Wednesday, 16 April 2014

These Are The Best Mermaids in Comics

There are a number of ways to bounce back from a flagrant snub from the Eisner Awards. You can rant at them, you can pretend you didn't care anyway, or you can hastily cover the news and then hide it off your front page.

But the best way to recover is with a list. SO HERE IS A LIST OF THE BEST MERMAIDS IN COMICS.


Namor's loss is Alpha Flight's gain, as Marrina recently evolved into a giant fish monster, got killed, then resurrected into an icon for mermaidkind. Currently still serving with the team, I assume, she wears a boa made of seaweed. Amazing.


The whole run of Generation Hope was designed to try and throw us all off the scent, and suggest that Transonic WASN'T actually a mermaid. But you cannot hide the truth from X-Men fans forever! And ultimately her true form was revealed - she's a flying, crystalline, maths-loving mermaid!

Mermaid Evolution

If you want a mermaid with more attitude than most, then Caleb Goellner's self-published Mermaid Evolution! is the place to go. Filled with enough rad happenings to make Adam X fall off his skateboard in shock, it's a delightfully manic comic.

The Mermaid of Zennor

Briony May Smith is an incredible artist and storyteller, and one of her most acclaimed stories thus far was her retelling of the old myth 'The Mermaid of Zennor.' You can find it here! It's proper good.

Lori Lemaris 

Never try and stand between Superman and a woman with an alliterative name (L-literative?) One of his early romances, aside from Lana and Lois, was his time spent with a lovely lady mermaid called Lori. SHE COULD ALSO READ MINDS!

Abe Sapien

Blatantly a mermaid. Don't try and pretend otherwise.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Orphans #1: Stay Out Of The Light!

Starting off methodically - very, very methodically - and eventually leading us into a story of black ops missions, secret projects and plants-gone-rogue (more on that later), the first issue of Orphans is an intriguing one. It's cautiously exciting, suggesting there's a lot to come, and offering all the right teasers for issue #2.

By Eric Palicki and Branco Jovanovic, and coloured by Jesse Heagsta, the first issue gives us a look at an operative called Alexis Quinn who appears to work outside of the Government's sight, and has been scientifically engineered to be a super-soldier type person - but, I think, only when he's covered in darkness? When he gets a spotlight shone on him, or sees daylight, he weakens like Superman with kryptonite.

It's a little unclear, because one of the problems with this first issue is that the creative team seem to know more about the characters and world than we do - but the story acts as though we're fully aware of Alexis' issues with light before he tells us. There's a scene where he stumbles upon somebody, and is about to fight them... until they turn a torch on him. It's only once we've has this twist that we then get the explanation for what has happened, and a brief origin story for the character.

We're given the twist - that somebody knows Alexis' origin and power-set - before we're given the information which explains why that insider knowledge would be shocking. There are a few other similar little bumps along the way through this first issue, such as the resolution to an imminent stand-off near the end. As the leads are surrounded by members of the military, they seem to somehow appear a TV news crew from nowhere, who have live-streaming film cameras.

This is actually a really neat twist for the narrative, in that the lead character actively chooses not to have a standard fight scene, but to go for a more cerebral approach to problem-solving. It benefits the characters in the story immensely - from a more practical standpoint, readers will be wondering just where exactly the film crew came from, and how they got to the scene faster than the military.

But this is making it sound like I have major issues with the comic, when actually I mostly just have small nit-picks. Because although there are bumps to the story, here, you can see why they happen - it's because Palicki is servicing the characters foremost, and in doing so he offers a story that feels genuinely quite tense, and confined. We spend a lot of time quietly following Alexis at the start, ramping up the sense that this is a practical, smart, interesting protagonist. Once he's threatened, the fact he doesn't use his science-based super-strength? That's really involving.

And it helps as well that the artistic team are working so well together. Heagsta's colours are a necessary part of the concept here - if he doesn't convey the use of light properly, then he'll have an audience of people saying "shouldn't Alexis be depowered here?" and so on. His choice of a striking blue palette for the story, set against a tan/brown light thrown up whenever somebody uses a spotlight, helps clearly show the nighttime setting without having to resort to lots of shadows and blacked-out scenery.

For his part, Jovanovic has a strong sense of page layout, offering some interesting panel sequences which reflect some of the themes of the story whilst also progressing the narrative. There's room here for a little bit of symbolism, but only just enough to be interesting, and never too much to feel like it's encroaching on the characters. And the collaboration in storytelling between Jovanovic and Palicki is really quite terrific, with Palicki confident enough to leave several important scenes completely wordless, and let the artist tell the story.

