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Alternative Comics Beat: The Wicked + The Divine

Alt Beat

By Ken Porter

The Wicked + The Divine

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Written by: Kieron Gillen

Art by: Jamie McKelvie

Colors by: Matt Wilson

 

 

 

 

 

New gods

Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie have created fantastic stories like Young Avengers and Phonogram together, and now with The Wicked + The Divine they continue that streak. Tackling gods in a modern setting is tough. Mainly because it’s become a staple for urban fantasy and science fiction. But Gillen and McKelvie put interesting rules and characters into the situation which breathes new life into this kind of story.

The premise is fun from the get go — Every ninety years a group of gods are reincarnated as normal human beings. They only live for two years, then die as a part of their mysterious life cycle. The first issue picks up with a girl named Laura attending a concert for a pop star calling herself Amaterasu. What Laura soon discovers is that the young pop star actually believes she’s the shinto god, and from there her night spins out of control.

 

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The feel of the book

There’s something unique to projects that Gillen and McKelvie work on. The best way I can describe it is, whether it’s about music or not, their collaborations always feel like they’re a bit rock ‘n’ roll. Even with Young Avengers there was a tone and style that made me feel like there was something rebellious and musical about the series. With The Wicked + The Divine the feeling is amped up, like its Gillen and McKelvie turning the modern gods story on its head and delivering their own brand of narrative in the genre.

What makes it a great alternative?

One of the things that makes this a great alternative is that the premise itself is unlike anything out there. At least when it comes to things that I’ve been reading or noticed in comics. You get some super powered beings, which isn’t new to the medium, but you get it through the lens of media celebrities and eccentric characters.

 

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Who would enjoy this?

I think fans of series like X-Statix will really enjoy this book. It has a somewhat similar setup and tone, although it feels a bit more grand and mythic than the X-Men book about angsty TV stars. I also think that fans of books like American Gods would have fun with this series. Based on the first issue it feels like there are going to be a lot more fun characters to explore, and strange mystery to solve. If you’re looking for something different on the stands then I suggest picking up the first issue of this book. Image is putting out tons of interesting titles, and this is one of their latest gems.

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.

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Alternative Comics Beat: Doom Patrol

Alt Beat

By Ken Porter

 

The Doom Patrol is a team that doesn’t get a lot of name-drops in the DC Universe. The characters on the team are C or D-list at best, and the problems they face don’t usually include any of the big name villains or threats that teams like the Justice League deal with on a daily basis. They’re a group of outcasts, much like the X-Men, and have strange powers or deformities that would keep them out of the A-list spotlight.

This is what makes the Doom Patrol one of the best comic book teams ever created.

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While Grant Morrison didn’t create the Doom Patrol, he put his own spin on the team and comic book narrative that is just as engaging, strange, and mind bending as his run on Animal Man. He incorporated secret societies, surrealism, and impossible characters. The Doom Patrol’s job is to fight the strangest threats to reality, and Morrison doesn’t disappoint when it comes to the threats that the Doom Patrol face, or the dramatic character shifts that the main team members go through.

If you’re not familiar with the Doom Patrol, here’s a list of the core members during Morrison’s run.

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Robotman AKA Cliff Steele

The only character to appear in every version of the Doom Patrol, Robotman was in a race car accident that left only his brain intact. Doctor Niles Caulder, the founder of the Doom Patrol, created an artificial body for Cliff Steele to use. He often struggles with his humanity after being placed in a metallic shell instead of a body.

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Negative Man/Rebis AKA Larry Trainor/Dr. Eleanor Poole

While piloting a test plane Larry Trainor was affected by a radioactive field that gave him the ability to project himself as a being of pure energy for limited amounts of time. In Morrison’s run Trainor is fused with Dr. Eelanor Poole, resulting in a hybrid creature called Rebis.

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Crazy Jane AKA Jane Morris AKA Kay Challis AKA…

As a result of a gene bomb accident, Kay Challis was left with 64 different personalities. Each one of these personalities has a different super ability and can be switched out on the fly. Challis meets Robotman in a hospital and befriends him, making the two a duo for most of Morrison’s issues.

