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Review: Detective Comics #27

detective comics 27 coveredBatman is one of the most iconic superheroes of all time. He made is landmark first appearance in Detective Comics #27 in 1939. The incredible influence of The Dark Knight has transformed the comics industry through the decades, and Batman is just as relevant and beloved by fans today as he was when he was firs introduced 75 years ago.

To kick off the celebration of his 75th year, DC Comics assembled an all-star roster of writers and artists to contribute to this special issue of the latest volume’s Detective Comics #27 that clocks in at almost 100 pages.

The issue is a celebration of the character and spans the past, present and future giving us many looks at the character throughout the ages and it’s all very solid. With so many different creators and so many different styles, you’d expect some variance in quality, but here everything is a great read.

The issue also kicks off John Layman and Jason Fabok’s new storyline for the series Gothtopia. It’s a bright, shiny, happy place where dreams come true… as long as you don’t look at things too closely. This first part of the story is a little odd in the fact that we were presented with so many different versions of Batman, at first I thought this was just a different version. After a while I caught on and it’s a cool story so far that has me wanting to check it out further, though maybe not the many tie-ins.

Overall, the issue is a celebration and comes off as such with an amazing line-up of creators. You can see why  he’s so popular and with so many versions shown of him, he really is a character that can fit any age and time. This is a definite buy for fans of Batman and worth checking out if you just want to dive in and check him out.

Story: Brad Meltzer, Gregg Hurwitz, Peter J. Tomasi, Francesco Francavilla, Mike Barr, John Layman, Scott Snyder Art: Bryan Hitch, Neal Adams, Ian Bertram, Francesco Francavilla, Guillem March, Jason Fabok, Sean Murphy
Story: 8.25 Art: 8.25 Overall: 8.25 Recommendation: Buy

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy

NYCC 2013: DC Announces Weekly Batman Eternal and Detective Comics #27 Details

DTC_Cv27Launching next spring, Batman Eternal is an all-new weekly series that comes to you from “showrunner” and Batman writer, Scott Snyder, along with writers James Tynion IV, John Layman, Ray Fawkes, and Tim Seeley, and artist Jason Fabok.

Snyder in a release gave some details about Batman Eternal will “set the stage for a new Gotham and new characters and a new set of stories that will take Batman into 2015.

We want this to be a place where you get to tell a story about anything you want in Gotham, so long as we’re also moving this big story forward in the background. You’ll see bombastic arcs as well but there’ll be plenty of room for Ray to explore some of the darker, more mystical aspects of Gotham that he loves or Tim to explore some of the crime we haven’t seen before. We’re five guys doing our best to give you an exciting Gotham that’s changing under the feet of its characters.

But Batman Eternal is not the only Batman news revealed this morning. DC Comics also announced that next year’s Detective Comics #27 will be a mega-sized anniversary spectacular! Spanning 104 pages, Detective Comics #27 serves as an homage to the original Detective Comics #27, which marked Batman’s comic debut in 1939, and features an all-star roster of Batman creators past and present!

In stores January 8, the issue includes a modern-day retelling of the Dark Knight’s origin by the incredible team of writer Brad Meltzer and artist Bryan Hitch! Plus, all-new stories by Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy, Peter J. Tomasi and Guillem March, Paul Dini and Dustin Nguyen, Gregg Hurwitz and Neal Adams, new art by legendary Batman writer/artist Frank Miller, and more! This issue – which will include variant covers by Neal Adams, Jim Lee, Greg Capullo, Chris Burnham, Kelley Jones, Patrick Gleason and Mike Allred – also includes John Layman and Jason Fabok’s final storyline, “Gothtopia,” before the new creative team of Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato take over writing duties for the series in the spring.

Manupal said about their plans:

We want to bring him closer to his roots and be more of a street-level type of hero. His superheroics will still be present, but the investigative part of Batman will be at the forefront …We’ve always written stories about hope, and it will be very interesting to see what comes out when we walk through the sullen streets of Gotham City.

