The Twilight Children #1 (Comic) Review

The Twilight Children #1 (Comic) Review

Vertigo is currently in the midst of launching several new series, with a new #1 issue releasing every week in the closing months of 2015. The publisher has courted a number of high-profile creators for this resurgence of books, from novelist Holly Black to Supernatural creator Eric Kripke. Their creator lineup also includes writer Gilbert Hernandez (Love and Rockets) and artist Darwyn Cooke (DC: The New Frontier), the team behind The Twilight Children.

twilightchildren1insert2The Twilight Children takes place in a small, beachside Latin American town. It immediately feels familiar, utilizing characters typical of a small-town drama: the town drunk, the gruff sheriff, etc. The book draws you in with comfortable familiarity before introducing the supernatural aspect of the series. The town is plagued by mysterious white orbs, randomly appearing and disappearing throughout the town and surrounding beach. Nobody knows where they come from or what they are, but any efforts to investigate the phenomenon prove fruitless. The town has earned the attention of a CIA agent, as well as a scientist from an unnamed institute, but it seems as though the harder they try to learn the secret, the further they get from the truth.

The book introduces all of its characters with an easy grace, balancing introductions and brief insights into their lives before moving on to the next. The pacing of the book begins to pick up toward the end, but I enjoyed the slow, almost gentle opening scenes. When main character Anton stops for a drink after a day’s work, I’m happy to join him for three panels before he moves on. There’s a sense of apparent calm over the town, even as the cracks in that facade rapidly begin to appear.

That said, the familiar opening can also be a detriment to the issue. The focus on establishing the setting in the early pages makes for a slow start, which can be hard to justify in the single issue format. The easy opening scenes that drew me in might just as easily convince another reader to put the book down entirely. And while the ending ultimately justifies the slow start, the first issue will benefit after it’s collected in a trade.

twilightchildren1insert1Hernandez has an incredible ear for dialogue, crafting believable conversations between both the adults and the children. It’s especially impressive how he characterizes the three children in the story, moving them from an almost sage-like wisdom to panic in the space of a page.The first several pages firmly establish the setting and characters as realistic and believable. As such, the introduction of the mysterious glowing orb has a genuine impact. It’s not a scary moment, but it’s unsettling—it thrusts the familiar characters into an unfamiliar circumstance.

The supernatural elements are effective because they’re introduced with a light touch. The sudden appearance of the orb is jarring, but the sense of calm from the characters reasserts itself soon thereafter. There’s a subtle shift in tone after the first orb appears and it builds over the rest of the issue to a full sense of dread. That dread reaches its peak when the foreign scientist begins his investigation of the orbs, a nice play on the stereotypical mistrust of outsiders that often characterizes a close-knit community. It builds to an explosive climax, the fallout of which will be the crux of the series.

These subtle shifts in mood are largely successful thanks to Cooke’s impressive artwork. Cooke is an industry veteran and he brings the full range of his skills to this book. His line-work moves the story effortlessly between scenes of small-town life, sensual encounters, and supernatural tragedies. Many of his characters have a delicate feel to them, accomplished by intentionally soft curves and features. The art looks simple at first glance, but closer inspection reveals the great care Cooke takes with every single line. Coupled with Dave Stewart’s beautiful, vivid colours, the art in the book alone is absolutely worth the price of admission.

Twilight Children #1 is a slow, calculated start to a supernatural mystery. If the characters and setting aren’t enough to draw you in, the fantastic art and eerie last page should do the trick. The book marks another strong new series for Vertigo’s new lineup, one that should not be missed.

DC Comics on TV

DC Comics on TV

The slate of DC properties that have made their small screen debuts has grown this season from the solitary Arrow to now include The Flash, Gotham and Constantine. DC has notoriously had problems with big screen adaptations, so how do their serialized adventures stack up?

