Let’s start with a question: Are you reading Sex Criminals? Because you should be. Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky’s comic about a couple who can stop time whenever they have sex—and therefore turn to a life of crime—is both hilariously raunchy and deeply heartfelt, frank in its language but never titillating. That’s always been the sort of metajoke with the book—if you only give it a cursory glance, it’s easy to write off as prurient and crude, but if you take the time to read it, you’ll be met with a thoughtful story that’s actually about sex, and not just full of it.
Tag: comics (1-10 of 23)
Created by Brennan Lee Mulligan and Molly Ostertag, Strong Female Protagonist is a highly acclaimed and much beloved webcomic about Alison Green, a superpowered teen that used to fight crime as Mega Girl. But after a crisis of conscience leaves her wondering how much of a difference she can really make by punching bad guys, Alison decides to pack up her cape and go to college to try to help the world in other ways.
Equal parts dramatic and comedic, the series has been running since 2012 and you can read it all for free here. But maybe digital isn’t your thing. Maybe you want to enjoy Strong Female Protagonist in a way that doesn’t require batteries, or one that’s easier to lend to friends. You’re in luck.
After a successful Kickstarter last summer, Strong Female Protagonist is coming to print. Released as a graphic novel that will be distributed Top Shelf Productions, the self-published book will include the first four issues of the web series, along with some bonus material. It’s well worth checking out, and it’s indicative of the kind of bold and interesting things happening in the world of webcomics.
Strong Female Protagonist: Book One will be available in December 2014.
For all of its many faults, one of the best things this spring’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2 had going for it was Emma Stone in the role of Gwen Stacy.
The film’s script, unfortunately, didn’t really do her any favors, up to and including—here’s your spoiler warning—her death at the end of the film. Purists might disagree; they’d cite the fact that the film stays true to the comic-book source material and that it was a watershed moment for comics. They’d be right about those things: That’s what Gwen Stacy does. She dies. But with each passing year, it seems less like necessary canon and more like missed opportunity—as a new comic book released this week shows.
Zero is a comic book with a conceit that starts out simply: Should spies akin to James Bond exist in the real world, they would be irreparably damaged people. So what if one of these broken, efficient killing machines discovered that he was being used by the wrong side? What would that look like?
Written by Ales Kot and illustrated by a different artists every issue, Zero tells the story of Edward Zero, the best operative in a mysterious Agency, in the middle of a crisis of conscience. Trained from the age of 10 to be a killer, put on drugs to suppress his emotions, and placed on the front lines of a secret war that will radically change the entire world, Zero’s story unfolds bit by bit over a 20-year span beginning in 2018 and ending in 2038. With a nonlinear structure, the reader knows from the beginning that Zero defects—the framing narrative places an old, weary Zero in front of a gun held by a child sent by The Agency, with the same drugs and training Zero had burning through his system. Each issue tells a story involving Zero or one of his associates set in that time period and beyond. Each chapter offers a peek into the messy, broken, and violent headspace of its characters and asks you to sort it out. It’s a fascinating, disconcerting work.
The experience of reading Zero isn’t always a smooth ride. There’s an intricate density to the storytelling—Kot often manages to pull off the difficult trick of constructing each issue with a satisfying, self-contained story that’s complemented with cryptic clues about the near-future world it’s set in and devastating revelations that affect the ongoing plot. And while there’s a lot of thought put into every script, the pacing is highly irregular, and the nonlinear story can make for jarring transitions. But Zero does everything else so well—from art to design to dialogue and beyond—that a sometimes hard-to-follow plot is more of a feature than a bug. The experience of reading a comic book is rarely a prolonged one, and as such having reasons to reread, to pore over slowly and contemplate the ways a particular artist suits a particular story, are all good things.
With Zero on hiatus until October 29, now is the perfect time to pick up the first two volumes, An Emergency and At the Heart of It All, which collect the first 10 issues of the series. Designed by Tom Muller (who is also responsible for the striking look on the single issues), the trade dress for both volumes feature one of the most striking designs for a standard trade paperback in recent memory. The upper portion of the cover is devoted to abstract imagery that reflects the themes of the book—An Emergency is a messy collage designed to look like it was ripped off pages from the comics within, just like its protagonist is broken down and stitched together again into something bleak and impenetrable. Similarly, the second volume takes key art from the next batch of issues and distorts them, much like a signal that isn’t quite clear. It’s a strong setup for what’s to come, even if that isn’t entirely obvious. On both volumes, the lower third of the cover starkly lays out all the relevant information: series, title, price, and credits. It’s an eye-catching look that begs to be talked about and read.
