On 6th day of Christmas … I read the Giant Days 2017 festive comic special

(cover image courtesy Boom! Box)

 

Love, Actually is not everyone’s idea of the perfect holiday movie, but to me, it is perfect (look it up – it’s a “cannily”-woven in line from the film) and Giant Days, one of the best, most heartfelt comic strips to emerge in recent years, has made inspired use of the themes of love, romance, connection and belonging that join together a cast of disparate but like-minded (they all want that someone special, like we all do) characters.

In this year’s holiday special, which follows last year’s 2016 Holiday Special which was suffused with a distinctly It’s a Wonderful Life feel, Esther de Groot, Susan Ptolemy and Daisy Wooton, close university friends despite being vastly different personalities with considerably different upbringings and outlooks on life, head to London to see their Susan’s lucky-in-career-unlucky-in-love friend Shelley Winters.

They’re barely in London, with not much money or big city experience to their name, when they realise they’ll have to intervene in Shelley’s love life, which is currently split between the debonair, cool motorcycle-riding Grant, hunky nerd neighbour with the heart of gold Cecil and Sid from work who’s shooting an in-work documentary that seems to suspiciously feature Shelley.

Shelly for her part declares she doesn’t want to be died down but it’s this indecision which quickly a mess of improperly raised expectations by all three men who think they’re in with a chance.

What to do, what to do? Why employ every romantic comedy trope in the book in the hope of setting Shelley’s love life on the Cupid-approved straight and narrow, which is where the Love, Actually and Bridget Jones allusions come in, according to Eisner Award-nominated Giant Days creator John Allison (Bad Machinery):

“It’s a tribute to the films of Richard Curtis, and the Bridget Jones movies, by someone who has seen those movies perhaps once, and maybe not all the way through.” (source: Comic Buzz)

As usual in the world of Susan, Esther and Daisy, their time in London in what Allison refers to as “the fictionalised London-as-written for Americans, [where] iconic locations are presented as if they’re a brief walk away from each other, 1950s throwbacks still seem to walk the streets, it’s very clean, there are no poor people. Further “the ghosts of Mary Poppins and bad dentistry loom large, but not as large as Colin Firth. He’s everywhere” is spent with only the best of intentions.

 

(image courtesy Boom! Box)

 

Frankly, I’m quite OK with the romanticised view of London since it matches perfectly the delightfully fey and sweet of the Giant Days special, which takes us to Oxford Street in all its festive light-bedecked glory (though with the attendant crowds so maybe not so perfect after all?), gentrified Soho, and to Shelley’s huge, cute apartment which in the tradition of sitcoms and romcoms since time immemorial bears no resemblance to its occupant’s actual earning power.

It fits with these kinds of festive tales which are supposed to take a magical step away from the everyday in a season where we’re supposed to believe, and actively do, that some tinsel, carols and TV specials will make the world around a better place.

They don’t, of course, well not enough really, but it’s the artful pretense, the heartwarming make believe of it all that makes the season such a wonderful place to be, and in many cases, all this elaborate planning becomes its own self-fulfilling prophecy anyway.

Quite whether that’s the case with the Giant Days special is up for debate, especially with its hilariously openended finish where things don’t really go according to plan, but hey even if the best laid plans of Daisy, Susan and Esther go awry involve luxurious trope-heavy Christmas shopping, late night wines with cute guys and festive meet cutes, then they’re not that far off a holiday happy ever after are they?

As always Allison and artist Jenn St-Onge serve up a lovely, rich, warm, and funny tale of three close friends out of their depth but plowing on regardless, beguiled by romanticised ideas of London, love and what’s possible at the most wonderful time of the year.

And so what if things don’t exactly deliver as advertised? That’s kinda life generally, a theme brought home again and again in the Giant Days comics, and given the kind of festive touch that makes the 2017 Special a wonderful, reality-removed delight, a welcome return by three of our favourite ladies who enter into the spirit of the season in a way that will a little extra loveliness, mirth and good cheer to your Christmas observances.

 

(image courtesy Boom! Box)

Escape from reality: Maxwell’s Demons takes you to the far worlds of the imagination

(image via Bleeding Cool (c) Deniz Camp and Vittorio Astone / Vault Comics)

 

SNAPSHOT
Maxwell Maas may be the greatest mind the world has ever known, but at 10-years-old he has a lot to learn. Adventuring to distant worlds through his makeshift multiversal closet door, Max will encounter greatness and menace on a cosmic scale. Fans of Gaiman’s Sandman will feel at home in the expansive, daring universe of Maxwell’s Demons. (synopsis via Bleeding Cool)

Never underestimate the power of the imagination.

