continues to play with genre conventions to satisfying ends. It’s an 80s flashback worth having as Quark leads Alex into General Meltdown’s clutches, and Logan fights to survive Doctor Neutron’s experimentation.

Fleeing across Mexico from their alleged CIA pursuers, Alex and Quark fly into Merida, where Quark checks in with Meltdown while Alex rests. Still posing as the nurse Scarlett, Quark finds her persona beginning to slip as she develops feelings for Alex. It is a cliché for the femme fatale to fall for the flawed hero, but this scene leads to one of the loveliest sequences in the book as Quark goes into the women’s room to change. Five wordless panels against a red-smeared watercolor background invoke a sense of sad resignation far more profound than the Simonsons’ fun but cheesy script. It’s pages like this that make the work of Muth and Williams the real stars of this series.

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Meanwhile, Logan’s hunt for Alex puts him in danger when he brought down in an ambush and captured by Meltdown’s thugs. His mind wiped in a series of experiments, he’s dropped off in a castle in a Soviet-controlled region of the Carpathian Mountains, where Quark leads Alex. The castle, right out of Dracula, is where Meltdown and Neutron arrange for Alex to encounter Logan, now a mindless beast bent on tearing Alex to shreds. Alex, wanting to save his friend, has no choice but to fight back or be killed. In the skirmish he accidentally kills Logan, just in time for the cliffhanger ending, and swears revenge on whoever is behind this.

I have to say, I don’t think I’ve never read a superhero book quite like this before. It has pulp aspirations with a revenge story on the side. The buddy comedy set-up of the first issue has turned into a cool globe-trotting adventure, with plenty of brutal action, mysterious locales, and a dash of horror for good measure. To their credit, Walter and Louise Simonson deliver a story that is both fun and interesting, and manages to hold up today with its many twists and turns. It’s so 80s that it hurts sometimes, but in an increasingly endearing way.

Brought to the page by the amazing collaboration of Muth and Williams, with their strong sense of storytelling and compatible styles, this series just gets better as it goes along. I found this to be the most visually pleasing issue so far, from the inventive panel construction of Meltdown’s underground hideout sequence to the sumptuous color palettes throughout. For a world so dark and gritty, there is a real beauty in the soft, gauzy whites and blues of Alex’s scenes with Quark, and a raw, earthy vitality to the reds and blacks of Logan’s pages. This is one of the most visually unified collaborative superhero books I’ve seen to date, which makes it one of the most satisfying.

Magen Cubed –  http://www.eonism.net

Review: More Mythos, Mystery and Death with Pretty Deadly #4

Picking up after issue #3’s unsettling revelation of Sissy’s birth, Pretty Deadly #4 immediately kicks into gear as the rogues and not-quite-heroes of this haunting western tale unite to save Sissy.  Writer Kelly Sue DeConnick delivers another air-tight script with this issue, brought to the page by artist Emily Rios and her beautiful sense of energy and space. Jordie Bellaire returns to round out this impressive creative team with her subtle color palettes, lending depth and softness to Rios’ otherworldly locales and delicate, fine-featured characters.

Opening the issue with Bones Bunny and Butterfly, Johnny and Molly arrive at the river’s edge to pull Sissy from the water. In a scene that continues to play with the idea of animal forms, switching back and forth between Molly and Johnny’s respective namesakes, he explains (in part) the story behind Death’s binder. As they set off, we see Alice return to the underworld in her butterfly form, finding Death none too pleased with her. She promises to ally herself with Ginny to deliver Sissy, the Ascendant, to him, and he warns her not to disappoint him again as he restores her body. Alone again, Ginny’s mother, Fox’s wife and Death’s prisoner in the underworld, appeals to him for her release. Too in love to let her go, he promises he will free the both of them instead once he has Sissy.

