For a few years back in the early 2010s horror mash up stories were all the rage. Take an innocuous but well known thing and mix it with a fantasy horror trope and a new hit was made. These were most evident through books like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and probably a few others not written by Seth Grahame-Smith. Though that genre has been dormant for a few years, it’s come back quite well with the recent release of Harriet Tubman: Demon Slayer.
Written by David Crownson, Harriet Tubman: Demon Slayer takes place (appropriately) in 1860, deep in the heart of America’s days of Slavery. It opens with a slave family, the Edgefields, as they escape their plantation in search of a life as free folk. When they run afoul of a trio of shady white men, the Edgefields stand their ground only to discover that these men aren’t exactly what they seem to be. Luckily, a mysterious stranger, the eponymous Harriet Tubman, shows up to save them.
One of the things I liked most about the book is the humor. Within the first couple of pages, Crownson makes a joke at the expense of one of his characters and it’s brilliant because it serves a higher purpose than a mere moment of levity. In addition to setting the tone for the book, that initial joke lets the audience know that despite the heady subject matter, they’re allowed to laugh at the story. This is a necessary cue for readers like me, a middle class white man, during the times that the N-word gets bandied around. That word would (rightfully so) make modern audiences uncomfortable but was necessary to tell a story that borrowed heavily from the time of slavery and Harriet Tubman’s real-life struggle. Crownson breaks the ice early to alleviate any possible squeamishness.
The art on the book is superb. Courtland Ellis’ art is smooth, his figures realistic and graceful. There are no overly muscular men rippling through torn shirts. His women aren’t bodaciously disproportioned, and in fact have noticeably different body types. Ellis uses subtle facial expressions on his characters to portray emotions and tip the readers off to what they’re thinking, but he’s then able to go all out during the funny moments. It can be a jarring juxtaposition at times but really ramps up the humor.
The art isn’t perfect, though. Most of the pages are beautiful, however, there’s some panel progression that feels off. Some of the character movement is choppy and stilted, which is detrimental in a book that relies heavily on fight scenes. Thankfully, it’s easy to overlook because there are so many other things to enjoy but hopefully it improves as the series progresses.
Ellis also shines in how he draws backgrounds, notably in the way he uses large brushstrokes to signify foliage. It’s drastically different from mainstream comics and I absolutely love it.
My biggest problem with the book is the dialogue. While most of the characters’ speech is smooth and energetic, the story is sprinkled with one-liners that just seem trite and unnecessary. It tended to be more good than bad, though.
I also wasn’t a fan of the localized dialect. This was probably included to show how different groups speak differently and was effective in establishing the world the story takes place in. I felt like it slowed down the reading experience, forcing me to puzzle out what the characters were saying. I understand that I’m splitting hairs here and maybe sound a little pedantic but this was definitely my take away from the reading experience.
Also, I need to point out the book’s poor punctuation. Normally I don’t even notice the lettering in comic books but the fact that this drew my attention means that it really stood out. Granted, some of the punctuation choices may have been stylistic but there are some instances that are just inconsistent, making the lettering come off as lazy or rushed. Again, I have hope that this will be remedied in future issues.
Despite its flaws, though, one thing that Crownson gets right is the mystery surrounding Harriet Tubman: Demon Slayer. His opening chapter focuses on establishing the characters. He doesn’t dive too far into why the vampires are chasing runaway slaves or even where Harriet comes from. We know nothing of her past, her upbringing, or how she knows how to fight. Crownson reveals just enough to whet my appetite but not too much that I lose interest and don’t return for the second issue.
Having purchased Harriet Tubman: Demon Slayer on a whim during Free Comic Book Day (it was funded through a successful Kickstarter), I have no idea how to get a physical copy of the book. However, you can buy it in digital on Comixology and Peep Game Comix. And I wholly recommend you pick it up. Not only is this book a fun read but it’s also an interesting take on the horror mash-up genre and the life of one of the most prolific American humanitarians.
As one of the smaller independent presses, Lion Forge Comics is not very well known. Most of their line up consists of comics based on popular 80s franchises (as well as a few not-so-popular). As of recently, though, they are jumping into the super hero game, starting with the release of Catalyst Prime: Noble, a prelude to their upcoming Catalyst Prime universe.
