Author Archives | The Professor

Marvel Mondays – $0.99 Comic Sale

Marvel sets up some of their digital comics each Monday for a 99 cent sale. Get them while their hot. This week, it’s Ms. Marvel Mania, with five early issues and Civil War tie-ins.  All in all, it’s worth your eight dollars.

Ms. Marvel #1
Ms. Marvel #2
Ms. Marvel #3
Ms. Marvel #4
Ms. Marvel #5
Ms. Marvel #6 (Civil War)
Ms. Marvel #7 (Civil War)
Ms. Marvel #8 (Civil War)

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One Live Beast – Book One

One Live Beast – Book One

Book: One Live Beast
Publisher: Arzynart
Author: Jeff
Art: Jeff

The distopian storyline is important. It gives us portents and lessons, disguised in the dramatic struggles of the individuals and society. Which is why this trope shows up so often in literature, movies and even comics. Our fears manifest on screen and pulp, our hopes entwined in the fates of heroes and outcasts.

And this is how One Live Beast begins, with the possible conclusion of events from our own history. The fear of terrorist attacks creates the environment needed for an authoritative government to take away the liberties of its people for their own good. Although we saw the start of this in the 9/11 attacks and passed laws, in Jeff’s America their are other attacks, far more devastating, which lead to martial law,  isolationism and an Internet propaganda-machine.

There is no doubt that Jeff is an intelligent and well-read man who wants to write an epic warning to those who will listen. And within his world there are at least a dozen important lessons that he could have written volumes on. However, Jeff brings them all to bear on the reader at once, making it difficult to focus and learn from just one.

The progression of the protagonist, Chris, is as rushed and complex as the world he survives in. At first he is a standard repairman who is in reality an underground hacker. This character profile alone would make him great: the whitehat hero against the technological oppression of the government. But when hacking into the government’s virtual-reality-based network, something goes wrong and now he has the ability to access technology with telepathic ease. And here as well this takes him from an ordinary hacker to a superhero level, able to match the advanced technology of the government with his own powers. But it doesn’t stop there. Chris’s abilities develop into energy based attacks, flight, strength and durability. Astounding, but so far still normal for a superhero comic. But finally Chris ascends to an even higher level of heroism, the story gains an entire mythos of Earth and aliens, of history and influence, that makes Chris a prophetic being in the same realm as Jesus. Another great idea, but one that should be developed on its own without over complicating the already well written story.

The art in One Live Beast has merits and drawbacks. There isn’t any color in the graphic novel, which is understandable since it was self published. The black and white works well for the stark realities of the book. The environmental details are extremely well done. The destroyed infrastructure is realistic and the newly constructed wall is domineering. The artistic portrayal of people isn’t as realistic and seems more amateurish. Perhaps their is a reason for this as his other collection, God Hates Us All, has some well-done abstract mixed-media art portraying highly professional representations of human beings. After reviewing some of the examples from the upcoming Book Two, there does seem to be some improvement in the style.

It is important to note that this is just book one and I hope that Jeff is able to produce the rest of his opus for our benefit. There is a lot of interesting story to be told, perhaps more than can be told, but I for one look forward to watching this mythos unfold.

Want to win a signed copy of this Trade Paperback? How about a signed “God Hates Us All” comic? Comment below and we’ll send it out to a random winner!

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Week of Retribution

Week of Retribution

Last week was the celestial event invoking the power of the Greek goddess Nemesis, who brings terrible vengeance and retribution upon our enemies!  Or…it was just a week in which two comics adopted the name in its current popular vernacular.

Book: Nemesis #1
Publisher: Icon Comics
Author: Mark Millar
Art: Steven McNiven

It is almost impossible to not have heard of or read something from the mind of Mark Millar, with titles like Wanted, Kick Ass, Civil War, some Wolverine work, etc. So it comes as no surprise that there has been a lot of talk about the new work, Nemesis. How do you one-up the violence and gratuitous graphical gorefest of previous titles, make the only ‘super’ in the story a genius and diabolical bastard.  So far they are pretty successful.

