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Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E. – Alternative Comics Beat


Alt Beat

By Ken Porter
 

Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E. – Alt Beat

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Writer: Warren Ellis

Artist: Stuart Immonen

Publisher: Marvel Comics

The best of the rest

While I love the A-list superheroes like Spider-Man and Batman, I’ve always had an affinity for the lower heroes on the hero roster. Characters like Animal Man or Hank Pym, who are known but barely get the same amount of “screen time” like the other members of the JLA or Avengers. When a friend of mine recommended Nextwave to me I was more than happy to get to know some of Marvel’s lesser known characters. What I got was a story so fun, so rich with life and humor, that Nextwave might be one of my favorite superhero teams ever concocted.

Who are the members of Nextwave?

 

 

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(The Captain, Tabitha Smith, Monica Rambeau, Machine Man, Bloodstone)

Monica Rambeau

Formerly known as Captain Marvel and Photon, Monica leads Nextwave in the battle against the terrorist organization S.I.L.E.N.T. as well as H.A.T.E. I know that might sound confusing, but I’ll clear it up when we get to the plot. Monica has the ability to convert her body into any form of energy in the electromagnetic spectrum.

The Captain

Created for the Nextwave series by Ellis and Immonen, The Captain (formerly known as Captain @#$%) has super strength and speed and an identity problem. He can’t seem to come up with a Captain name that hasn’t been taken or put under copyright.

Elsa Bloodstone

A nearly indestructible monster hunter with a love of firearms and creature slaying. She’s the daughter of Marvel Universe monster hunter Ulysses Bloodstone and the brother of Cullen Bloodstone (Avengers Arena, Avengers Undercover).

Tabitha Smith

Formerly a member of X-Force, Tabby can make things explode at will, usually saying something along the lines of “tick, tick, boom” beforehand. She’s the more bubbly member of the group.

Machine Man AKA Aaron Stack

Originally created by Jack Kirby for the 2001: A Space Odyssey series, Aaron Stack is an android with a variety of onboard weapons, abilities, and knowledge. He’s the team’s resident tech expert and is a bit of a lovable jerk.

So wait… Nextwave are Agents of H.A.T.E. but are also against them?

A very big part of this limited series is its humor. Nextwave is a team put together by the Highest Anti-Terrorism Effort (H.A.T.E.) in order to fight the terror group S.I.L.E.N.T. The only problem is that the team discovers in the first issue that the Beyond Corporation, a subsidiary of the terror organization, is funding H.A.T.E. This leads to a hilarious cat and mouse chase as Nextwave fights weapons of mass destruction released on Earth while also fighting their boss — Dirk Angers — who exists as a sort of Anti-Fury.

 

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What makes Nextwave a great alternative?

There are few Marvel comics series that allow for the level of absurdity that Nextwave embraces. Usually Marvel characters will have a bit of humor thrown into their adventures, but the Nextwave series lives on the line of crazy action visuals and hilarious hijinks. No other Marvel series is going to have a scene where man-eating koala bears are thrown out of plane at the heroes.

The characters are also incredibly fun to read and each have a distinct voice. Sometimes I find myself getting bored with some team members in big superhero comics. Nextwave is one of the few team books where I’m excited to read a scene with any and all of the characters on the roster.

 

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Who would like Nextwave?

Fans of Ellis’ other work might enjoy this book quite a bit. It’s very different from works like The Authority or Trees, but it’s definitely worth seeing him tackle a much more absurd premise and group of characters. It actually reminded me a lot of Invincible from Image Comics and Robert Kirkman, so if you’re a fan of that series run out and get Nextwave as quickly as you can.

Ken Porter also writes comic books including “Ink Ribbon” from Visionary Comics. Ken was also the winner of last year’s Top Cow Talent Search contest and was recently published in “Artifacts” #33.
 

Read More about Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E. – Alternative Comics Beat

Star Wars #1 (Marvel) – Alternative Comics Beat

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Alt Beat

By Ken Porter 

 

Star Wars #1

Writer: Jason Aaron

Artist: John Cassaday

Publisher: Marvel

 

Between a Hope and the Empire

Star Wars is a film series I’ve watched so many times that it’s a part of my DNA. Everyone has their favorite film (mine’s The Empire Strikes Back), but even bigger than the movies are the expanded universe. These stories span video games, novels, and comics that have captured our imagination for decades. While Dark Horse Comics has held the license for Star Wars for years, Marvel now has the property again and are doing their own narrative between Episode IV and Episode V.

So how is it?

It’s like discovering an old classic you never knew existed.

 

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Not just blaster fodder

One of the challenges that Aaron and Cassaday had when going into this series was to tread new ground that the movies or the Dark Horse comics hadn’t done before. While Dark Horse did have it’s own series set in the same time frame written by Brian Wood and drawn by Chris D’Anda, this series by Marvel goes in a completely different direction in terms of setting and tone. Both series are equally good for different reasons, but we’ll focus on the Marvel series for now.

Aaron writes Luke, Leia, Han, and the Imperials as if their dialogue was taken from audio transcripts of the movies. Everyone feels the way they should, and each character gets a cool moment to shine.

One moment in particular is with Luke and his lightsaber, but I won’t spoil it for anyone that hasn’t read the issue yet.

 

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Why it’s a great alternative

Star Wars is a franchise that can be explored in just about any medium. The comics are a place where you can go and spend time with some of your favorite characters who don’t wear spandex, capes, or domino masks. It’s a great alternative for someone who wants to read about characters they love but don’t have anything to do with the DC or Marvel Universe.

Who would like Marvel’s Star Wars?

I’m hesitant to say everyone, just because of the reach that Star Wars has with fans, but I will say people who enjoy the original trilogy will like this the most. If you enjoyed the Dark Horse run on Star Wars then it’s worth giving Marvel’s new take a try. Although someone very famous once said “do or do not, there is no try.”

Ken Porter also writes comic books including “Ink Ribbon” from Visionary Comics. Ken was also the winner of last year’s Top Cow Talent Search contest and was recently published in “Artifacts” #33.

