Review: Skies of Fire

I met Vincenzo Ferriero and Ray Chou at the New York Comic Con (2014). Infected by their enthusiasm for their project, I handed over five dollars for an oversized, glossy comic book called Skies of Fire. I had flipped through it and the artwork appealed. Airships and pirates, bearded men dressed in flight jackets and peaked caps, low-slung cities dotted with tall towers that served the sky. A brooding line of clouds called the Expanse. Fire, destruction, politics and a plucky naval captain who wanted to talk on the world. And pirates. Yep, worth five bucks.

I like a good story, but my choice of comics usually comes down to the art. A good cover catches my eye, as does clever use of colour. Skies of Fire is a really pretty comic book. Inside the front cover they have a wonderfully detailed map of the Aquilan Empire. The style of art within, the line work and colours are consistent with the steampunk flavour of the story. Continue reading “Review: Skies of Fire”

Review: East of West Volume 3: There is No Us

East of West, Vol. 3: There Is No UsEast Of West Volume 3: There Is No Us’ collects issues 11-15 of the comic ‘East Of West’. It’s tempting to babble senselessly about how good this comic is, urge you to go out and buy all available issues right away, but I wouldn’t be much of a reviewer if I didn’t explain my fascination. I’ll start with a little back story.

Loosely based on the ‘Book Of Revelations’, ‘East Of West’ tells the story of impending apocalypse. It’s clear from the very first issue that the world has been destroyed and revived before in what might be an endless cycle. What’s not clear is the role to be taken by the very recognisable symbols of a biblical apocalypse. The Four Horsemen are missing one of their number, Death. The Seven Seals have been replaced by seven nations. The Beast is…difficult to explain without spoiling some of the surprises of the story. Then there is the Message, which is presented as a constraint upon the actions of all. A dictate on how the world will end. Mixed into this over-arching story are the lives of the people within each nation. The leaders and their friends and foes. Continue reading “Review: East of West Volume 3: There is No Us”

Review: East of West Vol. 2: We Are All One

 “There’s Horsemen on the plains, the sky’s red as blood, and only the blind can see a better end.”

Fate was always going to put ‘East Of West’ in my path. I devour post-apocalyptic stories with unholy glee and have done since I discovered the ‘Book Of Revelation’, which is probably why I enjoy ‘East Of West’ so much. There is history here, a lot of it. Creators Jonathan Hickman and Nick Dragotta have pulled snippets of story from several well-known legends and have fused the pieces together with their own imagination. I really love their take on the end of the world. I love this comic series. Now I’m going to continue to enthuse while I talk a little bit about ‘Vol. 2: We Are All One’.

The title is very appropriate. Throughout this collection, issues 6-10 of the comic, the back story widens to include and link several of our main characters. Many of them were involved in the past, willingly or unwillingly. Wittingly or unwittingly! They’re all connected, throughout history and time. There is a sense they are as fated to be together as me and this series.

On to the story. Accused of being a traitor, Bel escapes the conclave and goes to find Justice. We get our first delicious slice of back story here and a promise from Justice to serve just that, saving Bel for last, of course. Meanwhile on, Death is looking for his son. Insert another glimpse of back story, this time for Ezra Orion, who was caught up in Bel’s escape and is now paying a terrible price. My heart wrenched and my gut clenched for this one. It’s the story and the art. This is a partnership that breathes hyper-realistic life into every frame.

Back at the white tower, the city is on fire. Presidency is not an easy task, particularly under the constraint of the Message and the Word. Here, the reader gains a sense of both the urgency and the futility the seven must feel while the world races toward the end. They have to keep it together for just that long and then give it up. Talk about anti-motivation. Then again, I’m not the disciple type.

Death confronts the Oracle and she extracts a terrible price for information about the whereabouts of his son. These panels are suitably grisly. On to John Freeman, who receives a lesson in history from his father. This is another chunk of back story that shows timeless connection between many of the characters. The lessons from his father help glue the story together while reinforcing the fact it is huge.

‘East Of West’ has always had the depth of a novel. That’s why I enjoy it so much. The issues don’t feel episodic in the traditional comicbook sense, even if each serves a purpose. Rather, each issue is a chapter of a larger and ever-growing tale. I love the combination of back story, plot and hints of possible futures. For me, each issue is another building block, I suppose. Separately, they serve a need. Together, they are so much more.

The last chapter has Death meeting the man who can tell him where his son is. Unfortunately, for all involved, the Ranger has also caught up with his prey. Cue epic battle and denouement. Of course, the story doesn’t end here. In fact, there is much left to tell.

Before the end, we check in with the Beast. I’m not going to detail this scene much except to say it had my skin crawling. Really and truly.