One caveat: Zero is, in a word, violent. There is a graphic brutality on display that some readers will find uncomfortable. While that’s the point, it doesn’t make it any easier to read. In interviews, Kot describes Zero alternately as “what if James Bond was real” and an exploration of “bleak male rage,” expressing the importance of following up depictions of violence with equally considered looks at its lasting, devastating effects. With the help of the many other talented artists whom he has collaborated with, Kot has done exactly that: tearing down the psyches of characters we often encounter in action movies, and inviting us to wander through the rubble.
It’s a disturbing place.
Acclaimed cartoonist Chris Ware is not one to shy away from experimentation. (Building Stories, Ware’s 2012 opus, wasn’t even a traditional book—rather, it was a collection of pamphlets and booklets in a big box roughly the size of a board game.) For his latest project, Ware is turning to the funny pages—of a website.
Called The Last Saturday, the project is a weekly comic strip for The Guardian‘s web page. Released every Saturday, the story will focus on a cast of six from the resort town of Sandy Port, Michigan. The first strip is the briefest of introductions, but it does note that it will have ‘functionality’ designed by The Guardian‘s Interactive Team, so hopefully that level of support allows Ware to get experimental and take full advantage of the digital medium.
Also, if you like reading comics in this fashion, consider delving into the world of webcomics—there’s a wealth of high-quality completed and in-progress works available for free on the internet, right now. Here is a good list to get started.
Five Weapons, Jimmie Robinson’s recently-concluded comic book series, has an irresistible hook: At a school where children are trained to be assassins, a pacifist vows to make it through the semester without touching a single weapon.
There are several ways a story about 12-year-olds learning to be professional killers could go wrong, even in a world where the most popular young adult franchise in the world is about teens forced to murder each other. But Five Weapons dodges all of them. Though it’s set in a world defined by violence, Five Weapons isn’t lurid or graphic in the least—in fact, it’s an all-ages romp that’s mostly about making friends.
Tyler Shainline is the new kid at the School of Five Weapons, where the children of assassins go to learn their parents’ craft. The school’s name refers to the five clubs that students can join, each focusing on a different instrument: knives, guns, staffs, bows and arrows, and “exotic” (poisons and such). As the son of one of the world’s most revered assassins, Shainline is instantly an object of resentment from his classmates. This only deepens after he refuses to choose a weapon and join a club. Each issue of the comic addresses the same issue: how can Tyler solve a series of impossible challenges without breaking his vow of pacifism? READ FULL STORY
While the Flash is gearing up for a run on his own CW series, debuting Oct. 7, you can get a jump on the scarlet speedster’s adventures today with DC Comics’ Digital First series The Flash: Season Zero.
Written by executive producer Andrew Kreisberg, along with series writers Brooke Eikmeier and Katherine Walczak, The Flash: Season Zero takes place after the pilot and before the rest of the series. It follows the young superhero as he begins to learn his powers with the help of his S.T.A.R. Labs team, under guidance of the suspicious Harrison Wells, as well as his role as protector of Central City as he faces off against newly super-empowered criminals.
While the Flash’s main Rogues Gallery, including Weather Wizard, Captain Cold, and Heat Wave, are scheduled to appear on the TV series, there’s still a limit to the scope of what the showrunners can realistically produce for television. The comic book series, however, will take advantage of artistic expertise of Phil Hester, showing The Flash take on even more outlandish foes from the DC Universe, starting with Circus Barker Mr. Bliss, and his Carnival of Metahuman Freaks.
But the comic won’t just be all spectacle. Expect more intimate moments between Barry and his supporting cast; his imprisoned father Henry Allen, mentor Detective West, best friend/unrequited love Iris West, and her new beau, Officer Eddie Thawne. With each issue containing some clues hinting at future episode storylines, the writers ultimately want this to enrich the TV viewing experience. Just don’t expect an Arrow/Flash crossover in these pages. Due to the shifting timelines between the series, the writers are saving that for the screen.
The first chapter of The Flash Season Zero is available today. New issues of The Flash and Arrow will be available bi-weekly, alternating every Monday, and they will also be collected and published monthly, the first print issue of which will be available on Oct. 1, the week before the TV series’ season premiere. Check out a sample of the artwork below by Phil Hester.
Anxious to leap back into another season of Arrow? Waiting with baited breath for Oliver and Felicity to explore their feelings for one another? Painfully awaiting the fate of Detective Lance?
The third season of the CW superhero vigilante TV series Arrow will return in just a few weeks, but fans can start catching up now on all the Team Arrow action with DC’s digital-first comic Arrow: Season 2.5. Written by Arrow executive producer Marc Guggenheim and executive story editor Keto Shimizu, who both write for the show, Season 2.5 will pick up directly after the last moments of the show’s season-two finale, leading fans right up to the opening moments of the season-three premiere.