It's a confident first issue, telling a story which seems like it'll be heading into some very interesting places indeed. By the time the first issue has ended, hindsight means the reader can 'fix' the slight bumps in narrative which happen, and place the story into a coherent whole. The creative team leave all the right questions unanswered, and have things set up so readers will likely be very interested indeed in where the story heads next. An impressive start.

Review: Invincible #110

I think it would be very easy to immediately dismiss Invincible #110 and say that there's no craft to it, it's a bad comic, it shouldn't have been made. But that's not the case here - in fact, it's the fact that the creative team have put such concerted effort into the issue that makes it so alarming.

An issue which bridges two areas of main character Invincible's life, the story starts by reuniting him with his wife - who thinks he died six months ago during a previous storyline, and is heavily pregnant -  and then pitting him against another woman, who forcibly attempts to have sex with him.

It's a jarring transition between the two sequences, and the final scene is off-putting and on display - they don't throw it to one side or allude to things: we actively watch the woman (whose name isn't mentioned in the issue, but must have been set up in prior issues) fight Invincible, throw him to the ground, and rape him.

This is a well made scene, on the technical level. Artist Ryan Ottley is exceptional at storytelling, and his panel transitions are notably sharp here. The fight scene plays fluidly, with a sense of momentum completely in-sync with Robert Kirkman's dialogue. Together, this creative team have been working on the series for an incredibly long time, and you can see their ability to work together is completely symbiotic at this point. The actual rape scene is depicted over a 21-panel spread page, which get smaller and smaller in focus and size as the page descends. The idea is to have the reader get a broad, sensationalised look at the horror of what's happening, before pinpointing specific parts of the characters and scene to imply the full emotional extent of the trauma on display.

It's a horrible sequence, one which doesn't feel realistic or necessary - but which happens anyway, and is artistically very well done indeed from Ottley. Kirkman's dialogue is somewhat melodramatic and over-the-top, but seems to have been carefully chosen to annoy the readers. Phrases like "man up" are thrown at Invincible during the sequence, emphasising the idea that this is an unusual event, a female-on-male rape sequence rather than a male-on-female rape. Throughout, the comic seems unusually aware of what the reader will be thinking, and at several points actively throws those thoughts back at them. I felt like the woman's dialogue was more often aimed at me, as a reader, than it was at the character she was ostensibly talking to.

The issue, which I didn't enjoy, and wasn't particularly meant to be enjoyed, feels a little like a writer's bet. It feels like the creators trying to pass commentary on the use of rape in fiction - particularly as it's been in the headlines recently, perhaps - and doing so in the most gratuitous way possible. I'm not a fan of rape sequences in comics as a whole, but as you read this issue it feels as though every page is daring you to say "rape sequences shouldn't ever happen in comics", so Kirkman can then leap in and say "it happens in real life, so I have the right to have it happen here, too".

That's how it feels to read this issue of Invincible. I understand this is a series which intermittently attempts to push specific buttons, as it started out a relatively all-ages book before suddenly becoming incredibly violent and nasty in tone. In those terms, the idea of a rape sequence isn't out of the unexpected for the book. But over the course of this issue - which is very carefully structured, and paced - it feels less and less like an organic story and more like a specific message the creative team wanted readers to have to deal with.

It's subjecting the reader to a real-life horror through the prism of a superhero fight sequence, and it's alternately a clever and far too sly beat to hit.

The fact it comes after an opening sequence which rings false in terms of both dialogue and art - the characters are over-exaggerated in emotion throughout, diluting the narrative we're meant to be following, which in turn doesn't feel like a natural evolution for either character's perspective of events - makes the subsequent rape sequence all the more disturbing. We've just left a ridiculous melodrama, and now we're in the middle of this political story point.

Ottley's artwork is stellar during the fight/rape sequence - but the issue doesn't do enough to make this feel like a new storyline for Invincible. Instead it feels like somebody dared the creative team to see if they could put a convincing female-male rape sequence to paper, and they've done their best to do just that.

It feels too cruelly deliberate to make for an immersive reading experience. The issue chooses to push some very sensitive buttons, and I felt that took me out of the comic early on, and kept me isolated from the actual character and storylines right through until the end. For that, I wouldn't recommend reading it.

Go Getters #1: One Gal and Her Ape

Deliberately harkening back to the silver age of comics, where things were allowed to be silly and explanations weren't required, Go Getters #1 is a fairly plot-free comic which instead doubles down on character interaction and silliness. Because of that, I really enjoyed it.

