Thursday, December 15, 2005

Hatter M: The Looking Glass Wars #1

"The Looking Glass Wars." A large part of the history behind Hatter M is published in the UK in a trilogy of books known as the Looking Glass Wars. Millions of readers in the UK are familiar with this storyline, while the Hatter M comic book will be a first glimpse event for Americans. I have a feeling that those who have read the trilogy will have an easier time understanding #1, but don't let that dissuade you from discovering the intriguing world of Hatter Madigan, a very different character from the one described by Lewis Caroll as a Mad Hatter. The Mad Hatter and Hatter M are not the same!

About the authors, Frank Beddor & Liz Cavalier: Beddor is the author and creator of the bestselling trilogy of Look Glass Wars novels. The U.S. novel publisher looks to be Dial Books (an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group). Using the Google search on the right will turn up a ton of other stuff that he's done. I couldn't turn up much on Cavalier's previous accomplishments, so you might try to navigate through the false positives in a Google search.

About the art,
Ben Templesmith: great stuff. I talked about his work when I did a review on Fell #1. Don't get all bent out of shape when you read that review either, because I'm not a Ellis-worshipper like many of the comic commentators are. I like the premise to Fell and the Snowtown tagline, but I don't crave dark like some comic readers do. I digress, here's a link to Ben's website and another to his art site. The art in Hatter M is very similar to Fell, but it seems to have more color and flare in it. And I must add that I really like his work. . .

About the story, Hatter M #1: here's a link to the
image previews, where you can see five pages on the story (more previews available indirectly through the Looking Glass Wars website. Hatter Madigan is a Royal Bodyguard to the Queen of Wonderland, but more specifically, the ranking High Cut of the Wonderland Millinery and protector of Alyss Heart--the next Queen of Wonderland. Alyss became lost in our world when she fled the forces of the Red Queen (who was trying to overthrow Alyss as future queen). As her personal bodyguard, Hatter M is looking at clues and trying to figure out how to find Alyss. And Hatter has lost his trusty hat--which pops out into blades when thrown and boomerangs back to the thrower. The comic starts with a one-page introduction that is designed to explain how Hatter M (the story) interfaces with Alice in Wonderland and the tale created by Lewis Caroll. Not being the slightest bit read (or interested) in Alice in Wonderland and not having the Looking Glass Wars novel trilogy in the U.S. yet, I have no idea what the first page is even talking about! Sorry.

Review and First Impression: I really like some unique and creative concepts in this comic book. For instance, puddles are time/dimension-warp portals. It'll be hard to not look at a puddle and wonder if I could jump in to Paris 1859. Also, the hat looks like a squid. Maybe that's a creation of Templesmith, but the imagery fits well to have the hat expand into squid-like blades and contract back into the hat. I also like how the pace of the story was quick and moving, where each new step is created with action or with Hatter M gravitating towards persons with a glow about them. The comic does a good job of conveying Hatter M's angst at (1) losing his hat and (2) losing Alyss.

While the pace was quick, it felt a little jittery. New action was abrubt and almost random. For instance, you have Hatter M leaving the hat store, then there are two small boxes illustrating some random guy losing the hat (with one box showing a different hand grabbing it), and then the story goes back to Hatter M. Then, about 10 pages later in the story, the hat is presented to the magician, Sacrenoir. All this was so abrubt, that when Sacrenoir received the hat, I was a tad bit confused. Now, how did he get that hat??? Anyway, maybe what I'm saying is that some of the scene changes aren't entirely clear--a problem which could be resolved with stark color changes (understandably hard to do when the entire world is conceived as dark).

Anyway, if I'm not making sense, go take a gander for yourself. As I always say, you have to read the story yourself and form your own conclusions. One of the main reasons for this site is to introduce new #1s, so you can purchase the issue if it seems to be in your category of interests.

RECOMMENDATION: not buy #2. Unfortunately, this story is not in my category of interests. Depending on whether the Looking Glass Wars novels are released for teens or adults, I think I'll at least read the first one to give the story a better shot next time.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Robotika #1

Enter the World of Robotika. As you may already know, I don't review the everyday, common superhero stuff. I'm not dissing on the roots of comic books in America and the need for heros, but I just like the independent, non-run-of-the-mill stuff. Robotika is futuristic and cutting-edge in all aspects, with touches of classic Japan and tones of honor from the way of the warrior. For those of you out there that understand, yomu no ga mechakucha tanoshikatta yo! (everyone else, consult Jim Breen's Dictionary).

About the writter and illustrator, Alex Sheikman: If you haven't purchased Robotika yet, go take a glimpse at Alex's work; he has great work! His website shows pieces from Stingray, Bloodlust, Moonstruck, and Robotika (of course). He also has some sketchbook art, rpg illustrations, and "for fun" art. It's all extremely unique, and he's the reason I took so long reading Robotika for the first time. I kept looking at the pictures like a chubby kid with no money in a candy shop. Also, here's a link to his blog, which also has some sketches and background info on the making of Robotika.

