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Panel Mania: Go ‘Ballistic’ with Mortimer and Robertson

For the first Panel Mania of March I selected one of my all time favourite sci-fi comics.

It started out as my choice for best comic of 2013. Now the first volume is complete and collected in a trade paperback, and set to be best comic of the millennium.

Ladies and gentlemen, do feel free to go ballistic for... Ballistic!

A genuine spark of innovation is a rare thing indeed, and something that Ballistic, by filmmaker Adam Egypt Mortimer and comics star Darick Robertson, transmits with shocking force. It’s perhaps the first comic of the millennium to leave readers physically buzzing with excitement, a future classic in the making and the Next Big Thing already flying frustratingly under the radar.

Butch is an air conditioner repairman who dreams of something more, something greater, something… more criminal. His best friend happens to be a sentient firearm; Gun is a foul-mouthed drug-addict who has entirely too much fun blowing people’s heads off. Together they climb the ladder of crime in Repo City State, a post-apocalyptic neon-nightmare world built upon reclaimed trash and constructed with DNA-based living technology – a city that is very much alive, and almost certainly worships HR Giger.

And then things start to go really wrong.

The pacing is manic as psychedelic and insanely detailed world-building collide with hyper-violent mayhem. Mortimer is refreshingly light on wordy exposition, but a handy breakdown is provided at the end revealing the mechanics and history behind each character interaction and glorious tech invention.

It’s difficult to believe that it’s Mortimer’s first foray into comics writing, or that publisher Black Mask Studios launched as recently as 2012 and currently feature one of the most exciting slate of titles for 2015.

Robertson, of course, is well known for his prolific sagas, tremendous character work and most of all, for his horrific depictions of violence. Transmetropolitan, his 60 issue cyberpunk series with Warren Ellis, remains an influential science fiction classic, while gross-out anti-superhero fare The Boys ran even longer.

The sheer lunacy of Ballistic though really does let Robertson flex his creative talents, and with a background as vibrant with life as the story itself, the result is like nothing else in the medium right now.

The comic begins with a fist halfway through someone’s face, blood flecks spraying across the page and drowning the gutter in red. It ends with the reader out of breath and desperate for more of this addictive, ballistic, madness.

Read the full preview here: Go 'Ballistic' with Mortimer and Robertson




Panel Mania: The Spectacular World Building of ‘The Swords of Glass’

The latest Panel Mania is out and boy is it a good one! Laura Zuccheri's work is jaw-droppingly beautiful and the world building that she and Corgiat have achieved here is first class.

This is a gorgeous book that I've already re-read twice, and would recommend to anyone on the strength of the art alone. It's a 200+ page sci-fi/fantasy epic with strange critters, costumes, and architecture a plenty.

A dying sun, four cosmic swords, and a young girl determined to become a warrior in the name of vengeance. In this alternate world the rich rule over the weak, killing the poor and stealing women. But with the waters rising and the weather becoming more and more extreme, even the privileged find themselves locked in ivory towers to escape the solar wrath.

The oversized deluxe edition of The Swords of Glass (Les Épées de Verre) clocks in at an impressive 212 pages from Humanoids, collecting the complete four books in the series: Yama, Ilango, Tigran, and Dolmon. A chapter for every sword, and all bound in the generously opulent French style.

Once upon a time an artist named Moebius, one of the most influential pop culture icons of the 20th century, founded a comics art group that grew to be the publisher Les Humanoïdes Associés. Publishing infamous magazine Métal Hurlant and plentiful graphic novels by French creative legends, the company also birthed Ah! Nana, an innovative female-led magazine in the late ‘70s.

After troubled times and a resurgence for the industry and publisher, that spirit of equality and diversity is very much alive today in the form of this newly translated epic from Sylviane Corgiat.

The last ten years has been a busy time for the celebrated fantasy and science fiction writer, with Elias Le Maudit (Elias the Cursed) and Lune d’Ombre (Shadow Moon) winning particular acclaim, but it is due to the ethereal and delicate work of artist Laura Zuccheri that The Swords of Glass is such an unmissable treat.

Zuccheri is no newcomer to comics in her native Italy, with multiple contributions to Giancarlo Berardi’s Julia, but collaborating with Corgiat has perhaps given her the most high profile and award-winning platform to date, and Humanoids have certainly done the work justice.

Yama, the young village girl, is our first and main protagonist. In a Conan the Barbarian type intro, the world that she knows is stolen from her in brutal style, driving her to a life of fervent training in the name of vengeance. Unlike Conan and others though, while Yama is uniquely intelligent and hot-tempered, she must also face the additional perils of being female within a barbarian land.

Luckily for Yama she just happens to have been chosen by the sword that fell near her home, and lies imbedded in rock, awaiting her command. Yet the man who took Yama in as his own, and who has trained her all these years, seems to know far more about the sword than he is prepared to tell.

Characterisation is given in broad strokes, with actions rather than words defining the nature of our cast, but flashbacks are well placed when needed to avoid large spoken expositions. The world building is slow and almost sensual, large views are broken down into more thorough and highly detailed panels, and the wildlife and variation on humanoid races is a startling and successful choice.

In a story of fantasy and science fiction, albeit with a timely environmental angle, where vast cities dominate the page with their expert architecture and a theatrical array of superb costumes with shades of Japanese culture and Moebius in influence, it is the sheer beauty of this natural world that elevate the tale into something rather special.

Dense lush forests with strange creatures, spectacularly lit giant humanoid creatures striding across the dusky horizon, endless fields of green that the pig-tiger pet lollops across, even a cute monkey-like critter ably scampering up brickwork… it is rare to find an artist so comfortable with depicting such disparate scenes as well as composing striking character and expressive work. There is something so nostalgic and yet progressive about Zuccheri’s art as she realises Corgiat’s imaginative world, the comic is a pleasure to return to countless times.

