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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.

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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

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

Movie Review: Ombis: Alien Invasion (2013)

(Note: For purposes in reporting we would like to note that Cosmic Book News EIC Matt McGloin was an extra in the movie )

 

Local Indie Means Pulp Horror

A Film Review of Ombis: Alien Invasion

By: Lawrence Napoli

 

It never ceases to amaze me how “no budget” independent films almost always involve some element of horror.  As a genre, horror has a history of filmmaking rooted in rollback production costs, and thanks to the ever increasing quality of digital camcorders and off the shelf editing software, amateurs everywhere are feeling the itch to make movies.  Horror appears to give the filmmaker the shortest route between making their dreams into reality, and there are a number of reasons why: 1) horror seems to inspire a lot of local, volunteer labor; 2) horror can succeed with even the simplest of practical effects made from household items and YouTube walkthroughs and 3) horror doesn’t require the highest acting level from its cast because the audience will be more interested in looking for monsters and gore.  There are more fringe benefits to horror, but despite them all, very few films show capable of distinguishing themselves from the rest of the pack.  This brings us to the Western New York success story of Ombis: Alien Invasion which is, in every sense, a horror film masquerading as sci-fi, but unfortunately does little to give the audience anything we haven’t already seen from the likes of Troma or Fangoria.

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Your formal introduction to slime zombies from space.

Since this film was made for the miraculously low price of about $32,000 thanks to DefTone Pictures and its co-financiers, I am stunned that more attention was not given to the basic story, character development and dialogue that could have communicated both in a more compelling and practical manner.  The script is the foundation of any film, and if the story isn’t interesting, its visual depiction doesn’t have much of a chance to make it better.  It’s also the least expensive element of the filmmaking process to produce.  Of course, local filmmakers do not have the resources of a James Cameron to make entirely new and fantastic worlds come to life on screen, but that doesn’t mean simpler stories, using common locations and local talent can’t also be interesting.  Writers Janeen Avery, Terry Kimmel, Mark Mendola, Michael Sciabarassi, and Adam R. Steigert (also the director) attempt to blend the basic elements of a zombie movie with the more colorful garnishes of an alien invasion and apply them to a formulaic model as tried-and-true as horror itself: an unsuspecting town in Nowhere-sville, USA is confronted with a supernatural force and all hell breaks loose.  This idea is entertaining enough in the sense that a ghost haunting a house, or a child being possessed, or a mad dog killer is on the loose are equally entertaining tropes.  Doing something more with these archetypes such as using allegory or metaphor is an excellent way to transform common stories into uncommon experiences.

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Who could that shadowy figure be?

Ombis features a script that is unconcerned with anything but the obvious so what you see is exactly what you get.  In lieu of adding intrigue via context, the writers overcompensated by throwing in underdeveloped plot twists that aren’t set up well and fizzle when trying to pay off.  A town trying to fend off alien zombies is one thing, but adding intergalactic bounty hunters, a shadowy governmental agency, and a tale of youthful redemption is plainly impossible to develop with any level of satisfaction in an 85 minute film.  This script was in desperate need of some serious focus, and the best evidence of this is the fact that the story begins to unfold from the perspective of Sheriff Bracket, but then inexplicably shifts to former high school football star Mark.  These two characters could have (and should have) been written as one which would have allowed the audience a more streamlined point of view in addition to better main character to identify with.  In the end, the plot, characters and dialogue have resulted less from basic narrative structure and more from late night fanboy discussions of “you know what would be cool?”

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Folks, I happen to be an authority on what’s cool.

The true artistry of Ombis lies not within the fiction, but in the technical production value and cinematography that is spearheaded by director Adam R. Steigert.  Far too often, student and indie films fall in love with static camera shots while mixing in the occasional Dutch angle to feign “art.”  I am very impressed with how active the camera is throughout Ombis as it tracks, pans and tilts with the action consistently which animates the frame and keeps the pace up for the film in general.   The background soundtrack adds another layer of credible production value which is well composed to accentuate the emotional tenor of just about every scene and only occasionally washes out the dialogue track as a small post-production faux pas.  The digital/visual effects of this film aren’t exactly cutting edge, but are masterfully cut away to and juxtaposed with practical effects (such as the crawling green Jello) which yields a clear idea of the action and what the supernatural threat is all about. 

