Variant Edition | Comics
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Comics

Hey everyone, this week at work has been a KILLER for your old pal Devin so this column’s going to be a short one. The good news is that because there will only be a few sentences per item. the concentration of enthusiasm will be explosive BECAUSE I WILL WRITE IN ALL CAPS AND USE MULTIPLE EXCLAMATION POINTS!!!!

Okay, I won’t torture any of us with that nonsense. But still: short and to the point! Explosively exciting! Packed with Vitamin D! Let’s go!

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Cover to Killraven #2 by Alan Davis & Mark Farmer. Buckle them swashes, Killraven!

Cover to Killraven #2 by Alan Davis & Mark Farmer. Buckle them swashes, Killraven!

The 1970s was a weird time for mainstream comic books, with the two big publishers trying to supplement their traditional superhero offerings with titles inspired by a variety of other genres: kung-fu movies, exploitation, horror, and sci-fi. One of my favourite weird titles from Marvel at that time was Killraven, a sequel to The War Of The Worlds where the Martians had enslaved Earth and entertained themselves by watching human gladiator matches. Killraven was a gladiator-turned-freedom-fighter who, with the help of his fellow escaped gladiators, fought for freedom in this post-apocalyptic world wearing only a navy blue speedo and attached suspenders. It was a great littl series, but a very 1970s concept. That’s why Alan Davis & Mark Farmer’s 2002 Killraven miniseries was such a delight; the script felt like a slightly updated version of the swashbuckling adventures from thirty years earlier, but with Davis & Farmer’s glorious art giving it that much more of a stylistic punch. There were even panels that echoed some of the work that the great P. Craig Russell did on the original series in the 70s, but with the clean and muscular Davis/Farmer touch. The smile on my face grew with each issue I read, and by the end of the series my heart honestly felt a little lighter than when I started. It’s adventure and heroics and swordfighting and also robots and martians and gladiators in very little clothing. What’s not to like?

Well. That was unexpected.

Spirit_Darwyn_Cooke

I was absolutely hollowed out by the news of Darwyn Cooke’s death from cancer this past weekend. I know I’ve talked a lot in this column about being shaken by the death of an artist I admire and respect, but Cooke’s death is a real kick in the gut. For someone who was still such a vital and creative force, a vibrant and volatile person with a love for life and art, to leave us at only 53 years old…it’s left me feeling pretty hollow. Cooke was one of my favourite comics creators, of any era; I loved his old-school style, the way he brought real character from a handful of lines, and how his best work felt like it was about to come to life at practically any moment. I honestly can’t think of a comic that he worked on that I didn’t like (though granted, I haven’t read all of them just yet). His love letter to the Silver Age of DC comics, New Frontier, absolutely captivated me when I first read it, a twenty-something man just getting back into comics. Let’s forget about the fact that it’s one of the best Martian Manhunter stories ever written. It’s what most mainstream comics fans think of when they think Cooke; bright primary colours, the pages humming with a zest for action and life, classical art style married with a modern storytelling method.

Hello and happy Friday all! This week after Variant Edition’s Free Comic Book Day celebrations has felt like it’s gone by in an eyeblink, though that may be partly due to the fact that the week after a holiday always feels like it’s moving at double time to me, and also partly because as I complete my transition into an Old ManTM time keeps slipping, slipping, slipping into the future. That’s okay, though, because if the future keeps bringing me anything like the goodies I stumbled across this week, I say bring it on.

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Moon Shaped Pool

So Radiohead dropped A Moon Shaped Pool on Tuesday and AAAH NEW RADIOHEAD ALBUM AAAH

*breathes*

Okay. I should probably say something just a little bit more coherent than that. Let’s try again.

This week’s column features two very different dystopian sci-fi books, a hip-hop masterpiece, and the fourth installment of a video game series that (until recently) I didn’t care anything about. It’s been just that kind of a week, folks. Let’s get right into it!

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Cover to The Infinite Loop #2 by Elsa Charretier.

Cover to The Infinite Loop #2 by Elsa Charretier.

The most visually stunning comic book I read this week was, hands down, the French comic book Infinite Loop. Written and lettered by Pierrick Colinet and illustrated and coloured by Elsa Charretier, Infinite Loop is a meditation on freedom, love, and identity disguised as a time travel adventure story. The future is a place that has gotten rid of emotions as unnecessary distractions at best and the cause of all human misery at worst. Fighting against this new world order is a group of terrorists called the Forgers, who are disrupting the integrity of the timeline, creating “anomalies” as part of the chronal backlash. Fixing the timeline and disposing the disruptions is up to a special group of agents, and Teddy is one of the best. She’s basically the best of the best, aloof and untouched by emotion, and never lets the job get the better of her. That is until the latest anomaly she’s assigned to destroy is a young girl with purple hair, who makes Teddy re-evaluate not only her mission, but her stale and emotionless world as well.

Hello everyone! I don't know how things have been with you all, but for me this week has gone by overwhelmingly quickly. It must be all that cool stuff that I've been filling my life with! That's right, my brain and my heart have just been packed full to the brim with awesome things lately. So many things in fact that I am going to do a bit of a rapidfire infodump, highlighting some of the best things that I've experienced over the last two weeks in a handful of sentences each. Hopefully there will be a something for everyone! This week one of my favourite...

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Hello and happy Friday to everyone! It’s been a wonderfully sunny start to my spring and I’m feeling upbeat and eager to dive even further into 2016. I mean sure, a lot of what I’ll be talking about today might not seem sunny and optimistic, and that’s because, well, they’re not. But it is worth looking into, and that’s the best thing as far as I’m concerned. What’s been concerning me this week? Let’s find out!