Arrow is the wily veteran of the group as it enters its third season and the other shows to some degree, in particular The Flash, exist based on the success of Oliver Queen and company. When it started, Arrow very strongly resembled Batman Begins, but Oliver quickly racked up a HUGE body count and managed to find his stride and hit it well. While it does resemble Smallville at times, it also thrives on having a strong comic book feel and the inclusion of DC Universe favorites that fits well into the show. Characters like the Suicide Squad, Deathstroke, Dark Archer, Black Canary, the Huntress and the promise of more to come is genuinely exciting. They’ve also managed to make the supernatural and superhero elements of the show seem plausible in the universe which is not an easy feat to accomplish. It also does a great job of using the dual timelines of the present and Queen’s past on the island to draw storylines out without making them feel stagnant. Sure, there are some aspects of the show I could do without, but overall, Arrow keeps me coming back and I’m always entertained with what they bring to the table.

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I’m desperately trying to like Gotham. I mean, really trying. However, the show seems to be doing its best to make me dislike it. While Gordon, played aptly by Ben McKenzie, is likeable enough, everything else seems to be slapped together. Donal Logue is criminally under used as Bullock, a character who can’t seem to stick to a role and is constantly contradicting himself. Whether it’s his work ethic, his friendship with Gordon or even his overall mannerisms, he’s completely inconsistent. There’s Latin American actor David Zayas playing an Italian mob boss, a Scottish and extremely brusque Alfred, Barbra Gordon, Jim’s girlfriend who seems to be unable to find her pants and legendary Bat villains are pulled out far too often with very little to show for the effort. The shows ultimate downfall is Jada Pink-Smith’s character, Fish Mooney. Is that an accent she’s doing or is it just absurdly over the top acting? Why make her up if the plan was use nearly every established villain possible? Gotham seems to be doing okay in the ratings which is baffling but it does mean that it will at least finish the season out.  Maybe they’ll use the time to iron out all the problems it has.

If it’s not broken, don’t fix it’ seems to have been the model for bringing The Flash to share a universe with Arrow. With a pretty much copy and pasted episode and character model, Flash is unabashedly embracing the fact that it will have much of the same audience as Arrow and are giving that audience more of the same. The character dynamics and relationships are virtually identical and they also use the dual timeline to give back story to characters and give relevance to certain incidents in the present without trying to give you a ton of exposition. Unfortunately, without the ‘I was stranded for five years’ element, the need for flashbacks really is just visual chunks of exposition which sort of defeats the purpose. Since The Flash has struck far more of a CW vibe thus far, the best parts of the show have been the stinger scenes at the end of the episodes. It’s giving the show a much needed depth to a show that is still trying to find its footing the way big brother Arrow has.

Finally, Constantine was an incredibly interesting choice for NBC to adapt. Being about an exorcist master of the dark arts who fights demons every week, I was surprised the networks would go for the Vertigo property. That may well explain the bizarre double pilot that started the show off but I have really enjoyed it thus far. Constantine may follow the network TV formula a little too closely for my tastes but the show is buoyed by Matt Ryan’s stellar performance and his likeable sidekicks that have great back and forth with Ryan. While NBC seems to be staying on the safe side with this one, giving it only 13 episodes instead of the usual 22, it is a model that worked for other NBC hit Hannibal. Hopefully the network uses the success of Hannibal as a guideline for how to keep Constantine interesting and not on how to cancel it. I’m looking very forward to tuning in to this one in the future.

While Arrow has set itself apart as the better of the four shows, Constantine looks primed to challenge for that spot if NBC keep it on the air. Meanwhile, The Flash is still looking for something to set it apart and Gotham is floundering. I’m hoping that these successes and failures will help other networks see the potential and that will end up with more DC properties on the small screen.

First Trailer for NBC’s New Constantine Series Revealed

First Trailer for NBC's New Constantine Series Revealed

Yesterday, NBC released the first trailer and footage of their new television series Constantine.

The series is based off of the Hellblazer comics which were first published by DC Comics, before being moved to its subsidiary Vertigo Comics in 1993.

Most people who don’t read comics will recognize the name Constantine from the 2005 movie based on the same series. It starred Keanu Reeves as Constantine and adapted the “Dangerous Habits” story arc. The film was met with mixed to negative reception which led to the eventual development of the television series, instead of a movie sequel.

Matt Ryan as John Constantine in NBC’s new Constantine series premiering this fall.