Published by Monkeybrain, Shawn Aldridge, Christopher Peterson and Nick Johnson's series plays very carefully to the format it appears in. It reads more like a webcomic than a structured print comic - each page builds up to a gag in the final panel, then resets. The plot, for what it is, is simple, and the comic is mostly concerned with finding new, strange environments for the lead characters to deal with.

It's not a high concept - two freelance retrieval agents - the Go Getters of the title - are given the job of tracking down people or items, and bringing them back to their client. They go off to do this. One of them is a fast-talking woman called Maya, and the other is a silent gorilla called George Harrison. The comic consists of Maya having a grand old time fighting off kidnappers, bickering with clients, making fun of people, and generally causing all kinds of scrapes - and George Harrison follows her.

In a true silver-age tradition, George never learns to speak, and his reasons for becoming a freelance bounty hunter aren't explained. He simply tags along, his very presence one of the best sight-gags in a comic which leans heavily on the comedy. The first issue of Go Getters is designed to make you laugh above all else, and the creative team throw all kinds of different joke styles and patterns into the issue to that extent. There are sight gags and puns, cultural reference, sardonic humour, comedic ironies, and many other joke styles being thrown at the reader here.

Some of the best jokes are the ones like the sight of a giant gorilla walking around, driving cars, drinking smoothies; the ones which aren't called out. Maya does all the quipping, and a likeable lead that makes her, but George Harrison's role in the comic is just as funny, through the way he is downplayed. Nobody thinks it unusual that a giant white gorilla is her partner in this agency - they just know that it'll be a problem.

Peterson's artwork doesn't go for an overly cartoony approach, which is interesting. Instead, the creative team are more focused on crafting a world which looks realistic and normal, seeking to contrast that with the lunacy of the dialogue and characters. The result works fairly immediately, with the comic broken into a short prologue establishing the style of the lead characters, before a longer story which leads up to the final cliffhanger.

That's also a pretty interesting approach for structuring a single issue, and one which, again, I think works best because this is a digital comic. I would be inclined to call Go Getters #1 a throwaway piece of entertainment - but because I read it digitally, where I'm comparing it to webcomics rather than the standard Marvel/DC/Image style of comics-making, the things which would usually be problems instead become strengths.

I couldn't imagine walking to the shop just to buy issue #2 - on the other hand, I'd happily nip online to buy the second issue online. Which, as it turns out, is the option I have. More than anything else, I think that is what struck me most about the issue. It's designed to be digital, and it works because of that planning from the creative team.

It's also very funny, highly likeable, and sincerely silly.

Here's a preview:

Monday, 14 April 2014


Comics Vanguard prove, as always, to be your second-stop site for all the latest news on bird-slashing rocket flying space guns wearing super skunk Hepzibah, who'll be returning to comics on a regular basis as part of the main cast for Greg Rucka and Russell Dauterman's Cyclops.

Super-exciting news today, in that Dauterman has offered CBR a first look at the costume designs Hepzibah will be sporting in the series! It's certainly a notable snub that he went with CBR rather than Comics Vanguard, although this may be because nobody's heard of us. OUR TIME WILL COME DAUTERMAN!!!

Here's a look at what Hepz (and Corsair!) will be wearing in the series, which starts in May.

See the rest here!

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Dogooder Comics Reveal the Cover for Dungeon Fun 2

Dungeon Fun was one of my favourite comics from last year, and a load of other critics and online sorts agreed with me - it made to into the list of the top 100 comics of the year over on CBR. It's really, really good, you lot.

Written by Colin Bell and drawn by Neil Slorance, the series tells the story of Fun, a girl who lives in a moat all her life... until one day a sword lands down next to her and she realises it's time to go hit a few dungeons, meet a few monsters.

Sort of. That's sort of the story of it.

At any rate, publisher Dogooder Comics have today revealed the cover for issue 2, along with the news that it'll be on-sale at Glasgow Comic-Con in July this year. Also on sale will be two other comics - which are not yet revealed!

Here's the cover:

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Saturday Spotlight: JoJo Seames

Every Saturday, the comics internet puts their feet up and has a KitKat. But here on Comics Vanguard, we're going to use today to get in some much-needed extra alliteration, and throw a spotlight on people doing some really cool comics work.

Today! Here's a look at some of the work being done by artist JoJo Seames.

First of all - bunnies. BECAUSE BUNNIES ARE THE BEST! Although these are actually Jackalopes rather than bunnies - they have antlers, see? Seames mostly works in watercolours, and you can see in her background that she's used a sort of blanching effect (I don't know watercolouring terms so I'm just going to describe things as I see 'em) to create a grey, waterlogged affect which contrasts against the lighter, brighter colours of the jackalopes themselves.

