Category Archives: Euro Thursday

Early Review: Freeway Fighter #1

While I never played any of the legendary Fighting Fantasy series of gamebooks created by Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson in 1982, I remember Freeway Fighter being somewhere on the shelves of one of the comic/game shops I worked at during my teens and early 20s. My introduction to Livingstone and Jackson’s worldbuilding with Games Workshop and its numerous games, but Freeway Fighter stood out during its release by deviating from the usual mix of orcs, goblins and cave-trolls. The series went on to sell over 18 million copies worldwide and is translated in over 30 languages.

35 years later, we’re getting another chance to drive in that classic setting with a new comic series being released May 17, 2017, written by Andi Ewington and Livingstone, with art by Simon Coleby and Len O’Grady and publishing by Titan Comics.

Former I-400 Driver Bella De La Rosa is one of the 15% – living every day as if it were her last. Now, eighteen months after the collapse of civilization, faced with a new world order where violence and chaos rule the Freeway, she must hone her racing skills and survive any way she can!

The first issue is all set up introducing us to De La Rosa and then jumping ahead post collapse as she drives to survive. It’s a solid start in world building allowing readers to slowly learn about the world they’re thrust in to slowly teasing out just enough to get us to come back more. Ewington and Livingstone together have put together a first issue that feels familiar, but still very entertaining. Normally this world setting is fueled by macho male leads with women acting in a subserviant role. Their choice of Bella De La Rosa as the hero around which this series rotates is brilliant in that it adds in the excellent story choice made in Mad Max: Fury Road one that flipped the formula in some ways. The two writers give us a nod and wink of what we can expect by doing so and fills in a gap that so far no one has really picked up on, the gear head apocalypse story with some girl power acting as nitrous boost. That simple decision is one of many that makes the series stand out.

Coleby and O’Grady on art deliver a visually solid story with enough detail for us to sus out what might have happened in the months since collapse. Materials laying about, the design of vehicles, clothes being worn, those visuals all help tell the story and fill in gaps that haven’t been spelled out yet.

Freeway Fighter #1 is out in about a month which gives you time to pre-order it from your shop and hop on board what feels like the start of a badass story that takes the original roleplaying game and infuses it with other elements that have been added to the genre since. Strap in for an entertaining ride.

Story: Andi Ewington and Ian Livingstone Art: Simon Coleby and Len O’Grady
Story: 8.45 Art: 8.45 Overall: 8.45 Recommendation: Buy

Titan Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

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Review: Start Again #1

In it’s simplest form, Start Again is a boy meets girl story, except the boy is really a superhero who doesn’t tell the girl and she finds out during their one-night stand. Set in the United Kingdom the series creates a unique twist with the inclusion of paparazzi, something that’s not quite as big as a thing here in the United States. That aspect is original in a lot of ways as the intersection of superherodom and celebrity isn’t something that’s explored a lot in the world of comics.

In Start Again, Ajay Verma and Natalie Brown meet in a Nightclub in Leeds city centre and from there they really get to know each other. Unfortunately, it looks like Verma has a little PTSD and freaks out which leads to the nation to catching a bit more of a look at him than spandex allows. There’s solid comedy to that and writer Jamie Me digs into that a little, but mainly focuses on the dramatic aspects of it all, with some good laughs too.

What happens when the world catches a hero in his birthday suit? It’s something we see with celebrities and the first issue touches on the shark-like attitude and voyeuristic tendencies of the public when presented with such a situation. The first issue can only give so much but this first issue spends a lot of time discussing the aftermath. While the comic features a superhero in spandex there isn’t a lot of superheroing going on. It’s more focused on the fallout of everything in the I’m staying at home and eating a pint of Ben and Jerrys while I wallow in my misery. It’s relatable in that way and also a nice change from spandex battles.

The art by Toni Doya and colors by Sean Callahan is solid with some great sequences and good amount of detail. The comedic moments are played well and the more introspective moments have a bit of a down vibe to it. In other words, the art nails the mood of the scenes and does so in a way that it enhances it all. It’s also nice to see a non-white superhero in the lead as well as full frontal male nudity. The comic is equal in that department.

Start Again #1 is a solid debut and is a comic I want to read more of. It’s a nice break from traditional superhero comics and goes in a direction we’re not really seeing elsewhere. It’s original, fun, entertaining, and stands out from a crowded market of spandex and punching.