Read More about Star Wars #1 (Marvel) – Alternative Comics Beat

In Real Life – Alternative Comics Beat

Alt Beat

By Ken Porter

In Real Life

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Written by: Cory Doctorow

Art by: Jen Wang

Published by: First Second

Leveling up

When people think about MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games) they tend to think about fighting battles, creating cool characters, and organizing raids with other players. But there are other aspects of these online games that aren’t mentioned as much outside of gaming culture. One big aspect is the idea of gold farming. Where players collect gold in the game, or items, and sell them to people with real world currency that want to have an easier experience without all the work.

In Real Life explores this concept through a young girl named Anda, who befriends someone caught up in the world of gold farming. I don’t want to give too much away, but the concepts that explore gold farming or gamers in general are too good to pass up.

 

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Doctrow and Wang

I know Cory Doctorow mostly from his work as a novelist, but after reading this OGN (original graphic novel) I’m excited to see him work in the comics medium beyond this volume. Anda and the other characters are fully fleshed out, the worlds they live in feel authentic (both real world and video game world), and the story has real heart at its core.

Jen Wang’s art is expressive, flowing, and beautiful. Her work with colors makes each page pop, and the movement that her characters use in battles or just throwing tantrums keeps the panels from feeling static. The suggestion of motion through her line work is phenomenal, and I plan on looking up more of her work after writing this article.

 

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Why it’s a great alternative

Video games are a huge part of our culture. While they might get mentioned in other mainstream comics it’s usually a name drop or used as a joke or plot device. In Real Life uses MMORPG as a backdrop to a real human story and explores the gaming culture and economy unlike any American comic I’ve ever read.

 

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Who would like In Real Life?

I think that fans of anime series that deal with gaming, like Sword Art Online or .hack, will enjoy this OGN. It doesn’t have any of the “if you die in the game you die for real” tropes, but it doesn’t need them. The story is about the characters and gaming’s effect on them, and it’s a topic that’s very real and important within the world of modern gaming.

Ken Porter also writes comic books including “Ink Ribbon” from Visionary Comics. Ken was also the winner of last year’s Top Cow Talent Search contest and was recently published in “Artifacts” #33.

Read More about In Real Life – Alternative Comics Beat

Wolf Moon #1 – Alternative Comics Beat

Alt Beat

By Ken Porter

Wolf Moon #1 – Alt Beat

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Written by: Cullen Bunn

Art by: Jeremy Haun

Published by: Vertigo Comics (DC)

Howlin’ Forever

One thing I love about Vertigo Comics are the teams that deliver great new takes on classic monsters. American Vampire made me believe in the vampire genre again, and now Wolf Moon is poised to do the same with lycanthropes. Werewolves are one of the most iconic monsters in horror and popular culture, but we’ve seen just as many werewolf interpretations as we have zombies, ghosts, or mummies over the years. The thing that makes another addition to the werewolf genre worthwhile is when the story takes an old concept and makes it something fresh, taking the story or usual characters in a new direction. Wolf Moon takes the concept of the werewolf and puts a new spin on it, making the creature even more dangerous and mysterious than before.

Here’s the official premise from the Vertigo Comics website:

WOLF MOON is a horrific werewolf hunt unlike any other. When Dillon Chase’s family was slaughtered by the wolf, his life was forever changed. Dillon sets out to destroy the creature, but he soon learns that lycanthropy is far more insidious than the legends ever said. With each full moon, he draws closer to the monster – and with each full moon, he becomes more aware that in order to stop the wolf, he must kill a human being and become a fearful monster himself.”

 

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A Killer Team

Bunn and Haun have spun their words and art into a compelling horror comic that makes you afraid of werewolves again. Considering so many books want to make monsters sympathetic or sexy these days it’s nice to go back to the horror roots of creatures like the werewolf again.

Bunn writes a story that has danger, thrills, and a twist that I really didn’t see coming. One that makes lycanthropy a much scarier and threatening supernatural element than a simple bite or curse transfer from one to another. Haun’s artwork shows off the tense and bloody moments that make these kinds of stories great. His expressions, on both the people and the wolf, make the story believable in all the best ways. If you feel nervous watching a werewolf on the comic book page, then the team has done it’s job.

 

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Why it’s a Great Alternative

Horror is a genre that comics can do really well if readers give it a chance. It’s been a while since the days of EC Comics and titles like Tales from the Crypt, but the potential to tell those kinds of stories still exists in the medium. Wolf Moon shows that the horror genre is still viable in comics and is due for a comeback. I didn’t think there’d be another title like American Vampire that would both celebrate horror comics and change the genre conventions of a popular monster, but Bunn and Haun have proved that good stories can work no matter what the subject. Superheroes may still be the dominant genre within the comics medium, but horror can stand toe-to-toe if readers give it a chance.

Who Would Like Wolf Moon?

I think fans of the TV show Supernatural would like the hunting aspect of the book. While it doesn’t follow that formula or premise, it has that aspect of the common man against the unstoppable that gives shows like Supernatural it’s charm. People who enjoyed reading American Vampire (Vertigo), Severed (Image), or Spirits of the Dead (Dark Horse) will enjoy this comic quite a bit. If the atmosphere in those books got you excited and if you’ve got room on your pull list then snatch this up and devour it from cover to cover.

Ken Porter also writes comic books including “Ink Ribbon” from Visionary Comics. Ken was also the winner of last year’s Top Cow Talent Search contest and was recently published in “Artifacts” #33.

Read More about Wolf Moon #1 – Alternative Comics Beat

Zenith: Phase 1 – Alternative Comics Beat

Alt Beat

By Ken Porter

Zenith: Phase 1

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Written by: Grant Morrison

Art by: Steve Yeowell

Published by: 2000 AD

Where heroes are rockstars

I had always heard snippets here and there about Grant Morrison and Steve Yeowell’s Zenith, but until 2000 AD put out this collection I’d never read a single issue or story. I’m glad that 2000 AD did put out the new edition, because I got a crash course in superheroics mixed with a rockstar lifestyle and mentality.