There's a great sense of composition here which you'll see pulls across to all her other work, as well. Because the different jackalopes on this print all run in a single curved direction, you can make the decision yourself of whether you're seeing several of them in one shot - or just the same one in several poses, taken across a short period of time.

Going through her gallery at her website, you can find all manner of different styles and tones in her work - but this was one of the most arresting images, as far as I'm concerned. Again the composition gives a sense of movement, as the birds rush round in a curve, heightening the impact of the main character and her lantern. The colouring on this is incredible - you can see the light dim around the parts of the image which are blocked from the lantern's light.

And because of the perspective here, that means the reader is also directly exposed to the light - highlighting the two birds nearest to us, and alternately lighting and shadowing the others. It's a wonderfully evocative piece of work.

Her colouring only ever serves the artwork. If you look at these two superhero pieces, you can see there's a far cleaner and neater linework on the Joker image above, highlighting the cartoonishness of his anatomy and glare. Putting a purple character on a purple background is an unexpected move, but pays off here thanks to the use of shadow. It's a simple effect, cutting the outline of Joker and throwing a bit of shade behind him, but it works fantastically, here.

It also takes you a long time to notice the fact that he's holding a gun - one thing that really strikes me about her work is that you get a real sense of character in each. Rather than being stock poses, Seames has looked to emphasise the personality of the characters she's drawing.

The standard 'superhero leaps at you' pose is taken a step higher by the pose itself, the arrangement of Sif's body, and the background. It looks like she's jumping straight out of the clouds, or a crack in the sky.

I also really like the way she changes the placement of her signature - she uses it to offer an extra suggestion as to how readers should see the potential momentum of her characters.

Seames also writes, and as you can see above she knows how to offer an interesting sequential story. The action of this page is offered through the colours, I would say - note how the female fighter is colourful and bold, whilst the male fighter has no colour to him other than, I think, his eyes. It's a little touch that increases the effectiveness of the narrative itself.

She knows when to break the panels, and her lettering handles dialogue, sound effects and narration with ease. It would be very easy to lose track with a narrative comic, but here, in similar style to Ryan Dunlavey's work on Action Philosophers, she finds space to block text and also throw in dialogue for the characters being narrated about.

I found out about Seames through a mention by Matt Digges on Twitter, who was wondering why nobody was as enthralled by her art as he was. WELL NOW THERE'S AT LEAST TWO OF US!

This is cracking stuff, and only a small scratch at the surface. She's done a whole heap of work you can see over at her blog, and was the artist for the webseries Monster Plus with Chad Bowers. You can find her on Twitter here. I wasn't able to find out what her current projects are - I hope she's working on something. And if she's not? THEN IT IS YOUR JOB TO HIRE HER, INTERNET!

We need more of this artwork. It's fantastic.

Friday, 11 April 2014

Mike Garley on The Kill Screen: "This is in Fact How Doomsday Manifests"

Next month sees the launch of 'The Kill Screen' by the creative team of Mike Garley, Josh Sherwell and Mike Stock. A story about a computer virus which enters the real world - and starts to do some really, really weird stuff - the series marks the next big project for Garley following his previous series 'Eponymous'.

I don't really want to give away how the computer virus manifests itself (but if you read this interview you'll start to find out!) but it's a ridiculously smart concept for a series, played extremely well by the creative team. And in order to find out more about just HOW said idea came about, I asked Five Questions to Mike Garley himself! 

What happens in a computerised apocalypse? Read on to find out...

Steve: What's the comic about? What's the premise of The Kill Screen - what's going on in this world?

Mike: A Kill Screen is the point in old computer games where the game becomes unplayable due to unpredictable gameplay errors and bizarre glitches.

We’re taking that concept into our world and exploring what would happen if humanity had reached its Kill Screen and this is in fact how doomsday manifests.

What we’re left with in The Kill Screen is the remaining inhabitants of this worldwide event, who are doing everything in their powers to survive in a world that no longer functions as it should.

The concept is pretty far fetching and lets us explore religion, technology, and society itself, but what it’s really about is people.

Steve: This seems like a story with a large-scale to it. How epic in scale are your plans for the series? You've created a whole world to play around here. Are you hoping to tell one long story, a series of stories in the world - what are your hopes for the comic?