About the cover art, Ryan Sook: in 2005 alone, he published tons of work (in addition to Robotika Cover #1) in Birds of Prey, Hawkman, Races of Eberron, X-Factor, and Zatanna. He's also published stuff for Arkham Asylum, Hellhounds, and Metal Hurlant. Nice work Sook!

About the colors, Joel Chua: his website exhibits how busy he is right now. He also runs a blog, link. Nautilus Comics just made him official colorist for CAST, and he's also finishing up the illustrations for his first children's book called Zohn's Tale to Tell.

About the story, Robotika: I'm gonna give you some background on this story because it is totally fresh. There's a section in the back of #1 called "The World of Robotika" that I'd suggest you read before getting into the story. It tells about XPS-15s, VR helmets, ecorganic towers, drones, and vision mirrors. Here's the gist: there's this samurai guy name Niko, who's a member of the Queen's elite bodyguard corps (her protection). Contract mercenaries of the Black Legion kill a doctor and steal the invention he's worked his entire life on. The Queen sends Niko on a mission to recover the invention, which if it ends up in the wrong hands, will start a bloody civil war between humans and cyborgs. What's the invention? It's the first biological machine that can reproduce, develop, and learn on 'her' own.

Review and First Impression: I was in awe by this story. The art is colorful and fantastic. It is so futuristic, however, that I kept pausing to try to figure out all the intricate details. Alex does a good job introducing and developing the main character, Niko. It's clear that he's the elite of the elite, but just remember--he's mute. I'm interested in seeing how Alex pulls off a story with a mute hero. . . but don't get me wrong, I think he's done a good job so far. The story also has some great samurai-style fighting scenes, blade v. gun.

One of the things I had a hard time with, was the text boxes with lettering vertical-style. I just haven't read much English, left-to-right, top-to-bottom. So that took some getting used to, but I understand the stylistic purpose in having lettering that way. I was also interested in knowing more about Cherokee Geisha. Who was that and why did Niko listen to her? Other than that, I like the themes that are being developed: obsolete cyborgs rising up against modern cyborgs (I, Robot-esque), samurai loyalty to their leader, new race creation through science, organic batteries and technology, and nations being torn appart by competing values.

RECOMMENDATION: buy #2. This is a no brainer for me. I love Japanese stuff, I mean, my name is Ichiban Sensei for heaven's sake! But honestly, I think this 4-issue series has a well-constructed and extremely unique #1. Go give it a try.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Jova's Harvest #1

In the beginning. . . our father decreed. . . that with light. . . must also come darkness. . . Let me use the creator's language to describe this 3-issue series: "It's an ethical drama about a servant of Heaven who must kill good hearted mortals to strengthen Heaven's dominance over Hell. But despite that, there is no good or evil in this book. There are only grayscales, and it will be up to the reader t0 decide who to root for, or if there is anyone worth rooting for. Expect to see some wigged out stuff in this book (hence the reason I named the mortal world 'Wigg'd'!), some moral dilemmas and arguments, and an ending that may surprise even longtime fans of mine." There you have it. . . here goes my review and if like what you read, sub to the feed!

About the creator,
Steve Uy: Steve's career kicked off at Marvel. He did a cover for Iceman and some pinups for the Marvel Millenial Visions 2001 book. Then Steve created Eden's Trail. Many of you may know Steve best from his latest creation at Image Comics, Feather. Steve's website has tons of previews for Feather and Jova's Harvest. If you're skeptical on taking the plunge, go read a few previews. . . you'll be hooked, I dare you!

On the writing style for Jova's Harvest, let me be clear on a few things. Steve followed two rules in writing the comic. First, it must be absolutely grammatical. Second, all the words have to be in a decent dictionary. With this writing style, every word counts, but don't focus too much on the rhyme scheme.

About the story,
Jova's Harvest #1: First of all, I need to write a killer review, because I loved this story and the extra nudge may be required to get you over the $4.95 US price hump. It is an Arcana Studio product and is about 38 pages of commercial free, quality storytelling in rhyme. Like I said above, don't let that distract you because Jova's Harvest was some of the most lucid, articulate, and creative storytelling I've ever read. Period. Here's an example - "Stay quiet much longer and my own conclusions I'll draw, for if you've left Heaven in secret, you've broken God's law!" Not bad at all.

At the end of #1, there is an explanation of each of the four main characters, all of whom are "lesser gods": Jova, Luci, Sis, and Hermes. Jova is the star character, the harvester entrusted to preserve the mortal world by maintaining the light v. dark equilibrium in slight favor towards light. Luci, Jova's younger brother, was granted the role of being the dark to Jova's light, but he's starting to grow tired of living in Hell and wants to be with his family again. Sis, the sister of Jova and Luci, was not mentioned much in #1, but she apparently has some secrets to be revealed. And last there's Hermes, the liaison between Heaven and Hell. He also cleans up after Jova when mortals discover the secrets of the Harvester. Character development is one of those things that Uy does well.