The villain in this story uses his intellect and obvious super abilities, so far flight, strength and durability, to play a cat and mouse game with various police chiefs around the globe. The ultimate outcome is the death of the chief, at a date and time already predestined by Nemesis. This death is usually quite messy, in accordance with some unspoken Millar law.

The name of the villain, along with a choice monologue, point towards a desire of retribution against these police officers. However, the ultimate ‘good’ nature of the protagonist makes it hard to see what the back-story could be. Thus the mystery that will keep us coming back. Or, maybe you’re just a fan of trailing entrails.

Book: Nemesis: The Imposters
Publisher: DC
Author: Ivan Brandon
Art: Cliff Richards

The Joker, non-lethal explosions, giant floating robot eye, alternative worlds; I have no clue what the hell if going on in this comic, and I like it.  Unlike many, I do not mind being thrust into the center of aporia, it can be a great center of creativity. Of course I always hope to be relieved of this tension at some point (I’m talking to you Lost) and I will continue to pick up this version of Nemesis in that hope.

In hindsight, after the confusion settled down. I did some research and discovered that there isn’t anything to complicated to this story, yet. Apparently this Nemesis is already an established ‘hero’ from various other titles, such as Suicide Squad. Additionally, the presence of the Joker and Batman isn’t too strange as they shared some page space in the past.  The alternate world is apparently also from the past and is similar to the story of the old Prisoner television series. Since I own and enjoy said series, I’m looking forward to Brandon’s take.

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Supergod Issue Three Preview

Supergod Issue Three Preview

Supergod #3
Avatar Press

Is it still Monday somewhere? No? Oh well.

Avatar just released a preview of the new Supergod #3 coming out this week. Only 6 pages, but Warren Ellis in those six pages can break down a whole new theory of theology and evolution, one that almost makes more sense than current doctrines. Simply put, this is a must read. It is only three issues in, so get all three of them and start reading. Then start drinking heavily and contemplating men, god and what it all means, which is mostly self gratification.

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Free Comics Friday! 3-12-10

Free Comics Friday! 3-12-10

Grant Morrison Trifecta

True creative genius comes from the heart of insanity. Lacking that fractured existential viewpoint?  Another way to rend your own frame of reality is with the power of story. The best stories for enhancing your creative muscles are the genre-breakers; historical-magic realism, modernized fables, absurdist fiction, or metafictional ‘fourth wall’  modes.

Grant Morrison pours kerosene on the ‘fourth wall’ and lights it on fire. Then he laughs insanely at that silly perplexed look on our faces. And we thank him for this, as we should, because in those moments of confused delight are the origins of understanding and learning. Each of these titles below are great examples of Morrison’s storytelling abilities. I claim no responsibility if you are sucked into purchasing years of back issues, but you will thank me for it later.

Animal Man #1
Doom Patrol #1
The Invisibles #1

…Something New

We’ve had something old, now for something new (find your own something blue) Another metafictional tale, this time from Studio 407, Quantum Adventures where “a team of explorers brave the uncharted worlds of fiction to correct anomalies in pop culture”. Seems like something worth following. Studio 407 has a cadre of interesting stories with great art.

Warehouse of Indy Publishers

For those of us financially challenged, the move from $4 paper comics to cheaper PDF comics is a welcome change. Although the larger publisher’s aren’t quite ready to make this move (minus Marvel’s archives) it is a great way for the independent publishers to get their work into fans hands…err…computers.  The group behind DriveThruRPG saw how successful lower costs PDFs of gaming manuals were and made the next logical step towards comics. They have a large list of free comics available for the inquisitive. If you find a title you like, pick up the other issues for cheap.

DriveThruComics


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Treachery along the Great Amazon

Treachery along the Great Amazon

If you are a follower of this genre and live on the Internet, as many of us do, then you are probably aware of Bleeding Cool’s coverage of the Great Amazon Sell Off this weekend.

