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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

Advanced Review: Lobster Johnson Vol. 4

Alt Beat

By Ken Porter

Lobster Johnson Vol. 4: Get the Lobster TPB (Advanced Look)

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Written by: Mike Mignola & John Arcudi

Art by: Tonci Zonjic

Colors by: Dave Stewart

Published by: Dark Horse Comics

Release date: Dec. 10th 2014

Public enemy

Lobster Johnson is one of the most fun characters being published in comics today. Part of the expanded Hellboy universe, The Lobster is a pulp hero that stands alongside greats like The Shadow. But in this newest volume the crime fighter finds himself the target of the police and a terrible mind control plot. It’ll take all his strength and cunning to get out of this jam, and luckily we get to go along for the ride.

Whenever a new Lobster Johnson story comes out I get psyched. I love pulp characters and Lobster Johnson seems to embody all of the noir aspects from old serials and dime novels. This latest adventure mixes in a bit of body horror that we’ve seen in past installments and gives us a new chapter in the life of the world’s greatest mystery man.

 

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Storytelling and artwork

Mike Mignola and John Arcudi make a great storytelling duo. Each adventure of The Lobster has been more fun than the last, and this volume really ups the tension with the main character being put in a negative light publicly for the first time. There are plenty of stories about masked avengers being hunted by the police and foiling madmen, but Lobster Johnson is the only book that can blend pulp sensibility, colors (thank you Dave Stewart), and atmosphere with well-developed characters.

Tonic Zonjic’s artwork isn’t slouching when it comes to storytelling. Zonjic is an excellent artist and blends setting, character, and expression so well within the story that I find myself going back to just look at pages. It’s the kind of art that feels like its got heart and warmth behind it, even when there’s blood and violence.

Why it’s a great alternative

One of the great things about Lobster Johnson is the time period. There’s something about masked heroes in a non-digital age that makes it a lot more fun and exciting. The characters can’t rely on technology, and often it’s technology that becomes the monster or force that the main character is struggling against. Taking Lobster Johnson out of the 1930s would make him less special. Don’t get me wrong, I loved his ghostly appearances in Hellboy and B.P.R.D. (spoiler alert), but I think he’s more fun set in the past.

 

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Who would like Lobster Johnson – Get the Lobster?

Fans of Hellboy or B.P.R.D. are a no-brainer for this title. You don’t have to have read all of the appearances of The Lobster before this series in order to understand it, but I would recommend it just for the fun of exploring the character. If pulp novels or heroes like The Shadow appeal to you then The Lobster is the perfect winter reading for you.

You can pre-order the book here at the Dark Horse Comics website.

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 Advanced Review: Lobster Johnson Vol. 4

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

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

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

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.

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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.

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Alternative Comics Beat: The Eyes Of The Cat

Alt Beat

By Ken Porter

The Eyes of the Cat

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Written by: Alexandro Jodorowsky

Illustrated by: Moebius

Published by: Humanoids

 

I recently traveled across the state to see the documentary Jodorowsky’s Dune, the fabled adaptation of Frank Herbert’s novel by Alexandro Jodorowsky that never saw the light of day, but went on to inspire movies for decades afterwards. In the pre-production of the film Jodorowsky met the comic artist Moebius, who then went on to storyboard Jodorowsky’s version of Dune in no less than 3,000 images.

When the film fell through they decided to take their love of collaboration and artwork to the comic book and graphic novel medium, and The Eyes of the Cat was the first result of their work together in sequential art. Before launching the game-changing series The Incal, Jodorowsky and Moebius combined forces to create a comic book that was originally free, then went on to be pirated and distributed before becoming a highly sought after piece of storytelling.

 

 

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Creation of the book

Originally Jodorowsky pitched the idea to Moebius as a five-page story. Moebius didn’t think that there were pages to fill their quota, so Jodorowsky came up with the idea of illustrating the book completely in large, single images. Many of the images would be repeated for dramatic effect, including the blind boy standing at the window.