When I was a kid, it was my saviour, constantly spiriting me away from ceaseless bullying at school and the pressure to be a perfect eldest child of a Baptist minister. (The only saving grace was loving, always-there parents.)

In my expansive mind’s eye, everything was possible, everyone loved me and I was accepted, adored and valued for who I was, not pilloried or harassed for it.

Which is why I can readily identify with Maxwell Maas, a young man who journeys to worlds beyond number through a multiverse portal door he’s rigged up, where’s he is celebrated as a brilliantly creative and brave young man.

Unlike at home where his father treats him with cruel, bullying disregard.

It’s heartbreaking in one sense, which lends this comic book series immense emotional resonance but also Calvin and Hobbes wonderful, proof that even in the most dire of circumstances that the imagination can triumph.

Maxwell’s Demons issue #1 debuts 27 December 2017.

 

(image via Bleeding Cool (c) Deniz Camp and Vittorio Astone / Vault Comics)

 

(image via Bleeding Cool (c) Deniz Camp and Vittorio Astone / Vault Comics)

 

(image via Bleeding Cool (c) Deniz Camp and Vittorio Astone / Vault Comics)

 

(image via Bleeding Cool (c) Deniz Camp and Vittorio Astone / Vault Comics)

Comics review: Bodie Troll

(cover image courtesy Red 5 Comics (c) Jay P Fosgitt)

 

Bodie Troll won’t like me telling you this so shhhhh, but good lord, he’s freaking adorable.

Yes, yes I know, trolls aren’t supposed to be adorable or sweet or lovely or Anne of Green Gables meets Pollyanna wonderful or in fact anything good, wholesome and kind.

They are, as Bodie tells anyone who will listen, monstrously cruel, challenging goats on bridges and eating those that refuse to comply, sending villagers running to their homes in search of safety and just plain irascibly nasty and difficult.

Well, that’s the PR anyway.

Unfortunately, or fortunately if you’re one of the people who loves him such as barmaid at The Drunken Pumpkin and aspiring thespian, or even tolerates him such as magical spatula-waving fairy godmother Miz Bijou, Bodie Troll, who lives under a bridge outside the fantastical medieval village of Hagardorn, is nothing like the trope.

Not even close to it, in fact.

Sure he can be cranky and cantankerous and more than a little irritable but he’s also charming, helpful, kind and has been known to look after babies that poop fertiliser and rain down big, heavy objects from the sky.

In other words, to his unending frustration, he’s too damn nice for his own good.

And that is the central joke in Jay Fosgitt’s utterly beguiling comic Bodie Troll, released in 2013 as a four-part series (yeah I’m a little to this particularly delightful party), followed up in 2014 and 2015 with Free Comic Day issues, augmented by a new 4-part 2016 series “Fuzzy Memories” and soon to be added to by a brand-new graphic novel this year via Boom! Studios.

What makes Bodie Troll work so beautifully is that it’s no one-joke pony, or troll.

Granted there is a great deal of silliness at work here and the jokes fly thick and fast, many of them drawn from the premise of an adorable troll who wishes he wasn’t, but there’s a great deal of heart at work here too.

 

(image courtesy Red 5 Comics (c) Jay P Fosgitt)

 

In fact, you can easily see how Jim Henson, who most famously gave us the Muppets, is an inspiration for Bodie Troll, with Fosgitt having this to say about what he wanted to bring to this most beguiling and amusing of comic creations:

“My inspiration for Bodie Troll was my love of fairytales, folklore, and mythology … I wanted to imbue it with anachronistic humor to make the characters and their stories relatable to our own world, while having a warm heart at the center of the silliness. I wanted to create something that Jim Henson would have appreciated.” (Bleeding Cool)

The Henson element is very much in evidence with the anarchic goofiness of the Muppets and their intrinsic humanity very much on display.

Even more than that though, there are elements of Asterix, both in the writing and the artwork, which recalls the great artist of that French series, Albert Uderzo, and even Calvin & Hobbes capacity for the philosophical and the gleefully, cleverly over-the-top.

For all those influences, and Fosgitt uses them and others well, Bodie Troll is a singularly unique creation, a figure all of his own making who you can help but fall in love with (even though Bodie would, naturally, hate the very idea of that).