The story follows Zenith, a superhuman that spends more time worrying about public image and music gigs than trying to save the world from threats. All the old heroes from the past decades have lost their powers or have been killed, and an old threat from an alternate dimension returns to claim the souls of the Earth. Zenith is thrust into the role of a hero, and what ensues is a fun, action-filled romp in the world of British superheroes.

 

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Morrison and Yeowell

While this series has a lot of concepts that Morrison likes to explore, like metahumans and multi-angled beings from other planes of reality, it’s still a fun superhero story at its core. It feels like a timeless take on superbeings and is populated with interesting characters and ideas. Especially the menacing villain, Masterman, who reads like a nightmare pulled from an old pulp magazine that had a one-night stand with an H.P. Lovecraft story.

Yeowell’s art does just as much heavy lifting as Morrison’s ideas. Not every artist can pull off a comic in complete black and white, but Yeowell’s use of line and inks make every image dynamic, expressive, and adds a bit of rock and roll flare to the look of the characters.

 

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Why is Zenith a great alternative?

Many superhero stories, at least in American narratives, follow a hero who sets out to do good as soon as they receive their powers or abilities. Zenith is a character who was born out of an era of superheroics. A young man that represents the fruit of the silver age, and doesn’t want anything to do with the violent or adventuring lifestyle when we meet him. It’s a great character departure from the usual heroes like Spider-Man or Superman, who are driven to do good right away. They’re still great characters, but seeing the world from a new viewpoint is just as entertaining and acts as a breath of fresh air.

Who would like Zenith?

I see a lot of inspiration from this series taken for Jupiter’s Legacy by Mark Millar. It deals with a lot of the same themes of second generation super beings and their roles in society. And I get the same kind of excitement reading Zenith that I get when I read Alan Moore’s Micraleman. I’ve always had an obsession with superheroes from the UK, so if you have that same kind of itch then you should definitely pick up this collection from 2000 AD and give it a try.

You can find the collection on the 2000 AD website, or order it from Amazon.

Ken Porter also writes comic books including “Ink Ribbon” from Visionary Comics. Ken was also the winner of last year’s Top Cow Talent Search contest and was recently published in “Artifacts” #33.

Read More about Zenith: Phase 1 – Alternative Comics Beat

Shamanism – Alternative Comics Beat

Alt Beat

By Ken Porter

 

Shamanism

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Written by: Igor Baranko

Art by: Igor Baranko

Published by: Humanoids

An alternate future for Native Americans

Shamanism is a mystical time travel story set on an alternate Earth where the Europeans never invaded the lands of the Native Americans. It follows a brave warrior named Four-Winds who seeks to rewrite time in order to save the love of his life. But the cost of time travel and the toll it takes on Four-Winds sends him on an adventure with consequences at the cosmic level.

 

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Spellbinding storytelling and artwork

I had no idea what I was in for when I started reading Shamanism. I knew that it had something to do with Native Americans, but I never would’ve guessed that I was sitting down to read such a fun and mesmerising tale about a warrior seeking to rewrite his history.

The artwork is just as striking. There’s a very eye-catching color palette, detailed characters and emotions, and each scene conveys the tone and mood of what’s going on with the main story. It’s the kind of comic book storytelling that lends itself to building a scene and characters, rather than just going for spectacle.

 

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Why it’s a great alternative

There are plenty of alternate history stories, but most of them focus on something to do with the Nazis winning World War II or steampunk versions of old England.

Shamanism gives readers a whole different perspective and setting for an alternate history story, as well as a powerful time travel plot. Alternate history is fun, but only if you pick historical moments that can have some weight behind them if things are changed or rewritten. The plight of the Native Americans is a story that isn’t told often enough in American classrooms, and I’ve never read an alternate history narrative about that subject.

Who would like Shamanism?

Fans of time travel stories and alternate history are a must for this book. If you’re studying Native American culture or are interested in stories about the supernatural this is a great volume to pick up. It’s got strong characters, great artwork, and a fantastic ending.

Ken Porter also writes comic books including “Ink Ribbon” from Visionary Comics. Ken was also the winner of last year’s Top Cow Talent Search contest and was recently published in “Artifacts” #33.

Read More about Shamanism – Alternative Comics Beat

Blacksad: Amarillo – Alternative Comics Beat

Alt Beat

By

Ken Porter 

Blacksad: Amarillo

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Created by:

Juan Diaz Canales & Juanjo Guarnido

Published by: Dark Horse Comics

An unexpected trip

Feline Detective John Blacksad is hired to drive a yellow Cadillac Eldorado across America. The only problem? The car is stolen. Even worse — Blacksad is a suspect! The fifth in a series of volumes from Canales and Guarnido, Blacksad: Amarillo is a standalone story worth picking up. Because If there’s something I love just as much as detective stories it’s road trips, and this story has both elements in spades.

 

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A work of art

This is one of the most stunning books I have on my shelf. I’d heard of Blacksad in the past, but never took the time to look into the series. Canales and Guarnido have already done four volumes previous to this installment, and I can only hope they’re as well written and illustrated as this new adventure. The characters are well-written, the environments are rich, and the artwork makes me wish this volume was another hundred pages longer.

 

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Why it’s a great alternative

What I like most about this story is that it’s visually different than most major comics in the United States. Blacksad doesn’t have the traditional American comic book style, and the story structure doesn’t feel like a four-issue mini-series or one-shot. The narrative rolls off the pages like a novella or a film instead of being segmented and divided into issues or chapters. Usually, with things shorter than graphic novels, you don’t get that kind of storytelling in a single volume.

 

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Who would like Blacksad: Amarillo?

Fans of animated Disney films were the first people I thought of after reading this comic. While it doesn’t feel like a Disney story it still has that anthropomorphic animal element that made movies like Robin Hood a delight. It’s definitely for people who love detective stories, beatnik characters, and road trip narratives. If there’s room on your list for this beautiful hardcover then don’t hesitate to grab it for your shelf.

Ken Porter also writes comic books including “Ink Ribbon” from Visionary Comics. Ken was also the winner of last year’s Top Cow Talent Search contest and was recently published in “Artifacts” #33.

