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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

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