In the middle of monsters hatching from giant eggs, poop fertilising babies who come from on high and news delivered, with nakedly obvious product placement, by Socko the sock puppet, and even magically transformative lipstick (which Bodie hilariously does not take full advantage of), there’s staunch friendship, flawed by rewarding friendships and a sense that Bodie’s real quest in life is not to scare or eat goats – “That’d be gross” he declares – but to accept who he is, kindhearted soul and all.

 

 

There’s absolutely no chance that he will ever be asked to join Mordor’s army or rip the head off an old dame in search of her hens and honestly, that’s OK.

After all, spend any time at all with Bodie’s funny irascibility and all you want to do is hug him tight as Cholly often does, wish him well, as the villagers almost always do, and may even buy him a drink or some grubby, floor-sourced root vegetables.

You will also want to keep laughing at his unending frustration that he isn’t what he wishes he was, the distillation of anyone who has ever wished they were something they are not and never will be.

In Bodie Troll, Fosgitt has given us an immersively lovely tale that anyone who has ever struggled to accept themselves will take enormous pleasure in; for not only does it reaffirm that you’re fine just the way you are, even if you won’t accept it, but that flying against type is actually a pretty cool thing to be, and far better than being the same as everyone else.

 

(image courtesy Red 5 Comics (c) Jay P Fosgitt)

“Heavens to Murgatroyd!” Snagglepuss is reborn as a gay Southern playwright #comics

(image via Comicbook.com (c) DC Comics)

 

SNAPSHOT
“Snagglepuss in this story is having to live a double life as a gay playwright living in New York, and he’s closeted. But he has values and integrity as an artist, and he’s trying to stand up for people who otherwise would be shoved under the stairs in this time of great national paranoia in the Red Scare mentality. It’s very easy in a time of national catastrophe — of perceived national catastrophe — to throw people under the sink and forget about them, and Snagglepuss is unwilling to let them do that to people he knows and loves. He’s willing to stand up for people when the rest of the country is not.” (synopsis (c) writer Mark Russell, Heat Magazine)

In our thoroughly postmodern age, the willingness to reinterpret older, much-loved characters have reached fever pitch.

It doesn’t always work but when it does, it can be sublime, opening a whole new perspective on characters we’ve grown up, elasticising their personas so they fit quite snugly into our 21st century sensibilities.

DC Comics have been having a fine old time of it lately, re-imagining a slew of Hanna-Barbera characters such as The Flintstones – to enviable success; the literate, beautifully drawn rumination on modern materialistic lifestyles has garnered much acclaim – and Scooby Apocalypse, an altogether darker take on good old goofy Scooby Doo and the gang.

Now the writer who gave us the inestimable delights of the new grittier The Flintstones, and artist Mike Feenan, is back with another take on our modern world, this time courtesy of Snagglepuss, given a Tennessee Williams makeover circa 1953.

It opens up, notes Russell, a slew of narrative possibilities:

“The way I write him, he’s kind of an avant-garde figure for the times — people kind of expect him to say things that are edgy, and witty. In a way, he’s allowed to breach subjects and say things in 1953 in New York that other people simply could not.” (source: Comicbook.com)

Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles #1 releases January 2018.

 

Book review: In Every Moment We Are Alive by Tom Malmquist

(cover image courtesy Hachette Australia)

 

When someone very close to you dies, it’s entirely natural for people to extend their condolences, to offer their love and support in any way they can and to be present with you in your emotionally-enervating moment of grief and loss.

It’s a brief bubble when loving arms envelop you and you are carried along, in ways big and small, through one of the very worst periods of your life.

But life moves on, as it must, and you are left to your own devices, grief seems to fall even harder upon you, reminding you over and over again of how much you have lost and how much lesser life will be without that person in it.

I found that last year when my beautiful father died, and Tom Malmquist, who tells the harrowing story of unexpectedly losing his partner of 10 years Karin to leukemia just as she gives birth prematurely to their daughter, and first child, Livia, recounts a similar emotionally-exhausting life lesson.

Reading at first like a novel, it becomes quickly apparent that Malmquist is relating events he lived through – there is an aching authenticity to the way he relates the maelstrom of fast-moving events that transformed a largely, though not unflawed, relationship, bright with happy future moments into one defined by loss, death, grief, and thankfully, the joy of holding your daughter in your arms.

