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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

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

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

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: 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

Alternative Comics Beat: Trees

Alt Beat

By Ken Porter

Trees

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Written by: Warren Ellis

Art by: Jason Howard

Published by: Image Comics

Creepy and engaging speculative fiction

Warren Ellis is known for his original concepts and tight storytelling. When I went to check out Trees for the first time, I didn’t know what to expect. I hadn’t read a promo or a preview. I did see the striking cover in an image before, but aside from that I just knew that the word “Tree” was involved.

After reading the first two issues I’ve realized just how enamored I am with speculative fiction. Now I know that it’s more commonly known nowadays as science fiction, but that name has taken on a stigma. We dub anything with laser guns or fantastical action as “science fiction,” when really the routes are in speculating things that could happen and how people would react to them.

In Trees issues one and two, we get to see a world where intelligent life forms have landed, but don’t know how to interact with us. They show up as giant trees, planted all over the world. The series follows a number of characters, including scientists and politicians involved with the trees, and each scene builds to the mystery around the living structures.

 

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Why it’s a great alternative

Like I said, most science fiction relies on action and explosions with high-tech gear or superpowers. While there are action scenes in Trees, the story focuses more on the mystery and how this would affect human life on Earth. Don’t get me wrong, I love action and explosions as much as the next sci-fi fan, but sometimes I just want a good, creepy story about futuristic or fantastical settings. Many of the first science fiction books were also horror, like Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. This comic book captures that same kind of wonder and puts it in a modern day, global setting.

The book is far different from other comic books I’m reading right now, even if they are science fiction stories. It’s something I look forward to now each month, even after two issues.

 

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Who would like Trees?

If you’re a fan of Warren Ellis or Jason Howard’s work, then this book is right up your alley. You get some of Ellis’ best storytelling and Howard’s best artwork. I think people who enjoy creepy science fiction stories like Who Goes There? (also known as The Thing) would really eat this up. I’m also reading Jeff Vandermeer’s Southern Reach Trilogy (Annihilation, Authority, and soon to be released Acceptance) and it has that same kind of science fiction or speculative tone.

If any of those sound like fun reads to you, or if you love Ellis and Howard’s work, pick up the first two issues of Trees and start diving into the mystery behind the extraterrestrial flora.

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: Interesting Drug

Alt Beat

By Ken Porter

 

Interesting Drug

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Written by: Shaun Manning

Art By: Anna Wieszczyk

Published by: Archaia

 

Time travel and drugs

Time travel stories are nothing new, especially in comics. Tackling that subject takes a unique spin, and interesting story, and the know-how to pull it off. Shaun Manning and Anna Wieszczyk not only tackle it, they go the full nine yards.

Interesting Drug takes the concept of time travel down a path of addiction and dealing that I’ve never seen in the genre. Instead of the travel method being a fanciful car or a piece of high tech wizardry, the movement between time streams is all done with a pill that is just as addictive as the most powerful narcotics. As the story implies, nostalgia is something that can keep you coming back again and again.

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The story

Andrew Smith is a Best Buy employee that would rather be doing anything else. When a mysterious stranger flat out tells him that he’s a time traveler and that they’ll eventually be best friends, he doesn’t believe him. But after seeing the drug in action Andrew soon finds his world becoming a whole lot more fantastical.

As Andrew helps his future friend perfect the drug, his personal life and his experiences with time travel take exciting turns in the present day. There’s a deeper mystery to where the drug came from and how it works. Andrew’s journey takes him onto a darker path and the danger becomes very real the more he learns about the pill he’s helping to create.

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What makes this a great alternative?

Like I said, time travel stories are nothing new. So just being able to come up with an original concept is a really big deal. While that’s awesome and very enjoyable, the story still centers around Andrew and not the time travel plot device. The art by Wieszczyk is also something different and very striking, which is reason enough to leaf through this original graphic novel.

Who would like Interesting Drug?

Fans of time travel stories are a no-brainer. If I had to compare it to other comic book series I would say people who enjoy high-concept character books like Black Science can jump into this with the same kind of excitement. I think people who like TV shows like The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits would enjoy this graphic novel as well.

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 July 28th, 2013: The Rocketeer/The Spirit

Alt Beat With Kenneth Porter

 

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Mark Waid has been wowing me for years. It’s no secret, I talk about it constantly. He’s one of the reasons that I became a comic book writer and he’s the continued example that comics can be fun without being overly dark or “extreme” as the kids like to call it. This doesn’t mean that his comics don’t have depth. Darkness and depth are often confused when people refer to comic book characters. People want a “darker” Batman on the screen, but don’t realize that what they really want is a true, deep version of the character. Batman is already dark; he doesn’t need to be darker. Almost every comic book character has a gloomy past that pushes them forward, but Waid is always willing to remind us that the depth and the darkness don’t always have to go together.

The bottom line is that Waid knows how to write intriguing comics that are just plain fun.

The Rocketeer/The Spirit from IDW and DC Comics is another example. I’ve enjoyed Waid’s work on previous stories featuring The Rocketeer, but never in my wildest dreams would I get to write about the jetpack avenger’s adventures with The Spirit, another one of my favorite characters, penned by Waid himself. The moment I saw the issue solicited I knew it was going to be featured in the “Alternative Comic Beat.” Is that bias? It probably is. But this is an opinion column, not a review column. And my opinion is that the comic book world, the movie world, and the general world of fiction can benefit from stories like this one.

The plot for this issue pits The Rocketeer and The Spirit against each other and it couldn’t be a better showdown. Both characters are radically different in their genres and origins, but both are willing to throw caution to the wind in the name of justice. The winds of justice, in this case, lead them into a comical brawl that neither can get the upper hand on. Just the idea of two completely different heroes matching each other in determination instead of skill is a concept that I can firmly stand behind.

