Tag Archives: kieron gillen

Review: The Wicked + the Divine 455 AD

Using an even more twisted version of Lucifer from the Pantheon as an object lesson, writer Kieron Gillen, guest artist Andre Araujo (Avengers A.I.), and colorist Matthew Wilson tell the story of Rome in a single narrative that begins with a glorious literal burst of triumph before denigrating into senseless, violence, hubris, and death. The story is set in 455 AD, and the Roman Empire is on its last legs as Geiseric and the Vandals threaten to destroy Rome once and for all. But Lucifer casts aside his name and takes on the mantle of “Julius Caesar” because he thinks he can save the Roman Empire all by himself and not be the 5th century version of Caligula or Nero. He and his boyfriend, Bacchus (The Roman version of Dionysus) get decidedly mixed results from this little escapade.

Andre Araujo and Matthew Wilson are the perfect art team for capturing the gorgeous heights and the farcical lows of the Roman Empire in WicDiv #455. Araujo can handle the detailed crowd shots like Lucifer’s “triumph” and the flame and gore filled environs of his fall into becoming an imitation of Nero, but he also is a wonderful artist of gestures and facial expressions. Ananke is a hated character in the main WicDiv series, but Araujo makes her a vulnerable, almost pathetic figure, who pleads for her life before a power hungry Lucifer. She’s not necessity or the creator of the Pantheon in that situation, but just an old woman. However, there’s a glimpse of the Ananke we know and hate at the end as she makes jokes about Vandals and covers world history’s collective asses. Wilson’s colors accents Lucifer’s powers with red and golds worthy of an emperor as he shuns the slave saying “Memento mori” and rides into the Forum like a wannabe Julius Caesar even though he’s just won a relatively minor victory.

On a deeper level, Gillen and Araujo show that the Pantheon being their era’s version of pop stars might not lead to them being worshiped and treated like celebrities In Rome, actors were seen as immoral, and homophobic slurs were often hurled at them. (There was a reason that Ovid was exiled, and Augustus was deified.) Sure, everyone went to see Plautus’ comedies, occasionally Seneca’s dark tragedies, and of course, the gladiator games, but these people didn’t have the greatest reputations. Gillen and Araujo riff off on this idea through speeches about Nero being ridiculed for being interested in music and poetry instead of being a statesman, and then images of Lucifer literally playing the bodies of senators like a harp instead of using them to help him rule Rome. But there are even more layers to this provocative image, like the inevitability of the Roman republic’s turn to authoritarianism or the parade of weak, adolescent emperors from Caligula to Elagabalus and beyond. Lucifer should be a metaphorical intern or have an entry level position at the most and not be the “CEO” of one of the world’s greatest empires.

Lucifer/Caesar’s key character trait in WicDiv 455 is childishness, which is honestly one she shared with her present day Pantheon counterpart, who enjoyed mouthing off to government officials and chain smoking. (She would have mocked the actual Chainsmokers though if she was alive to see them.) The 455 version of Lucifer is pretty fucking petulant and doesn’t have 2014’s gift for song quote or barbed one-liners. Gillen and Araujo get the macabre humor beneath his classic Rome fanboy veneer from the opening pages where the genre quickly switches from pastoral to epic, and Wilson’s palette goes from green to red. Lucifer could have had a nice life cuddling with his boyfriend Dionysus and playing songs in fields, but that would be a pretty dull story. Lucifer sees himself as the hero of an epic, but he’s really just a fifth act victim in one of Seneca’s overlong tragedies that Shakespeare and Marlowe added more wordplay and energy to while keeping the body count. And Andre Araujo makes him pull the silliest of faces while attempting to kill Ananke or lecturing to the Senate that wouldn’t be out of place in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (Or a grim and gritty reboot of Asterix and Obelix.) if it wasn’t for the serious tone of the story and the general use of red in the background.