Producer and writer to the Constantine television series David S. Goyer has said that it will follow the source material more closely than the film did.

Matt Ryan the actor who will play Constantine, provided the voice of and motion capture for Edward Kenway in Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag.

NBC has already ordered a first season from the series, and will premiere it this fall exclusively on NBC.

 

The Invisibles: Book One: Deluxe Edition (Comic) Review

The Invisibles: Book One: Deluxe Edition (Comic) Review

As those who have read my articles on his Batman run may have noticed, I’m a wee bit obsessed with Scottish comic book writer and wacko thinker Grant Morrison. Throughout his career, he has deconstructed, revitalized and challenged the definition of superheroes and the comic book form. However, despite my insatiable appetite for all things Grant Morrison, until recently I had yet to sample his magnum opus The Invisibles. The series was published by Vertigo in the 1990s at the peak of Morrison’s headfirst dive into drug culture, transcendental meditation, and every other conceivable act of mind expansion imaginable. Throughout this decade of personal experimentation, Morrison wrote The Invisibles as a sort of fantasy diary for all of his current interests as well as a means to challenge the definition of the mainstream comic book. He also wrote his wild n’ wacky take on the Justice League of America at the same time as a populist contrast to his wild indie title and these days both are considered classics. DC Comics recently decided to republish The Invisibles in a series of glossy n’ gorgeous hardcover deluxe editions. With fevered anticipation and concern about whether or not my brain would survive the experience, I recently devoured the book on behalf of CGM. Even though the series has dated and can be too mind-warpingly complex to swallow, I’m pleased to announce that the series has lived up to the hype. Now, let’s get into the details, shall we?

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This 12-issue intro to the wild n’ wacky world of The Invisibles follows the initiation and sudden affiliation of Dane McGowen to the Invisibles and it’s certainly an intriguing, if at times frustrating, starting point to the series. Dane is a juvenile delinquent who despises authority and catches the attention of King Mob and his band of merry misfits known as the Invisibles. In the first arc in the book, we’re gradually informed who the Invisibles are through Dane’s oddball initiation to the group. Essentially, Dane is forced into a juvenile detention centre where he learns that the world is secretly controlled by an alien race living on another plain of existence who control humans through conformity, consumerism, and other 20

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century diseases (like I said, it’s heady stuff). Eventually, he busts out of the teen prison and hooks up with an old homeless man who teaches him how to see several planes of reality and detach himself from the world he’s known. Once Dane is psychologically prepared to leave normalcy behind, he’s finally introduced to the titular Invisibles.

The Invisibles are a group of renegade radicals and revolutionaries who have unplugged from the oppressive everyday reality to fight a war against the unseen race that rules and represses humanity. Their leader is King Mob, a bald drug enthusiast and cold-blooded mercenary. His team features a collection of equally strange partners including a tantric-sex loving psychic and a transvestite, but their personalities aren’t deeply explored in this volume (I’m assuming that will be saved for future issues). We primarily spend time with Dane and King Mob. Dane abandons his identity and is renamed Jack Frost. King Mob humiliates and murders a perverted British politician as part of his one-man battle against the world and then leads the Invisibles on a few missions. The first involves a time traveling trip to the French Revolution for a little historical fiction, some lessons in philosophy, and a predictably filthy cameo from the Marquis De Sade. Eventually Jack Frost wants to leave the group because things are getting “too strange” (a pretty hilarious meta-joke to ease reader concerns), we learn a little bit more about the villains, and everything ends on a cliffhanger with the possible death of a pretty central character.

The best way to describe this first volume of The Invisibles is a massive head-trip, and I can’t imagine that Morrison would disagree. Even in this introductory section, it’s clear that The Invisibles is not a book that spoon feeds to readers. It’s challenging, but not in a way that feels like homework. Morrison has managed to fuse pulp action and sci-fi with heady philosophy and explorations in alternative lifestyles. It very much plays as an adventure series filled with puffed up action but is more about challenging reader perceptions of reality and society. It is certainly a dated book in many ways with the fashions and taboo button pushing very much tied to 90s pop culture. However, its message of anti-conformity and abandoning technology and society driven hypnosis in favor of drug and education fueled enlightenment is timeless. Though I often found myself confused and re-reading pages, I was never bored and always rewarded. Morrison has a way of mixing pulp thrills with challenging concepts that has never been more purely explored than it is here.

