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Review: Mulan Revelations #2

mulan revelations 002The format and mechanics of the superhero genre is one which has one peculiarity which sets it aside from other genres.  The role of the superhero/secret identity is somewhat specific to the genre as the reader and the main character (the hero) know their secret identity, whereas everyone else except for a select few have no idea.  Although it is not common to all superhero books, it is nonetheless common enough that even new heroes still get somewhat of the same treatment.  It can therefore be a little strange to experience a superhero under slightly different conditions, and this was the case with Mulan.

As introduced in the first issue, she is taken from time in the ancient days and put into a dystopian future where corporations call the shots.  Her blood is sought after as it is the cure to a spreading disease of supernatural origin.  Confused by her own abilities, she visits her mentor and uncle, and they are soon surrounded by security forces, eager to please their CEO, himself an otherworldly creature.  Although surrounded it is no concern for the characters as they are set loose on their assailants.  Mulan escapes with the help of another, but will soon be put in a situation where her freedom will not be assured, as her brother is put into a precarious position.

The different approach in this series is to its direct benefit.  Whereas readers are used to reading along with heroes as they hide their secrets, here instead they read along as the hero discovers their power.  The artwork is flashy and even overpowering at times, but it is equally effective as that is the same experience that Mulan is undergoing.  It allows the reader to read along with the character in a way which is uncommon in the medium, as she explores her powers for the first time, but also as she is intimidated by them as she figures out how they work.  While this issue is a bit light on plot developments, those promise to come and quickly, and for the time this standout issue, notable for its approach and its art, serve of an excellent example of what this creative team is capable of.

Story: Marc Andreyko and Robert Alter Art: Micah Kaneshiro
Story: 9.3 Art: 9.3 Overall: 9.3 Recommendation: Buy