WicDiv 455 melds the trashy, lavish, and violent aesthetic of the late period Roman Empire with the thought and creativity of the Augustan Age, and there’s (maybe) no possibility of it being used as propaganda like the Aeneid. Like a passage from the Satyricon, Kieron Gillen, Andre Araujo, and Matthew Wilson meld humanity’s basest desires for sex and violence with our highest urges for glory and legacy into a comic book feast that will have you begging for seconds and looking up Emperor Tiberius’ recipe for roasted dormouse on Pinterest between rereads.

Story: Kieron Gillen Art: Andre Araujo Colors: Matthew Wilson
Story: 9.5  Art: 10 Overall: 9.8  Recommendation: Buy 

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Advertisements

Review: Star Wars: Screaming Citadel #1

Rebel pilot and rogue archaeologist wander side by side into the darkest shadows of the galaxy as Luke Skywalker reluctantly teams up with Doctor Aphra! The Doctor makes Luke an offer he can’t afford to pass up…one that leads him to a very rare gathering at the heart of the infamous Screaming Citadel. Will Luke find what he’s looking for? Can Aphra be trusted? Or will they both wind up victims of the Citadel’s Queen?

When it comes to Marvel, Star Wars has been a bright spot for pretty much everything released. Nothing has stumbled, even the few crossovers we’ve seen. That’s why with each new release I find myself so excited to see what’s coming next and where things are going. It’s all perfectly fleshed out and expanded upon the movies and television shows delivering things that feel new with each release. Star Wars: Screaming Citadel #1 kicks off the next “event” that will eventually move to Star Wars and Star Wars: Doctor Aphra. And it does so by giving us a lot to chew on and explore.

Spinning out of the recent story arc, Aphra finds herself with a crystal that contains the artificial intelligence of a Jedi and she needs Luke’s help to unlock it. That leads the two to a mysterious citadel and world where they must find favor with the Queen.

Written by Kieron Gillen, the first issue drops us into the action playing off of the character’s personalities and more importantly acknowledging the history between everyone. Luke is maybe a bit naive and at this point in his life he still might be, that’d be my only knock, but Aphra is such a good bullshitter it still makes sense. What’s impressive to me is Gillen’s ability to add so much that feels new and intriguing. There’s at least a dozen (if not more) things just in this issue that I want to learn more about. There’s new races, things mentioned, characters presented, worlds explored, all of it feels new and fresh and when it is a nod to what we’ve seen before there’s still something new there. 40 years to work with, that’s impressive.

The art by Marco Checchetto is absolutely fantastic and that’s helped by the colors of Andres Mossa who continues to deliver on the Star Wars style Marvel has built. The worlds all jump off the page and pop in a way that’s exciting and reflect the story Gillen has delivered. The aliens look unique and new as well and those last few pages had me uttering “what the hell” as the art delivers the shock and awe Gillen is going for.

It’s Marvel Star Wars. That alone is reason enough to check this out and while it’s not great for new readers it builds upon the various excellent history that we’ve had the ability to enjoy over the last year or so. This first issue delivers and has me anxiously awaiting what comes next.

Story: Kieron Gillen Art: Marco Checchetto Color: Andres Mossa
Story: 9.0 Art: 10 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy

C2E2 2017: Kieron Gillen Talks High Fantasy, “Self-Hatred,” and Music Spoiling Comics

Through his creator owned comics Phonogram and The Wicked + the Divine with artist Jamie McKelvie and colorist Matthew Wilson, Kieron Gillen has masterfully melded the fantastic worlds of music and urban fantasy into an exciting read experience. He has also conquered the worlds of Marvel with the delightful Young Avengers and way too sad Loki solo series Journey into Mystery among others as well as comics set in a galaxy far far away, like Doctor Aphra and Darth Vader. He’s also one hell of a DJ and has quite the Twitter pun game.

At C2E2, I got the opportunity to chat with Kieron about being a fantasy writer, and how the characters of WicDiv have all become terrible people. We also preview the upcoming WicDiv 455 special set in ancient Rome and ponder the fate of Phonogram‘s David Kohl (and his fiction suit wearer Kieron Gillen) in 2017 as well as strain out some of that book’s autobiographical bits.