Jodorowsky was so excited about the project that he talks about driving hours to see each page as it was finished. Moebius would call him, tell him he’d completed a page, and Jodorowsky would hop in his car without a second thought to see it in person.

Part of the charm of Jodorowsky’s work, in comics or any other medium, is that he has enthusiasm for creating art like no other person on the planet. The Eyes of the Cat reflects that love and enthusiasm, while putting a spin on creating comic books that only that partnership could manifest.

 

 

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Poetry and comics

I mentioned earlier that The Eyes of the Cat is basically comic book poetry. I’m not trying to be fancy, that’s literally how it reads. The sparse captions and large images are less direct that traditional comic book storytelling and are present for atmosphere. There’s simply the blind boy, the bird, and the black cat that interact with one another in a melancholy landscape.

I’ve been reading comics for years and I’ve never read anything quite like this book. While it does read very fast, it was still a delight to go back and read it twice more. Once to appreciate the words that Jodorowsky wrote for the piece, the second time to go over Moebius’ incredible lineart, which I’ll expand upon in a moment. I’ll most likely read it a fourth time before finishing this article, just so that I can drink in the atmosphere a little more and get a better feel for what’s going on with the story.

I did research some of the language and imagery used in the book, but it was still pretty vague. Meduz, the name of the eagle, is a word most often associated with “jelly fish” in other cultures. I’m not sure if this has something to do with the nature of detached eyes, or has some other kind of cultural meaning, but the fact that it made me interested enough to pause while writing this article shows how much the story stuck with me afterwards.

 

 

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Moebius’ artwork

If you’re not familiar with Moebius (Jean Giraud) I want you to stop reading this article and search any corner of the internet or your local comic book store for his artwork. It’s fantastic. The way that this edition of The Eyes of the Cat was presented had Moebius’ work on a bright yellow background. This makes Moebius’ inks and lines pop off the page and gives that melancholy feel to the artwork that the captions imply.

While we don’t see a lot of this unnamed city or the blind boy, we can feel the desolation and isolation that Moebius’ artwork conveys on the page.

Why it’s a great alternative

If there were ever an alternative from normal comics, this would be a showcase piece. It’s so far removed from the weekly pull box fare that I should have read and recommended the work earlier. I’m sure I have Jodorowsky’s Dune to thank for my interest in the other works that he collaborated on with Moebius outside of The Incal.

Who might like The Eyes of the Cat?

The Incal is actually a great place to start for people that would be interested in this comic book. If you read The Incal or you’re a fan of out-of-the-box storytelling and moody poetry like something that Edgar Allan Poe would create, this is the comic for you.

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.

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

Your Alternative Comics Beat For May 10th, 2013: Gutter Magic

A Different World

Fantasy and magic are genres that have been gracing the pages of comics for decades. It takes something really special to grab the attention of new readers or make an impact with all of the competition on the shelves and digital marketplaces. What this week’s Alternative Comics Beat selection does is drop you in on a fun, action-oriented world of urban fantasy that leaves you with just enough to want more.

Gutter Magic

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Written by Rich Douek and drawn by Brett Barkley, Gutter Magic follows a timeline where powerful sorcerers stepped into World War II and changed the course of human history. Cinder and his goblin pal Blacktooth are trying to make a living in this world, but find themselves pursued by some powerful and rough customers.

The Story

I’ve become a big fan of urban fantasy over the years. What makes or breaks a great urban fantasy is the balance of spectacle and actual character development. In Douek’s first issue we get a good balance of both. There are moments of danger and suspense, but each moment reflects how the characters react in each situation and what makes them unique from each other.

The Artwork

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Barkley’s artwork is a very detailed style that works well with the gritty tones of the Gutter Magic universe. I particularly like the lines and definitions on Blacktooth, who isn’t just an average cartoon goblin. There’s an array of wrinkles on his face that could probably tell their own stories, and that says a lot about a character’s design. The colors by Donna Gregory really compliment Barkley’s artwork. It mixes that bright magic feeling with the musty feeling of a fantastical city.