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Something bad is coming.

The performances throughout Ombis provide glimmers of brilliance, but are often overshadowed by amateurs in need of point-by-point direction just to keep up.  As for the standouts, Richard Satterwhite’s performance as Sheriff Bracket is both charismatic and genuine and his particular strength lies in shifting facial expressions which makes a clear connection to the audience.  The only hiccup he demonstrates is when he loses patience with another actor in scenes where they are not giving back the same energy he is sending them.  Jason John Beebe provides the lion’s share of the stunt work as Mark and provides a worthy performance as the secondary protagonist (or is he the primary?).  He plays the role of a younger man quite well, and he demonstrates confidence in his line delivery with just about everyone, but comes up a tad short in generating chemistry with his onscreen girlfriend which has less to do with an acting deficiency and more to do with a lack of opportunity as provided by the script.  The final stand out performance was that of Alexander S. McBryde who plays the mysterious Mr. Gray.  He is done somewhat of a disservice from the script due to the fact that his character and the organization he represents gets absolutely zero setup as they kind of show up out of nowhere once the weirdness starts to happen around town.  McBryde presents the best example of an actor doing more with less because he doesn’t have many scenes to work with, but the presence he exudes, thanks to the bass in his voice, makes the audience pay attention to him whenever he’s onscreen and he leaves an unforgettable impression.

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No one is safe from the Ombis.

Ombis: Alien Invasion is a success in that it was completed with an overall proficiency that not every independent film provides with minimal finances and a volunteer cast/crew.  It is not an easy task to accomplish such a feat given the handicaps.  That being said, the entertainment value of this film caters strictly to fans of cult, pulp horror films.  For a movie like this to have a shot at wider, more diverse audiences, serious polish needs to be considered.  Over ambition can muddle any production as global audiences may observe with future super productions such as the next Star Wars, The Avengers 2 and X-Men: Days of Future Past.  Too many characters, too many plot devices and too many gimmicks can add up to too many distractions that can sink a film before it even sets sail.  Ombis seems intent on doing far too much without being disciplined enough to establish the basics of its own story, and that’s frustrating for an audience intent on making connections.  Of course, most indie monster, slasher, alien and horror films just want to deliver a pulp experience that simply shocks and awes which is fine and dandy, but at the same time gets fenced in with the rest of the herd.

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Review: Hellblazer #296

John Constantine has been investigating a series of black magic murders. Each victim is killed, has his organs ripped out, and has words written above him or her on the wall in their blood. All of which points to Constantine.

Constantine investigation has brought him into the home of his estranged nephew, Finn. As Constantine trains Finn in the mystical arts, the mysterious threat reveals itself. But is Constantine ready for the amount of magic this new foe possesses?

Peter Milligan’s run on Hellblazer is continuing to be very entertaining. He mixes mystery, detective work, magic, and con-artist charm into every issue. Constantine feels genuine in each panel and can make readers laugh with the slightest bit of dialogue.

Giuseppe Camuncoli did the layouts for this issue and Stefano Landini did the finishes. The artwork continues the current character style, which has a very cartoon-like tone. It works well with the mixture of humor and horror, and it gives characters a chance to really emote when they need to.

Vertigo Comics has been publishing Hellblazer for decades. It’s good to know that fans and new readers can rest assured that it will continue to deliver some of the best characters and stories in comics.

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Review: Hellblazer #293

John Constantine is no stranger to breaking promises. On his last trip to Hell, Constantine promised his sister Cheryl that he’d try to find her long lost son, all while crossing his fingers. He had no intention of looking for the lost member of the Constantine bloodline, but now that grizzly murders with black magic are filling the sewers of the city, Constantine thinks that his nephew might be looking for him instead.

Hellblazer is one of Vertigo’s longest running series and for good reason. Peter Milligan writes Constantine the same way Jamie Delano or Garth Ennis wrote him – as a crime noir character deep in the occult. The dynamic with Constantine and his wife Epiphany has been playing out really well, and it’s satisfying to see him with someone he can confide to in every issue.

How long she’ll last is another story, since it’s common knowledge that anyone close to Constantine doesn’t last very long.

