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Review: Brainstorm #6

brainstorm6-covThis sixth issue of this intriguing series marks the end of the short and quick run which it had, though leaving open the door for perhaps something else.  Thus far in the series, the story has focused around Dr. Cale Isaacs and the manifestation of his inner torment, the superstorm Hurricane Brandon.  It has been an equal part of social commentary and playing with the theme of mankind interfering with nature, and in this issue it finally comes to a conclusion, one which is maybe expected in some sense, but still has enough edge to keep the reader guessing.

Some may not recognize it immediately but this series is indeed science fiction, only that the science in question is one not often used in this genre, meteorology.  The lack of a connection disappears completely halfway through this issue as Cale dons a sci-fi inspired helmet to finally confront the storm.  There are some parts of this story which feel rushed, but then again this story could have been expanded easily into a couple of extra issues without losing the overall tone of the series.  That being said, it is an interesting confrontation between Cale and his storm, even if it is resolved in an expeditious manner.  What is more interesting than the actual climax in this series is the denouement, one which is a bit longer than what people might be expected to in comics, where the hero usually wins and the denouement is forgotten.  Instead here the writers throw in a bit more social commentary about the ease by which politicians spin tragedy to their own interests and even tie in some current geopolitics in another way.

It is a shame that this series was unseen by so many, because it combined a mature approach in its storytelling, while also aiming high for something new in a genre overpopulated with spaceships and green skinned aliens.  The writers managed to tie together everything that they were after, and left nothing hanging while telling their story but also meeting all of the underlying themes that were developed throughout.  This series covered all of its goals, and in so doing, ended up as more than the sum of its parts.

Story: Jeffrey Morris and Ira Livingston IV Art: Dennis Calero 
Story:  8.5  Art: 8.5 Overall:  8.5 Recommendation: Buy

Future Dude and Comixology provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Brainstorm #5

brainstorm cov 005Brainstorm continues with its fifth and penultimate issue and doesn’t look like it will be stopping with its interesting take on the disaster genre.  As the storm advances across the country, people start to realize the threat which it poses, and while there are those that are ready to run, there are also other that are ready to stand and make a final attempt at controlling the disaster.  Thus far the series has focused mostly on Cale, either in his subconscious in the storm or in his own problems, but this issue focuses more so on the ‘Nado Ninjas, the group of reality television filmmakers focused on storms.

What is notable about this particular issue is its approach to science fiction.  Though already firmly rooted in a hard science approach to storytelling, it is not what makes this particular issue more interesting.  Instead the best science fiction, whether hard or soft has the same quality, in that it looks at more than just the science, and instead focuses on either philosophical or moral issues.  That same aspect comes here, as Cale is forced to focus on himself as both the cause and solution to the super storm, and the only way that he will be successful is by taking an honest look at himself and to stop believing the lies which he has told himself.

One might read this series and not even really appreciate it as science fiction, but when that realization is made, it is also evident that the creative team is pulling out all of the best characteristics of the genre and putting them together in an unconventional but intriguing manner.  There is not only an original approach to this series but also more depth in the story telling of a science fiction story than is found in most other places.  It is a shame that the series is less known in the medium, as it is really one of the standouts of recent months, and any reader looking for a fresh take on science fiction stories should check this out.


Story: Jeffrey Morris and Ira Livingston IV Art: Dennis Calero 
Story:  8.5  Art: 8.5 Overall:  8.5 Recommendation: Buy

Future Dude provided a copy to Graphic Policy FREE for review

We Talk Brainstorm with Jeffrey Morris and Ira Livingston IV

Though it is a bit below the radar, there is an intriguing series from Future Dude called Brainstorm, telling the story of an out-of-control storm and the people that are both responsible for it and the ones that are trying to stop it.  We had the chance to talk with writers Jeffrey Morris and Ira Livingston IV from Future Dude about the series.  They talked with us for a bit about their Star Trek inspiration, hurricanes and aliens in Wyoming.

