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Thoughts From the Land of Frost:
Review Mania By Alexander Ness
Hello all, this is a column compiled of many parts and chapters. I should say that I have changed my rules here in this column. I will no longer review anything that isn't sent to my column and submitted for review. Only the companies or individuals who do take the effort to submit products will have products reviewed here. So you may well assume that anything herein reviewed comes from either the company or a talent from that company.
I attended San Diego Con and had many experiences that will provide material for later columns, but beyond that I want to say thanks to the many great companies, particularly CrossGen, Avatar, Devil's Due Studios, Slave Labor and Penny Farthing who treated me with great kindness and generosity. Also I meta number of folks from the industry who I have held in great esteem, so for the many creative people I said hi to and talked to, thank you for you treated me better than a fan boy deserves. I do not want to rob my future column by telling all my anecdotes, but let mesay this, Grant Morrison is awesome cool and meeting him was friggin' surreal. Mike Carey was as sweet a person as I have ever met, and Joe Corroney of Star Wars art and fame is one special fellow.
I didn't enjoy my whole time there but meeting so many special folks really made it worthwhile. And Tim Bradstreet kicks ass. Now that it is summer I know some people have a much busier life and don't read as many comics. Contrary to that trend though, while I was growing up in small town Wisconsin I found summer to be the absolute best time for comic reading. School was out, my brother and I had free time, so reading we did. My favorite comics from that period of reading were TUROK Son of Stone, X-Men and Superboy and the Legion of Super heroes. A big thank you to a number of publishers; I have more to read this summer than ever before.
And now, my friends, to the reviews.
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From Birchbark Comics, $4.95(Canadian) #0 $1 (BW)
SACRED CIRCLES #1 (Color) Written by Brandon Mitchell, Art by many hands
Few first efforts are as well done as this comic. It is a beautifully drawn/painted/colored work that begins in the forest deep in 1703 of Northeastern Canada and is able to show both the horror of loss of primitively compared to modernity, and the unleashing of a power within that forest which no man or woman of sane mind could describe or explain. Then the story shifts to the present and the power is unleashed again, or had it ever left. Brandon Mitchell writes very well and his assembled cast of art talent have made this book worth picking up either on the stands or perhaps by going to their web site and ordering it. The writing is mature and the art makes Disney look like chumps.
Buy it dammit!
From CrossGen $2.95, color. Chimera #1-4 Written by Ron Marz, art by Brandon Peterson
This book possesses some of the finest art in comics today. The writing is excellent as well. Chimera is the story of a powerful young woman, capable of fantastic feats of power, as well as intellect. Wormholes, giant robots and virtual imaging make this work fabulous to look at as well as think about. It really doesn't pay to describe this, as it is a great book needing to be read. I found the whole book thoroughly excellent and I hope for more.
Brian Pulido's Lady Death #1-5 Written by Brian Pulido, art by Ivan Reis
I come into this review with an unbearable bias. In this character’s first incarnation she was evil, famous for her revealing costume and for enormous breasts. She represented everything that I believe helped weaken the comic market and industry. So CHAOS Comics goes bankrupt and Brian Pulido brings LADY DEATH over to CrossGen where the most risqué they get is hardly at all. In this version of the character she is the daughter of two cultures, one mortal and earthy, the other eldritch and magical. Her mother is killed and she is as well when an eldritch magic restores the life to her. This series follows the life/unlife of a woman discovering her powers and enduring racialist taunts.
The writing is good, and the art is great. But I am not a fan yet. But let me overcome my bias and perhaps I will.
Mark Of Charon #1-4 Written by Tony Bedard, art by Joe Bennett and others
With the Negation being the catalyst to the destruction of the sigils of power and perhaps all of the CrossGen's united universe, this series bears great importance for it deals directly with the consequences of losing to the Negation's ruler. The lead character is returned to life by a form of a sigil of power, but one turned inside out and representing something very capricious and evil. Bedard is on a streak of excellence at CrossGen and this is a series to pick up. It enhances your appreciation for the depths of the enemy's resources and a good man’s fight against them.
The Silken Ghost #1-2 Written by Chuck Dixon, art by Will Rosado
While this series is but two issues into its run I am very much looking forward to each coming issue. Chuck Dixon has a way of writing this Asian Martial arts theatre that just makes me want to hop and chop. While it isn't yet certain what or why, a gathered band of ninja and martial artists are coming to rescue their former leader. Thus far this series hasn’t missed a single beat. I recommend this fully to anyone, but especially fans of action and martial arts.