Graphic Policy: I guess you could classify WicDiv and Phonogram as urban fantasy. (And Journey into Mystery, now that I think of it.) What has drawn you to the fantasy genre over and over again, and do you have any particular books or fantasy films that have influenced you?

Kieron Gillen: Back when I was starting to write comics, I used to call myself a speculative fiction writer. The person I was seeing told me, “No, you’re not, Kieron.” She said, “You’re a fantasy writer. Making a world where music is magic isn’t speculative fiction.” Being a speculative fiction writer is much cooler because science fiction writers are genuinely cooler than fantasy writers in my opinion. It’s real work as opposed to fantasy, which is just making shit up.

It took me a long time to accept [being a fantasy writer]. I burnt out on a lot of fantasy as a teenager. I had a kind of “come to Jesus” moment where I was like “What on Earth is this shit?” A lot of fantasy is just shit like the travelogue school of fantasy where there’s a map, the heroes will go around the map, and the big mountain. At least, Tolkien had a degree of originality.

So, the idea of me identifying as a fantasy writer is anathema. But then there’s the whole idea of urban fantasy. I used to write essays about this when I was a music writer before I realized [urban fantasy] was what I wanted to write. It was the idea of the transformation of an environment. The magic in Phonogram is that we have a world, and then you add something over the world. Like augmented reality.

People tell me that Phonogram gives them permission to view listening to music and going to clubs as a magical space. It always makes me think about parkour. My favorite thing about parkour, at least when it started, was the idea that buildings are designed as prisons for people. But, in your imagination, it can turn into a playground. They’ve chosen to see the world differently, and there’s always things to traverse.

This is kind of what urban fantasy does. You have a world and overlay it. There’s magic here. It’s like when I was a kid and loved Transformers. That car [Outside the convention center] could be a fucking robot. It’s like the Kurt Busiek core idea about superheroes. We have this magical thing in the world, and the world doesn’t change. The point of Superman is that you can see him fly past you in the skyline. If you take superheroes too seriously, you become something alternate history like Uber or science fiction. Add a superhero, and the world changes enormously.

I’ve actually been digging into primary world fantasy, like Middle Earth, as opposed to Narnia, which is a secondary world. It’s something I want to do in the future.

GP: You doing high fantasy would be awesome.

KG: I’ve said in a few interviews that I’m working on my next big, spangly thing. It’s a very literary high fantasy. It’s very grown up. I say grown up as a very loaded term because high fantasy is trashy in many ways. But I want to dig into some bigger themes and see what I can do with the genre. That hate fuck, that passion I have for fantasy means something.

GP: One thing I really enjoyed about “Imperial Phase” was that you and Jamie [McKelvie] gave Minerva and Baal a lot of character development. Why did you leave them out of the last issue of the arc?

KG: I get asked questions like “You’re very efficient with your storytelling. You hit stuff very cleanly and elegantly.” A lot of that is necessity, which is a word that is very fucking loaded in the context of WicDiv.

GP: Oh yeah, good ol’ Ananke.

KG: I’ve got 14 primary characters across the series and quite a few smaller, supporting ones. I ask what we can fit in an issue. The previous issue where we did the “phased” bit was me responding to the fact that I had so much shit to do. How can I do it in an artful way that speaks to the theme of the book.

Baal and Minerva just weren’t in this issue. The thing about “Imperial Phase” is that there’s parts one and two. When I originally planned “Imperial Phase”, I was thinking that we don’t have a cliffhanger. What’s the most unexpected thing for a WicDiv end of arc to be? It just stops, and we continue it. But when I ended up plotting it, it had a climax, but just a different kind of climax.

There was no room for Baal. If you remove Baal, you remove Minerva as well. The reason that Baal wasn’t there was a soft story beat. “Oh poop, Baal isn’t coming” leads to Persephone’s “Why do we hurt people?” The reason that Baal wasn’t there was because Persephone was there. It’s that moment when you realize that someone’s not coming to a party because they don’t want to see you. Baal not being at the party is kind of the point.