Read More about Blacksad: Amarillo – Alternative Comics Beat

Son of the Gun – Alternative Comics Beat

Alt Beat

By Ken Porter

Son of the Gun

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Written by: Alexandro Jodorowsky

Art by: George Bess

Published by: Humanoids

Release Date: October 22nd, 2014

Not your typical Western

When I first picked up Son of the Gun I was expecting a straight-forward Western. That’s the last time I assign meaning to a book’s cover. I’m familiar with Jodorowsky’s work, so I should’ve known better than to think I’d be getting anything but ordinary. After reading this volume I had so many conflicting feelings about the main character, the story, and the ending, that I realized that it had been too long since I took in a piece of art that challenged what I thought or made me uncomfortable.

That’s a good thing by the way.

 

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The story of a boy…

The story follows a young man named Juan Solo. He’s found in a garbage can by a dwarf transvestite prostitute, abandoned by his original parents because he was born with a long tail. After growing up on the streets and becoming a prominent criminal, Juan lives a life of debauchery and crime. The story takes some interesting directions, and while Juan might not be a heroic character he’s certainly worth following.

Why it’s a great alternative

I’ve never read a gunslinger book quite like this one. It kept me on the edge of my seat and constantly made me question whether Juan was a character I could sympathize with or not. That kind of challenge made me want to read the entire volume again, and if I can find the time I’m going to dive back into the story.

But let’s not forget George Bess’ artwork. It’s expressive, detailed, and captures the spirit of this strange gunslinger story with intense colors and settings with as much character as Juan.

 

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Who would like Son of the Gun?

Fans of Alexandro Jodorowsky’s previous works like The Incal or The White Lama will eat this up. Also people who are looking for something with the same kind of power as Kelly Sue DeConnick’s Pretty Deadly, but with a much darker lens and characters (also without the supernatural elements). Son of the Gun is worth checking out just for experience, even if you’re not familiar with those other titles.

You can pre-order the hardcover at Humanoids.com — Son of the Gun (Hardcover).

Ken Porter also writes comic books including “Ink Ribbon” from Visionary Comics. Ken was also the winner of last year’s Top Cow Talent Search contest and was recently published in “Artifacts” #33.

Read More about Son of the Gun – Alternative Comics Beat

The Fade Out (#1 & #2) – Alternative Comics Beat

Alt Beat

By Ken Porter

The Fade Out #1 & #2

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Written by: Ed Brubaker

Art by: Sean Phillips

Colors by: Elizabeth Breitweiser

Publisher: Image Comics

Hollywood Horrors

I’m a big fan of murder mysteries and crime drama. The only thing I enjoy more than a good noir is a saucy Hollywood story set in the 1940s. Luckily for me Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips, and Image Comics have delivered just such a tale with The Fade Out. The story focuses on a screenwriter named Charlie who has lost his muse and relies on his drunken and blacklisted pal Gil to write scripts. But when Charlie wakes up one morning at the scene of a horrific crime, he finds that people in his circle have covered up the murder, and he has no idea how he fits into the puzzle.

 

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A Gripping Story

Not only does Philips’ art pull me into this story, but Brubaker’s take on Hollywood murders makes me want to sit and binge watch black and white detective movies. The blend of atmosphere, character, and setting gives this book a lot of life and heart. Even if some of it is ugly and full of venomous truth.

Why It’s a Great Alternative

There’s definitely no supernatural thing going on in The Fade Out. It’s just a gripping crime story and look into the decade through the lens of a screenwriter trying to make it in L.A. It seems like so many comics rely on a science fiction or supernatural twist that sometimes it can be a bit exhausting. It’s good to know that there’s still room for stories that just have compelling characters without unnatural abilities or circumstances.

Don’t get me wrong, I love science fiction and the supernatural as much as anybody (sometimes too much), but it’s nice to get a story that wants to exist outside that bubble in comics.

 

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Who Would Like The Fade Out?

Fans of Brubaker and Phillips’ Criminal are an obvious choice. I also think that fans of shows like Mad Men would enjoy the time period and the interactions with the characters. If you’ve been reading series like Satellite Sam or enjoy murder mysteries then this is a comic book you don’t want to miss. The extras in the back of each issue alone are worth checking out, not to mention the fantastic covers we’ve gotten so far.

Ken Porter also writes comic books including “Ink Ribbon” from Visionary Comics. Ken was also the winner of last year’s Top Cow Talent Search contest and was recently published in “Artifacts” #33.

Read More about The Fade Out (#1 & #2) – Alternative Comics Beat

Barbarella – Alternative Comics Beat

Alt Beat

By Ken Porter

Barbarella

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Written by: Jean-Claude Forest

Collaboration with: Kelly Sue DeConnick

Art by: Jean-Claude Forest

A Dose of Cosmic Sensuality

Barbarella has been one of those characters that I’ve heard about for years but never really experienced. I knew a little about the movie with Jane Fonda, but had never dreamed that the sensual space adventuress first graced comic book pages in France. When I saw that this collection was being released with Kelly Sue Deconnick on board I knew that I had to give it a try.

What I found was a classic adventure-style comic book with a sexy atmosphere, but not in the way I was expecting. Barbarella might be a character that spends most of her time half naked, but it isn’t out of being helpless or incapable. Far from it. If anything she’s someone who could stand toe-to-toe with James Bond. Not as a female lesser version, but as a solid character with just as much know-how and sexual charisma.

 

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Boundless Space Adventures

This collection follows our space heroine as she encounters a vast array of landscapes and characters. Each story plays on some fun science fiction tropes or backdrops, like underwater cities or perilous mazes, but succeeds by putting them through the lens of our main character and putting her spin on it. Not only does Barbarella go in guns blazing to a new challenge, she often plays both sides and finds a way to do what she thinks is right no matter the cost. Sort of like a space-faring version of Yojimbo.

 

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Why It’s a Great Alternative

I can assure you that you’re not going to get something like this from a big publisher right now. Between the nudity, innuendo, and sexy adventurer tone of the series there’s really nothing that you can compare it to at one of the big two companies. Which is fine, because this is definitely for mature readers.