Mike: We’ve got big plans, with loads of ideas and concepts to explore, but we want to make sure that we’re not taking a scatter shot approach to storytelling, so we’re intending to tell limited stories much in the vein of Hellboy. We have lots of different technology inspired baddies in there too, and they allow us to tell different types of stories too.

Our stories are character driven, with the majority of the stories focusing on a single character. The Kill Screen is just a backdrop for all our crazy shenanigans.

We’re self-publishing The Kill Screen for now, but would love to find the right home for it. Hopefully we can prove that there’s a big enough market for a comic like this to thrive.

Steve: What gave you the idea for the computer virus breaking out into the real world? It caught me off guard when I read the preview - and it reminded me of a bit in, of all things, Eternal Darkness, where the main character loses their sanity and suddenly the world starts to crackle and static interrupts the screen. On that topic - have you ever played Eternal Darkness? It's amazing

Mike: Oh, that’s cool. We wanted to establish a realistic, relatable world before breaking away, so I’m glad that’s worked for you.

I haven’t played Eternal Darkness (I want to now though) but will definitely add it to my ever-growing list of games that I should have played, but haven’t!

I love games but due to how much I work, that even describing myself as a casual gamer may be a bit generous.

Saying that I’ve always had a fondness for them (same as horror films and comics), and this computer-based idea was one of a few that fitted together really well, creating The Kill Screen.

Steve: This is a book which really requires the creative team to be working in perfect sync with one another - writer, artist, letterer. How did you pitch the book to Josh Sherwell and Mike Stock? How have you enjoyed the collaboration between the three of you on the project?

Mike: It’s been great. It’s like working with two friends who can’t leave you even if they wanted to.

Mike Stock was an obvious choice as a long-term friend and collaborator. He’s incredibly creative as well as having similar opinions on design as myself. He’s also probably the only letterer I know who can put up with my incessant revisions.

Josh is an amazingly talented artist who’s got a fantastic future ahead of him. I was quick to step in his way… His comic PI Charles is fantastic and I was keen to hook up with him on something as soon as possible. A lot of the ideas in The Kill Screen needed an artist of Josh’s caliber to bring them to life, and after we bonded over talk of Resident Evil then we knew it was fate. Horrible, unrelenting fate…

Steve: When will The Kill Screen be out? What other projects do you have coming up, and where can we find you online?

Mike: We’re planning to launch the first of The Kill Screen (ILOVEYOU) at the London MCM on the 24th and 25th of May!

I’m working on a few projects, but there’s not a lot I can really talk about. I have a horror comic anthology that’s based on an undead samurai warrior, which is coming out in a few months, a giant-monsters kids-comic, a superhero webcomic, and I’m working away on a horror film. Unfortunately, like most creators I can’t really say anymore until a lot nearer each of the projects are ready to launch. I might be lying. But I’m not…

I have a website which you can find here and I'm on twitter here - which is well worth following as I’ve over thirty followers!

You should also check out Mike Stock and Joshua Sherwell on twitter  . They’re not as good, but whatever.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Eternal Batman Eternal #1: Got Pyg?

Today sees the start of Batman Eternal, a year-long, weekly sixty-issue storyline from DC Comics which'll be entering some unexpected corners of Gotham, bringing back fan-favourite characters, killing off probably a few other ones, and generally getting really into the whole 'brooding on gargoyles' thing that made Batman so popular

So for as long as they do issues of Batman Eternal, I'm going to be recapping them. What follows after the jump are full recaps, with spoilers. These aren't reviews! These are recaps. I can say what I want, and you're not allowed to say "well he isn't talking about the art...." because RECAP.

Recaps give me complete immunity over anything you may say. They're my new fave.

Let's get straight into things. Issue #1 is out today, and here are the cover and solicitation. Following the cover, SPOILERS WILL BE HAPPENING. Enjoy!

Don’t dare miss the start of the Bat-story so big it’s going to take every week of the month to tell! A massive cast of Gotham City’s best (and worst) examines the relationship between Batman, his allies and his city. In this debut issue, Commissioner James Gordon is caught on the wrong side of the law!

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

As Show of Support Towards Same-Sex Marriage, Oni Press Cut Ties with ULine

Oni Press have just issued an open letter, an admirable one, in which they publicly cut ties with supplier ULine. This comes following the news, reported swiftly online by several creators (I first heard about it from Alex de Campi) that ULine have donated money to various organisations seeking to veto same-sex marriage bills in America.

It should be noted as well that ULine also run several operations which help support Kickstarter projects with supplying demand - I expect over the next few days we'll likely see a number of prominent projects also reference this news story, and withdraw all contact from ULine as a result.

Good for Oni.