The premise behind Catalyst Prime is that a massive asteroid is heading to Earth and only 5 astronauts are able to stop it. It’s a fairly straight forward premise, one that leaves a lot of room to work with. We’ll learn more about what they’re calling “The Event” on Free Comic Book Day when Lion Forge gives out copies of Catalyst Prime: The Event. From there, the Catalyst Prime universe will slowly unfold in seven monthly comic books. One of these is Catalyst Prime: Noble, which focuses on David Powell, one of the astronauts involved in The Event and what becomes of him in the following year.
The main cast of Noble is only two characters, the aforementioned David and his wife, Astrid. Writer Brandon Thomas was wise to structure the introductory chapter like this as it made it easy to follow. Being new characters, we don’t know much about the kind of people David and Astrid are, so throwing a wide cast at new audiences may become confusing and alienate readers. By paring that down to two, especially two who are so closely tied together, Thomas create a far simpler reading experience while getting the most out of the story.
Most of the issue focuses on David, who has no idea who he is but shows some powerful telekinetic abilities, being pursued by a specialized military team. Everything is left ambiguous; we don’t know why David’s on the run, why these men are chasing him, or who the mysterious “she” is that sent them. It’s a well written, well paced scene that’s enhanced by Roger Robinson’s art.
What I like most about the art is Robinson’s style. He uses a lot of lines, most especially in his figures and when indicating motion. It’s very different from a lot of the more mainstream comics and lends the book a gritty feeling. I use “gritty” as it’s supposed to mean; coarse and dirty, not dark and broody as it’s become to be known. Which I mean as a compliment. The scene involved David being chased by a group of large men through a sandy, desert town. One word that should be used to describe this is “gritty.”
The panel progression is very cinematic. From the very first page we get a slow zoom out from Astrid’s wedding ring as she sits nervously in a waiting room. This transitions to a flashback of not long before, revealing the reason she’s nervous. That lasts less than a page before we return to the present moment, when Astrid is given terrible news and breaks down in tears. Three pages is all it takes to recap her harrowing experience losing her husband in The Event and it’s all that’s needed. Wonderful work by both Thomas and Robinson.
I also loved the end twist. It’s a pretty big reveal that most writers would dangle in front of readers, dropping little clues here and there through subsequent issues in order to keep them on the hook. But Thomas tells us up front at the end of the issue who is masterminding the hunt for David. It’s a great reveal because it opens so many more questions that entice readers to come back without resorting to clichés and cheap tricks.
As a fan of super heroes, it’s nice to break away from the worlds of Marvel and DC, which are steeped in so much history that it’s often difficult to keep up. Catalyst Prime offers a reprieve from that, with strong characters that we get to see evolve and grow in real time. It’s also great to see a comic so deftly blend the techniques of filmmaking into its storytelling. I hadn’t heard much about Catalyst Prime before reading Noble but now I’m definitely looking to go deeper into the universe.
I know this review is a little late considering the issue has been in shops for a couple of weeks now but I really need to talk about Ghostbusters 101. Since IDW announced the title, I’ve eagerly awaited its release. It marks a big step for Ghostbusters as merges the original team with the team from the 2016 reboot movie in comic form.
As the intro to a 6-part limited series, the first issue sets the stage perfectly. There’s not much in the way of action, though the first few pages do pull the reader in quite well. They also serve to introduce new readers to the personalities of the original team of Ghostbusters.
From there we get a glimpse at Walter Peck, the Ghostbusters’s government liaison, and the first seeds of the story arc take root. Basically, the team needs to deviate from their paranormal investigation and elimination and go the route of educators to produce additional revenue. I know it sounds very droll, and for the most part it is. But writer Erik Burnham realizes this and takes the time to poke a little fun at it to help lighten the mood.
Before I get more into Burnham’s writing, let me say that I’m a big fan of Dan Schoening’s art. He takes a lot of inspiration from the actors’ looks from the film but interprets them in his own way. This makes the comic characters feel like separate entities even though the comics relies heavily on the lore of the film. To contrast that, he draws the new team in the spitting image of the actresses, which helps pull the realism of the new movie into the comic. Granted, this is probably due more to likeness rights than character interpretation. I’m sure the producers planned heavily on multiple revenue streams with comics being one part of that.
The art also shines in more than just the characters. Schoening knows how to create movement on the page. His panels are dynamic and exciting, which really goes a long way to telling a great story.
The pencils are enhanced by Luis Antiono Delgado’s vibrant colors. All of the detail and depth he puts into the characters and environments adds life to the book. Also, I love the different effects Delgado uses, such as the glow of the ghosts and the proton streams. They go a long way to making the comic feel cinematic and are beautiful touches.