 

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Who would like Barbarella?

Fans of classic science fiction will eat this series up. I’ve never seen the movie, but I imagine fans of Jane Fonda’s film will want to jump in and take a look at this as well. The artwork and imagination are worth the admission alone, and if you don’t mind some sexiness in your comic books then I’d recommend this to fans of Saga, Sex, Satelitte Sam, or other books pushing the boundaries of sex and adventure in comics.

Not to mention the beautiful presentation and packaging for this volume.

Ken Porter also writes comic books including “Ink Ribbon” from Visionary Comics. Ken was also the winner of last year’s Top Cow Talent Search contest and was recently published in “Artifacts” #33.

Read More about Barbarella – Alternative Comics Beat

Bramble – Alternative Comics Beat

Alt Beat

By

Ken Porter

Bramble

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Written by: Jean-David Moran

Art by: Nesmo

Published by: Humanoids

A very different world

One thing that keeps bringing me back to comics as a medium is how inventive a writer and artist can be with the world they create. When I pre-ordered Bramble I had no idea what I was in for, but I was pleasantly surprised as soon as I started reading. Not only did the visuals strike me, but the world building that went into the characters and the landscapes they inhabit was just as striking during my first readthrough. I say first because I intend on reading it again as soon as my class schedule permits.

Bramble is a story about a mysterious giant that travels to a steampunk inspired city of burgeoning technology. As violent murders pile up around the giant, a depressed and lonley police detective is forced to put the pieces together. Along the way a whole world of strange ecological magic is unearthed, and a battle for humanity and nature’s souls unveils itself.

 

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Astounding visuals

The artwork is nothing short of breathtaking. It was one of those books I read where I wanted to post each and every panel to Twitter or Instagram as soon as I looked at it. I especially enjoyed the trippy panels that gave the reader a view into the world of technology and the world of nature. I don’t want to spoil the story for anyone, so I won’t go into detail, but these shifts in point of view offer some intense and striking panels that aren’t to be missed.

 

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Why it’s a great alternative

Bramble is an unconventional story. Halfway through the narrative I started to question my feelings towards the protagonist, and by the end of the story I didn’t know what side I wanted to be on. Having a story challenge you as a reader is a rare treat. It’s something that many American comics don’t do often. They don’t have to, sometimes it’s just as fun to read something completely action-oriented. Heck, I do it every week. But sometimes you just want to sink your teeth into something with some real substance. It’s the same reason why I’m so excited to go back and read the book again.

Who would like Bramble?

Fans of trippy comics like The Incal or high-concept manga will really enjoy this hardcover collection. The story feels like something out of a very stylish anime, and the storytelling feels like a foreign film. Or, if you’re just in it for beautiful artwork and well-made hardcovers, this collection has that in spades.

Ken Porter also writes comic books including “Ink Ribbon” from Visionary Comics. Ken was also the winner of last year’s Top Cow Talent Search contest and was recently published in “Artifacts” #33.

Read More about Bramble – Alternative Comics Beat

The Fantastic Voyage of Lady Rozenbilt – Alternative Comics Beat

Alt Beat

By Ken Porter

The Fantastic Voyage of Lady Rozenbilt

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Written by: Pierre Gabus

Art by: Romuald Reutimann

Published by: Humanoids

Come fly with me

Sometimes I just want a book that’s fun, imaginative, and uplifting. Traveling to my local comic book store I found a hardcover collection that was all that and a bag of crazy. The Fantastic Voyage of Lady Rozenbilt is a comic set in the same universe as Gabus’ District 14 and is inhabited by characters of both the human and anthropomorphic animal variety.

I had no idea what I was in for when I bought the collection, but the cover had sold me. If there was a giant plane with oddities from around the world being showcased under glass then I was willing to pay the price of admission.

What I got was exactly what I was looking for — an intriguing story, complex characters, and a world that makes me want to hunt down more work by Gabus and Reutimann as soon as possible.

 

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The story of a cat

Bigoodee, an anthropomorphic cat with psychic abilities, co-pilots a gigantic seaplane for an upper class woman named Lady Rozenbilt. The ship is home to a few attractions, including a famous thief, a homicidal maniac from death row, and a carnivorous sea monster. All of them are in high security cells and there simply for the crowd’s enjoyment.

But the real story is a romance that Bigoodee searches for in a young servant girl working for Lady Rozenbilt’s nephew. As he tries to get closer to the girl a complicated plot of revenge and death surrounds him, and we find ourselves being hurled into the future as the now Captain Bigoodee continues to search for his lost love.

 

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Why this is a great alternative

I haven’t read anything quite like this book. You could take out the animals and the story would be just as good, but it adds a certain kind of whimsy that I can’t get enough of in this volume. It’s different than many American comics being published right now, and lately I’ve been finding that’s true with just about everything comics-related from France.

It’s got humor, violence, fantastical elements, and very relatable characters. Yes, even the animal ones.

Who would like The Fantastic Voyage of Lady Rozenbilt?

This is a weird connection, but I think that fans of the Disney animated Robin Hood would enjoy this quite a bit. It’s grown up, has adult themes, but has that same kind of fun factor that the animated Disney feature served up in spades. For die-hard comic fans I’d recommend this to people who enjoy a blending of slice-of-life and science fiction/fantasy. The bottom line is that it’s worth checking out, no matter what you use as an excuse.

Ken Porter also writes comic books including “Ink Ribbon” from Visionary Comics. Ken was also the winner of last year’s Top Cow Talent Search contest and was recently published in “Artifacts” #33.

Read More about The Fantastic Voyage of Lady Rozenbilt – Alternative Comics Beat

Big Damn Sin City – Alternative Comics Beat

Alt Beat

By Ken Porter

Sin City (Big Damn Sin City Collection)

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Written and drawn by Frank Miller

Published by Dark Horse

A collection to kill for

My first experience with Sin City was the Robert Rodriguez film that adapted the Frank Miller series. With Sin City 2: A Dame to Kill For being released I figured it was the perfect time to look over the source material for the stylistic pair of films.

