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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

Son of the Gun – Alternative Comics Beat

Alt Beat

By Ken Porter

Son of the Gun

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Written by: Alexandro Jodorowsky

Art by: George Bess

Published by: Humanoids

Release Date: October 22nd, 2014

Not your typical Western

When I first picked up Son of the Gun I was expecting a straight-forward Western. That’s the last time I assign meaning to a book’s cover. I’m familiar with Jodorowsky’s work, so I should’ve known better than to think I’d be getting anything but ordinary. After reading this volume I had so many conflicting feelings about the main character, the story, and the ending, that I realized that it had been too long since I took in a piece of art that challenged what I thought or made me uncomfortable.

That’s a good thing by the way.

 

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The story of a boy…

The story follows a young man named Juan Solo. He’s found in a garbage can by a dwarf transvestite prostitute, abandoned by his original parents because he was born with a long tail. After growing up on the streets and becoming a prominent criminal, Juan lives a life of debauchery and crime. The story takes some interesting directions, and while Juan might not be a heroic character he’s certainly worth following.

Why it’s a great alternative

I’ve never read a gunslinger book quite like this one. It kept me on the edge of my seat and constantly made me question whether Juan was a character I could sympathize with or not. That kind of challenge made me want to read the entire volume again, and if I can find the time I’m going to dive back into the story.

But let’s not forget George Bess’ artwork. It’s expressive, detailed, and captures the spirit of this strange gunslinger story with intense colors and settings with as much character as Juan.

 

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Who would like Son of the Gun?

Fans of Alexandro Jodorowsky’s previous works like The Incal or The White Lama will eat this up. Also people who are looking for something with the same kind of power as Kelly Sue DeConnick’s Pretty Deadly, but with a much darker lens and characters (also without the supernatural elements). Son of the Gun is worth checking out just for experience, even if you’re not familiar with those other titles.

You can pre-order the hardcover at Humanoids.com — Son of the Gun (Hardcover).

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 Son of the Gun – 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

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: 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.

Read More about Alternative Comics Beat: The Eyes Of The Cat