Buccellato added:

Stylistically, we will use the tools in our toolbox to capture what we think the Bat-universe looks and feels like. Gotham won’t look like Central City, so you won’t be seeing all the bright reds, oranges and yellows that defined Flash’s world.

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Review: The Wake #3

The Wake is many things, with several common threads running throughout, any of which Scott Snyder (W) and Sean Murphy (A) could bring to the forefront of the story. The first issue was really solid world building; the second issue was told out of order, presenting us with a narrative as curious to the reader as it was to the characters; this third issue, though, represents to me the culmination of the story thus far. It represents to me the conclusion of the first part, or at least the first movement, of the story.

As I mentioned before, through all of the three issues thus far, there are common threads: history and evolution, the sea, claustrophobia, fear, hallucination, danger, etc. As the climax of the first movement (I think I’ll stick with “movement;” to me it implies an easy transition to the next segment of the story), #3 takes all of those common threads, expanded in the previous two issues, and blows the story wide open for the reader and the characters; at last, everyone is on the same page. And oh God, what a horrifying page it is.

We finally see the raw, terrifying power of the mermaid creature that Dr. Lee Archer and her team have discovered. Within moments, using hallucinogenic toxins it can spray (and also huge teeth) it kills at least two people, most likely more. Its serpentine body, powerful jaws, and vaguely human torso lend the creature both a strangeness and a familiarity, which makes its bloodthirsty actions even creepier. You can never quite guess how it will act. Combine the creature’s physiology with Murphy’s cramped and dank design of the underwater rig, and the book instantly becomes more horror than anything else. We all have a fear of the dark and of the unknown, which the creators of The Wake mine in this issue more than the previous two. (And I’m so glad this book is at Vertigo, where Snyder and Murphy can really let loose.)

Not only do we finally understand the power and abilities of the creature, we also understand its biology a little more; we understand that the echoing noises it makes aren’t screams of pain or anger, but rather a language. It’s calling for its brothers, and its brothers respond. The final splash, showing divers in the foreground, and what could be hundreds of the mer-creatures in the background at the top of the page, signifies a new status quo for Lee Archer and her team, as well the reader. Now everyone knows that the creature they captured isn’t the last of its kind at all. The next movement of this story should be full on claustrophobic, psychological (and literal) horror. I’m excited to see what happens in the second movement.

And I can’t end any review of The Wake without mentioning the stellar art (once again) of Sean Murphy. His character design is tremendous: his characters are angular and strong, and while they aren’t realistic, he’s taking realistic human attributes and heightening them to something more. To their extreme. Knees are pointy; fingers are crooked. It matches the realistic-but-more feeling of the underwater oil rig, as well. Like the creature itself, everything is recognizable but also alien, providing the book with its most potent source of horror.

Let me also take a moment to point out Matt Hollingsworth’s colors. The rig and characters are awash in pale colors: blues and greens and purples. This makes the flashes of violence (the red of blood, the orange of the muzzle flashes, and the glow coming from the creature itself) almost luminescent. There’s really nothing about this team on art that I take issue with.

The Wake is one of those books that makes me glad that I’m not waiting for the trade. Each individual issue has so far been an expertly crafted piece of art, making the wait between issues bittersweet; I can’t wait to dive back in a read #3 again, but I know it’s going to make the wait a whole lot harder.

Story: Scott Snyder Art: Sean Murphy
Story: 9 Art: 9 Overall: 9 Recommendation: Buy

Review: The Wake #2

The Wake #2 CoverThey call it the “Ghost Rig.” A secret, underwater oil rig filled with roughnecks and scientists on the brink of an incredible discovery. But when things go horribly wrong, this scientific safe haven will turn into a house of horrors at the bottom of the ocean!

With the second issue of this new max-series by writer Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy we get a bit more of the mystery pulled back giving us a better idea of what we have in store for us.