While the movie was my first exposure it’s still been a long time since I’ve sat down and watched the whole thing. Returning to the world where Marv leaps through police cars and the prostitutes of Old Town gut people was a nostalgic trip down a dark alley. Not only did I get to relive the moments I saw on the big screen, I also got to experience them the way they were originally supposed to be enjoyed. And the Big Damn collection contains every bit of Sin City you could possibly find.

 

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A mighty hardcover

It’s no slim volume. I had to read most of it at home. I tried bringing it to coffee shops but it’s over 1300 pages and is such a beautiful book that I didn’t want to risk damaging or losing my copy. The oversized pages and the stark black and white make for a charged read. Each time I turned the page I fell a little more in love with the static but lively images that Miller created during the series’ run.

Why it’s a great alternative

The crime genre is nothing new to comic books. Superhero stories have almost always dominated, but crime stories have always been there to offer the gritty and violent stories found in pulp magazines and film noir. Sin City distills the crime genre into its darkest and condensed form. The heroes are just as dangerous as the villains, lovers stab each other in the back at the drop of a hat, and justice is served under the table. As an alternative to regular superhero stories, this is one of the veers toward the left that takes you down a whole new and treacherous road.

 

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Who would enjoy Sin City?

This collection itself is for anyone that enjoys oversized omnibus collections. It’s beautifully crafted and looks fantastic on the shelf. While the story is definitely for fans of old detective or crime novels, as well as crime noir films that live in the morally gray area of life.

Ken Porter also writes comic books including “Ink Ribbon” from Visionary Comics. Ken was also the winner of last year’s Top Cow Talent Search contest and was recently published in “Artifacts” #33.

Read More about Big Damn Sin City – Alternative Comics Beat

Scooter – Alternative Comics Beat

Alt Beat

By Ken Porter

Scooter

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Written and Illustrated by: Brent Boates

You can park them anywhere

Scooters are one of the least likely modes of transportation for something out of the ordinary. Aside from the spotlight in FLCL, scooters are vehicles that blend in, don’t attract attention, and can be seen just about everywhere.

That’s what makes it so perfect for a creepy infiltration science fiction story.

In Brent Boates’ new comic Scooter, a strange being makes its getaway from a group of mysterious officials. While the entire comic book is silent, there’s a lot of motion and action felt through the artwork and the strange narrative that unfolds.

 

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Not your usual sci-fi comic

I love science fiction comics. One problem with anything in the speculative fiction genre is that it tends to be a little heavy on exposition or setting up the circumstances that brought you to the scene currently being enjoyed. Scooter throws you right into the action. Not only is there no exposition, there’s no dialogue period. It’s a silent comic that reads completely fine without the addition of narration, captions, or comments from the characters.

Why it’s a great alternative

If there’s one thing we don’t see often it’s a silent comic. I’ve talked about similar work by Jason on Cosmic Book News’ website before, but this book by Boates is a true silent story. It’s the kind of story that can make readers appreciate the sort of storytelling that only comics can achieve. The use of still images in a sequential format that builds a narrative from one panel to the next.

It’s a quick read, but it’s definitely different than anything that was put out by the big two this week.

 

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Who would like Scooter?

Fans of digital comics, creator-owned projects, and science fiction will really enjoy this little volume. It’s 72 pages of single panel storytelling, and it’s right in the same vein as stories like The Thing or Blade Runner. Anything that has to do with infiltration stories about the “other” taking hold in human society.

I don’t want to talk about the plot too much, but I recommend it to anyone looking for a great visual read during a cup of coffee or while enjoying another tasty beverage in their favorite reading chair.

Ken Porter also writes comic books including “Ink Ribbon” from Visionary Comics. Ken was also the winner of last year’s Top Cow Talent Search contest and was recently published in “Artifacts” #33.

Read More about Scooter – Alternative Comics Beat

Whispers in the Walls – Alternative Comics Beat

Alt Beat

By Ken Porter

Whispers in the Walls

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Writer: David Munos
Artist: Tirso

Colorist : Javi Montes

Published by: Humanoids

Something wicked

I’ve been a sucker for monster stories this summer, and Whispers in the Walls delivers on all fronts. Set in Czechoslovakia in 1949, it follows the story of Sarah as she stays in a strange children’s infirmary after her family’s brutal murder. As she gets to know the other children, strange voices and frightening mysteries unravel a war between man and monster that’s looking for a new generation to lead one side to victory, the other to defeat.

 

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Monstrous children

For some reason children make the best protagonists when it comes to monster stories. Sarah is a character that’s determined, witty, and not afraid to take on people twice her size. And in some cases, monsters that are larger than life.

Which is another reason why this is a great alternative. While there are some of the standard monsters in the creature roster, Whispers in the Walls goes off book for a few surprises that I didn’t see coming. Including a few Greek mythological monsters and a couple of surprise shapeshifters.

 

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Why it’s a great alternative

Instead of being told through a bad ass monster hunter’s point of view, we get to see a story about a war between light and dark from a very gray perspective. Sarah only wants to do what’s right, and sometimes that doesn’t align with either side of the human and monster conflict. It’s that kind of drama that keeps the pages turning while Sarah tries to figure out who she should side with, and there are some fun action scenes that make those decisions worthwhile.

 

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Who would like Whispers in the Walls?

Fans of Guillermo del Toro and Munoz’s The Devil’s Backbone will enjoy this story quite a bit. It’s also right up the alley of Hellboy fans and people who enjoy monsters wailing on each other. I won’t lie, there’s a bit of Underworld and Dragonball Z action going on at the end, but it’s a satisfying scene and worth checking out. So if you need to quench that monster fix as bad as I do, pick up Whispers in the Walls as an alternative to your usual pull list picks.

Ken Porter also writes comic books including “Ink Ribbon” from Visionary Comics. Ken was also the winner of last year’s Top Cow Talent Search contest and was recently published in “Artifacts” #33.