Why it’s Worth Your Time

I think that this series will appeal to fans of many genres. There’s fantasy, urban crime, steam punk elements, and a buddy action movie vibe between Cinder and Blacktooth. If you’re a fan of series like Skullkickers, Orc Stain, or fantasy RPG games, then you should really check this out. It’s a great alternative to your usual stack and it supports an independent creative team on Comixology. It’s really a double win if you think about it. Or don’t think about – just try it!

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.
 

Read More about Your Alternative Comics Beat For May 10th, 2013: Gutter Magic

Your Alternative Comics Beat For February 22nd, 2013: Unfair

Short comic book stories and anthology series are often overlooked in comics today. There is a big achievement in writing a 20-page comic book, but packing a whole story into fewer pages takes even more careful planning and pacing for a writer and artist team. Monkeybrain Comics has been a digital publisher on Comixology since 2012, and they’ve become popular for releasing short stories by various creators. Many of the stories are serialized, while some of them are short one and done stories.

This week’s Alternative Comics Beat features a 10-page one-shot comic by writer Vance Sumner and artist Sandy Jarrel, with the backdrop of a spooky family story.

Unfair

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The story, without giving too much away, is about a man who loses his child after he floats out the window during a storm. The road to get him back is paved with supernatural elements, including talking animals, and ends with an unexpected twist. It’s the kind of ghost story that isn’t horrifying, but touching in the way that supernatural tales can be. The realm of the unknown can make the most human moments of storytelling soar, and Unfair is a story that does just that.

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The artwork by Jarrel has a classic style. It’s a mixture of old comic book cartooning and animation-inspired design that makes the story play like a short animated film. There isn’t a lot of room to tell the story, and Jarrel makes every panel count in his collaboration with Sumner. There’s a particularly striking panel near the end where the father shares a moment with someone that is truly tender. The expressions on their faces pulls you back to that magic you felt during animated films when you were younger. To pull that off in general is tough, and to pull that off in comics is a real feat.

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Monkeybrain has a variety of titles to choose from, and no two are alike. It’s refreshing to read something that makes a statement, uses the comic book medium so well, but doesn’t feature superheroes. There is a little bit of action, but it’s definitely a story that focuses more on character and the powerful bond that a family unit has together.

I guess what I’m really trying to say is that there might be a tear in your eye at the end of this week’s pick. I suggest you roll the dice and see if you can achieve the same level of emotion that I got out of it. For under a dollar, it’s well worth your time as a comic book reader. You can find the issue on the Comixology app under the Monkeybrain Comics section.

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

Read More about Your Alternative Comics Beat For February 22nd, 2013: Unfair

Your Alternative Comics Beat For February 8th, 2013: Red Team

We’ve All Been There . . . Right?

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The problem with planning something highly illegal is when nothing goes wrong. Disagree? Then maybe you should see things from Garth Ennis’ point of view. This week’s Alternative Comics Beat spotlights his new series from Dynamite Comics that takes a look at a truly perfect crime by a group of characters you wouldn’t expect. When it comes to first issues of a new comic book series, especially when it’s not superhero related, breaking expectations is a must in order to keep a new audience’s attention. Ennis sets up a whole new paradigm for the murder caper with a series that takes a look at the much darker side of law enforcement.

Red Team

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The Red Team is a group of homicide detectives that have had enough of a suspect who has gotten away with murder, and then some. The plan is to kill off the crime lord without a single trace of evidence or a loose end that could tie back to them or the police force. They know the risks, they know it’s illegal, but sometimes the law has to step on the other side in order to work.

The whole setup of the series is like a great crime drama, where we see the aftermath of the plan in the present and learn more about the details of the past as the story unfolds. I feel like I might have ruined the big surprise of the first issue with spilling that everything goes flawlessly, but this is really just the opening scene of a much larger story. If I told you that in Night of the Living Dead that zombies attack and chase people into a farm house, it wouldn’t really give away the whole story, would it?