With a team assembled and a mystery set before them, we get theories and ideas as to what they and we the readers are presented with. All along mystery builds as well as the tension.

What’s fantastic about this issue is Snyder’s use of real scientific theory to drive his story. He presents it in such a way that it doesn’t bog down the story and while it might sound like science fiction it is a theory of mankind’s evolution. I found myself Googling away after this issue to see if what Snyder presents is based in reality. It is, though not generally accepted theory.

At this point you can see the series isn’t a straight up horror story, instead delving a bit more into themes about the origin of mankind and more than likely more.

There’s also some crazy sequences here that just made my jaw drop. They didn’t make sense in the context of the issue, but you better believe each made me want to come back for the third issue. All of this is back up by artist Murphy’s distinctive style.

This is shaping up to be one of the most interesting limited series of the year.

Story: Scott Snyder Art: Sean Murphy
Story: 8.5 Art: 8.75 Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy

Interview: Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy

The Wake #2 CoverThis week see’s the release of The Wake #2, the latest issue by the incredible team of writer Scott Snyder and artist Sean Murphy, two creators at the top of their field. Vertigo hooked us up to spend some time chatting with these two talented individuals about their latest team up and series.

The Wake began as an idea a few years ago. Snyder had been fascinated by the mythology, folklore and legends that grew out of the sea and how much of the underwater landscape is still unexplored. As someone who loves horror, Snyder felt that this was one of the last worlds you can draw actual terror from, because it’s so unknown. So, with all of that he wanted to tell a story that tied together horror, mystery and a story about human evolution and the future of civilization. At a bar in Brooklyn he recruited Murphy and it took a few years before both their schedules allowed them to make it a reality.

Murphy having worked with Snyder before and having such a good time with their previous collaboration on American Vampire, “it sounded like a project I’d be in to.” Plus Murphy wanted to draw a story  underwater, working on details like scuba gear. It scratched “a few itches” that way. It also didn’t hurt that this would be a high profile comic.

Graphic Policy: The first issue deals a lot with marine biology, and involves the Department of Homeland Security. What research did you put in to look at those worlds?

 Scott Snyder: Being terrified of the water, I didn’t do any real world research like diving into the water. In terms of folklore and mythology and series about evolution and stuff like that, it was fun doing the research. It’s the type of stuff I like looking in to. For American Vampire I did a lot on history. We did do a fair amount, both of us. You need to do just enough to make it sound plausible, otherwise it becomes procrastination.

Sean Murphy: We both work a lot from real world stuff whenever we can to keep it ground. A lot of times, I find a photo I want to use I want to use in a script and throw it in a background. And a lot of times Scott will role with it.

GP: You’ve worked together before on American Vampire: Survival of the Fittest, is it easier the second time around?

Murphy: Yeah it’s a lot easier. The scripts are a bit more bare so I can fill stuff in. It’s definitely easier for me to draw.

Snyder: It’s super easy. I get worried. I hope (Sean) doesn’t mind I give him so much room. I just know you’ll do a better job drawing than I can describe it.

GP: Sean, you’ve written comics in the past. How does that affect the work dynamic between the two of you?

Murphy: With Scott, I make it clear, it’s his story, he’s the writer. I’m happy to lend an idea, but in the end, he’s the one that decides. And leaves me to make the artistic decision. That being said, there is a lot of crossover in he’ll suggest what to draw and I’ll suggest some plot. But it’s rare when one of us suggests something that doesn’t make it in.

Snyder: It’s like having a co-writer on the book, which is a dream for me. I love so much on what he offers on story. There’s a lot in there I think people give me credit for that he came up with story-wise. So, he’s a brilliant story teller visually or just as a writer, so… I have the easiest job. He does the heavy lifting on both ends.

GP: Sean, does being a writer help you as an artist? Does it give you some advantage or angle as an artist?