Read More about Whispers in the Walls – Alternative Comics Beat

Sanctum – Alternative Comics Beat

Alt Beat

By Ken Porter

Sanctum

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Writer: Xavier Dorison

Art: Christophe Bec

Published by: Humanoids

Terror Below

If there’s one kind of story I love it’s the setup where a crew on a ship finds a mysterious location and then horrible things happen. I know, kind of cheesy, but movies like Alien and John Carpenter’s The Thing were really influential during my childhood.

Sanctum is a story that taps into that similar vein, putting the crew of an advanced submarine in 2029 called the USS Nebraska into uncharted waters. The ship investigates a mysterious beacon that leads them to a gigantic underwater temple. As they uncover the mystery the crew starts to fall ill, and strange visions start to send people into madness.

 

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Classic Horror/Speculative Fiction

Sanctum has a mixture of the best parts of science fiction and horror. It’s got a classic horror premise, a realistic science fiction flare, and plays with the reader’s expectations as they move through the story. It doesn’t lean completely one way or the other, and there’s something in the book for fans of both genres that usually enjoy those story aspects separately.

 

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Why it’s a great alternative

This three-part collected story builds tension without going too far off the deep end. Sorry, I realize the horrible pun now that I’ve typed it out. But all kidding aside I was honestly worried while I started to read Sanctum. Worried that I would be able to predict the ending, know who was going to live and die, or figure out what was going on.

That’s not the case.

This book keeps you guessing right up until the end, which I honestly didn’t see coming.

 

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Who would like Sanctum?

Fans of the Alien franchise or horror stories involving ancient monsters or curses will eat this story up. I’ve read that there’s actually a few more stories related to this one that are being put out by Humanoids, so I’ll share my thoughts on them as soon as I can grab them. In the meantime throw on your scuba gear and get ready to grip your flashlight for dear life.

Ken Porter also writes comic books including “Ink Ribbon” from Visionary Comics. Ken was also the winner of last year’s Top Cow Talent Search contest and was recently published in “Artifacts” #33.

Read More about Sanctum – Alternative Comics Beat

Alternative Comics Beat: Tell Me Something

Alt Beat

By Ken Porter

Tell Me Something

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Written and drawn by: Jason

Published by: Fantagraphics Books

A silent film and a comic book have a love child

Until yesterday I hadn’t read any comics by Jason, but I’ve seen volumes on bookshelves at stores dozens of times. I picked up Tell Me Something on a whim this Wednesday, and after reading the graphic novella I can’t wait to read more. This volume reads kind of like a silent film with a couple of timelines running between the overall narrative. There’s little to no dialogue, and the story relies heavily on cartooning, expression, and imagery to tell the story.

This volume really did strike me as something different, and I read the book two more times just to make sure I got every little emotional detail and beat. It’s one of those volumes you can read over and over again, because it’s just such a fun visual reading experience.

 

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Let me tell you a story

Tell Me Something follows a pair of lovers through time as the daughter of a rich man falls for a poet that’s a bit of a rapscallion. Despite her father’s best efforts, the young woman pursues the relationship with the poet, but outside forces plan to do them in before their love can blossom.

It’s a classic kind of story, but Jason adds in his own flair that strays away from the norm and makes the twists and turns all the more fun to read.

The rest of the story has some unique twists, so I don’t want to ruin anything for someone that wants to rush out and buy this book.

Why it’s a great alternative

Writers like Brian Michael Bendis have a knack for heavy dialogue, but appreciating the lack of speech in a comic book can be just as important. It’s a great alternative for someone looking for a story that relies more on the visuals and pacing than combining it with dialogue and captions to move the story forward.

It’s also a great alternative in a visual sense. Jason’s cartooning and sequential art is fun, striking, and portrays a mood like a director can create in a film.

 

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Who would like this graphic novella?

Fans of slice-of-life comics, or more realistic stories would eat this up. Now I know that the characters in Jason’s books are anthropomorphic animals, but that doesn’t mean that their situations can’t be real and human. If you enjoy stories about star-crossed lovers, or comics that have a unique look and feel to them, then check out Tell Me Something by Jason. You might find yourself buying up more of his work than you anticipated.

Ken Porter also writes comicbooks including “Ink Ribbon” from Visionary Comics. Ken was also the winner of last year’s Top Cow Talent Search contest and was recently published in “Artifacts” #33.

Read More about Alternative Comics Beat: Tell Me Something

Alternative Comics Beat: Strange Nation #1-6

Alt Beat

By Ken Porter

Strange Nation #1-6

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Written by: Paul Allor

Art by: Juan Romera

Published by: Monkeybrain Comics

Terror in the tabloids

If there’s one secret delight I had as a child it was looking at the covers of The Weekly World News and seeing images of creatures and characters like Bat Boy. Sadly, I found out too early that these stories weren’t real. Trust me, I had some genuine worries about Bat Boy coming to my house until I was set straight. But afterwards I never stopped to consider what the world would be like if those images and stories weren’t made up, but instead were some of the most important and dangerous reporting any journalist could embark on.

That’s where Strange Nation comes into play.

Norma Park is a journalist for Strange Nation, a tabloid dealing in the very bizarre and weird. While it’s not Norma’s first career choice, she soon discovers a strange plot involving an intelligent sasquatch named Joe, aliens, and doomsday cults. She might not have her prestigious news job any longer, but Norma is following the story of her life.

 

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Comics should be fun

It’s a point that I’ve driven home so many times it’s split my word processor like a nail in a board. Strange Nation is one of those comic books that’s just plain fun. Each issue offers character-building moments from the cast, including Norma, Joe, or Norma’s hawaiian shirt wearing friend Jesse.

And if there’s one thing that will creep you out about this comic book, in the most fun way possible, it’s the mascot-headed thugs. If anything check this book out for the mascot-headed thugs. Seriously, I mean it.

Why it’s a great alternative

Allor and Romera have an original premise that’s got lots of flexibility in terms of story and visuals. While I’m not sure how many issues this series is supposed to be, it could easily move into an ongoing with all of the crazy concepts, stories, and characters that Norma could explore.