Every blade of grass is painstakingly in place, every fantastical creature consistent in each appearance, and all anatomy precisely where it should be. The story is indeed gripping as the tale unfolds and new characters are introduced, but above all, Zuccheri’s work is simply breathtaking.

Read the full preview here: The Spectacular World Building of 'The Swords of Glass'

The Swords of Glass The Swords of Glass

The Swords of Glass


Panel Mania: Ba and Moon Explore Home and Family in ‘Two Brothers’

Oh just a special edition of Panel Mania with a little world exclusive for y'all ;)

A ten-page preview of the upcoming graphic novel, Two Brothers, from Gabriel Bá and Fábio Moon, which looks very promising indeed!

The best selling brothers are back, as publisher Dark Horse Comics reveal the first look at Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá’s new graphic novel, Two Brothers. The Brazillian creators have been celebrated with a clutch of awards each, and their previous collaboration, Daytripper, became a critically acclaimed knockout.

An adaptation of Dois Irmãos (The Brothers) by the eminent Brazillian author, Milton Hatoum, Two Brothers promises a story of strained family relations and identity, with more than a hint of intrigue bestowed by the two brothers translating the tale in both language and medium.

Omar and Yaqub are identical twins with many differences between them. The strong love of their mother, Zana, only causes more trouble in their relationshop and a violent exchange sees the “good son”, Yaqub, sent from his home in Brazil to live with relatives in Lebanon. As the book opens, he is returning home after five years, a virtual stranger to his parents, estranged from Omar, and with family tensions still very much intact.

The Brazillian setting, on the riverbanks of the Amazon in the port city of Manaus, is a celebration of the vibrant and diverse country, and host to this Brazillian reimagining of a treasured local author’s tale – the themes of the home country and the relationship of brothers reflect upon each other in a startlingly unique way.

The ten-page preview underscores the subtle arts of graphic storytelling - the words unsaid, the looks avoided, the porous nature of time. Bá’s distinctive lines render unique characters in minimal strokes; clever transitions, cunning shadows, and scenic panels promise a beautiful book.

Read the full preview here: Ba and Moon Explore Home and Family in ‘Two Brothers’

Two Brothers


Panel Mania: Fashion Forward with ‘Girl in Dior’

This month's first Panel Mania spotlights the upcoming translation of French comics maestro Annie Goetzinger - Girl in Dior.

A love letter to fashion, Paris, and the House of Dior, NBM brings French superstar Annie Goetzinger to conquer the US, following in the footsteps of the titular designer. One of the rare Grandes Dames of comics in France, Goetzinger is well known for her blend of the historical and nostalgic, most often with a societal sting in the tale.

Her works (Agence Hardy, Paquebot, Le Tango du disparu), with their sumptuous Art Nouveau-influenced style, have rarely been translated for the English market, but Jeune fille en Dior perhaps has a wider audience than most – the world of fashion is rarely restricted by mere geographical borders.

The heroine of the title, Miss Clara Nohant, is a fictional creation serving as our viewpoint on the rise of Christian Dior and the fierce loyalty he inspired in those around him. Given little personality of her own, the cub reporter gazes in wonder upon his creations, with her mother and grandmother giving their own, generationally different, opinions.

For those looking for a hard-hitting historical expose, be warned – this is a feather light kiss upon history, with only a slightly belligerent sabre rattle of socialist concern, but oh the dresses. The beautiful, stylish, inspired dresses. Goetzinger’s background in fashion is apparent not only in the flowing lines of the countless outfits and the way they gloriously capture the light, but in the layouts, backgrounds, and characters of the entire comic.

This is for fans of beauty and refinement, both in comics and in clothing, an indulgent present for those who love fashion and the female form. The original French edition by Dargaud was praised for its lavish presentation and exquisite binding, a trait that NBM have consistently proved to be a mutual priority.

Goetzinger has been working in comics since the ‘70s, and while this is far lighter than most of her body of critically acclaimed work, it’s lovely to see a subject often derisively dismissed as “feminine” being treated with such love and respect. A guilty pleasure? No guilt required!

Girl in Dior opens with a quote from Dior himself: “In a machine age, dressmaking is one of the last refuges of the human, the personal, the inimitable.” Comics, perhaps, is a similar refuge.

Read the full preview here: Fashion Forward with ‘Girl in Dior’

Girl in Dior


The Independent on Sunday: Review of The Sculptor by Scott McCloud

My interview of Scott McCloud's The Sculptor in tomorrow's Independent on Sunday  is up early on the website, and the graphic novel is an early contender for comic of the year.

"If Understanding Comics was the research, The Sculptor is the finished thesis – far more than the sum of its parts, and a wonderful testament to the power of comics."

Read the full review here - The Sculptor by Scott McCloud: A devilish pact that speaks to every frustrated artist

The Sculptor


SciFiNow: Review of Brass Sun

The latest issue of SciFiNow Magazine (#102) features my review of Brass Sun by Ian Edginton and INJ Culbard, a brilliant science-fiction clockpunk tale of a real life orrery solar system.

This is a really accessible read, and one I highly recommend to all.

"While the sheer sense of fun and adventure call to mind the works of Ursula K Le Guin, and the early films of Terry Gilliam, the true triumph of Brass Sun is the characterisation of our entire cast. From evil religious tyrants to untrustworthy allies, the secretive monks who run the rails of the clockwork to crazed looking bounty hunters, a terrifying metallic enemy to Wren herself, each character leaps from the page with alarming force."

You can buy SciFiNow via their website, or digitally.

Brass Sun

Brass Sun Brass Sun

Brass Sun