As the sole writer of Ghostbusters at IDW, Erik Burnham has a strong grasp of the characters. Just like Schoening, he takes influence from the movies but also manages to make them his own. Venkman is still flippant with a dry-wit, Spengler the stoic intellectual. But Burnham takes license and veers the characters into unexpected directions, which is fantastic since it makes the stories less predictable.
But again, just like Schoening, he basically carbon copies the new team into the book. Burnham’s dialogue for Tolan, Holtzmann, Gilbert and Yates is so on point that I could practically hear the actresses’ voices saying the words. This is not a complaint. Since most readers may not be as familiar with the new Ghostbusters, this is a perfect introduction for them into the comic book world. In addition, it’s wonderful to see these great characters brought back to life since we probably won’t be getting a sequel due to less than stellar box office turnout for the film.
After that glowing praise for both the writing and the art, there is a glaring drawback of this issue that needs to be addressed. It is heavily steeped in backstory. Characters make many references to previous events which could easily lose readers who haven’t kept up with the IDW series. Without a doubt, this shows how tightly knit Burnham keeps his narrative, that he can make callbacks to the team’s earlier adventures. But the addition of the new team is bound to draw new readers. Younger readers whose first introduction to the Ghostbusters is the 2016 movie. If they have trouble following the story because of these callbacks, then they may be unlikely to keep up with the series. I’m not saying Burnham should have omitted the references completely, but an old-style Editorial Notes showing previous issues may have been helpful.
I feel that it’s an important step in the IDW series because it brings the new team of Ghostbusters into the comics-verse. Given the vitriol the reboot received, all from the fervor that was created by the casting of four women in the lead roles, having this team of Ghostbusters interact with the “classic” team goes a long way in showing the nay-sayers that a reboot doesn’t negate its predecessor; in this case, it enhances it. Needless to say, I’m looking forward to the rest of this series.
You may have seen the hashtag #FCBD on your favorite social medium as of late. In case you were confused by the jumble of letters, that stands for “Free Comic Book Day.” The day is quickly approaching, happening on May 6th of this year. If you’ve never heard of the event, we’ve put together a short primer to help you out.
What is it?
Taking place on the first Saturday of every May, Free Comic Book Day is an international event in which comic book stores give away comics to anyone who comes in. It’s not every comic, mind you; there are a wave of comics branded with the FCBD logo which are eligible. But these titles span such an array of genres and ages that you’re bound to find something that appeals to you.
FCBD has been such an outstanding success that 2017 marks its fifteenth year in existence.
Where is it?
Everywhere! OK, well, not really everywhere. Not all comic shops participate in FCBD. Luckily, there’s a comic shop locator on freecomicbookday.com that will point you to your nearest participating store.
What can I expect?
Here’s where it gets fun. First of all, you can expect free comics. However, which comics is up to the shop. There are different tiers of offerings available at different stores so it all depends on how your local comic shop is participating. That Store Locator should help you determine where to go if you want to score a specific issue.
Ah, now you’re asking the right questions.
There’s a ton of good stuff. Fans of Marvel and DC movies won’t be disappointed as both Guardians of the Galaxy and Wonder Woman get the FCBD treatment this year, just in time for their respective films to hit theaters. But Marvel is also offering a chapter from their Secret Empire storyline while DC taps the popular DC Super Hero Girls for a comic.
Archie Comics gets into the mix with two titles of their own. The first is an all-new Betty & Veronica with art by the amazing Adam Hughes. Archie will also be offering a comic based on the popular Riverdale television show from The CW. That one should go over nicely.
A few highlights (or at least titles that I’m most excited for) include:
- TMNT: Dimension X prelude from IDW
- The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess/Ocarina of Time from Viz Media
- Doctor Who from Titan Comics
- Buffy: The High School Years from Dark Horse Comics
I’m also excited for Lion Forge Comics, which is using Free Comic Book Day as a stepping stone to launch their newest series, Catalyst Prime: The Event. Written by Christopher Priest with art by Joseph Illidge, the solicit for Catalyst Prime sounds pretty solid and this should be a good series. And with the intro to the series being free, it’s worth checking out,
Of course, that’s not all that will be available. Head over to the FCBD website for the full run down. (http://www.freecomicbookday.com/catalog) (Also, once again, not all of the titles will be available everywhere. You may want t check with your local shop to see if they ordered the one you’re looking for if they participate at that level.)
Yes, so much more!