Story: Jamie Me Art: Toni Doya Colors: Sean Callahan
Story: 8.0 Art: 8.0 Overall: 8.0 Recommendation: Buy

Graphic Policy was provided with a FREE copy for review

Europeans in New York coming this April

Europe Comics, the all digital all European comics and graphic novel venture, is bringing two of Europe’s most celebrated graphic novel creators to New York City for a series of events as part of its Europeans in New York campaign.

Award-winning European creators Blutch (France) and Wojciech Stefaniec (Poland) will be visiting the Society of Illustrators’ MoCCA Arts Festival on April 1-2 and participating in a series of talks with fellow American cartoonists David Mazzucchelli, Charles Burns, Richard McGuire and Ben Katchor, moderated by Françoise Mouly, Bill Kartalopoulos and Dan Piepenbring in various venues and bookshops across New York.

Europeans in New York is organized in partnership with MoCCA, New York Review Comics, Albertine Bookshop, Comics@ Columbia, La Maison Française, School of Visual Arts, Polish Cultural Institute, Greenwich Library.

Euro Thursday: The Killer Volume 5: Fight or Flight

killer_v5_hc_coverGet inside the mind of a professional assassin, a man of few scruples, nerves of steel, and a steady trigger finger. A man whose crimes might be catching up with him. A man on the verge of cracking…

For four volumes writer Matz and artist Luc Jacamon have taken us into the world of Frank aka Killer, a hitman lost in a world without a moral compass. The noir series involves everything you’d want from the subject and genre including solid action sequences, loose morals, sex, violence, and political intrigue. This fifth volume brings to a close a series that has presented a fascinating outlook on the world from a completely non-American centric viewpoint. With that, it has challenged, intrigued, and created what’s probably a much more realistic worldview.

And that worldview continues here as Killer wraps up his adventure, but how will he go out? That’s the question I had as I read every page hoping for the best and expecting the worst. Instead of the flash and action, we get an epilogue in many ways. It’s a subdued entry in what generally has been a fast paced series. Much of this entry is from Killer’s perspective as he thinks through what he thinks of the world, settling down, history, and society, and his role in it all. It’s a comic that has our anti-hero taking stock of his life and figuring out what’s next.

This work is dense forcing you to parse each section of dialogue and contemplate what’s being said. But, it’s not as simple as a couple of words. Those matched with Jacamon’s art creates a combination where deeper meaning is as much as what’s being shown as what’s being said. It’s a combination that’s unmatched in comics today and they’ve pulled it off for five volumes.

But even without its synergy with the words, the art is utterly beautiful to look at in a style that’s unrivaled. Lush beaches, beautiful oceans, vibrant jungles, the art and the coloring is jaw dropping and worth the price of admission alone. Like the story itself, the art is sexy and cool creating a world you want to live in now matter how wrong things may be.

I expected a shootout finale with bodies piling up and our protagonist maybe not making it through, and instead, we are given a finale that’s an introspective search as to one’s role in the world. Even with those final pages I found myself still debating the deeper meaning of the series and what it was trying to said and what it has said, and more importantly how I agree or disagree with it. Matz and Jacamon have capped off an impressive run with an ending that delivers and then some. A perfect end cap for one of the most entertaining series in comics.

Story: Matz Art: Luc Jacamon
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

BOOM! Studios/Archaia provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Euro Thursday: Jewish Brigade Vol. 1: Vigilante

the-jewish-brigade-vol-1For this first installment of The Jewish Brigade, we find ourselves in 1945 Poland. Leslie and Ari, two British soldiers, carry out an ambush near a church. They’re looking for a priest… that Leslie then kills. He was an SS agent. The two men get back on the road; other missions await.

Written and with art by Marvano, The Jewish Brigade is a bit of historical fiction about one of the more unknown pieces of history. This French graphic novel is an interesting mix of drama, a war comic, and some introspection, about a dark time for the world as it woke up to the horrors recently committed and as the graphic novel shows, still being committed.

Through the main characters, Leslie and Ari, the case for Israel, the plight of the Jewish people, and the impact of the atrocities committed by the Nazis are all explored and discussed. The story itself is simple, the two soldiers are on a mission to kill Nazi soldiers hiding out after the war. But, that simplicity in story is juxtaposed for what happens between missions as these two soldiers talk about what has happened and what might happen.

That discussion, while not deep, feels natural as two friends, road tripping in a way, discuss matters at hand. And by not diving too deep in the topics brought up, the author allows us the reader to reflect on what’s put forth and come up with our own thoughts about it all. There’s even a discussion as to whether these revenge killings make our two characters as bad as who they’re hunting (a debate that feels like it’d fit right into the Nazi-punching debates going on today). And throughout, the horrors of the Holocaust and rampant anti-Semitism that still exists today is on our minds. The comic is history, but it’s relevant in today’s world.