So, to reiterate, this is a fantastic story done justice by volume two. The art continues to be amazing and the writing is top notch. There are no characters underserved by the collaboration of Hickman and Dragotta. I don’t want to discourage those who like to read their comics issue by issue, but I really love the way multiple issues work together in this series, as if designed to hang between two covers as a single unit. Unlike some collected comics, these graphic novels work well. They have a beginning and an ending, which only leads me to praise, once again, the scope of the project, and the imagination of its creators.

The next collection, ‘East Of West Vol. 3: There Is No Us’, is not due out until October. I might have to break down and collect the single issues before then, despite my desire to read them as a unit. Thankfully, the story stands up well to several readings.

Written for SFCrowsnest.

Review: Serenity: Leaves on the Wind #2 by Zach Whedon and Georges Jeanty

It took me so long to get to the first issue of ‘Serenity: Leaves On The Wind’ that the second issue showed up in my inbox only a week later. Procrastination rewarded!

There were no preview pages for this comic on the Dark Horse website before publication and when the first issue came out, reviewers were asked to keep a lid on spoilers. Given the anticipation regarding this series, it’s understandable. So my review isn’t going to contain a lot of plot details.

I’ll start with a recap of the first issue. For those that missed it: get busy. This is the series fans have been waiting for. ‘Leaves On The Wind’ finally collects the threads of story left dangling by the short TV series and single movie and weaves them into a new adventure. Mal Reynolds is a wanted man. Despite the number of interested parties looking for him and the crew of the Serenity, however, he cannot stay in hiding forever.

On to issue number two. Here’s the official blurb:

‘Forced out of hiding, Serenity’s crew gets separated, and it becomes clear that everyone looking for the outlaws is on the verge of finding them. River offers to uncover the secrets that are hidden within her in the hope that the crew might have something to bargain with.’

Basically, the net illustrated in the first issue tightens, bringing Mal and crew into contact with some old friends, the term ‘friend’ being extremely relative.

Seeing as I can’t talk about the plot, I’ll talk about the art and the writing. The cover art is gorgeous, even if the cuffs on Zoe’s wrists are a bit disconcerting. Inside, there are a lot of panels that require more than a glance, the first glimpse of the Paquin mining platform being one of them. It’s hard to capture the exact likenesses in this format, but throughout the comic, the lines are consistent and now that I’m more used to these versions of the crew, I’m less confused.

I enjoyed the dialogue and interplay between the characters in this issue as well. The ending is super spooky…and I have to wait a whole month until issue # 3. Here’s where I note the cover art pictured above is by Dan Dos Santos and his cover for the next issue is only going to make the wait that much harder. Covers for the first four issues, including the Georges Jeanty variants, are available to view on the Dark Horse website.

Review: Pariah #1 by Philip Gelatt and Brett Weldele

PariahCoverPariah #1 is the first comic in a new series following the release of Aron Warner‘s Pariah Volume 1, where we learned about the Vitros, children born of an experiment designed to cure rare and fatal diseases in-vitro. They’re still human, just very intelligent, and like all sub-sets of the population, they’re regarded with distrust. After an incident involving the release of a deadly toxin from a lab where many of them worked as part of a special program, the Vitros were rounded up and sent into isolation.

In this issue, we meet Herman Toulane. He willingly turned himself in when the Vitros were being hunted, thinking he’d find a proper family to replace his dysfunctional one. Now he’s on his way to orbit with a bunch of fighting teenagers. Not exactly what he pictured.

Meanwhile, Lila turns on Hyde. She blames him directly for the deceit of his father, the Secretary of Defense. After locking their immediate problem away, Lila begins to organise the rest of the crew. Herman follows Brent to engineering where they put together a list of other problems. It’s a long list.

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Click through to preview the comic at Dark Horse.

Lila is determined to steer them back to Earth, but Herman isn’t so sure that’s a good idea. Given the fact they’ve been rounded up and shot into space, I sympathise. Herman’s thoughts are dryly humorous here. He still sounds like a kid beneath all those smarts. In fact, what this slice of story continues to demonstrate, is that these are kids or, at the very most, young adults. Sure, they’re beyond intelligent, but they think like kids. They don’t see the larger picture and consequences often have to be learned firsthand.

While they argue politics, their plan to return to Earth is accelerated, by accident, and they have pull together to save themselves. This gives us an opportunity to meet some of the other Vitros and find out what they can do. They’re all scary smart, but in differing capacities and areas of interest. They avert immediate disaster, just, but the cost is high, those consequences kicking them in the guts.

This is a great issue with a lot of substance. The art continues to delight. I actually sat and admired the cover for a while before flipping over to the first page and the loose lines and washed-out colours are just as appropriate this time round. Pariah is a comic I really enjoyed. I like the story and the characters, the way it’s written and the art. Can’t ask for much more than that.

Written for SFCrowsnest.