Because this is such a huge event for local comic stores, many of them go all out to promote it. One of my local shops brings in members from the 501st Legion, a devoted group of Star Wars costumers who make various charity appearances. Every year you can see them roaming the sidewalk outside of the store, greeting pedestrians, interacting and taking pictures with customers waiting on line and just bringing an air of joviality to the occasion.
Yet another of my local comic and gaming store had cupcakes. Yes, homemade cupcakes with little plastic rings featuring Thor and Iron Man. That was a tremendous treat. (Sadly, this store has since gone out of business. I was definitely looking forward to seeing what they did for FCBD this year.)
Many comic book stores also host writer and artist appearances. They’ll invite creators to interact with fans, sign autographs, sell sketches… They basically turn Free Comic Book Day into little comic cons.
Some stores will host free or paid raffles and give customers a chance to win some cool prizes.
A lot of the supplemental fun is up to the individual comic shop and not hosted by FCBD so call your local store to see what, if anything, they may be planning.
I hope many of you are planning on visiting your local comic shop(s) on Free Comic Book Day. If you do just remember, these comics are free to you but the stores still have to pay for them. So when you get your free stuff, make a purchase as well. Like any other business, local comic shops only survive if they turn a profit. If you want to be able to enjoy Free Comic Book Day in the coming years, show them some monetary support.
In case it’s somehow slipped your comic reading radar, The Wicked + The Divine is one of the top selling Image comics in the past two years. From the amazing creative collaboration between Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Matt Wilson, and a smattering of guest artists in later issues, WicDiv is a tale spun with a particular kind of godlike charm and magic although it centers around a regular girl named Laura. Laura idolizes members of The Pantheon (gods who become mortal human superstars for a very brief two year span every 90 years). The story is a fantastic examination of fame and celebrity, idolatry and blasphemy, and with such a colorful cast, I couldn’t help but make it the subject of a Fancast, especially since WicDiv has been optioned for a TV show by Universal TV!
Laura Wilson is our teenaged South London protagonist. It’s through Laura’s rose colored glasses that we encounter each god, and feel what she feels, namely a fangirl’s yearning to be part of the Pantheon.
Casting Choice: While the English born Gugu is in her early 30s, she has a critically acclaimed background in acting, and, to me, appears youthful enough to play Laura if she ends up being aged up to early to mid-twenties.
Secondary Choice: Alternatively, Laura could be played by upcoming X-Men: Apcalypse star, Alexandra Shipp, even if her filmography isn’t as extensive…yet.
It’s safe to say this Bowie inspired leading lady snatched all of our hearts from the very first second she graced a panel. She kept us guessing and lusting for more, and the creative team certainly made sure she was as irresistible as possible.
Casting Choice: Her most famous franchise aside, my choice for the androgynous, nihilistic, and smug Lucifer is Kristen Stewart. She positively shines in her independent film choices for the most part, and it would be interesting to see her embody the chief fallen angel herself. My biggest issue is whether or not Kristen could sell that signature McKelvie smolder.
Secondary Choice: Perhaps Evan Rachel Wood would be a better choice. She can definitely do predatory as seen in her brief stint on True Blood, and could bring a touch of lightness to the role.
The ethereal sun goddess Amaterasu is benevolent and kind, and our first introduction to the Pantheon in issue one. I felt that any actress cast should have an immediate like-ability to them, along with the potential to play such an easily wounded beauty.
Casting Choice: This reincarnation of the Shinto deity could absolutely be done justice by Once Upon A Time alum, Emilie de Ravin, assuming time could be made in her busy television schedule.
Secondary Choice: My other pick for donning the immaculate white dress? Holland Roden of Teen Wolf fame.
Although he comes off a bit cold, anyone shouldering the egotistical mantle of this particular sexually fluid god has to be able to balance a little bit of Kanye and a little bit of heart.
Casting Choice: One of the stars of Fox’s increasingly popular drama Empire, Jussie Smollet has proven he can play a character with heart and a metric ton of musical talent, but it would be such fun to see him tackle such a darker character.
Secondary Choice: The same could be said of rising movie star, Michael B. Jordan, even though he might have other offers on the table following his performance in Creed.
Casting Choice: Assuming money isn’t an issue, there’s no need to fix what isn’t broken since the wild and insatiable Sakhmet is already based on popular songstress, Rihanna.
Matriarch supreme Ananke commands your attention, and as the only immortal not to be reincarnated every cycle, I think she is quite possibly the most interesting character in the series thus far.