John Carpenter’s Snake Plissken Chronicles #1 Written by William O'Neill, art by Tone Rodriquez
In ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK the character Snake Plissken was born. This series makes an attempt to further fill out the character and universe he lives in. Busting into a city with violence, and seeming invulnerability, Plissken announces his presence and takes a job equal to his numerous skills. The story is somewhat poorly told and not all of it is the writing. The art looks rushed and the work is somewhat incoherent throughout. I regret this because I am still a fan of the character after 20+ years.
Solus #1-3 Written by Barb Kesel, art by George Perez
Hoo-boy. A favorite artist of mine and many others George Perez returns to a series after finishing his work on the much anticipated JLA/AVENGERS team up book. The lead character is so powerful she can remove the sigil from others, and can skip across the universe with little effort. And George Perez does a great job. Unfortunately such a great job of art was accompanied by what has been a lackluster story with equally lackluster dialogue. Perhaps I need to wait for this work to develop as I did with THE FIRST. But who wants to wait?
From Image Comics
Savage Dragon #100- 109 Writing and art by Erik Larsen
This is a series deserving of far more credit than it gets and deserves a larger readership. It is one of the most consistently readable works with a sense of humor and action. Savage Dragon's adventures are both logical and not, crossing the line between normal and wacky. But so was Jack Kirby. And no matter what I think about Mr Larsen, I really enjoy his writing. In some ways, Erik Larsen has been the inheritor of the mantle of Jack Kirby (all hail King Kirby). This stretch of comics read fast and easy with little need to understand what had gone before or since. It takes a creative talent of some great skill to so seamlessly tell a story and have it work in most every section or story arc.
I think Larsen's pencils often look rushed so I do not think this is perfect, but I think it is damn good.
From Moonstone Books
White Wolf Games
Werewolf the Apocalypse is a marvelous creation of the talent at the gaming company White Wolf. Formerly the home of White Wolf magazine and later Inphobia, the company has started from very humble, faux/wannabe D&D roots and evolved into a Role Playing Game designer and publisher that considers the logic of scenario and campaign and especially, the culture of the participant beings. I have not played White Wolf's Werewolf the Apocalypse (WtA) but thanks to the publishing wing of White Wolf I was able to dwell in the world of Darkness that is WtA, through its game-based series of novellas, the TRIBE NOVELS. There are seven volumes each with two novellas within. The titles are: v1 Shadow Lords & Get of Fenris, v2 Silent Striders & Black Furies, v3 Red Talons & Fianna,v4 Bone Gnawers & Stargazers, v5 Children of Gaia & Uktena, v6 Silver Fangs and Glass Walkers, and v7 Black Spiral Dancers & Wendigo, $6.50, full color covers by Steve Prescott.
The underlying premise is that Gaia, or Earth mother is the unaltered heart of nature and all living beings are in the mother's bosom. The Wyrm and its forces, including the encroachment of man, are in league to destroy and defeat Gaia and gain dominance over the earth. The shape shifting wolves serve Gaia and seek to push back the flood of forces of the Wyrm. The characters are drawn from a very consistent source and the many writers of this series take pains to make all characters fully realized players in the drama. Deeply drawing on the known interplay in wolf packs and making the characters realistically religious, threatening, angry or power hungry the leaders of each pack have numerous struggles to overcome in order to serve their mother. I have not read many better realized fantasy scenarios and more, I haven’t read a better direct from game to novel adaptation of scenario. While I regret the length of time it took me to read and finally review these books, I do not for a moment regret having read them.
Grade: 3.5/4 to 4/4
From a licensing agreement comes the very excellent Moonstone Books comic adaptations of the scenarios. Concerned with largely the same events but through at least two new pair of eyes and hands and true to Moonstone's fine work ethic their work shines not a bit less than the Tribe novels. Joe Gentle wrote these and Steve Ellis, Eddy Newell & Fernando Blanco each handled the art chores.
Of particular note, Eddy Newell's art on Black Furies is awesome and deserves special praise. His characters are darkly emotive and each carry a certain mystic quality about them. The three titles in this series are Black Furies ($5.95, painted duotone),Get of Fenris ($5.95 color) and Fianna (BW $5.50). Each work is worth checking out and especially so for those who enjoy horror or who play the game.
Grade: 3/4 to 3.5/4
Creative talent and publishers are invited to submit your work for review. Send it to: Alexander Ness Land Of Frost Box 142 Rockford MN 55373-0142