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Dorothy Spinner

Originally a throwaway character from an earlier issue, Morrison took the ape-like girl with multiple imaginary friends and made her the center stage for many of the Doom Patrol’s conflicts. While she’s just an innocent and confused girl, she struggles with her imaginative powers and the monsters that wait within her.

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Danny the Street

This might be one of my favorite characters in all of fiction. Danny is a sentient street that can travel through time and space, but also happens to be a transvestite. He eventually becomes the home of the Doom Patrol and a certified member, helping the team in any way he can.

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Tempest AKA Joshua Clay

One of the first DC comics characters to be officially declared as a “mutant,” Clay has energy project abilities and generally tries to stay out of the limelight in the Doom Patrol, tired of the superhero lifestyle. He helps Dorothy and The Chief as much as possible, offering them advice and support. While he doesn’t go looking for fights, he’s quick to support his team members.

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Doctor Niles Caulder AKA The Chief

Very much the Professor X of the group Caulder is a paraplegic and genius who created the Doom Patrol to help society accept people who had been left behind by society or labeled as freaks. He’s a very skilled engineer, and created the body that Robotman inhabits.

 

The Story

Doom Patrol is a hard series to peg down in terms of story. Morrison’s run mostly deals with the members of the team struggling with their humanity, their origins, and where they fit in the world. Most of the antagonists of the series are threats that are more abstract than simple supervillains. Take the Brotherhood of Dada for instance, based on the Dada art movement. Led by the sanity zapping Mr. Nobody, the Brotherhood of Dada takes on such tasks as using a painting to transport Paris into another reality or stealing the bicycle of Albert Hoffman (creator of LSD) and using it to power a campaign for Mr. Nobody to become president.

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And that’s just a sample of the kinds of stories that are found in Morrison’s Doom Patrol.

 

Why it’s a Great Alternative

I’ve never read anything like Doom Patrol. Some of the words and imagery were so powerful that I found myself taking Instagram pictures of most of the quotes and crazy panels within the six released volumes. Normal superhero fare is fun, don’t get me wrong, but watching a group fight intangible or metaphysical threats to reality is just as fun if not more. Fans of Doctor Who know that sometimes the creature or threat that you can’t touch can be the most dangerous. When it comes to a monster inside the dimensional realms of the Pentagon springing to life over the telephone lines, Doom Patrol definitely dips its toes in that category.

 

Who would like Doom Patrol?

While it does have some resemblance to the X-Men, Doom Patrol dips more into the pool that holds comics like Alan Moore’s Saga of the Swamp Thing or Neil Gaiman’s Sandman. It’s one of the comics that DC (now published under the Vertigo banner) had that challenged the regular comic book narrative and put a new creative spin on storytelling. If you’re a fan of Morrison’s work at all and haven’t read his work on Doom Patrol then you’re doing yourself a disservice.

I would also recommend Flex Mentallo: Man of Muscle Mystery, but that warrants its own future Alternative Comics Beat installment.

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.

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Your Alternative Comics Beat For May 17th, 2013: The Dream Merchant

Alt Beat With Kenneth Porter

 

Only in Dreams

The concept of delving into the dream world to create conflict is nothing new in modern stories. It’s a subject that many readers, including myself, are familiar with. But there’s something intriguing about what goes on in our minds when we shut our eyes and dream. Some dreams feel so real, so right, or so horrifying that it’s hard to believe that they didn’t happen. This week’s Alternative Beat selection is a double-sized first issue that explores that concept in both a classic and new way.

 

The Dream Merchant #1

Winslow is haunted by recurring dreams of an impossible landscape and strange beings out to get him. He’ll have to survive with the help of a strange traveler if he’s to face those that want to destroy him and uncover the truth about the world that’s been buried in his mind.

This new mini-series from Image Comics is written by Nathan Edmondson and drawn by Konstantin Novosadov. The first issue is really a great deal, because you’re getting twice the content for a $3.50 price tag. I was pleasantly surprised when I picked the book up this week and found how much story and art I was going to get for that minimal amount.