Dark Horse provided Graphic Policy with a free copy for review

We Talk About Negative Space with Ryan K. Lindsay

neg001Although relatively new to the medium of comics, Ryan K. Lindsay has already made his mark with writing credits in series such as Oxymoron, Ghost Town and Headspace.  He joined us to talk about his new series called Negative Space which features a writer living in a future that has gone a little wrong.
Graphic Policy:  Getting writer’s block when trying to write a suicide note is one of the most inventive ideas that I have heard in a while.  Where did the idea come from?
Ryan K. Lindsay:  Everyone loves the high concept pitch and I’m just really glad it didn’t stem from a real life incident.
In reality, it was just this moment that flashed to me, no context, no real information, just this tragic gag. But I couldn’t let it go so I started peeling back the layers of it, why was he suicidal? How was he going to push through this? Whenever I break story I always just fill a page asking myself questions, y’know? Why does this matter? Who would benefit most from this? And while doing that, the larger story revealed itself and I fell in love with it.
GP:  One of the concepts which drives this story is that writers are thrown a bit to the whims of others, with an organization that modifies the experiences of writers so that they might write specific material.  Although this is futuristic, is it a reflection of anything in our own modern society?
RKL:  To me, the closest draw for this is social media. The way it affects us, the way it draws us in, the addictive nature of it. There’s something evil about the way we pour ourselves into the world and I know sometimes I look at Facebook or twitter and I just have nothing to say on that day. I’m tired, or I should be writing something else, or I’m just empty. And whenever that happens, I feel weird because I’m a writer, I should always have words, so that feeling is frustrating and weird and ultimately so very goddamn stupid. But our feelings are what they are and it isn’t about right or wrong, it’s about the severity of those feelings.
GP:  You are a writer writing about a a writer.  What do you have to do to make sure that the story doesn’t therefore become too meta- and aware of itself?
RKL:  Thankfully, the lead character is nothing like me. He’s depressed, and suicidal, and yet also strongly heroic. I’m none of those things. So I wasn’t writing myself into the tale. But I’m certain I’m no doubt funnelling some demons into Guy. All writers do that and I can only hope it’s subtle. I don’t usually dig overtly meta stuff, it’s too easy to be cutesy, or lazy, and I can only hope we are neither in this book.
neg002GP:  The monster which is seen on the cover and later in the book is Lovecraftian in design, which makes for a strange mix of influences from different genres.  Do you think that futuristic books use too much inspiration from science-fiction and not enough from other sources?
RKL:  I think flicks like LOOPER and books like SAGA show us that anything can be done however the hell we like in science fiction. It’s kind of why I love writing sci fi, you can make your own rules. So long as they hold internal logic, and you don’t then break them, it’s all good. In our book here we have Guy living a very simple and modernly mundane lifestyle. Then we have Kindred which is all blues, and video screens, and they feel decades apart. For me, we have that disparity in modern culture right now. I facetime my family when I’m out of town, whereas a mate of mine only got a cell phone in the past year, and it’s one of those dirty burners you expect to see snapped in half and tossed in the gutter after one illicit phone call.
We see police in almost sci fi looking riot gear facing up to down trodden protesters who have clearly had enough. I’m sharing documents with my class via Google Drive [accessible from their laptops, portable devices, and even from home] whereas I started my teaching career flashing transparencies via an overhead projector. Technology especially, but also aesthetics change constantly, and it’s rarely rolled out in a uniform and equitable manner.
Whenever I start building the world of a story with an artist [and especially when it’s someone of Owen Gieni’s calibre] I try to nail down the tone. How can Kindred really feel so ubiquitously and omnipresently oppressive, and how can Guy embody depression. When it came to designing the Evorah, they are primal creatures from the deep so we wanted to reflect that abyss of feeling in them, and Owen nailed it.
GP:  Although the characters live in a high-tech world, Guy uses a pen and paper to do his writing, which is a bit of an anachronism even in our own world.  Do you think that technology aids creativity or hinders it?
RKL:  I love technology. I wrote a script once on my phone while walking my neighbourhood streets from midnight to 4am each night because it was the only way to get my baby daughter to stay asleep. I’ll often have a side project script I keep on my iPad so I can tinker with it wherever/whenever I can or want. But I also know I need paper to truly break a story. I need to get a pencil, get messy, scribble stuff out. I find I can’t break story as effectively on technology. Those apps with the sticky notes for building idea webs or something, pfft, man, those are for the birds. I need a big whiteboard, or sheets of paper laid out. I need physical scope.
neg003In the end, your creative process will be your own. I teach kids that all the time, find what works and then do what works. I think the internet is our greatest ally, while also being our biggest tumour. I think typing up our scripts and dropboxing them is a godsend, but the ability to type a tweet and hit send before thinking about it will be our downfall. I think technology, like anything, needs to be used in moderation and always with considered thought.
GP:  What do you do to counter your own writer’s block?
RKL:  Do something else. And it sounds obvious but I know I but heads with that blinking cursor from time to time and I forget my own advice but then I finally yield and go read a comic, or watch a TV show, and as soon as I try to get comfortable, something clicks in my head, and I’m back at the desk. I also find those writer cliches of showers and running and mowing the lawn really work. There’s brain science behind it.
I also found whenever one of my kids would wake, y’see I write in the office from 8pm – 1am most nights, and if a kid wakes I’m on duty. So I hate it when I hear them, because it’s dragging me away from my precious words but then I always find while settling them, I get an idea for the next scene, or dialogue starts clicking, and I just concentrate on remembering it all and dragging it back to the page and then I’m happy I got the break from the desk.
GP:  Can you give us a bit of an idea where the series is heading?
RKL:  Down, man, ha, all the way. Issue #2 gives us more scope and detail from that splash reveal at the end of #1. It pushes Guy into this new weird truth he’s found. #3 tests his resolve, and #4 bring sit all home in dark dark ways. I like writing endings to my stories and everything builds to this very last page. It all matters.

We Talk About The Tomorrows with Curt Pires

the tomorrowsAlthough relatively new to the new field of comics, writer Curt Pires has already made his mark with a variety of titles including Pop and the Fiction.  His newest series looks at life in a dystopian world, but with a distinctive feel of its own.  He joined us to talk about life in a dystopian world and what that tells us about our modern world.

Graphic Policy:  Can you tell us about the inspiration for the series?

Curt Pires:  Countless sources. The world around me. Where I see it headed. Remembering when comics meant and said something: books like Invisibles, Planetary, Transmetropolitan. Thinking why don’t we make comes like this anymore? Deciding to fix the problem by making the book.