The artwork by Paul Smith compliments Waid’s writing to the point where I wish every comic were set back in the 30’s or 40’s. I don’t know where my love of pulp fiction comes from. I guess watching science fiction and crime drama as a child just hammered it into my brain. The generation I was born into should have no idea who The Spirit or The Rocketeer are, but the characters outlived their original incarnations and have jumped back onto the page and into my heart. That’s a very cheesy sentence I just wrote, but I’m not deleting it. I’ve always held to the idea that fiction is like a really good pizza. And, without cheese, a pizza just falls apart. You need that little bit of ridiculous to throw at your characters. Waid and Smith understand that.

If you’re looking for a break from the “dark” remakes of characters like Superman in The Man of Steel or most of the bigger superhero stories, this is where you can get some good old fashioned action adventure that makes you want to leap into motion. Whether you’d rather don a domino mask or a jetpack is entirely up to you.

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 May 27th, 2013: Chew

Alt Beat With Kenneth Porter

 

A Tasty Choice

I’m always looking for new comic book series to read. I have a steady stream of flow from companies like Marvel, DC, Vertigo, Dark Horse, and especially Image. I try to keep up on as many books as I can, but there’s no time to read everything that comes out. I could try, but I’m afraid that my head would blow up like the guy in Scanners (also a slight Wayne’s World reference there). But I’m very happy to say that I stumbled upon yet another series that has slipped through the cracks of my reading pile for far too long.

There are certain types of stories that you’ve always wanted, but that you never knew existed. This week’s Alternative Comics Beat is one of those kinds of stories. Try to imagine a universe where chicken is illegal, people have food-based superpowers, and a rooster is the most powerful and deadly fighter in the universe. John Layman imagined it, and with the help of artist Rob Guillory he’s brought it to the shelves of comic book stores everywhere. The two of them have created a series so fun, violent, and mesmerizing, that I read six trades in just a few days.

I’d like to introduce you to Special Agent Tony Chu of the FDA.

CHEW

Tony Chu is a cibopath. That means that Chu can eat anything and know its entire history. He can eat an apple and see how it was grown in the orchard, or eat a hamburger and experience how the cow met its untimely demise in the slaughterhouse. Sadly this new ability is put to the test in much grosser forms when Chu joins the FDA, which is one of the most powerful law organizations in the world. With his powerful ability he’ll have to solve the strangest criminal cases in the world, and the world needs Chu more than he thinks.

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Wait, What?!

The premise alone for this series is enough to make people’s heads turn. But Layman drew me in with characters that I really care about and a storytelling style that fluctuates between a Saturday morning cartoon and a TV drama. Chu and his family grow on readers faster than fruits from another planet. When characters in the series are killed or injured (I won’t say who or what), I felt the deaths and wished that they had made it for a few more issues. But that’s really the sign of something worthwhile. I might feel sad that the character is gone, but the fact that I felt something is what’s really important.

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Stylish and Slick

Guillory’s artwork is the perfect companion to this unique story. His style lends itself to emotion, fantastical events, and very gory moments. If you can make a Rooster fighting legions of villains a dynamic storytelling event, then you deserve lots of credit. Every issue builds on the one before it and the cartooning of animals, people, and places is really spectacular. I can’t say enough good things about his style, so I encourage anyone reading this to check out his work in the pages of Chew or on his website (http://robguillory.blogspot.com/).

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A Wonderful Alternative

This series is just about as far as you can get from the normal things in your pull box. It’s been going on for a while, but the trades are available at any bookseller. You might find yourself doing what I did, and binge reading the entire series up to the latest issue. I would compare to other series that I’ve read, but I really can’t provide anything that’s even close. If you do like references to other science fiction series, stories that can take any kind of turn, and the idea of a world with chicken speakeasies, then you really need to give Chew a try.

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 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 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 April 23rd, 2013

Before we get to the nit and grit of this column I want to apologize for my absence. I’ve been incredibly busy with school, work, and comic book projects of my own (Editor’s Note: Ken won the Top Cow Comics Talent Hunt Contest!). While I’ve stopped doing reviews I still love to recommend books that I find intriguing and think that the rest of the comic community should jump on and read. For my first trip back to Cosmic Book News I want to talk about Theremin #1 from Monkeybrain Comics. The story is written by Curt Pires, the art is done by Dalton Rose, and the letters by Ryan Ferrier. It’s a time travel story with a unique twist that mixes alternative history, an unlikely device, and sets up a really intriguing story.

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The first issue follows Leon Theremin as he discovers time travel through frequencies in the new instrument that he would later become famous for. But unlocking this power takes him down a dark road that leaves him at odds with Vladimir Lenin and a horrific possible future. I’ll just say that things get complicated and you should read it for yourself so that I don’t spoil too much.

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The usual problem with time travel stories is that it focuses on the technology too much and not on the actual characters. What I really like about this first issue is that we get a strong sense of who Leon is and what he believes. When he experiences time travel it makes it all the more exciting to see him deal with it and move on to the next problem or situation because an investment has been made with him as a person. It’s common that character development gets lost in the shuffle of a story like this, but I was invested the entire time.

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Monkeybrain has been putting out incredible digital titles. I was drawn to Theremin because of its catchy cover, the premise, and the awesome gun that Leon is brandishing like a dapper Adam Strange. It’s the kind of comic that doesn’t need any big explanation or backstory, which makes it the perfect alternative to the normal fare. If you’re looking for a break from your regular reading routine and love time travel stories then you should really check this out. I personally can’t wait for the next issue.

(All images taken from http://www.monkeybraincomics.com/titles/theremin/#)

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