Graphic Policy:  This is still obviously a science fiction story, but most people think of science fiction as being either in the future or in outer space.  Can you touch on some of the differences in writing sci-fi in an uncommon setting?

Jeffrey Morris: We live in a world that is science fiction to someone in the past. From automobiles and airplanes to lightbulbs and calculators, these things began in the imaginations of people with inventive minds. Imagine seeing an iPad 20 years ago! Pure science fiction. I think the idea is that science and technology are forever connected to and incepted via dreams. The same holds true for weather manipulation and geo-engineering. At FutureDude, we are writing fiction about the potential of science and technology. Most of all we are looking at how these thing will impact humanity.

Ira Livingston IV: Working with Jeffrey, we’ve always tried to base our stories on strong characters with science and technology as a backdrop. In Brainstorm the setting is in the very near future. Everything as close to our own everyday lives as possible. Writing this way makes  it more personal, while tapping into your imagination for the background elements. It seemed like we kept pulling back to the reality and potential of the action happening in the story instead of creating something totally fantastic and impossible.

 bs003GP:  On the subject of science fiction, the story is full of what is known as hard science fiction, that is science fiction based on real science.  Did you have to do a lot of research into weather phenomena?

 IL: Yes, if you look in the credits we had the pleasure to work with Paul Douglas, AMS-Certified Meteorologist.  The other research we did, was digging into interesting facts and theories, like the ‘real’ perpetual storm in Venezuela on Lake Maracaibo.

JM: It was a real honor to have a a science advisor who worked on Twister and Jurassic Park. I have also had a personal interest in weather and severe storms since I was a child. I also studied a bit of meteorology in college. We aren’t experts, but we tried to make sure that most everything that happens in the story is reasonably plausible. The idea of dropping nukes in a hurricane really jazzed Mr. Douglas and he told us exactly what would happen—which directly influenced the story from a scientific standpoint.

GP:  So far the action is all in the United States.  Is the story going to move elsewhere and are there other weather events from other parts of the world that would be interesting to incorporate in?

 JM: To be honest, this is a story about issues from an American perspective—like gay rights and interminable American arrogance from a political and military perspective. While we hope fans around the world will enjoy the story, we also felt it was important to speak to things happening here in this horribly divided county of ours. Great near-future science fiction is often a metaphor for real human issues that we face today.

IL: We also wanted to focus on Dr. Cale Isaacs (our main character). If we had enlarged the storm worldwide, I think we would have lost the detail of his personal journey.

 GP:  Cale is the story’s protagonist, but an aspect of his consciousness is controlling the storm, and so in a way he is also kind of the story’s antagonist.  Does this provide a bit of a challenge to the story to have two sides of one person fighting against each other?

MerrittButrickIL: A little, but logically I think it was the only way to make the storm intelligent. If we had gone a different way, I think people wouldn’t buy into the story as much as they have.

JM: I agree with Ira. It’s really interesting to see Cale in a fight with his hidden demons blown up to a global scale. Additionally, I really wanted to pay homage to the character of Dr. David Marcus from Star Trek II and III. He was arrogant and self-assured to the degree that it blinded him to the potential impact of his actions. In the end, many people died (including him!). Hopefully, things will turn out better for Cale. It’s about unravelling the mystery as to why the storm is acting the way it is and then how to stop it. For that to happen, Cale must face the truth about himself.