Giuseppe Camuncoli has a very expressive style that fits Hellblazer and Constantine’s world while still having an impressive cartoon element. The eyes and expressions of characters are what really sell each panel. In every moment where Constantine is angry, smiling, or ready to vomit, is felt by the reader through the artwork.

Most audiences are only familiar with the film version of the character in Constantine, starring Keanu Reeves. While it’s not a horrible movie, it’s definitely not a faithful adaptation of the character or the Hellblazer franchise. If you love detective stories and urban occult or horror, this series is the go to material for any fan.

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Review: Revival #1

Revival is the story of a small town in rural Wisconsin where, one day a year, the dead are brought back to life. Officer Cypress is a cop that’s in way over her head as a brutal murder sends the already crazy town into pure insanity.

The resurgence of horror and supernatural comics these past few years has really brought readers new and original stories. On the heels of series like Severed and Rebel Blood, Revival takes a twist on the undead genre with the feeling of a dense mystery novel. After only one issue an entire world of media and mystical frenzy is built around a small community trying to deal with a supernatural problem.

Tim Seeley and Mike Norton have written and drawn an opening story as tight as a pilot for a new one-hour drama TV series. Seeley’s story pacing sets a very good flow, and Norton’s art lays out the narrative in a very dynamic way.

On the whole this series gets a recommendation because it’s trying to do something different. It’s become a trend to try to mimic The Walking Dead model of comic book stories, and though Robert Kirkman does it well, many others don’t. Seeley and Norton are carving their own path and it’s well worth the time to give a try. That is if you like supernatural horror mysteries.

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Vincent Price: House of Horrors #1

When most horror fanatics think of classic chills and frightening stories it’s only a matter of time before visions of Vincent Price start to dance in their heads. Price became the face and voice of scary stories for generations, and still gets credit for all of his work in the realm of cinema and storytelling. Blue Water Productions has taken the icon and combined him with a Twilight Zone landscape to tell horror stories on a monthly basis.

When it comes to an anthology of scary stories, I’m all on board. However, this first story seems to fall flat in a few areas. The overall premise is strong. It deals with a devote churchgoer who spends his spare time torturing animals and then asking for forgiveness for his twisted pleasure. The animals soon turn on him and reality starts to blur as cosmic justice is delivered on his doorstep.

The artwork in the issue was fun, kinetic, and stayed true to the horror genre. The problem with the story is that it doesn’t balance the scenes of madness and the scenes that are grounded in reality. It feels more like a music video than a comic book story. It has a beginning, middle, and end, but it seems like the imagery takes over the story and it gets muddled because of it. If there were more of a progression from the real world into the horrible fate that the main character is thrown into, it might have been a little more solid.

Despite these problems, it wasn’t a bad issue by any means, just not great. The platform to tell stories under a Vincent Price banner is too good to give up on, so I would recommend sticking it out with this series to see if it can hit some kind of stride and come out on top. I’m willing to give the book the benefit of the doubt and assume that it’ll deliver soon. Until then, enjoy listening to that eerie Price laugh that I know has been cackling in your head since you read his name above.

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Review: Green Wake #10

This is sadly the last issue of Green Wake as the creative team is moving on to different projects. But don’t let that put you off from checking out this issue or this series. The story comes to a conclusion, but in no way is it rushed or forced upon readers. It ends naturally and with all of the precision of a TV show finale. What was originally supposed to be a five issue mini-series blossomed into twice that many issues, and I’m glad that we got all of that extra content.

In this final issue we see Morely Mack final discover the strange secrets behind the town of Green Wake and we’re given a glimpse at some horrifying supernatural elements. All of this story reminds me of a much more magical version of Silent Hill, where fantasy and horror blend together into a fine liquid mesh. Mack’s ending isn’t the showiest in all of comic book storytelling, but it definitely resonates and gives us a sense of closure at the end of the title.

The artwork in this issue was truly something fun to behold. It had a very distinct and scratchy style that added to the beauty of simple panels and the terror of the more gruesome ones. I really enjoyed all of the scenes that were set near and in water, and the creature designs were out of this world.

It’s sad to see a great Image series end, but it ended well. When the whole series is collected it’ll be a must buy for anyone who loves the supernatural or horror comic book genre. It might have ended a little sooner than planned, but it still went out with a bang.

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