Murphy: Drawing comics, doing a whole comic yourself it’s stages 1 through 10. Drawing it is stages 5 through 10. For me, going back to projects or seeds, it’s helped me out with story telling or plot lines in the end.

GP: In the first issue, you look at the past, present and future which is a popular device in science fiction. Scott, what drew you to integrating that in the story?

Snyder: Well, I debated it for a while… whether I wanted to show what’s coming in the story early on. Sean and I talked about it a lot, just because a part of it, the risk is, you still want it to be exciting. Teasing it, you get a sense of the bulk of the story. What it boils down to, I wanted people to know that this is a story that has a lot of fun and familiar tropes. Tropes that I love. When I find them in a story, I know I’m going to enjoy it when they’re done differently. Like a team being brought together to investigate something mysterious. Those kinds of storytelling techniques, it was really important for me in the book, that as fun and familiar, and as sort of classic some of those tropes are, it’s something completely different than something I’ve tried to do in a book. It has a different depth and scope than anything I’ve worked on. It’s definitely the most ambitious in terms of the storytelling and where it’s going to go and the structure. And also the thinking behind it is something I want it to be clear from the beginning that it’s not just a horror story. That it’s not just about these people trapped with a creature at the bottom of the ocean. The consequences of that story, the implications of that story, will have very far reaching elements not just in thought, but also conceptually. It’s not just about, to me…. I don’t want to give away what it’s about, even with the theme. Because that telegraphs where we’re going. But what I will say is, it’s about things that matter to me and questions, deeply that I find pretty haunting in general. It’s a personal story above everything. I wanted it to be clear in the first issue that it’s an ambitious comic in its plotting, but also the exploration of its topics.

GP: Our readers felt that the comic had a great vibe from the 80s/90s Vertigo era. They wanted to know if this a style you wanted to go for, or did it just happen?

Snyder: Part of what we were trying to do with the book, was sort of announce this is part of the new direction for Vertigo. It’s supposed to be a space for creative delivery and I think that notion is seen in that we’re trying to a book with with opening pages unlike anything we’ve done before. That being said, the comics people are thinking of from Y: The Last Man to 100 Bullets, those are series that are in my DNA and got me wanting to write in the first place. So I take that as a huge compliment. It’s a great honor to mentioned with them.

Murphy: I think the reason people think this is an 80s style story, it might be also the coloring as well. The color is more of this water color looking. If you look at the comics from the 80s, they were painted in this way. I think, that’s probably why people are thinking that. When I did Punk Rock Jesus, I was thinking of 90s stuff, so maybe there’s a way in that I draw that sort of reminds people of that which is fine, because I’m a big fan of that stuff.

GP: The other question our readers want to know is how this series works in the new Vertigo?

Snyder: Yeah! Being friends with the folks at Vertigo, the creators and the editors, we’re lucky enough to see what’s coming out soon, Collider, Brother Lono, and a couple of others. The initiative that I think Vertigo is both try to allow creators to do books that are visionary and fearless and defy expectations in a lot of ways. That’s what attracted us to do it in Vertigo. We trust the editorial, story wise, and we’ve been taken good care of and on top of that, it’s exciting to be part of this drive to rebrand or drive attention to the fact that Vertigo is trying to be liberating.

GP: Who do you think The Wake is for?

Snyder: Definitely fans of fans of horror stories like The Thing and Aliens or deep sea exploration like The Abyss. The thing is, that’s what it looks like on the surface, but it’s hard to point to something with a similar storytelling structure or story ambition just because, you’ll see, when you get to the middle of the series, it gets to a different sort of mood with the storytelling. And that’s what I think Sean and I are both really excited about. It is horror and sci-fi but it’s also an adventure story, there’s a hint of that in the opening page. It’s different than anything else we’ve tried.

GP: Thanks so much!

Synder: Thank you guys at Graphic Policy. You’ve always been really supportive, so I want to thank you and your fans and readers for that.