The art has an almost animated style to it as far as look and the horror of what’s going on is contrasted with at times beautiful art and scenery. Rolling hills give way to dead bodies. A quiet village hides a monster within. All done in a style that doesn’t match the rather heavy content within, and it still totally works.

The concept of the graphic novel intrigued me when I first read it and after finishing the first volume I plan on checking out the next two to see where the story goes from here. Marvano takes us through the ranks of one of the least known divisions of the British army and gives us a lot to chew on while doing so.

Story: Marvano Art: Marvano
Story: 7.0 Art: 7.0 Overall: 7.0 Recommendation: Read

Europe Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Euro Thursday: Warhammer 40,000 in Comics

Warhammer 40,000 logoSince 1987 the grimdark future has only seen war (on the tabletop) courtesy of British game company Games Workshop‘s Warhammer 40,000 created by Rick Priestley. The game was a futuristic companion to Warhammer Fantasy Battle.

Set in the 41st millennium, humans have settled on millions of worlds ruled by a brutal theocratic regime known as the Imperium of Man and the God-Emperor of Mankind. Corruption, bureaucracy, technological stagnation and escalating war have kept the Imperium teetering on the brink of collapse as they battle hostile forces within and out.

Through seven game editions, numerous book tie-ins, and more, the world is one of the most in-depth science fiction universes out there.

It should be no surprise that this vision of the future has led to comic spin-offs courtesy of a few publishers in different ways.

Warhammer_40K_WOI_01_Cover_BOriginally parts of their own publications, Warhammer 40K comics appeared in the anthology Inferno! magazine and Warhammer Monthly (later Warhammer Comic) published by Black Library who later would also release original graphic novels and floppy comics. The comics were well received with some nominated for various awards and featuring talented creators such as Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, Pat Mills, Ian Edginton, and David Pugh.

In 2006 BOOM! Studios took over production and released their own line of comics based in the popular gaming world. About a half-dozen different titles were released by the comic publisher before their loss of the license in 2009 for unknown reasons.

In 2016 Titan Comics announced their licensing of the world and so far have produced one comic series with another announced.

Titan’s Warhammer 40,000: Will of Iron follows Baltus, a Dark Angel newly-elevated to the rank of Space Marine, as he is baptized on the bloody battlefield and uncovers the price his Chapter has paid for victory! The series dives into some of the rich history of the universe going back quite some time but is also enjoyable for those new and interested in checking out what it’s all about. This week sees the release of the fourth issue wrapping up the initial arc and setting up future conflict to come.

Independent publisher TPub also released Eisenhorn: Xenos, a tie-in to a recent video game set in the universe.

From tabletop to printed page, Warhammer 40,000 gives fans the ability to not just read about this universe but then take the battle to the tabletop in the miniature game creating a cross-media experience unique in its offerings.

Euro Thursday Review: Hook Jaw

hook_jaw_2_cover-aIn the troubled waters off Somalia, a rag-tag group of marine scientists studying a pack of female great white sharks find themselves caught in a conflict between pirates and the might of the US Navy. But why is the CIA so interested in the work of the scientists? And just how will they face up to the shadowy terror of the legendary great white – HOOK JAW?!

Published by British publisher Titan Comics, written by Si Spurrier, with art by Conor Boyle, at two issues in, Hook Jaw went from silly to silly fun really quick.

I was completely unfamiliar with anything that came before, so when I went into the first issue, it honestly felt a bit like a Jaws rip-off with some CIA/Navy SEALS guys thrown in. The second issue embraces all of that calling out the fact it’s a goofy Jaws cash-in and just completely makes fun of the tough guy CIA/Navy SEAL leader who keeps repeating the same phrase over and over while his machismo is mocked.

Spurrier has embraced the goofy here and it totally pays off. I read the first issue with some interest and it was good. It’s the second issue that really brings me in because it decides to not take itself seriously. At that point the comic embraces the fun and silly premise. It’s a shark with a hook coming out of its front! It uses the hook to stab people! How can that not be funny!? When the comic doesn’t take seriously, it shines and hooks me.

Boyle’s art too is over the top embracing the gore when he can giving us a bloody mess that I remember from all of those movies this comic pays homage to. What’s interesting is the art doesn’t change really, but Spurrier’s tone reflects in it. If it’s goofy, the art comes off as goofy. If the writing is serious, the art is serious. But, the art doesn’t change at all, which is fascinating.