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Another thing that is impossible to ignore while reading this first volume is the vast influence the series had on The Matrix. The concept of 20

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century culture as a mass hypnosis by a secret society was stolen directly by the Wachowski siblings and their leather-clad gang of renegades fighting against the stream led by a bald man in sunglasses is more than a little familiar as well. However, I wouldn’t call it plagiarism. The Matrix was always a work of pastiche by the Wachowskis who combined all of their geek obsessions into a single narrative (certainly The Terminator, The Bible, and Kung-Fu movies have as much of an influence on The Matrix as The Invisibles, amongst many other sources). However, it’s an interesting point of comparison. Given that Morrison started his tale 5 years before The Matrix’s release, it shows how ahead of his time the writer was and how dialed in he was to the existential and pop culture obsessions of his era. However, Morrison was also writing in a personal, complex, and challenging style that could never connect with the masses (even the fact that his medium of choice was comics limited the appeal). He was writing for the underground while the Wachowskis’ aimed at the pop audience. That’s the difference and, if anything, the similarities between the two works are more fascinating than frustrating in hindsight.

While this new hardcover edition from DC is absolutely gorgeous to look at with glossy pages, beautiful art reproduction, and a wonderful new cover by Brian Bolland, it has to be said that visuals are not the strength of the series. Morrison’s voice as a writer might be a consistent driving force throughout this book, but the art comes from a variety of sources and in a variety of styles. That’s pretty common way to run a writer-driven comic series (certainly Neil Gaiman worked that technique beautifully through his Sandman run), but in The Invisibles it feels like it was done more as a result of Morrison being unsure of what he wanted visually and experimenting with different collaborators until he found it. Thankfully, this is far from an ugly book. It’s beautifully laid out and told, with some striking imagery. However, this first volume of the series very much feels like a work in progress. I was definitely gripped and fascinated by Grant Morrison’s groundbreaking series throughout this first volume. It’s just clear that this section was as much about Morrison figuring out what The Invisibles could be as it was introducing readers to a strange new world. Still, I’m pleased to say that so far The Invisibles is living up to the hype. It’s not every day that you read an action packed story that makes you re-evaluate our polluted society and question commonly held beliefs. Somehow, that’s exactly what The Invisibles accomplishes. This story is shaping up to be a mix of guttural thrills an Avant-garde art. I can’t wait to see where Morrison shoves my gooey brain from here. I hope I can even survive the next volume.

Preacher comic series turning into TV show

Preacher comic series turning into TV show

Fans of the bloody comic book series Preacher will be happy to know a pilot based on the series is being filmed for AMC.

Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen – who worked on This is the End together – will work alongside Breaking Bad’s Sam Catlin to adapt Vertigo’s acclaimed series, which ran from 1995 to 2000, and was created by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon.

The book follows a preacher named Jesse Custer, who was accidentally possessed by the supernatural creature named Genesis during an incident which killed his entire congregation and demolished his church. His quest to find God is shard with his companions Tulip and Cassidy. Cassidy also happens to love drugs. Over the course of their journey, they run into many problems, and face several enemies, both sacred and profane.

Though there hasn’t been any promise for a series, a pilot is often a good sign of things to come.

Fables ending with issue #150

Fables ending with issue #150

The end can be seen.

The long-running Vertigo series known as Fables will come to a close with issue #150, which will likely arrive early 2015. Writer Bill Willingham made the announcement on Friday through his personal website, adding he will partially retire from the comic book work

“Retirement in the storytelling trade means, still working and writing every day, but being a bit more selective in what projects I take on,” Willingham wrote. “Pushing 60, I thought it would be a good time to start making concrete plans for those remaining good writing years.”

Issue #137 hits shelves in Jan. 2014, with the Fairest series also coming to a close before the final Fables issue.