GP:  The big three of dystopian stories (1984, Brave New World, Fahrenheit) all used a main male character, and this trend seems common enough throughout other works about dystopian worlds.  In this case you have cast a female character, Zoey as the lead.  Can you explain a bit of your choice of her as the protagonist?

CP:  Well the book is an ensemble piece really, with Claudius and Zoey serving as our lead characters but it really rotates. I wanted Zoey to be the focus of the first issue because she basically functions as the reader: someone new entering this strange world, encountering the tomorrows for the first time. The other reason is I just wanted to write a smart, strong female character. Oh, and we didn’t market the book as some sort of “messiah” narrative because we don’t treat our female characters like shit. It’s just good writing.

tom001GP:  A common theme of dystopian worlds is that the people are mind controlled to some degree whether this be with the allegiance to Big Brother in 1984 or the use of soma in Brave New World.  In this case you imply it is social media that is doing the work.  Do you think that we are doing this to ourselves already?

CP:  I think social media is opening our information up to those who seek to obtain and exploit it against us. It’s not opening us to mind control, but it’s opening us to a different kind of control.

GP:  Going back again to the big three again of dystopias, they all used the dystopias as a criticism of some other aspect of human society, whether that be totalitarianism or censorship.  What do you think would define this criticism for the modern day?

CP:  I think all of the three works you mentioned are still relevant to this day. The big issues of the present are: security, surveillance, economic corruption (capitalism) and racism.

GP:  The Vault challenges the Tomorrows concept of reality as a final test before their complete mental freedom.  Do you think that being aware of the reality around us comes from a defining point such as this, or rather from a general progression?

CP:  Well THE VAULT in The Tomorrows is more geared towards self acceptance than defining the parameters of reality. it’s about conquering your own demons, owning yourself, before you set out to liberate others. I don’t believe in consensus reality. Reality is whatever we want it to be and is constantly changing and in flux.

tom002GP:  The main antagonist here is one who is obvious and over-the-top.  Do you think that we can find its villains so easily now with some of the excess that we sometimes observe in our own society?

CP:  Yeah, the antagonist here is an avatar of over consumption and depravity. It’s easy to find villians, sure. But it’s really all based on perspective. Villians to others, are heroes of their own stories. Again, no consensus reality.

GP:  Although it is just hinted at in this first issue, love is also a theme here as two of the main characters have feelings for people that have suffered some tragedy in the past.  How does this fit into the bigger picture of the series?

CP:  Love is everything and everywhere. The Tomorrows reflects it.

GP:  What can we expect to see coming for the remainder of the series?

CP:  The unexpected. There’s no other comic like this one, and that’s the way I like it.

Review: Cluster #1

cluster001The launch for this series comes at an inopportune time.  It tells the story of a group of convicts that are given a sentence as soldiers instead of facing their own prison time and it focuses on a group of female convicts who are led through the first days of their intake into the penal military force.  The main character is established with a dark past, her budding friendship with another inmate threatens to shake the peace within the new group, and they already see military action (and death) by the end of the first issue.  It contains elements of the space marines from Aliens as well as a Starship Troopers setup, battling aliens on foreign planets, but it does so in an intelligent way mixing in some hints of dystopia with the story line.  What is unfortunate is that while this is an impressive first start to the series, is that many will probably slough it off, in comparison to the also recently released Bitch Planet from Image which has a similar setting and a similar dystopian theme in the background, and admittedly while Cluster is a good read, it is not as good as its rival.

It does happen at some times in popular culture that there is a sudden proliferation of what would otherwise be a niche theme.  The idea of women being sent to a prison planet is actually a common enough theme in comics, common enough that it happened to Wonder Woman in 1992.  While it is a setting and location which comes up in science fiction often enough, it has more than often been used in the exploitative sense, in that part of the appeal is to have somewhat vicious women squaring off against each other in a dangerous setting.

Inherently that is where this series excels.  While it does aim for a share of action, it is not meant to be exploitative, but rather show strong female characters while also digging a bit deeper to look at the reach of the police state in Western countries, and what that might look like in the future.  It is a compelling first look at this series, and it promises a lot for what is to come, regardless of its competition.

Story: Ed Brisson Art: Damian Couceiro
Story: 8.5 Art: 8.5 Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy

Boom! Studios provided Graphic Policy with a free copy for review.

 

 

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