“The electrical activity in Karin’s heart has stopped. Lillemor presses her hands over her ears and closes her eyes. Sven shakes his head a little and asks” What are you saying? Dad, Karin’s pulse is zero, says Måns. If Karin’s pulse is zero that would mean she’s dead, he says. It takes a few seconds before a groan is heard rising from his throat, and his head drops. Lillemor is trembling, saying something I can’t quite catch. Måns sinks onto the floor in front of them.” (P. 76)

Malmquist beautifully and touchingly, with a veracity borne of someone who has stood at the coalface of grief trying to work out how on earth he can ever climb up and over it, conveys what it is like to lose Karin, gain Livia, be caught in the immediate aftermath of losing his beloved partner and struggle to reemerge into what remains of your life.

One thing that immediately strikes you, quite apart from Malmquist’s admirably brutal honesty – at no point does he portray anything in his and Karin’s life as idyllic; they’re happy yes, but this is life in the relational trenches and the author never once gilds the lily with Disney-eque perfection or allusions to it – is the toll grief takes on your capacity to handle life, even weeks or months after the defining event.

This is no place for logic or rationale – yes you have to get on with things; there is no choice especially with a newborn but that doesn’t mean it’s easy or even remotely palatable.

Indeed, were it not for Malmquist’s mother and mother-in-law who spend nights at his home looking after Livia while he tries to sleep in haze of sleeping tablets and unbidden memories, it becomes apparent that the author wonders if he could have coped at all.

At one point he even talks to his father about getting committed but that recedes as he begins slowly but not without a thousand backward steps, common to anyone navigating a path through grief – it never really leaves you; you just find ways to deal with it better – reacquaint himself with the messily ordinary business of living.

 

Tom Malmquist (image courtesy Last Word Book Review)

 

That’s the key thing I think that you take away from In Every Moment We Are Still Alive.

Being enveloped by grief feels like someone stopping the hands of time; the world moves on around you, but you stay anchored in that one terrible moment, unable to move, think, feel beyond that bubble of time.

It’s horrible, terrible and a thousand other things beside, and while Malmquist doesn’t belabour the point – the book is refreshingly down to earth and real, with conversations, past and present events presented in an authentically-jumbled stream of consciousness that feels deeply real – you understand in so many ways what it is like to stay rooted to that one existential spot.

And how memories resurface at the oddest times, with grief percolating up all over again.

Take as an example the time that Malmquist is cleaning up around Karin’s writing desk – the two are both writers, a source of support and occasional friction, having met at university – and discovers two coffee stains on the woodwork.

“In what way are you feeling bad? I miss Karin. Of course you miss Karin, dear Tom … death is abstract, it can’t be rationally understood.” (P. 207)

At first he think he should clean them off, tidy everything off, an understandable instinct but he finds himself photographing them, wondering how she came to spill the coffee, what she was thinking and doing at the time.

He also brilliantly and movingly explores the no-man’s land that exists in the immediate afterwash of great loss, everything from the bureaucratic tangles that ensnare you – Karin dies so suddenly that there’s no time to officially nominate Malmquist as the father – to learning to looking after a newborn alone (or almost alone) to the simple act of getting up, dressed and facing the minutiae of day-to-day life.

Malmquist discusses with exquisite truthfulness and raw, unfiltered emotion – the punctuation of the chapters, such as they are, does not follow traditional norms with observations and dialogue tumbling, sometimes confusingly, into each other, mirroring how everything feels in grief’s disordered undertow – what it feels to have someone desperately important taken from you at the time someone infinitely new and precious is handed to you.

More than that, he helps anyone who has been fortunate not to experience grief’s raw, rough hand, what it means when someone they are comforting don’t react logically or “normally” to their ministrations; you can’t someone in Malmquist’s position, or mine last year, to handle life as they normally would because grief, in so many achingly awful ways, is as far from normal as you can possibly get.

In Every Moment We Are Still Alive burrows deep down into your soul, real, true, dark and hopeful but above all, honest about how it feels to fall into the abyss-like rabbit hole of grief, and wonder if you’ll ever emerge again.

Comics review: Angelic (issues 1 & 2)

(cover art courtesy Image Comics)

 

It is said we stand on the shoulders of those came before us, and in so far as belief systems persist, physical reminders of their presence persist, culture, arts and political discourse are informed by their antecedents, that’s true.

But what happens when all you have is fragments? A pottery shard here? A hidden, half-lost wall-painting?