As was foretold, Amazon is reneging on the many sales they made of graphic novels that were mistakenly marked down to $14.99 or lower, even on titles over $100. I too couldn’t resist the chance to pick up a few books. I went low volume and cost to avoid detection, perhaps mine would still get sent. But alas, this was not meant to be. Here is a copy of my rejection letter from the great almighty Amazon.

Our records indicate you recently ordered ‘Wolverine: Old Man Logan
The Ultimates Omnibus
Gravel: Never A Dull Day (Signed Limited Edition)’. Unfortunately, due to a pricing error, we sold many more than expected. In fact, we completely sold out — we don’t have any in stock right now, and we’re not even sure if we’ll be able to get more.
As a result, we’ve had to cancel your order. I realize this is disappointing news, and I’m so sorry for any inconvenience this causes.

I know I should not be surprised or disappointed, but I am nevertheless.  When another company makes a mistake like this they have to honor it and I feel that Amazon should as well. If they were paying attention they could have fixed it much quicker and avoiding all the bad press and customer angst.

I also have to agree with Bleeding Cool’s assessment of the industry.

But if there is a lesson here, it’s this. Comics are too expensive, You make them cheaper, much cheaper, and people will buy them. Buy lots of them. Buy them more than anything on Amazon.

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The Unwritten: Volume One

The Unwritten: Volume One

Book: The Unwritten- Volume One
Publisher: Vertigo
Price: $9.99
Author: Mike Carey
Art: Peter Gross
Colors: Chris Chuckery & Jeanne McGee
Letters: Todd Klein
Covers: Yuko Shimizu

What if everything around you
Isn’t quite as it seems?
What if all the world you think you know
Is an elaborate dream?
-NIN

You know who you are, right? You can see yourself in the mirror. You feel pain and pleasure. Oh sure, memories are a little vague from before you were seven or eight, but everyone has that problem, right?  You had a mother and father, with a birth certificate. Moreover, you have a name.

But are you sure? Mothers and fathers can be strangers, documents can be forged and a name is just a made-up gift, a fiction. Here is the thing, you can’t be absolutely positive, can you? Maybe it is all just a story, but…is it your story?


If anyone knows the power of stories it is Mike Carey, who gave us over six years of universe creation starring Lucifer the Lightbringer. A main theme Carey brings to Lightbringer, Hellblazer, Sandman, Faker and now The Unwritten, is the embryonic genesis of stories.

Words and stories have power. The Japanese believed in Kotodama, translated as the ‘spirit of language’ where words have power to alter the world. Robert Heinlein wrote about alternate realities created from the minds of fiction writers. Jorges Borges wrote a story in which a secret organization of men wrote about a fictional world, that slowly started to overtake the “real” world. Carey had Lucifer create an entire universe from a “letter” from God. These tropes of metafiction and magical realism enhance the mystery of the story and make for an exciting read.

Tommy Taylor and the Bogus Identity

Tom Taylor is the son of writer Wilson Taylor, but more importantly, he is the basis for Tommy Taylor, Wilson’s magic-wielding fictional protagonist. Tom is dealing with some daddy issues, after his father not just abandoned him, but completely disappeared. Dad did leave behind an legion of crazed fans who are willing to help Tom pay the bills with signings and appearances. Things are fine until a Birther conspiracy rears its head, questioning Tom’s legitimacy. Then Lizzie Hexam starts to poke and prod, pushing Tom towards a truth he doesn’t want to know, and soon he too starts to question his origins.

Reading The Unwritten was like going back to that comfortable place where you can relax, where the rest of the world is taken over by the story. I attribute this mostly to Peter Gross’s art. After reading Books of Magic and Lucifer for so many years, Gross’s art and colors are familiar and perfectly suited towards the tale being told. Gross is able to blend reality and fantasy without making us question its realism.