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Washing up after the flood, Fox wakes to find Ginny waiting for him, Sarah at her side. Ginny prepares to kill Fox, still seeking to avenge her mother, but Fox won’t die until he tells her of Death’s plans for Sissy. Accepting his fate at the end of her sword, he appeals to her to protect Sissy from her father. This emotional confrontation comes to brutal blows but Ginny agrees to Fox’s final request, and in the ends spares his life for Sissy’s sake. As the issue closes, Johnny and Molly deliver Sissy to them. Fox and Sissy are reunited as the cast bands together to stop Death, with Alice appearing on the horizon for her final showdown with Ginny.

With another strong issue under its belt, Pretty Deadly continues to be my favorite book on the shelf. The slow development of the last three issues pays off here as we approach the conclusion of the first arc, with tensions coming to a head in dramatic confrontations and bittersweet reunions. If you’ve been a little lost with the structure of the last three issues, rest assured the pacing and structure of the book has settled into something a little more linear, even as DeConnick still maintains that initial sense of magic and sorrow throughout the series. With the mythology of Ginny, Sissy and Death firmly rooted in this ghostly western world, this book continues to gain forward momentum toward the inevitable confrontation with Death himself. It’s all headed for a showdown, but we have to wait and see how it all shakes out for this surprising cast of characters.

Magen Cubed –  http://www.eonism.net

Books You Should Be Reading: Black Widow

It’s not often that I find myself unashamedly praising a mainstream superhero comic book, at least not outside of the safe and comfy perimeters of a superhero comic book blog. In a sea of creator-owned titles and indie comics more than worth the cover price, superhero books are mostly comfort food. While many titles out there are challenging genre convention, narrative structure, and the limitations of commercial art, superheroes, by and large, mostly stay the same. That’s okay: they’re supposed to stick with the standards, because that’s their function. The pages of the average cape book spill over with modern hero mythology, archetypes of classical fiction and folklore dusted off and repurposed every few years to have one more go around.

But sometimes you get a superhero book that does a little more, goes just a little bit further, and pulls off something great. Black Widow from Marvel Comics, helmed by writer Nathan Edmondson and artist Phil Noto, is one of those books. Fresh from the publisher’s successes with solo titles such as Hawkeye and Captain Marvel, Marvel’s applying a similar formula to this book. While Captain Marvel is a traditional hero book with a strong emotional center, about air force pilot turned crime fighter Carol Danvers, the offbeat Hawkeye, following the oft-depressing daily exploits of Avenger Clint Barton, is a little more genre-bending. Black Widow, to its advantage, follows the core principles of these titles with great effectiveness. It’s a superhero book, yes, but in name only, as this title firmly grounds itself in action, espionage, and one woman’s quest for atonement in the face of a blood and tragic past.

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Noto and his stellar artwork and his soft, painterly colors create a beautiful balance with the energy and dynamism of his page layouts.

The title follows Natasha Romanov, known to even the most casual fans as Black Widow, a ruthless ex-KGB assassin, an efficient SHIELD agent, and a cool-as-ice Avenger. She is currently on a meteoric rise into the upper echelon of well-known Marvel properties, thanks to Scarlet Johansson’s portrayal in Iron Man 2, Avengers, and the upcoming Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier. Natasha can also be found in numerous Marvel animated shows and films, and makes notable appearances in recent video games as well. While this book could have tried to play off of the character’s recent mainstream exposure, instead Edmondson and Noto craft a tighter, more personal narrative, focusing on Natasha and her very small circle of associates. If you’re looking for a star-studded supporting cast of Avengers alum, you’re not likely to find it anytime soon. This is actually one of the best parts about the book, as it is small and self-contained, and is carried by the strong partnership between Edmondson and Noto to some visually pleasing results.

There is no shortage of action and adventure in this series, in the same vein as The Bourne Identity or Mission Impossible, with slick and exciting fight sequences, daring escapes, and plenty of spy gadgets. This is the main draw, but I find Edmondson is most successful in that he still keeps the story grounded in Natasha’s personal quest. A former killer with a checkered past, Natasha spends her off-time making up for it, one job at a time. In the first issue she makes a point of telling her manager/accountant Isaiah that she’s not doing contract work for the money, insisting that he transfers her compensation to her network of trusts. Natasha never compromises her ideals in the pursuit of her cause, and is never portrayed as anything but a compelling and capable spy, remaining a very relatable and human character throughout.