Review and First Impression: I liked how the story progressed and left little bread crumbs of intrigue to pull the reader in. I have a few examples of these bread crumbs. First, this little boy catches Jova in the act of "harvesting." I'll let you read that part, so as to not spoil the story, but I wonder if that boy and family will have some role later in the story. Second, there's a secret between Hermes and Sis, which they didn't tell Jova, so I'm wondering what the secret may be. Third, there's the tension between Luci and Jova. I'm wondering if Luci's enticements are just a ploy to get Jova to throw the battle between light and dark. The last page doesn't help you understand this question, so just go read that.

The art is awesome! Steve explains that he creates all the objects separately and brings them together in a kind of cel-animation style. I just love the cover to Jova's Harvest #2, so I included that at the top. The art is very expressive of the mood. For instance, when Sis, Hermes, and Jova are all together, the art is vibrant and colorful. When Jova and Luci are engaged, the art is deep, dark, and violent. I loved it!

I can't emphasize how fresh and creative this story is. It's organic and thought provoking. It's also funny. I thought the worm was going to be a 'Dune'-esque travel mechanism, but boy was I wrong! You'll die to find out how Jova travels across the earth. This is funny stuff.

RECOMMENDATION: No doubt, buy #2. This is likely to be one of my favorites of the year. There's so much more to this story than the perfunctory, plain surface drama plaguing many comics. This story can go as deep as you'd like, and then it'll draw you in for more.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Paradox #1

Okay, I bought this about a week ago and have been trying to come up with a decent review for it ever since. When I bought it, I had two justifications for the plunge: (1) it was a #1, and that's what I do, and (2) the title "Paradox" felt erudite and sophistocated. . . like, I gotta buy that or I'm some sort of dummy. When I see the word "paradox," I'm thinking of ethical dilemmas, catch-22s, and being stuck between a rock and a hard place. So all this is going on in my head, and I say, "let's get the damn thing!" Here's what I got. . .

About the series,
Paradox: This is a title from Arcana Studio, which is currently working with such titles as Jova's Harvest (one of my next reviews), Sundown, Kade 'Kini, El Arsenal, Ezra, Full Metal Alchemist, 100 Girls, Ant, Fruits Basket, and HBO's Entourage. Paradox is a 3-issue mini-series (shortened from 4) and here's the premise: Sean Nault is a homicide detective on a parallel Earth, where the technology is powered by magic (not science). He comes upon a puzzling series of murders, committed by a weapon he's never seen--a lead bullet. Detective soon finds himself facing golems, gargoyles, and guns to solve this murder mystery that could destroy two worlds. I'll explain more about this later, but the key is to understand that there are two parallel 'worlds' on Earth, there's the Earth as we understand it (our normal human existence) and there's the Earth as the Detective sees it (based on Magic). The story is told from the perspective of Detective Nault, so you have to grock that commonality is magic. . . not science and technology.

About the author, Christos N. Gage: the Arcana website attributes the screenwriting of Law & Order: SVU and Deadshot to Gage. If you google his name, he has significant crossover work in film, television, and comic writing. I couldn't find an official website for him, if there is one.

About the artist, Luis Henrique Ribeiro: I was reading his conversation in the Paradox forum that he has a website, but I can't find it. This is Ribeiro's first U.S. comic work, but apparently he's a professional artist in Mexico. I'll include some artwork from #1, but I've got to agree that Ribeiro's stuff is pretty sweet. Gage describes his style as "realistic" and "gritty" (
see the informative Newsarama interview with Gage speaking about Paradox). As an aside, the cover work for #1 is by Steven Cummings, who's worked on Deadshot, Elektra, and Green Lantern, etc.

Synopsis (with spoilage) and Review: Let me explain a few terms. First, Paradox is set in a parallel world where everything is run by magic. So, detectives investigate crimes with magic. Those who use science are called "pragamatics"--to use the politically correct term. As you'll start to see, Nault doesn't like to use either science or magic, he's somewhere in between. There's a part in the end where the story ties together the two worlds and explains what a "Paradox" is.

What I like about the story is the tension between magic and science. Viewing everything from the perspective of magic is extremely interesting. For instance, there's a part where the detectives mention that fingerprints taken from a lead bullet won't hold up in court. Imagine a world were fingerprints don't hold up in a court of law. Anyway, it's a cool concept.

There are a few scenes that I could not figure out. In one part, Nault is hugging his upset daughter, but there isn't much development of the cause of her emotional response. I assume (which I don't like to do) that the mother's absence is somehow related. Also, using Winston Churchill seemed a little weird, but it wasn't as bad as the awkward reference to the NBA and Shaq while explaining wizards. Frankly, I think I understand what a wizard is (thanks to LOTR), but I could've used an explanation of some of the other concepts like magic, pragmatism, and paradoxes.

Overall, I read the story twice over and couldn't get over the fact that the story was too convoluted, as told. The concept is pretty sweet, but the conveyance was too taxing. As a reader, I had to work too hard to get the gist, and that's not right. Plus, I finished #1 totally confused because of the weird ending. . . talk about not having any idea what happened there!

RECOMMENDATION: while the concept is fresh and exciting, I didn't enjoy my reading experience for some reason. With all the stuff out there, I think I'll have to pass on #2.

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