One of the more interesting things about Hollywood’s Golden Age is just how much of it was one elaborate, tightly controlled lie. Outside of a few brief years before the Motion Picture Production (or Hays) Code was adopted in 1930, the inner workings and backstage lives of the American film industry were just as much a scripted fiction as the pictures they produced. When big studios controlled everything from scripts to cinemas, movie stars were assets and scandal was a liability. A big part of show business was keeping the ugliness that kept it running away from the public eye.
The Fade Out (Image Comics), by the acclaimed team of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, has its sights set squarely on the nasty business of show business in the Golden Age. Set in the fall of 1948, the story takes place in what Brubaker calls “one of the last American gold rushes”: Hollywood in the twilight of its boom years, where casual sexism and racism were par for the course and the American government could ruin your life if you were ever suspected of having beliefs that could be construed as remotely Communist.
The first issue starts with the sort of thing we see from celebrities all the time today, and the sort of thing that no one was allowed to know about at the time: a hell of a party. Screenwriter Charlie Parish wakes up after having blacked out in a bathtub, only to discover the body of rising starlet Valeria Sommers just outside the bathroom door. It’s her murder, and the cover up that ensues, that sets the events of the series into motion as the cast of characters are slowly introduced and their motives hinted at. READ FULL STORY
Comic books, like movies, have a pervasive blockbuster culture. Much like studios flood multiplexes each summer (and increasingly, the entire year) with big-budget, effects-heavy popcorn flicks, the Big Two publishers—Marvel and DC—churn out “event comics.” These are seasonal miniseries that mash up the biggest characters in the craziest stories. Sometimes they make sense, sometimes they don’t—and whether they’re good or bad rarely matters. They sell.
But as easy as it is to wax cynical about both blockbuster movies and event comics, sometimes something comes along that’s worth all the hype. That promises spectacle and smarts and mind-bending twists. An Inception of sorts.
The Multiversity is the Inception of event comics. Kind of. It’s also much, much stranger.
Masterminded by writer and mad genius Grant Morrison, The Multiversity has been in the works since 2009, when Morrison first spoke of the project. Since then, the details have changed a bit—he intended for it to be released the following year, for example—but the goal has always been the same: a wildly ambitious story spanning the 52 worlds of the DC Comics multiverse, which this story effectively maps out for the first time.
A nine-issue miniseries, The Multiversity consists of two framing stories at the beginning and end, a guidebook, and six single-issue stories each focusing on a different universe. One of these comics, the seventh, will take place from the readers’ perspective, promising to make them the world’s first real superhero. Morrison also says, both in interviews and within the narrative, that that comic is haunted, cursed somehow.
This is not your average comic book—unless you want it to be. Taken out of context, The Multiversity functions very well as a propulsive blockbuster of a story, one about a group of heroes plucked from different realms who band together to fight a malignant force that threatens the entire multiverse. It’s like The Avengers, but with quantum physics. And since each subsequent issue sets up an entirely new universe, you could presumably read the whole series as a fun romp through wildly different takes on your favorite DC characters.
But then there are the strange parts. The pages and panels that don’t quite fit. That hint at something more.
Morrison is known for his metatextual take on superheroes. In iconic runs on characters like Batman, Superman, and the X-Men, Morrison has proven himself to be a master at taking decades of stories and compressing them into a single memetic idea that he then explores in five dimensions. In a medium where fans are obsessed about which stories “count” and contribute to an ongoing narrative, Morrison instead holds that they all do. So what if Carver Ellis, the black Superman of Earth 23, isn’t the “main” Superman—he’s just as fictional, and therefore just as real.
“One world’s reality is another’s fiction,” says anthropomorphic rabbit hero Captain Carrot (Earth-26) in The Multiversity’s first issue. Comic books, the characters discover, are the “messages in bottles from neighboring universes,” the glue holding the overarching narrative of The Multiversity together.
Of course, you the reader experience other worlds in much the same way, and Morrison isn’t one to let that opportunity pass him by. As the threat to the multiverse crosses into different worlds across different comic books, it will eventually attack this one—the real world in which you are reading this very article.
“The bad guys in Multiversity who are attacking the entire multiversal structure are also attacking the real world, and this comic [the seventh] is their only way through right now,” Morrison said in an interview with Comics Alliance. “So it becomes the reader versus the bad guy on the page. I think it’s actually quite scary, this thing. It scared me!”
That, in a nutshell, is what makes The Multiversity a one-of-a-kind comic book. It’s simultaneously a celebration of superheroes and the comic book medium, a meditation on the role of fiction in the real world, and an experiment in modern mythmaking. It could be a disaster. It could be fantastic. But it doesn’t start until you read it.
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