As I’ve stated in my reviews of the first two issues, the real star of this book is Noto and his stellar artwork. His soft, painterly colors create a beautiful balance with the energy and dynamism of his page layouts. Moody palettes and lighting techniques establish locales with an effectiveness I don’t often see, creating a distinctive visual tone for the series. The softened filter that Noto applies throughout gives a delicate, gauzy emphasis to key panels, contrasting the brutal efficiency of the character with her inherent femininity. Black Widow is as beautiful as she is deadly, and Noto explores that through graphic narrative without coming off as patronizing or obvious, a feat I rarely see done effectively.

While it’s still early days for this title, Black Widow is a cool book that packs a punch. It’s visually pleasing and fun to read, successfully blending genre conventions to satisfying ends. If you’re not already following this book, I highly recommend that you start.

Magen Cubed –  http://www.eonism.net

The Return of a Marvel: Miracleman #1

One of the most transformative characters in comic book history makes his return to the page in Miracleman #1. Conceived in 1956 by writer-artist Mick Anglo, the previously-titled Marvelman was the United Kingdom’s substitute for DC’s Captain Marvel (not to be confused with Marvel’s various Captains Marvel) and was published by L. Miller & Son. Powered by atomic energy, young reporter Mickey Moran utters the magic word “Kimota” to become the blue-and-red-clad superhero Marvelman. Published until 1963, the original Marvelman series had a healthy run and was reprinted for sale in Italy, Australia and Brazil. Due to copyright issues, legal disputes and struggling sales of reprints, the character eventually disappeared from store shelves entirely.

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As the decades passed, both Marvelman and his family of kid sidekicks faded away until 1982, when they were revived by Alan Moore, Gary Leach and Alan Davis. Appearing in the monthly British anthology Warrior, Marvelman became Miracleman, a dark deconstructionist work of superhero fiction. This new and different take on the character featured a very adult Michael Moran, plagued by migraines, domestic struggles and feverish dreams of flight, taking genre conventions of 50s and 60s superhero comics head-on. This book would later be taken over by Neil Gaiman and Mark Buckingham, who took the story even further. However, falling again into legal limbo in the 1990s, Miracleman changed hands several times before being secured by Marvel Comics in 2009. As of 2010, Marvel has been reprinting various collected editions of Miracleman’s numerous iterations, and in January 2014 he returned to store shelves in Miracleman #1: A Dream of Flying.

This oversized issue features collected reprints, restored classic Marvelman comics, concept art, and an interview with Anglo. The artwork has been beautifully restored by Michael Kelleher and Gary Leach, with lush digital color work by Steve Oliff. Digicore’s crisp restoration of the classic comics will please nostalgic readers looking to revisit the hero’s early days. #1 opens up with Prologue: 1956 by Angelo and artist Don Lawrence from 1985’s Miracleman #1. On face value, this half-tone piece of 50s action comic nostalgia reads as a kitschy throwback for unfamiliar fans, but ends on a haunting note that paves the way for the stories of Moore and Gaiman. The final page, an unsettling and ever-advancing close-up of Miracleman’s face captioned by a quote from Nietzsche’s Thus Spake Zarathustra, is one of the eeriest and most satisfying pages I have ever seen in a comic.

Rounding out the issue is the first two collected stories by Moore and Leach from Warrior #1 and #2, Miracleman1featuring the rebirth of Miracleman as we know him today. …A Dream of Flying and its follow-up are dark and uncompromising, exploring Miracleman’s origins, his mysterious fall, and his eventual return from struggling journalist Michael Moran to the hero of his youth. These stories examine the strange and innocent world of 50s superheroes through the lens of modern cynicism and nuclear paranoia of the Cold War-era West. Whereas Anglo’s shiny gleam of scientific inquiry and magical fantasy painted Miracleman’s powers in broad and optimistic strokes, Moore’s vision of the nuclear-powered hero is far more jaded. Similar themes are strong elements in Moore’s later work such as Watchmen, and it is interesting to see how these ideas have developed in different books. In these issues, readers see their first glimpse of the corrupting sway these powers can have over heroes, as Johnny Bates, the original Kid Marvelman, survives into adulthood with his abilities but is rendered a sociopath.