These first five issues set the background for a fantastic story and demands that you join Tom Taylor on his journey to discover the rest of his unwritten story.

*The rest of this series if already up to issue #10, go get them now

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Webcomic of the Week: The Parking Lot is Full

Webcomic of the Week: The Parking Lot is Full

Comic: The Parking Lot is Full
Writer: Pat Spacek
Artist: Jack McLaren

For this week’s webcomic we need to be prepared, get out your shotgun and rope, cover any exposed flesh and tie your running shoes tight, because here…’thar be zombies’.  That is right, this webcomic has been dead since 2002.

Why have I dug up this decayed and forgotten web entity? Because it was that damn funny and deserves to be shared. Also, it was quite popular in its day.  Many of its topics are timeless, as easily understood today as they were then.

Warning: This webcomic is dark humor and may be considered offensive. Dark humor is nothing new, from Aristotle’s The Poetics, Dante’s The Inferno, Kafka, Vonnegut, Twain and hundreds of others, it is a part of our nature.  It is a motif often found in other webcomics as well. But, where other webcomics occasionally dip their foot into the dark churning pools, PLIF dives in and revels in it, while laughing insanely.

From the  PLIF’s database of comic themes:

Abortion, aggression , alcohol, bureaucracy, cannibalism, censorship, childhood, cloning, conspiracy, consumerism, crime, death, disability, discrimination, disease, divorce, drugs, education, holocaust, insanity, linguistics, literature, love, media, military, nihilism, political, religion, sex, suffering, suicide, superstition, technology, world domination

Time seems to have erased most traces of the writer and artist, even their post-PLIF projects are no longer live websites. In an old article the writer, Pat Spacek, commented on his comic-creating vision:

“I’d probably end up writing the kind of characters Kafka always used to do. Wimpy losers crushed by forces they don’t understand, able to dredge up some kind of dignity but not being able to make it mean anything. Someone with an unconscious streak of masochism.”

The elements of existentialism definitely exist in Spacek’s writing; angst, despair and absurdity. But there is also meant to be a spark of hope originating from within the individual. I feel that Spacek shows that as well in some comics where he rants against an unjust system.

Philosophical considerations aside, the point of the various themes may or may not make you think, but they most certainly will make you laugh, even if its an uncomfortably chuckle.

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Tesla-punk* Theories, or the ‘Ellis Juice Effect’

Tesla-punk* Theories, or the ‘Ellis Juice Effect’

Book: Captain Swing and the Electric Pirates of Cindery Island
Publisher: Avatar
Price: $3.99
Author: Warren Ellis
Art: Raulo Caceres
Colors: Digikore
Verdict: Though slow to start, is sure to please fans of Ellis as well as fans of steampunk

The truth may be stranger than fiction according to Lord Byron, but for Warren Ellis this is both a battle cry and a challenge. Ellis’s modus operandi is to veraciously consume information; history, science, technology, and lore, then to reconstitute the strange seeds he finds into his own fantastic imagined possibilities. I could go on for quite a while with demonstrations, but to list a few:

  • The concept of Feral cities in Fell
  • The potentials and possibilities of emerging transhumanism in Docktor Sleepless
  • And many more theories expanded on in Desolation Jones, Planetary and Transmetropolitan

In Ellis’s newest work, Captain Swing and the Electric Pirates of Cindery Island, we are introduced to two opposing police forces and their mutual target, chasing their way through a variant-Victorian London.

Our Pro(An)tagonist is both, Captain Swing and Spring Heeled Jack an amazing creation of Tesla-punk* enhancements whose full range of powers are currently unknown. He is able to leap great distances, has enhanced strength and shoots “clockwork” electric bullets.

The historical Captain Swing was the signature on several letters written during the English Swing Riots of 1830, a rural revolt against the loss of jobs from machines and low wages. Several of the protesters ‘swung’ from the Gallows, thus the name Captain Swing. This makes Ellis’s Captain Swing an interesting juxtaposition of history and fiction, a technologically advanced symbol of Luddism.