Or in the case of Angelic, a breathtakingly original take on a future without humanity but full of our handiwork, in ruins and otherwise, by Eisner nominee SIMON SPURRIER (The Spire, CRY HAVOC, X-Men Legacy) and rising-star CASPAR WIJNGAARD (LIMBO, Dark Souls, Assassin’s Creed), species upon species of advanced, tech-augmented animals?

Think religiously-obsessed flying monkeys (and yes, there is, rather pleasingly, a Wizard of Oz reference tucked in there), rocket-propelled dolphins with a killer bent, quantum-powered cats who just want to be friends, and manatees in gravity-defying pods and Why Fy.

All these animals, and the whales and other animals that abound, all with humanity’s lost technology turning them into something Mother Nature never envisaged, in a world full of ruined, decaying cities, shards of memory and a remnant AI system – known in the pigeon tongue of the day as AY, another example of the slivers of memory and understanding treated as fulsome fact – and only a partial appreciation of why they are there at all.

In such a vacuum, like the people before them who fled an AI uprising by taking to the stars, or so the legend, repeated as religious invocations, goes, the little is sown into a lot, what is known added to by core belief and supposition until what is left is a dogma, rock hard orthodoxy (known as “lore”) that cannot be challenged and suffocates any attempts to get to the truth of the matter.

Such is the case for Qora, one of the monkey monks, the keepers of a sacred religion which venerates the “Mans” with a fervency and ferocious purity of belief that aggressively stymies any attempt to ask “why?”, a perfectly reasonable question for any inquisitive soul, but one usually met with virulent opposition.

The world of Qora’s tribe, ruled by the autocratic Alfer, is one of unthinking obedience, punitive instruction and adherence without question to rituals such as the removal of females’ wings when they come of age, and a patriarchal system of rule that relegates the females to child-rearing and the kitchen and the males to fighting and protection.

Try as she might to adhere to these long-held, centuries in fact, beliefs, Qora constantly finds herself butting heads against orthodoxy, dogma and the iron fist rule of Alfer until one day when she breaks free, encouraged by the beatific manatees who track her down, sensing either a kindred spirit or an idealist who can be manipulated, to go on a quest with one of their own in search of a missing piece of their “God”, AY.

Adherents of science, and with a murky agenda of their own – you soon realise that Qora is one of the few creatures left with any kind of mind of her own or purity of soul – the manatees are persuasive, sweetly but determinedly so, convincing Qora to venture into the “tox”, ignoring her “lore” which forbids it (that, and many other things such as flying too high) in search of the missing of AY, with only her religious texts, which the manatees believe contains enough fact to be useful in her quest, to guide her.

 

(cover art courtesy Image Comics)

 

From literally the first page, Angelic comes alive with some of the most immediate and arresting worldbuilding I’ve seen in any medium.

You can get a dramatic understanding of the world in which Qora lives, a world with shadows and ghosts of humanity haunting the landscape, in which the whispers of what was have become the shouted declarative statements of current dogma.

On pages two and three of the first issue, we are treated to a gorgeous double-page spread in which Spurrier’s story comes alive with crackling dialogue, a sense of how the world looks and behaves, as the weaponised dolphins, who kill the monkeys for sports, speed with enthusiastic haste to have some sporting fun.

“Speak truly, my fine fellows: Are you not perky? Do you not tremble for the chase?
“Why — I seethe! I effervesce! I must have sport!”
“Indeed, I too have prayed for prey! But — good sirs! — Look there! My eyes behold satisfaction!”

Every single word is deliciously, beguilingly poetic, conveying as much religious fervour as delirious enthusiasm, every scintillating, immersive word overlaid on a lavishly illustrated ruined cityscape, courtesy of WijNgaard (letters and design by Jim Campbell and Emma Price respectively).

The quality of both narrative, dialogue and art does not waver through the first two issues available, with every group of animals, and the world they inhabit coming luxuriously alive with eye-popping fervour.

For a world so removed from our own, and able to only guess at what we were like, it bears some uncanny, exquisitely well-realised corollaries with the present day.

For one thing, each group is almost intrinsically diametrically opposed to the other, inherently suspicious of their motives, their dogma, their lifestyle, with no one willing to seriously entertain that the others may have a valid point of view.

It explains why Qora, who is questioning her beliefs but still very much wants to remain a part of the monkey monks, is immediately suspicious of the manatees, their reasons for calling on her, their mission and even their belief system which they don’t hesitate to proselytise, meeting almost word they say with “blasphemy”.