This is an exciting book for fans of comics and comics history, reviving one of the most important characters of the last thirty years. Whether you’re new Miracleman, or you’ve been a longtime reader since his earlier iterations, this book is absolutely worth picking up. It’s an essential work that has informed comics creators for years.

Magen Cubed –  http://www.eonism.net

Review: More Mystery and Magic with Pretty Deadly #3

After two issues of enduring mystery, Pretty Deadly #3 finally offers some of the genesis behind this supernatural western fable. The dynamic creative team of Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emily Rios continue to tease out their ethereal world of revenge and death, magic and symbolism with great success, shedding some much-needed light on Fox and Sissy. With little to go on in the first two issues, as readers we’ve been ambling along against the haunting backdrops of empty desert and fields populated by undead animal avatars, hoping for resolution. However, with great scripting from DeConnick and sumptuous artwork by Rios, brought to visceral fruition by Jordie Bellaire’s unearthly color palettes, readers get their first real tastes of the larger mythical world in this peculiar origin story.

Once again we’re joined by Bones Bunny and Butterfly, who open the story to pose playful and foreshadowing questions about the ephemeral nature of life and death. From there we meet Molly, the crow who serves as Johnny Coyote’s moral compass, and warns him about the consequences of Sissy destroying his stolen binder. The rest of the issue unfolds in an intriguing exchange between Ginny and Sarah that further plays with the title’s use of animals of representatives of characters. This tense exchange adds to the growing mythology of the series, and alludes to true nature of the frictions between Ginny and the rest of the cast.

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It’s this confrontation that sets up the final act, culminating in Sissy’s true origin story and the truth of her quiet and tragic relationship with Fox. This is an unsettling and poignant sequence, and likely the most enduring of the series so far, tying up the questions surrounding Fox, Ginny and Sissy’s relations to one another. It beautifully utilizes the full breadth of the title’s unearthly visual language to establish Sissy’s place in the world and the larger mythology, closing on a flood that endangers the principle cast in a sorrowful cliffhanger.

Despite a somewhat cautious opening section of the arc, the story really feels to be kicking into another gear in this issue. The crux of the issue, the development of the Fox and Sissy backstory, was wonderfully executed and a successful use of the book’s inherently eerie tone. This telling underscores the tragedy of their lives as traveling storytellers and keepers of Ginny’s tale, and creates some much-needed context for their relationship to continue to unfold. All of this comes from the strength of DeConnick’s tense and understated scripting, carried out by Rios’ innovative page design and dramatic panel composition. Every fluid stroke feels meaningful, whether in the delicate character details or the uncanny world in which they inhabit, maintaining a haunting aesthetic that makes this book visually unique and emotionally resonant.

I find myself increasingly enjoying the use of animal symbolism in the book’s exploration of death. The introduction of the crow Molly as Johnny’s ethical guide is an interesting one, playing with the established reoccurring imagery of the rabbit, butterfly and the vulture. We are left to presume that Sissy’s symbol of the vulture is tied to her origin story, a bringer of death (in a very biblical sense) to balance Ginny’s role as an avenging spirit. Combined with Alice’s apparent death manifested in columns of butterflies and Ginny killing Bones Bunny in the first issue, these recurring visual allegories make for a more fascinating read. It accentuates the fairy tale-like quality of the world and invokes the aesthetic motifs of shamanistic lore, further grounding its unearthly ambiance.

This is another successful installment of a gorgeous and complicated story. It’s not for everyone, but hopefully people will stick with it to see where it goes from here. Pretty Deadly takes the conventions of supernatural and spaghetti western storytelling and reinvigorates them in new and intriguing ways. Definitely one of my favorite books on the shelves right now.

Magen Cubed –  http://www.eonism.net