Craig Cermak does the artwork for this issue, and while I’m not completely familiar with his body of work I approve of it here. The artwork is subtle, the panels are well placed, and even though there was a lot of text, the artwork framed it perfectly. Cermak is able to capture that criminal atmosphere, which is really important in a series that lays out the plot right away. We know essentially what’s going to happen, but Cermak provides a canvas to keep walking until we reach that end.

Why It’s A Great Alternative

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Even though police are prominent in many comic book series, there isn’t usually a series that just features crime without a supernatural element. This first issue sucked me in purely on the situation and the story alone, without any masks, magic, or superhuman mayhem.

The whole thing plays out like a well-paced TV series (at least this first installment), and if it had been a series on DVD or Blu-Ray I would have bought the whole first season right then and there. Ennis has always been able to bring any character he writes to life and make the situations for them truly unique. These homicide detectives have been pushed to their breaking point, and now we as readers get to see them give in to their darker sides. If you’re looking for an alternative with some real power behind it, this is a series to add to your pull list.

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

Read More about Your Alternative Comics Beat For February 8th, 2013: Red Team

Your Alternative Comics Beat For February 1, 2013: Deathmatch

A SUPERHERO STORY . . . OR IS IT?

Superhero stories dominate the comic book market. They’re the most popular genre for the medium and the reason that it’s survived this long is because it’s adaptable. Comic book readers get their usual fair of superheroics every week from major publishers, but sometimes a company, even one of the higher tier ones, puts a new spin on the genre that begs our attention. Superheroes can be the focus of a great story, but they can also serve as an element in a greater science fiction narrative. This week’s Alternative Comics Beat is about a new title that puts superheroes in a unique situation.

DEATHMATCH – BOOM! STUDIOS

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Writer Paul Jenkins and artist Carlos Magno are behind the new series where Earth’s greatest heroes and villains are brought together in a mysterious tournament to fight to the death. None of them want to compete, but as they enter the ring they feel compelled to kill each other. The stakes are getting higher as the number of contestants dwindle, and even the most powerful beings assembled can’t fight their captors.

NEW SERIES MEETS RETRO FEEL

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The most appealing aspect of this series is how it combines genres and builds a bigger universe. There have only been two issues so far, but it feels as if there are decades of back story to these characters. This feeling is achieved through flashback panels that look like older comics, character bios with fake first appearances, and designs that are reminiscent of classic characters, but have their own spin on them.

Deathmatch is like if Watchmen and Mortal Kombat were put into a fusion reactor with a dash of Phillip K. Dick for flavor. The science fiction elements play well with the tournament story, and both issues have fleshed out new characters with every page.

WHY IT’S A GREAT ALTERNATIVE

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The one major problem with mainstream superheroes is that they can’t die. Side characters might come and go, but the big names always find a way back. In this new universe, all bets are off. Readers get to see fresh takes on power sets and character types with the bonus of not knowing whether they’ll survive. It adds a level of danger and pageturniness (a word I just made up) that only a few other titles had offered before. It’s a big task to create a whole universe of new characters, but an even bigger risk to kill them off.

WHY YOU SHOULD READ IT

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If the reasons above haven’t persuaded you, maybe a few others will. Imagine getting to see the greatest superheroes fight to the death. You’d probably expect them to be resurrected a few issues down the line, right?

Not here.

At least I think so. The series isn’t over yet, and it could all turn out to be a dream or something. But if that aspect is even half true, it adds a different mode of storytelling that you won’t find in the mainstream titles. It’s worth checking out because of the danger factor, as well as my hip new comic word “pageturniness.” My final point would be the shining example Jenkins and Magno set for world building in these two issues. If you’re looking to write your own superhero epic, I’d use this as an example of how to effectively come up with characters.

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

Read More about Your Alternative Comics Beat For February 1, 2013: Deathmatch

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.

Read More about Your Alternative Comics Beat For January 20, 2013: Manga