Spring Heeled Jack is another name pulled from Victorian history. A terrifying urban legend with the ability to leap great distances:

Spring Heeled Jack was described by people claiming to have seen him as having a terrifying and frightful appearance, with diabolical physiognomy, clawed hands, and eyes that “resembled red balls of fire”. One report claimed that, beneath a black cloak, he wore a helmet and a tight-fitting white garment like an “oilskin”. Many stories also mention a “Devil-like” aspect. Spring Heeled Jack was said to be tall and thin, with the appearance of a gentleman, and capable of making great leaps.  (Wikipedia)

Replace references of “fire” with bright, arcing electricity and you have a pretty fair description of our Captain Swing.

Interwoven between the frame by frame pages of the comic is a letter to the reader, revealing the secret social order and technological mysteries of the times, written by Swing himself. This letter, along with his anti-authoritarian actions against the police, seems to reveal Swing as an anarchistic liberator, in the same vein as Grant Morrison’s ‘King Mob’ or Alan Moore’s ‘V’.

This first issue of Captain Swing is just a tease, with little plot progression. But by introducing a historical context and the various players, with only loose assumptions of their pro(an)tagonistic roles, the story successfully draws the reader in.

Although I am a man of text, I would be remiss to not mention the illustrations of Raulo Caceres. Caceres does a great job of showing us the gritty industrial darkness of the London nights, where bad things could be hiding in the shadows and alleyways. While by daylight, the citizens seem to be content with the order of things. Although the industry of the age, and Swing’s own devices, give the book a “steampunk” feel, Ellis is quick to correct people that it should be called Tesla-punk. This is due, I imagine, to Swing’s reliance on electricity over mechanics.

As with most of Ellis’s works, Captain Swing will be an interesting trip as he leads us through this alternative history of a scientific revolution. So all aboard Swing’s “ionic air propulsion” jolly-boat, don’t look down, and hold on tight.

*Ellis’s chosen term

Posted in Avatar Press, headlines, REVIEWS3 Comments

Unbreakable 2: Men in Tights?

Unbreakable 2: Men in Tights?

In an interview with MTV News, Bruce Willis responded to questions about a possible Unbreakable sequel with horrible, horrible affirmation.

“I talked to [Shyamalan] over the holidays, and he is still thinking about doing the fight movie between me and Sam that we were going to do,” Willis told MTV News.

“We chose to do the origin,” he explained, indicating that there was discussion early on about whether Willis’ character and the villain played by Samuel L. Jackson should square off in the first movie or a sequel.

No, No, No, No, No!

Do not misunderstand me, I am a great fan of Willis and Unbreakable. But if they were to turn a sequel into another costume hero slug-fest it would completely destroy everything that made the first film great.

Unbreakable was unique because the powers were secondary, possibly even tertiary. The film was more about the people behind the powers, what made them, a psychological origin versus the standard superpower tropes. In addition to showing us the complexity of the hero/villain origins and interactions, the movie also analyzes comics themselves, using Mr. Glass to create an entire mythology of comics as historical record. The total time of action in the film is possibly thirty minutes.

If they have to create a sequel, this is how it should be done (standard 10% royalty fees apply).

It takes place shortly after the first film ends, it won’t take long for Mr. Glass to escape. Once free, the events leading up to a “showdown” between hero and villain will be subtle and manipulated. Before, Mr. Glass needed to be acknowledged, he had to understand why and what his role was, now, the board is set. Dunn on the other hand is starting to accept his own role, and being careful around water. But he is really being further “trained” by Glass’s manipulations. When the time is right, it will be brain and heart versus mind in some cataclysmic event with lots of lives at stake. But, it has to be subtle, let the good acting and intelligent plot push the film along to its conclusion.

On second thought, this is a lot like the first film, I guess we don’t need a sequel after all.

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