GP:  Cale is an intriguing character, and although only four issues in, is pretty well established.  One thing which struck me was that his homosexuality is a defining aspect of his character, but that he is not a gay character just for the sake of being gay.  Can you describe how you chose to represent this character?

bs001JM: I am really glad we finally have the chance to answer this question.  As I said in the previous answer, we were influenced by the character of David Marcus. He was portrayed by a young and talented actor named Meritt Buttrick.  He was gay and lived his life in the closet. Tragically, he was one of the first people in Hollywood to die from AIDS. I wanted to use his likeness for the character (which has been well-realized by our artist Dennis Calero) and we were going to write him as straight. Then I started thinking about it… Why, would we not have him be gay like the man we used for his image?  I am really proud we made the decision. We knew it might be controversial, but we also felt it was real.  We also were aware of the story of Matthew Shepard, a Wyoming youth who was beaten to death for being openly homosexual. That, coupled with our goal to tie up the story at Devils Tower (a Wyoming landmark made famous in the film Close Encounters of the Third Kind), allowed it all to fall into place. We felt living life in the closet as the source of his anger that ultimately fueled the storm, would be extremely interesting—and perhaps even open a few minds as to how difficult it would be to live that way, regardless of the reader’s sexual orientation.

IL: Exactly! Jeffrey and I really wanted to make him real.  That being said, I personally believe we’re all the same. We are all real and deserve to have our stories told.

GP:  Is there any specific inspiration for the ‘Nado Ninjas?

IL: it’s a combination of reality television storm chasers and some of the local storm spotters we have around the upper Midwest.

JM: Exactly. A lot of those guys are nuts, but they are also courageous and a lot of fun. They are going to be integral to the story. You’ll see!

bs002GP: A female president that people vote for because she is hot?  Are you guys sure about that one?

IL: (laughing) As a country, you always hear crazy stuff around election time.  Such as, “I’d drink a beer with that guy”, or I just don’t like that individual, because he’s divorced. It amazes me how many people base such an important decision on such trivial matters.

JM: Yeah. I hate to say it, but we based that dialogue on real experience in the 2008 election. The number of people we knew, both republican and Democrat who considered voting for John McCain because they thought his running mate Sarah Palin was “hot’ was astounding. I mean it. I really heard that on the street many times. I was like holy crap, are you serious?!  So fast forward to the near future, it seemed totally possible. Just look at the anchors on Fox News. What if one of them ran for president‚ and won!


Review: Brainstorm #4

brainstorm004-covIn the relatively short history of the sub-genre of disaster based stories, there has been a common problem.  Generally speaking the plots are full of characters that are mostly one-dimensional based on the need to fulfill some role for the plot, and the antagonist is usually some out-of-control force of nature.  This creates a dual problem, both in that there are not generally many heroic characters to get behind, and also that the villain is not a villain exactly, it is more of an unfeeling and uncaring force that has no control over its actions.  Its actions might be seen to be bad by societal standards, but in effect it is governed by the laws of nature and it is not acting out of any malevolence.

The series Brainstorm addresses these limitations almost head-on and focuses on a completely different force-of-nature as an antagonist.  As a quick rundown of the issues that have come before, the series has focused on a team of weather experts and their attempt to control weather, assisted by funding of the U.S. military.  After the deployment of the first test into a hurricane, the hurricane goes wildly out of control, taking on a mind of its own.  As the story unfolds, it is revealed that the storm does have a mind of its own, or at least partially as the nanotech which is meant to attack it has been assimilated, and that nanotech is partially based on the mental pattern of the series protagonist (or maybe anatagonist?) Cale.  Far from a simple character, this is a man wrestling with his homosexuality, his dysfunctional family, and the inability to get research funding.  At the opposite end of the stream is a U.S. president all too happy to bomb the storm to oblivion, while unaware that the extra energy is causing it to increase in size as it traverses the United States.

This is an interesting series thus far, and this fourth issue continues the momentum that has been built.  The writers rely heavily on a harder approach to science in their science fiction as they have seemingly done an impressive amount of research into meteorology.  While this adds to the realism of the story, it is not there where its strength lies, but rather in its novel approach to the disaster genre which seems to always make the same mistakes.

Story: Jeffrey Morris and Ira Livingston IV Art: Dennis Calero 
Story:  8.0  Art: 8.0 Overall:  8.0 Recommendation: Read

Future Dude and Comixology provided a copy to Graphic Policy for review