Hook Jaw #2 is where things really take off for me. I’m looking forward to more and sitting back and embracing the utter ridiculousness of it all and enjoying every page of it.

Story: Si Spurrier Art: Conor Boyle
Story: 7.5 Art: 7.5 Overall: 7.5 Recommendation: Read

Titan Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Euro Thursday Review: Snow Day

snowday_8362_zoomedAn outsider sheriff struggles to find his place in an isolated, snow-covered town populated by a hard people who are set in their ways and don’t take too kindly to strangers. It’s a place where folks mind their own business — however odd it may be — and do as they please. That is, until the calm, quiet sheriff decides to do his job…

Written by Swedish writer Pierre Wazem, Snow Day is an interesting graphic novel that’s part character study and part crime story. With a similar idea to Walking Tall or every other cop who roots our corruption in a town tale, the story takes place over a day as a sheriff decides how he wants to handle some arrests and the individuals impeeding his decision.

But, what’s solid about Wazem’s story is the use and lack there-of of dialogue. There’s pages without dialogue as we get an idea of the small town and surrounding area. Set upon piles of snow, you can almost hear just the wind and the  hum of a tractor on these pages and there’s strangely something peaceful about it all.

That tranquil, almost relaxing art is by Antoine Aubin whose style is a cross between TinTin and The New Yorker. It’s actually very cool and the detail is just enough to say what’s going on and it enhances the story. There’s a minimalist feel about it all with not too much detail, and just enough to convey what’s going on. The black and white art is a fantastic style you don’t see too often and there’s absolutely a euro influence about it all.

There is some interesting things in that this graphic novel that’s supposed to be occuring in the “heartland” of America, but there’s a slight disconnect that feels like it’s being written by someone who has never been in the heartland. Still, the story by itself is fantastic and is a bit more artsy and philosophical take of a classic story of a sheriff rooting out corruption.

Snow Day is out in February from Humanoids.

Story: Pierre Wazem Art: Antoine Aubin
Story: 8.45 Art: 8.45 Overall: 8.45 Recommendation: Buy

Humanoids provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Kicking Off Euro Thursday

tintin-mainsupportingcharactersFor our first Euro Thursday, I’ve debated for a few weeks as to exactly what I’d like to do. I was thinking I’d keep it simple and just do a review or two… but why make things simple? Thinking through the long term I came to a realization that other than receiving review copies from publishers like Titan Comics or Humanoids (and a few others) I really have no idea about European comics, so I should probably learn to better inform me going forward.

So what defines a “European com” beyond where it’s been created?

First, as I’ve noticed in a few physical copies I get that the format of the comics is a bit different. The product itself is 8.4 inches x11.6 inches which differs from the standard “American” size of 6.63 inches x 10.25 inches. Ok, they’re bigger. They’re also bigger in length as they tend to be 40-60 pages and 100+ pages is common again compared to the “American” 22 page comic. So they’re longer too.

The roots of European comics go far back to the 18th century caricatures and illustrated pictured books. In Scout McCloud’s Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art he states that early 19th century Swiss artist Rodolphe Töpffer is regarded as the “father of modern comics” by many and Töpffer’s Histoire de M. Vieux Bois is sometimes called the first “comic book.”

But, there’s not really one “European comic.” In reality, the term as a whole is made up of various scenes and locations scattered across the continent. Primarily dominated by Franco-Belgian comics, Belgian comics, Spanish comics, and Italian comics, there’s also British comics (which I as an American probably have the most familiarity with), Czech comics, Dutch, German, Hungarian, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Serbian, and Spanish! That’s a lot of different types of comics… did I bite off more than I can chew with this!?

The most famous Franco-Belgian comics are probably Asterix by René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo and The Adventures of Tintin by Hergé, and The Smurfs by Peyo. Known as bandes dessinées or BDs in French and “strips” in Dutch, these are primarily for Belgian and French audiences. There’s also Flemish Belgian comics which have their own style.

Belgian comics took off in the 1920s and in 2000 40 million comics were printed in Belgium each year with 75% of those exported. That’s a lot of comics!

The influence of British comics and creators in America could fill a column on its own. 2000 AD, Action Man, Andy Capp, Doctor Who, Judge Dredd, are just a few off the top of my head I could name. The history goes back to the 19th century, so there’s a lot to cover in future columns.

The rest, I can honestly say I know little about and am looking forward to exploring more, the point of all of this!

Now, here’s a question to you all, where should I start? What would you like to see? What should I review? Sound off in the comments!