Casting Choice: Watching the Dame Judi Dench scold anyone leaves an impression, and she’s one of the few people I’ve watched who can make a whisper seem menacing.
Black leather, abs, fangs, and perfectly tousled hair make up the bad boy, Baphomet, but there’s definitely more than meets the eye. Easily one of the more fun members of the Pantheon, his character provides room for puns, lots of dramatic flair, and a healthy dose of flirtatious dialogue
Casting Choice: As there’s “none more goth” than he, except perhaps The Morrigan, Baphomet requires a brooding actor who could definitely fill the shoes of the rock star celestial being, like Game of Thrones’ Kit Harrington or Teen Wolf‘s Tyler Hoechlin.
It’s easy to pigeonhole The Morrigan (Badbe, Gentle Annie, Morrigan) as Baphomet’s lover and leave her there, but this three-in-one goddess has layers upon layers.
Casting Choice: Kaya Scodelario, Alexandra Daddario, and Anna Popplewell as a collective, or on their own, possess the vulnerability and ferocity of the Irish goddess(es) needed to accurately bring her to life.The Morrigan’s shapeshifting skills could also provide an easy explanation for the different faces, should the show cast three different ladies as the Queen of the Underground.
The moment Inanna was introduced into the comic series, my mind immediately connected the him o the character Felix Dawkins from the Canadian sci-fi television series, Orphan Black. Normally a goddess, his purple aesthetic and sweet nature makes for a touching addition among the more rough members.
Casting Choice: Looks aside, Jordan Gavaris has proven himself proficient at portraying a complex character in a television series, and if someone with casting abilities hears my shouts on the internet, perhaps we can see him play this Prince-ly role.
Mentions of Tara were hard to come by in the first two arcs, but writer Kieron Gillen delivered one hell of a message when we got a whole issue dedicated to her, a message I hope will translate to television. I am loathe to say more about this casting, if only because we have so little of Tara to go on, and I don’t wish to spoil anyone!!
Casting Choice: Since Tara does not speak much outloud and her story revolves around her beauty, I chose gorgeous model/actress Shay Mitchell, probably best known for her work on Pretty Little Liars.
Since I have yet to cast Minerva, Woden, Dionysus, or Urdr/The Norn, tweet me your choices using the hashtag #SCFancastFriday!
The Untamed: A Sinner’s Prayer
Writer: Sebastian A. Jones
Cover Art: Peter Bergting
Interior Art: Peter Bergting
Colorist: Peter Bergting
Letters: Joshua Cozine and Troy Peteri
Publisher: Stranger Comics
Release Date: Nov 4th 2015
Indie publisher Stranger Comics is aspiring to create a universe on an epic scale. Their newest book Niobe: She Is Life was released to massive hype this month due to its creative team of actress Amandla Stenberg (The Hunger Games) and Ashley A. Woods (Milennia War). We stopped by Stranger’s booth at NYCC and picked up their gorgeous hardcover for The Untamed: A Sinner’s Prayer, a story of vengeance and jump-off world-building vehicle for the Asunda Universe.
Jones doesn’t deliver anything too new in The Untamed. Back from the dead on a mission of vengeance against those responsible for murdering him and his family, a cloaked Stranger returns to the town of his past sins and former life. Yes, we’ve seen The Crow. For an introduction to a whole universe however, the simple story sort of works and is easy enough to follow while more complicated world-building elements like trade disputes and magic are fleshed out. We did enjoy that the character of The Stranger had both a dark past beyond his vengeful present, which adds a little bit of depth in the reading and consideration of who you’re actually rooting for in this story. We cast our lot with Niobe, who makes more than an appearance in this series as a grounding compass for the demonic Stranger.
Ultimately, what hurts this book is part of its strength. Bergting’s painterly style is gorgeous and bold, but the monochromatic panels often limit just how much of the town of Oasis we can actually see. It’s hard to get a feel for this world at times, and some of the dialogue doesn’t quite sync with this seemingly medieval-type fantasy setting of Asunda. Perhaps a smaller complaint is the number of hooded figures-to-panel ratio in the book. The mysterious reveal of a cloaked character loses some of its effectiveness after the 4th or 5th time and at some point, we just want to know immediately who the heck is talking.
Still, it is an impressive effort from a new publisher, and we’re excited to see more of what Stranger comics has planned for Asunda and the universe. If you’re interested in picking up the hardcover, also know that it’s a beautifully put together book with a stunningly glossy cover and extra features like collected variants and some behind the script stuff.