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Cover art for The Punisher #13 by Marco Checchetto.

Cover art for The Punisher #13 by Marco Checchetto.

After finishing the second season of Daredevil a little while ago I realized I’d never given Greg Rucka’s 2011 run on The Punisher a fair shake. Or any shake at all, really. I had stayed away from it because I respect Rucka as a writer and creator and I have a very particular preferred version of The Punisher, and I didn’t want to be disappointed. But then I remembered, “Oh yeah, avoiding things that might be good because they might end badly is a terrible life philosophy,” and I started reading the dang book. Quickly enough I discovered that Rucka had, unsurprisingly, written a very good book, mainly by taking an angle at the story that I’m surprised few writers had done before. Specifically that Frank Castle is often more interesting as a catalyst than as a character.

Folks: this past week was the longest week of my year so far. Coming down off the high that was Spring Break 2016 and all the funtimes that involved, this week was like a five day hangover. Now that it’s Friday again I feel like I can just about make it through…wait, it’s the weekend again! Never mind, everything’s fine, forget I mentioned it. Let’s just go through a quick summary of the great things that helped me get through the past week.

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Black_Panther_1_Cover

I had been looking forward to this week’s New Comic Book Day with a lot more anticipation than normal. I mean, I am a fan of New Comic Book Day in general, but this week was the debut of the new Black Panther series, so my excitement had hit extreme levels. As long-time readers of this column may remember, I love the Black Panther, and this new series has a very impressive pedigree. The writer is Ta-Nehisi Coates, a journalist, author, and 2015 MacArthur Genius Grant winner, making his comics debut. The artist is Brian Stelfreeze, whose work on the Catwoman/Demon story in Wednesday Comics was one of the highlights of a series that was chock full of great comics art. And the colours are by Laura Martin, who has worked on titles like The Authority, Planetary, JLA, and Astonishing X-Men, and whose name is basically a guarantee of quality. With a roster like that working on one of my favourite Marvel characters, the book had a lot to live up to.

If this message reaches you, gentle readers, know that I have been enjoying the gentle retreat known to the rest of the world as Spring Break. For the past seven days I have surrounded myself with only the very best people and things, and it has been glorious. But all good things come to an end, and so too does my Spring Break. But I am left with memories of good times that will last me, well, a couple of weeks at least. I have a pretty bad memory. Here’s a quick sampling of what I got up to this week.

Dear Creature

It’s a strange comparison to make, but Jonathan Case’s 2011 comic book debut Dear Creature reminds me of Mike Allred’s Madman. The art styles and stories are wildly different, but both books are so very clearly the work of a passionate creator with a variety of influences on their sleeves. Dear Creature is about a mutant sea monster in the 1950s who can smell hormones in the air and kept himself alive by killing and eating young lovers in the sleepy beachside community he calls his home. Lately, though, his cannibalistic bloodlust has been tempered by a series of messages in bottles that have been making their way to him, excerpts of Shakespeare plays that have broadened both his heart and his mind, which makes his best friends — a group of wise-talking crabs — anxious. Eventually, he decides to venture out into the town to find the person who has been sending the messages, and then the book becomes something even stranger — a love story.

(NOTE: this was originally drafted and intended for publication on Friday, but due to technical difficulties — i.e., me pushing “Save” and not “Publish” — you get to read it today. Happy Monday!)

This week I am going to focus on two very different offerings: a independent comic about a brutal time in American history from a modern comics master, and a musical potpourri from one of my favourite musical discoveries of the last few years. The shift halfway through the column might be a bit of a hard left but hold on, I promise to try and make it worth your while.

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Kyle Baker has been making comics for over thirty years now, and he’s a kind of polarizing figure among readers. I’ve been a fan for years, though, from his early work on DC Comics’ pulp revival series like The Shadow and Justice, Inc. in the 1980s to his own original work on titles like Why I Hate Saturn, You Have Killed Me, and The Cowboy Wally Show. He’s a tremendous visual storyteller and character designer, who’s not afraid to take big artistic risks to make an emotional impact in a story. His 2005 four-issue series Nat Turner is a comic book adaptation of the life story of enslaved African-American Nat Turner, from just before his birth through the slave rebellion that he led in Virginia in 1831. Turner is an important and controversial figure in American history and race relations, and Kyle Baker’s graphic novel is an immediate, gripping, and emotionally charged retelling of the man’s story.

Greetings, all! By the time you read this I will be on my way to the Rocky Mountains for a weekend of skiing and celebrating the anniversary of my youngest brother’s birth. I am told there will be a lot of “shredding” in some very “sick powder,” as well as a generous supply of delicious adult beverages if I know my brother well (and I think I do). It’s going to be a good weekend for me, and I hope for you as well. If you’re curious about what you might be able to add to your weekend to make it even better, well then, you’re in luck, as I have a handful of pop cultural recommendations for your approval!

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I’m sure I can’t be the only person who does this, but sometimes when I’m reading a book or watching a movie and I’m really invested in the story, I seek out other stories that share themes and tones without realising that I’m doing it. It’s not until I’m well into the stories that it hits me that I’ve subconsciously started curating my own collection of, say, dystopian science-fiction stories that focus on social inequality. That was the case when I found myself alternating between chapters of Futureland, Walter Mosley’s collection of nine short stories about a not-so-distant future, and V for Vendetta by Alan Moore and David Lloyd. These two stories are excellent counterpoints to each other, though I might not recommend reading them simultaneously and then thinking about the state of international politics during an election year in the United States. Though I will say from firsthand experience that I definitely started viewing the first few presidential primaries through a very distinctive lens.