It’s hardly an aggressive response from Qora, belying the fact that she is wavering in her beliefs, purely because she is never allowed to question them, but it does show how divided this world is and how Qora’s acquiesce to venture into the “Tox” is such a big deal.

Everything about Angelic is deeply, brilliantly impressive, with everything from the narrative to the artwork, dialogue to deep philosophising to worldbuilding absolutely, stunningly top rate, demonstarating again and again that this is one series worth staying with for the duration, no matter what you might believe.

 

(cover art courtesy Image Comics)

 

Watch it all come to life with this beautiful introductory video …

 

BOO & HISS: Paul Dini’s amusingly original take on cats and mice (comic)

(image via Bleeding Cool (c) Paul Dini)

 

SNAPSHOT
From the magnificently masterful mind of Paul Dini comes a new 48-page graphic novel that turns the game of cat and mouse on its (paranormal) head … BOO & HISS! How many comics and cartoons have you seen where the cat chases the mouse endlessly, rarely catching him and never succeeding in vanquishing his rodent nemesis? In the world of BOO & HISS, that all changes: Hiss (the cat) catches Boo (the mouse) and DEVOURS him. There’s no coming back from that, right? WRONG! That’s where the story really begins! Boo returns as a ghost to enact vengeance on his feline murderer.

Wherever Hiss goes, Boo follows, tormenting him in various ways: nearly scaring him to death, possessing his body and making him do terrible and embarrassing things, and just generally making his life a living hell. The cat becomes the hunted and the ghost mouse the hunter in the twisted, comic, scary, and poignant world of BOO & HISS! (source: BOO & HISS Kickstarter campaign page)

I love creators with a brilliantly original voice.

Paul Dini, the man who gave us Batman: The Animated Series and Tiny Toon Adventures, is certainly one  of those people, turning the old cat-and-mouse dynamic entirely on its trope-heavy head.

In his take on the Tom & Jerry / Itchy and Scratchy world of cat chases mouse / cat doesn’t get mouse / cat tries again while mouse triumphs, the cat HISS gets the mouse BOO, believing of course he has won where so many of his cartoon feline contemporaries have failed.

Uh-uh-uh, no sirreee kitteh – for BOO comes back to haunt him, possess him and utterly and completely change his life in ways that he simply doesn’t see coming.

 

 

It looks absolutely, winningly, originally brilliant and you owe it yourself, to Dini and to all the unique voices out there to support his Kickstarter campaign and get the initial 48-page first issue, due out in May 2018, to everyone looking for something new, different and whole lot catty and mousey.

You can rest assured that Dini, assisted by illustrator Dave Alvarez and Stephanie Buscema who’s dreaming up some great covers and “gruesomely gorgeous designs”, has put a lot of thought and creativity into this cleverly entertaining idea:

BOO & HISS has been a passion project of mine for a couple of years. I was intrigued with the idea of what would happen in a classic cartoon predator/prey relationship if the predator, in this case a cat, got to finally do in his adversary only to have the mouse return as a ghost and bedevil the cat. That sparked a bigger story about the afterlife, involving angels, devils, zombies, and just about everything else I could work in.”

What’s not to love? So get running after that cat and mouse story, support the campaign but whatever you do, don’t catch the mouse!

You have been warned.

The Boo & Hiss Kickstarter campaign officially finishes Friday, 24 November 2017 5:00 AM AEDT.

 

(image via Bleeding Cool (c) Paul Dini)

 

(image via Bleeding Cool (c) Paul Dini)

 

(image via Bleeding Cool (c) Paul Dini)

 

(image via Bleeding Cool (c) Paul Dini)

Comics review: Animosity (issues 1-9) #Halloween

(image courtesy After Shock)
(image courtesy After Shock)

 

Any way you slice it, and to date it has been sliced more times than a munched orange, the apocalypse is going to be a harrowing, end of-the-world existential nightmare.

How can it not be?

You’re losing everything, and quite possibly, everyone that matters to you, with all the familiar touchstones of your life swept so quickly there’s no time to mourn them or even grab mementoes of them; this is the end, beautiful friend, this is the end, and there’s nothing you can do about it but try and survive.

But as Animosity by written by Marguerite Bennett with artwork by Rafael de Latorre (Aftershock), the first issue of which released in March this year, brings to a chilling realisation, there’s something even more deeply unnerving when the threat, the driver of the fall of civilisation is not something that feels removed from you like climate change (though, its patently not; we’re talking perception here) or hey, even zombies, but something near and dear to you like animals.