It has the same kind of open-world feeling that Futurama had when it started. There’s a solid premise, with rules, but the characters can be put into any situation and it works.

 

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Who would like this

Fans of comics like Skullkickers, Chew, or the new adaptation of The X-Files would enjoy Strange Nation quite a bit. There’s plenty of humor, action, and cool visuals to draw people in from multiple areas of comics. Or, if you’re looking to introduce someone to comics, this would be a good starting point for fans of shows like Futurama, where the premise can lead to just about any crazy kind of stories or characters. The issues are only 99 cents a piece, and all six can be found on Comixology’s website or app.

If this sounds like it’s up your alley then pick up Strange Nation today and get ready to believe the weirdest things the world has to offer!

Ken Porter is presently interning with Cosmic Book News and also writes comic booksincludingInk Ribbon” from Visionary Comics. Ken was also the winner of last year’s Top Cow Talent Search contest and was recently published in “Artifacts” #33.

Read More about Alternative Comics Beat: Strange Nation #1-6

Alternative Comics Beat: Batman: The Jiro Kuwata BatManga #1

Alt Beat

By Ken Porter

Batman: The Jiro Kuwata  BatManga #1

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Written and drawn by: Jiro Kuwata

Published by: DC Comics

 

 

Batman for Japan

Jiro Kuwata adapted the American superhero Batman for Japanese audiences decades ago. Now DC Comics is re-releasing the manga in digital issues for American audiences to enjoy. I assure you, it’s worth checking out. I didn’t know what to expect from this manga, but I had seen the short animated film on Batman: The Brave and the Bold where they did an interpretation of Kuwata’s incarnation of Batman. That interpretation was fun, lively, and had a fantastic animation style. That style is clearly based on Kuwata’s artwork, which still shines even to this day.

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A different kind of tone

What makes this a big alternative from the usual Batman comics are the tone and style in which Batman is presented.

The story is structured and paced like traditional Japanese manga, and they’ve even kept the right-to-left reading style for the digital release. But what really captured me was the blending of the campiness and fun of Batman ‘66 with the violence of modern Batman stories. Kuwata didn’t pull any punches for the Japanese audience, and even includes a murder in one of the scenes.

Lord Death Man

The villain in this version of Batman is truly different from the others. Let me just throw it right out there — his ability is that he dies. That’s what Lord Death Man does. He dies and comes back to fight another day. Which would seem like a lame concept, but the fact that his outfit is attached to his skin and that he walks towards death with such a carefree attitude makes him creepy.

Why this is a great alternative

Most Batman comics lean towards the dark, detective-like stories that have made him popular. Kuwata’s BatManga is more of the swashbuckling and fun-loving Batman from the 60’s TV show, while still being edgy, action-packed, and much more violent. It’s a series that I wish was still going on now, and reminds me how much I loved the Batman Japan storylines in Grant Morrison’s Batman Incorporated.

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Who would like BatManga?

Obviously fans of Batman will want to check this out. But I think that, aside from long-time fans of manga, new people might be drawn to this type of sequential storytelling from Japan. With an entry character like Batman it makes it much easier to step into a different world of comics.

What’s even nicer is that there’s a “How to Read Manga” page before the story starts, so if you’re not familiar with how to read from right-to-left you get a little crash course.

If you’ve been looking for an excuse to check out or try manga, but haven’t found an entry point, maybe BatManga is for you. It’s a different kind of Batman story that might add some zest to your digital pull list.

Ken Porter is presently interning with Cosmic Book News and also writes comic books including “Ink Ribbon” from Visionary Comics. Ken was also the winner of last year’s Top Cow Talent Search contest and was recently published in “Artifacts” #33.

Read More about Alternative Comics Beat: Batman: The Jiro Kuwata BatManga #1

Alternative Comics Beat: This One Summer

Alt Beat

By Ken Porter

This One Summer

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Written by: Markio Tamaki

Art by: Jillian Tamaki

Published by: First Second

Summer reading, summer adventure

One of my favorite things to do during the summer is read something that reminds me how much I cherish the way I spend the rest of my summer days — with good friends. When I stumble upon something that reminds me what it was like to be younger, to have the summer be a grand adventure, I cherish it all the more.

This One Summer is an original graphic novel that captures the adventure of a summer cabin and injects some real human moments and themes into the story.

The story follows Rose, a girl that’s spent every year in Awago Beach with her mother and father. Her summer bestie Windy stays each year in a cabin near by, and the two of them are inseparable when they arrive. Problems start to arise when Rose’s mom starts lashing out and withdrawing for unknown reasons, and Rose starts experiencing second-hand what it’s going to be like when she’s a teenager. She and Windy spend the summer watching horror movies and talking about their inevitible puberty, and each scene has more heart and charm than the last.

 

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An original graphic novel more like a prose novel

One of the many great things about this OGN is that it doesn’t really read like many other comics. While you can often see a clear story structure in most books, This One Summer reads more like an illustrated novel that a regular American comic book.

This format lets readers spend more time with Rose and get inside her head, even in silent scenes or where she has no dialogue. It’s a book that really sets a tone and mood for the characters and lets them explore throughout the pages.

 

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Why it’s a great alternative

This is the kind of book that doesn’t have a supernatural twist. There’s no superpowers, no ghosts, and no demons or space invaders. It’s just a slice-of-life story about summer and coming to terms with growing up, as well as they mysteries of older kids and sex. It’s a great change of pace for people that are burnt out on superhero comics or want something a little more grounded.

 

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Who would enjoy this OGN?

I think that people who are fans of comics like Lost at Sea, Blankets, and Essex County will really enjoy this OGN. It’s got the same amount of heart as all of those stories and really shows off how comics can be used to tell a story in any genre. It’s a fantastic story that doesn’t need fantastical elements to make you feel for the characters.

Ken Porter is presently interning with Cosmic Book News and also writes comic books including “Ink Ribbon” from Visionary Comics. Ken was also the winner of last year’s Top Cow Talent Search contest and was recently published in “Artifacts” #33.

Read More about Alternative Comics Beat: This One Summer