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The Writing

The writing by Edmondson is fluid and fun. This premise is something we’ve seen before, but Edmondson connects us to Winslow and makes us care about what’s happening to him from panel to panel. Edmondson plays with the concept and power of dreams in a way that feels like an old fantasy novel or rock opera done by The Flaming Lips. It’s a really fun read and something I plan to revisit before the next issue.

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The Artwork

Novosadov’s art is breathtaking. Fluid is a word that I used to describe Edmondson’s writing, but it the fluidity of the whole issue is from the pairing of his words with Novosadov’s art. His cartooning style expresses emotion through the character’s faces but also conveys lots of motion and action through their exaggerated poses and compositions. The artwork was another reason I was so happy that this was a double-sized issue. Each page made me want more of Novosadov’s art, which makes me even happier that it wasn’t just a one-shot.

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A Wonderful Alternative to the Norm

I’m aware that most comic book readers (at least the ones that I’ve met in stores) prefer the realistic approach to art. I appreciate the realistic style when it fits the story, but there’s something special about art that can’t be put in a box or doesn’t look photorealistic. Edmondson’s writing and Novosadov’s art go together so well that it feels like this is the 50th project that they’ve collaborated on. The story pulls you in and the art makes you want to stay there for days. It’s a great alternative to your normal pull list, so if you have some extra space in your long box for another new Image title, this columnist suggests The Dream Merchant to fill that slot.

Ken Porter also writes comic books with his latest being “Ink Ribbon” from Visionary Comics. Ken was also the winner of this year’s Top Cow Talent Search contest.

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Your Alternative Comics Beat For January 20, 2013: Manga

A Quick Confession

I have to admit to something that might put a negative light on me to some comic book readers. Everyone goes through periods where they lose interest in their hobby. My first comic book lull came in 2009, when I stopped a year after picking up single issues again. In 2010, I started my love affair with sequential art again, but this time I was drawn in by comics that didn’t originate in the United States. Yes, it’s true — I’m a big fan of manga.

This doesn’t bother every American comic book reader, but some are very offended by it. They feel that if it doesn’t come from our shores that it’s not really worth reading. I’m proud to disagree. The last time that I came out of my comic book retirement was all because of a volume of manga by an artist and writer named Natsume Ono. Ms. Ono showed me the power of slice-of-life storytelling in comics with her story Not Simple, and since then I’ve read just about everything she’s done.

This week’s Alternative Comics Beat follows the latest volume of Ono’s work that collects a series of short stories about life, people, gelato, and time travel.

Danza

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Each of the stories in this collection has different plots and characters, but all of them revolve around the theme of being a foreigner. We can be foreigners in our own family, among our co-workers, or in one case our timeline. The work concentrates on what Ono is best at writing and drawing, which are stories about people’s relationships with one another.

Manga – Why You Shouldn’t Be Afraid

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This column is all about branching out, and reaching over to another country falls right in that category. The cultural differences might be jarring, and the stories take place all across the globe, but human beings are the same no matter where you go. That’s why we shouldn’t be afraid of being a foreigner to a new form of comic book storytelling (see what I did there) and we should embrace the medium in all formats.

Sure, the idea of reading “backwards” can be scary, but once you get the hang of reading right to left the story comes to life.

Why It’s A Great Alternative

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Danza is one of those volumes that will make you smile as you read it. There are no big disasters going on, and there are no supernatural elements (besides the time travel) that drive the story. What we care about when we read stories are characters. Many popular characters in American comics have some sort of powers or special gimmick, but the character’s in Ono’s works are just real people. And I want to stress that they’re real people. They remind you of the type of people you meet on the street, or of the relatives you wish you saw more often.

This volume is a great chance to kick back with a cup of coffee, tea, or an ice cold beer and drink in the beautiful layouts, interesting art style, and minimalistic writing style that Ono is known for. If you’re willing to take the risk, you might end up becoming a fan of manga yourself.

Ken Porter also writes comic books with his latest being “Ink Ribbon” from Visionary Comics.

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