HIV Takes Center Stage in New Comic Out This Week

Out this week from Bluewater Productions is a 4-issue comic book series about a man dealing with the trails and tribulations about being HIV positive.  Loosely based off writer, Darren G. Davis’ journal entrees this fiction graphic novel tells the story about being HIV positive from a different perspective.

The 4-issue mini series, Lost Raven, is drawn by Renato Arlem, Keu Cha and Sean Murphy.

After learning that he has contracted the HIV virus, attorney Zak Raven leaves his practice behind to set forth on a mission of relaxation-– until his peaceful trip goes wildly astray, leaving Zak shipwrecked on what he thinks is a deserted island with only the words in his own journal to keep him company.

Unknown to Zak, four miles below the surface secretly hides a government experimentation center where scientists are playing God by trying to artificially evolve a human based species that can survive evacuation missions in deep space. Within 900 years, earth will be dealt a deathblow by a mountain-size asteroid. However, so far they have only achieved creating living abominations. Zak and these creatures are on a collision course, and he must rise to the challenge!

Writer Davis, who has been HIV positive for the last 14 years, discussed some of the motivation behind the new comic:

I wrote the series because I wanted to make a difference in the HIV world and most of the movies and books were about people dying.  I wanted to tell it from the other side, the person that manages it from a living perspective. It’s not touchy-feely,” he adds. “It’s basically raw emotion. Plus, it has a lot of cool monsters in it.

It is based on my journal entries from when I was diagnosed being HIV positive. The book is almost like HIV 101 for the mental state. When I first found out about my condition I didn’t have any information and what wás out there was confusing even with help from doctors. This is no longer just a gay disease, so I also wrote the book so anyone can identify with it. I was even fired from a job after they found out I was HIV positive. Coming out about this subject is to help reduce the stigma of it… which has its challenges in itself.

Also being released by Bluewater is a biography on famed HIV artist Keith Haring called “Milestones of Art: Keith Haring: Next Stop Art”.

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Review: The Wake #1

The Wake #1The creative team of writer Scott Snyder and artist Sean Murphy on a comic should be enough to get one interested in Vertigo’s new series The Wake. The first issue is exactly the solid comic I expected from these two.

When Lee Archer, a marine biologist, is approached by the Department of Homeland Security for help on a shadowy project, she promptly declines but soon realizes they won’t take no for an answer. Before long, Archer finds herself plunging to the depths of the Arctic Circle to an underwater oil rig where she comes face to face with their miraculous yet terrifying discovery.

The sci-fi/horror series has the feel of a tense thriller like the classic movies Jaws or The Abyss. It seems to sprawl from the beginning of man to an apocalyptic future. It’s goal is to answer the questions “Where have we been?” and “Where are we going?”. That’s a pretty lofty goal.

The first issue starts off in the future and ends in the past with mystery and intrigue in between. The comic shares a horror tone with Snyder’s American Vampire, a series that has grown on me immensely. Murphy’s art is the excellence you’d expect. The man has a distinctive style and it is awesome.

But it’s not just the set up that’s interesting it’s the characters we’re introduced to. While the mix is pretty paint by number, how they’re presented in their manner makes them interesting and putting these personalities together under water should create a horror story for the ages. There’s something about the mix, what they say, and how they’ve acted so far that has me intrigued. I can’t put my finger on it, but it’s a solid cast of characters.

The Wake #1 is a promising start from some of comicdom’s hottest creators. Can’t wait to see where this one goes.

Story: Scott Snyder Art: Sean Murphy
Story: 8.25 Art: 8.75 Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy

Vertigo provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Punk Rock Jesus TPB

Punk Rock Jesus TPB CoverPunk Rock Jesus, the highly acclaimed 6-issue mini-series written and illustrated by Sean Murphy and published by Vertigo, can now be read in its entirety. The trade, out this week, collects all 6 issues, 10 new black and white story pages and extra material.

