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


Alt Beat

By Ken Porter
 

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

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Writer: Warren Ellis

Artist: Stuart Immonen

Publisher: Marvel Comics

The best of the rest

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

Who are the members of Nextwave?

 

 

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

Monica Rambeau

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

The Captain

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

Elsa Bloodstone

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

Tabitha Smith

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

Machine Man AKA Aaron Stack

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

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

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

 

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What makes Nextwave a great alternative?

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

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

 

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Who would like Nextwave?

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

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

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

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

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

Sanctum – Alternative Comics Beat

Alt Beat

By Ken Porter

Sanctum

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Writer: Xavier Dorison

Art: Christophe Bec

Published by: Humanoids

Terror Below

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

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

 

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Classic Horror/Speculative Fiction

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

 

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Why it’s a great alternative

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

That’s not the case.

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

 

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Who would like Sanctum?

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

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

Read More about Sanctum – Alternative Comics Beat

Alternative Comics Beat: 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.

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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 December 22nd, 2012

I’d like to start off by saying happy holidays and I wish everyone the best.

Now on to your Alternative Comics Beat, a recommendation to take you out of your comics comfort zone and introduce you to something new (or at least new to you) and exciting!

For Your Consideration

This week’s Alternative Beat is a story about fathers, sons, and a situation like something out of the Twilight Zone. After everything I read this week that was a contender for the slot, this original graphic novel stood out as the strongest in terms of storytelling, artwork, and heartfelt moments. The graphic novel in question was written and drawn by Jeff Lemire and published by Top Shelf.

The Underwater Welder

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Underwater welder Jack Joseph is feeling pressure from both his job and his pregnant wife. While diving on an offshore oilrig in Nova Scotia, Jack discovers a pocket watch at the bottom of the ocean. The watch is something more than just an old relic, and Jack soon finds himself caught in a strange world that he must escape from.

Jeff Lemire – Writer

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Jack Joseph is instantly a likeable character. Jeff Lemire has always been able to portray his protagonists in a way that makes you connect with them and care about them from start to finish. Jack’s feelings about parenthood and his experiences with his father can ring true to just about anyone, and the moments with his wife seem like they’re lifted from documentary footage. They feel that real.

Jeff Lemire – Artist

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The artwork is done in Lemire’s signature style. There are many expressive lines and the environments are given a great setup through pacing in the story. Even though the drawings aren’t completely realistic, the emotion that the characters show in each panel is very true to life. When characters are upset, angry, or crying, you can feel it through the artwork. Lemire has always been able to pull this off with his technique, and it still serves him really well. He also makes use of nine panel grids in an interesting way, which makes it look like a camera is panning across the character or scene.

What Makes This Different

What makes this story different than your usual comic book fare is that it’s a story about the importance of family with an interesting science fiction backdrop. The story isn’t afraid to breathe and many of the panels are about atmosphere and tone. There are no explosions, no stakes to save the world, just an epic journey of one man and his role as a father.

Why You Should Pick This Up

If you’re a fan of Jeff Lemire’s work on Animal Man or Justice League Dark from DC, or if you’ve read Sweet Tooth from Vertigo, you’d be doing yourself a favor by checking this out. It’s a great story that you can share with family members and friends, or get as a gift for someone this holiday. I do admit that this is a little late, but if you are looking for a last minute gift for someone who loves reading, comics, or old Twilight Zone episodes, this is right up their alley.

This, like every Alternative Beat recommendation, is a story that can show you what sequential art can really do with characters. The comic book medium can tell just about any kind of story, and this original graphic novel is proof that they can be just as touching as an award winning film.

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

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