Fables emerged in 2002, and has established a solid grasp on DC Comics’ mature audience. The series has won 14 Eisner Awards, a movie is in the works as well, and it’s also served as an inspiration for Telltale’s current video game The Wolf Among Us. You can check out the review for The Wolf Among Us right here.

Source: billwillingham.com

New Sandman Comic Arrives After 25 Year Hiatus

New Sandman Comic Arrives After 25 Year Hiatus

It’s official. After a whopping 25 year absence, comic fans are able to go to their favourite comic store TODAY and get a brand new Sandman comic. The Sandman: Overture #1 is now available to the public. For those that haven’t been following this new, six issue, bi-monthly series is being written by series creator Neil Gaiman, who went from promising comic book writer with the original Sandman series to best selling novelist as he branched out from his comic roots to dabble in any kind of narrative form available, including an upcoming game. This latest work, Overture answers some long standing questions of Sandman fans, in particular. As Gaiman himself says,“People have often asked me what happened to Morpheus to make it possible for him to be captured in THE SANDMAN #1. And now they get to find out. And finding out, they get to learn secrets of the Endless that I’ve kept to myself for 25 years. Family secrets. And I should warn you: one of the Endless dies on page five.”

Overture is selling for US$ 4.99 and US$ 5.99 for a “combo pack edition.” It features art by J.H. Williams III, most notable for a recent run on Batwoman. If you’re a fan of The Sandman, then you now have two options; run to the store NOW and get your copy, then endure the torturous bi-monthly wait for the remaining five issues. Or, if you’re made of sterner stuff, patiently sit out until the inevitable gorgeous hardcover compilation or less expensive trade paperback editions hit the shelves a year from now. One thing is clear though; anyone that considers themselves a fan of unusual, mature, literary storytelling in comics owes it to themselves to check out anything that Neil Gaiman writes, especially when its something with the legacy of The Sandman.

Django Unchained #1 Review

Django Unchained #1 Review

Movie tie in comic books or video games are known to be cash grabs with a flimsy premise and little thought put into them. I generally overlook them because of this and didn’t really intend on picking up Django Unchained yet somehow found myself flipping through it. I’ve not seen the film so I went in blind but hoped that Quentin Tarantino’s direct involvement would mean it was worth a read.

His introduction certainly settled some of my fears. This comic book is essentially the entire script, fully formed and almost separate from the movie. While the film evolves and changes during shooting (adding scenes or subtracting them depending on what works best), the comic is the full story as Tarantino originally envisioned it. That’s pretty cool and certainly not the usual approach to cross media promotional products, which usually expand on extraneous details instead of forming a cohesive story.

unchained.jpgSince the comic is written by Tarantino, the dialogue is sharp, the violence quick but efficient, and the premise is solid but just ridiculous enough you know who conceived of it. Dr. King Schultz, a mysterious man of foreign origin not yet revealed– all we know is that English is his second language– encounters slavers on the move with their “property”. He’s looking for one slave in particular and lucky for them both, finds him there. Jango becomes Django when Schultz signs for his new purchase, adding a silent D and asserting that it “adds character”. All somewhat unnecessary considering he’s killed one slaver and trapped the other beneath his horse. Negotiations did not go well.
The interaction between Django and Schultz is great and their banter is all very natural, as wordy as Tarantino can sometimes be. Schultz is disgusted by slavery and guarantees Django his freedom as long as he assists him in finding the Brittle Brothers. Considering these were the men that captured Django and his wife (raping her in the process), he’s happy to assist Schultz. This is all information found in the trailer but is really well set-up in the comic. I haven’t seen the film yet but by the time I finished this first issue, I was pretty excited about catching it on opening day.
The art isn’t spectacular in this series but neither does it detract from the story. I’m not a fan of Guera’s work but if you enjoyed Scalped, you’ll like this. It almost looks like an old issue of Jonah Hex, which lends itself to a credible Western comic feel. The story is great so far and I think it will be a strong title separate from the movie. Tarantino’s style really suits the comic medium and I really do hope that he continues to do graphic novel series’ of his films or any concepts that don’t make it to the big screen. An ongoing series would fulfill his need to tell the complete story without having it turn into a four-hour movie. It makes sense and I think it would also make his fans happy.