It’s the near future, and the newest hit reality TV show has the unlikeliest celebrity of all – a clone of Jesus Christ. A messiah to some, a sacrilege to others, he causes outrage, adulation and chaos first in a reality TV series, J2, then as a rebellious teenager when he joins a punk rock band.

Murphy has described the mini-series as an “autobiography cleverly disguised as science fiction.” The series didn’t cause the controversy I expected, but sure explored topics such as religion, science, politics, and the media. It’s a prime example of our entertainment challenging us and the world we live in.

The graphic novel first skewers our modern media and entertainment as well as the tendency to “play to an audience.” In this case religious fanatics. Murphy takes or gullibility and couch potato antics to task, commenting on our obsession with reality television and the lowest common denominator it tends to bring.

From there, the comic continues this line of attack, but also questions religion as a whole. How would Jesus react to this modern world and how would modern religion react to his clone? What were his teachings? What was his message? That’s explored at the meta as well as the individual level. J2 has a protector in the form of a former Irish Republican Army soldier who questions his religion and past and is looking for salvation, hoping to find it by protecting J2. His is an interesting character through whom we’re to explore our own sin and salvation.

I know Murphy primarily through his art on Joe the Barbarian and American Vampire: Survival of the Fittest. It’s a gritty style that fits this future world quite well. It’s amazing to look at with fantastic attention to detail and a character style that’s distinct. You know Murphy’s art when you see it.

The series and a story as a whole is the type of story I crave. It challenges society and in this case calls into question our religious belief. The work isn’t anti-religion in any way, only questioning the fanaticism and blind faith that we’ve accepted as standard today. The story asks us to question and think for ourselves through an allegory that challenges the establishment.

Do I recommend folks pick it up? If you haven’t yet, and want a comic that makes you think while entertaining, absolutely. It’s easy to understand why this wound up on so many “best of 2012″ lists.

Story and Art: Sean Murphy
Story: 9 Art: 9 Overall: 9 Recommendation: Buy

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

The Wake Cover Revealed

Arriving this May from Vertigo, The Wake is a new limited series by Scott Snyder and artist Sean Murphy. Vertigo today released the cover to the first issue.

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Review – Punk Rock Jesus #6

punk rock jesus #6I picked up the first issue of Sean Murphy‘s mini-series Punk Rock Jesus and thought it was pretty solid. The plan, for me, was to wait until it was a trade paperback and then read all six issues in one go. DC decided to change that plan a bit by sending me an early review copy of Punk Rock Jesus #6. After reading it, I’m so tempted to go back and pick up the issues I missed right away.

Murphy describes the mini-series as an “autobiography cleverly disguised as science fiction.” It’s the near future, and the newest hit reality television show has the unlikeliest celebrity of all – a clone of Jesus Christ. A messiah to some, a sacrilege to others, he causes outrage, adulation and chaos first in a reality TV series, J2, then as a rebellious teenager when he joins a punk rock band.

The final issue takes on the ramification of all this. How would the world react to a cloned Jesus Christ? And what would happen if he toured in a rock band? There’s some smart commentary on modern religion and extremism in this final issue.

Overall, it wraps up nicely. Even not knowing what occurred in the previous issues, I was able to follow it pretty easily. I picked up what was going on, and still enjoyed it. There’s enough there to appreciate the commentary at least.

Murphy’s writing is only topped by his art, which we’ve seen in Joe the Barbarian and American Vampire: Survival of the Fittest. The art is fantastic as expected. Combined that with his writing and you can see why Murphy has a following and why I keep my eyes out for whatever his name is attached to.

After reading this one issue, it’s not a surprise this series landed on so many “best of” lists. I absolutely recommend it if you’re able to get all of the issues and especially if you’ve followed it up until now. I myself am definitely picking up what I missed, either as individual issues or as the eventual trade paperback.

Story and Art: Sean Murphy

Story: 8.25 Art: 8.25 Overall: 8.25 Recommendation: Buy

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

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