That’s right – with little to no warning, animals gaining full sentience, many of them mid-instinctual action, some in the midst of being slaughtered, others as our entertainment playthings, still many others angry at humanity for taking the whole Biblical domination of all life thing just a little too enthusiastically to heart.

The usual mayhem, death and destruction ensues – birds attacking people on the street, pet tigers mauling their owners, rats attacking maintenance workers; it’s horrible, nasty and shocking, made even more so by the fact that no one sees this coming because the source of the attack are creatures we thought to be our friends, our food sources, our lesser-thans.

Well, they’re not lesser- than now, and suddenly, they want vengeance, iPads and a lifestyle that goes far beyond sitting on a nest or swimming aimlessly around the ocean.

They want what we have and they will do what they need to get it; so there’s lots of blood, naked, bloody violence and the vengeful retribution writ large.

But, and this is the great strength of Animosity, the thing that makes it compelling reading, is that it has real, ahem, humanity – yes one of the less antagonistic animals makes a quip about this at one point to great comical effect – with its focus on one little girl Jesse and her endlessly faithful bloodhound, Sandor (named after a Game of Thrones character by Jesse’s dad; guess which one) and their struggle to get from New York City to San Francisco, to find Jesse’s estranged step-brother Adam, a vet who, and this makes perfect sense given who now rules the earth, is in very high demand.

The bond between these two, which survives a great deal of heartbreak, violence and loss, is rich and true and powerfully effecting, a reminder that even in the very worst of times – the animals taking over does not usher in a golden age of ecological harmony but simply more of the same infighting and selfishness, this time with dolphins vs. seals, dogs vs. koalas – that love can be a tremendous force for good.

It’s what centres Animosity and gives its the heart and soul missing from many apocalyptic tales which give you lots of death and destruction, but not much of a case for wanting to survive it, beyond simply a gut instinct to stay alive.

 

(image via Comixology (c) Aftershock)

 

Animosity is about far more than staying alive – it’s about belonging, inclusiveness (not all the animals are evil and Jesse’s family widens in impressively diverse and hitherto unknown ways), the simple rites and passages of life, and how the choices we make can have substantial ramifications beyond anything we can envisage at the time.

With the journey to find Adam as the central narrative lynchpin, Jesse sets off from New York in the most fantastical fashion, riding on the back of a delightful Humpback Whale named Hwwwarrrooohorrrrroooo (Jesse has a gift for animal names; Sandor, surprisingly, does not) into a world where animals such as pangolins muse around the fire about the meaning of life, whether they have souls and who caused animals sentience known as The Wake.

It is also a world, sadly where self-interested animal/human gangs form, where much of the hope and optimism of the initial revolution slowly devolves into a vicious reproduction of the world it swept away – witness the story of San Francisco, Adam’s home, told in spinoff Animosity: We Rise, where for all the idealistic good intentions of Winter Mute, a wolf/malamute hybrid, things go the way of the French Revolution of 1789 – and where survival of the fittest and the desire for a richer lifestyle at the expense of other beings trumps all.

Animosity then is told with real intelligence, replete with references to Animal Farm, Watership Down and Planet of the Apes to name a few, many of which are woven into single, striking panel, and with a real understanding of the great challenges facing our world, challenges that won’t simply vanish because humanity is forced off centre stage.

For example, animals outnumber us by a considerable margin, yes even the way we have driven them to near-extinction and ravaged their habitat, and when it comes down to feeding and looking themselves, now they’re sentient and not just instinctually driven, the challenge is almost overwhelming.

Think 7 billion humans strain things with their needs and wants and materialistic demands? Try 100 billion animals wanting the same thing and you realise the scope of the problem and the issues facing the new rulers of the planet.

Sure, you can kill most of the humans but what then? How do you govern? Allocate resources? Keep the peace? Ensure a just and equal society is created? Just like now, the new animal rulers either resort to magnanimous inclusion and just, ennobling rule or go down the Lord of the Flies path, every last sentient animal and insect for themselves, consequences be damned.

All these issues and more confront this very serious series – which still manages some moments of pure joy, mostly courtesy of Jesse and Sandor and their new friends, and humour such as when some animals decide aliens are behind The Wake – which for all its intellectual underpinnings and sometimes violent narrative momentum, never forgets that it is essentially a touching story of love between one girl and her dog who will do anything to ensure she gets where she needs to go.

Both Jesse and Sandor are real grounded, beautifully fleshed out characters who compel you to care about them; not because they’re cute heartstring-tugging character tropes but because they’re real and authentic and represent what any of us would survive the end of all things.

Jesse and Sandor are, in the end – there’s thankfully no end in sight for the series with issues still forthcoming and a new spinoff Animosity: Evolution just launched) – the emotional lynchpin of this remarkably well thought-out and immensely well-executed story and it’s their story, their engaging tale of love, devotion and care come what may, that propels this wholly enjoyable, evocative and thought-provoking that is destined to be one of the apocalyptic stories of our time.

 

(cover image via Comics Heating Up (c) Aftershock)

The Constellation Chronicle: Go to the dark, creepy reaches of space this #Halloween

(image courtesy The Constellation Chronicle)

 

It probably hasn’t escaped your notice that it’s almost Halloween.

Now you could do what most people do to mark this most spooky of holidays – spray your house with fake cobwebs, stick up a Jack o’ Lantern on your front steps and wait for trick-or-treaters to visit seeking a mega ton of sugar.

Or, and c’mon you know you want to do something entirely different, you could head off to the mysterious world of The Constellation Chronicle where everyone’s favourite spacefaring, inter-dimensional guys and their robot are galactically celebrating Halloween with more than a few earthly touches thrown in …

“Our boys Marcel and Wainwright and their pet robot ZeeBee have gathered at your doorstep for some delicious, delicious candy. Marcel (left) has donned his best Jesse Pinkman from Breaking Bad costume complete with that signature gas mask.

“Wainwright chose the subtler option. He figured he could pass as a normal man out for the night with his over eager friend. If any one asked, he was David from Marvel’s T.V show, Legion in his asylum outfit.

“Zeebee somehow found a blonde wig and tried it on. On the way out the door, the poor robot fell into a collection of sheets. Impressed by the surprising resemblance to Marilyn Monroe Marcel and Wainwright decided to run with it.”

Once you’re done getting your spookiness on with the gang from The Constellation Chronicle , you should head over to Top Web Comics Halloween Contest, check out all the amazing entries , and naturally, vote for The Constellation Chronicle’s entry.

But hey don’t stop there!

There’s plenty going on the La Sillia universe and you can check out this impressively ambitious, artistically-rich and narratively-engrossing new webcomic series here, and if you like what you see, how about lending the creators Emevsa (the first names of its creators Emi, SJ and Evie) some financial loving via their Patreon page.

Having inter-galactic Halloween everyone!

Stabbity Bunny: A diminutive comic book hero who defies expectations

(cover image via Bleeding Cool (c) Scout Comics)

 

SNAPSHOT
The comic series, Stabbity Bunny, focuses of Grace Lee, a seven-year-old girl destined for incredible things, and Stabbity Bunny, a plush rabbit that has been passed down within the family for nearly 100 years. They live in Holiday, Vermont, a peaceful town filled with quirky, but amazingly good, people.

Almost immediately, in issue one, we find our heroes in peril, and as the story progresses, it quickly turns from dangerous to deadly. We glimpse clues that the Lee family has startling secrets, and Stabbity may be much more than he seems.

An evil scheme that has been underway for hundreds of years is moving into its final stages. Grace is targeted, and it will take all her bravery, kindness and smarts to survive. Fortunately, she has Stabbity and a host of unlikely heroes who will set aside their hedge clippers and cookbooks to prove everyday people still matter, even in a modern world filled with impossible choices. (synopsis (c) StabbityBunny.com)

I have a real soft spot for unlikely heroes.

Maybe it’s the Australian love of the underdog in me or perhaps a deep-seated appreciation for anyone who defies expectations, but I love the idea of a hero who looks like they wouldn’t be capable of rising to the challenge but somehow does … and wins.

It’s why I love the idea of Stabbity Bunny who I only came across last week but with whom I am absolutely and completely smitten.

And how, frankly, could you not be?

What began as Kickstarter-propelled, self-published venture by Richard Rivera and Dwayne Biddix, has proved so popular that its now been picked by Scout Comics.

The first issue of Stabbity Bunny as its new publishing home is due on January 31st, 2017 and I can’t wait to see what the most unlikely hero in sometime gets up to next!

 

(image via courtesy Stabbity Bunny)