Baal is a sensitive man, and I love the dichotomy between him and Minerva. In other words, there’s more from Baal and Minerva in “Imperial Phase Part Two”. At the end of the story, Baal will be one of people’s favorite characters. He and Minerva are some of the most interesting characters, and knowing the whole story means I put him low in the mix early and then bring him up later.

GP: Good metaphor!

KG: I’m always a DJ. And since I know the whole thing, I want to build him up at different times. Dionysus is stepping forward and is one of the key players in the next arc. He’s got a scene in issue 30 with the Morrigan, which is one of my favorite things to do with the character

GP: I am really looking forward to the WicDiv 455 Special. Why did you decide to set it at the end of the Roman Empire instead of the Augustan Age with Ovid and Virgil, or during the time of Nero?

KG: If you set it at the end, you can include anything earlier. Everyone at the end knows what happens to Nero, Sulla, and Caligula, and you can reference all those people. If you’re doing something about Rome, set it at the end, make it about the end of Rome. Of course, WicDiv is about endings and the death of an empire.

This is minor spoilers, but the basic plot of 455 is that 455’s Lucifer has decided to not be involved in the Ananke pact and says, ” We don’t need Lucifer, we need Julius Caesar (Who was a god.), I’m going to save the empire.” You imagine that goes well.

The way I researched this special as opposed to the Romantics’ one [WicDiv 1831 Special] was different because the Romantics were a small cast of people, I could go relatively deep. Rome is so big that I had to do a very broad sweep and look at the entire history of Rome, which interests me. There’s some stuff I wished I gotten into, like Tiberius, who did Goth parties where everyone was in black. The slaves are painted black, he’s wearing full black, and they spend the entire party talking about death. And he’s killed people so everyone expects to die. It’s the most Gothic thing I’ve ever heard. But we had to cut it from the story.

GP: Why was Andre Araujo the perfect artist for this story?

KG: The way to phrase it is that I had a core image based on a Roman triumph, and I needed an artist willing to draw a Roman triumph. A triumph is a blaze of color and shape. Andre and I were talking when his comic Man Plus was out, and he said that he was working on a creator owned Rome pitch. In my head, I thought he was a [Katsuhiro] Otomo-esque cyberpunk guy because of Avengers A.I. and Man Plus, which is basically Akira reimagined in Portugal.

He had fantasy, sci-fi, and medieval pitches. And I said, “You like historical stuff and like drawing enormous landscapes. We can use this.” I asked him, and he was working on Ales [Kot’s] new book Generation Gone. So, we’ve derailed the work on another Image book in WicDiv’s favor and are very grateful to Ales. Also, Matt Wilson is doing the colors, and it works very well in the issue.

GP: The first 12 issues of WicDiv seemed to be about the relationship between being a fan and a creator, especially through our main character, Laura. How does her turn to the “dark side” in the past arc fit in with that fan/creator dynamic?

KG: “Imperial Phase” has been solipsistic. It’s about the gods being quite navel gaze-y. You get bits of fan stuff, like Persephone having her own fans. And that’s fun. I love how creepy everyone wearing a Persephone skull is. That transition from being a fan to having fans, and the responsibilities and duties that lie on that access and how well you navigate it.

WicDiv is based on a format of four years. The first year is a fan trying to become great, the second is this weird thing and ends with you getting your big hit. The third is you’ve got your success, and now what the hell is it for? The third year is about many things, but mostly my ambivalent feelings about WicDiv‘s success. When you get to the end of WicDiv, you’ll get that. There’s spoilery stuff I don’t really want to talk about yet.

GP: It’s like your “Ashes to Ashes”.

KG: A little bit, yeah. To go with the Bowie, we start out with Ziggy Stardust with some Black Parade, then you’ve got the Berlin period for “Commercial Suicide”. Then, it’s Let’s Dance, and “Oh yeah, we’ve got an enormous hit.” We’ve done the “Bad Blood” Taylor Swift everything explodes thing, what now? The idea that you can remain successful and use your craft to do a trashy pop thing, and everyone will love it.

But how can you look in the mirror? It’s basically the stuff that killed Cobain. That’s kind of what “Imperial Phase” has been about. There’s lots of self-hatred. That’s what we do.

GP: I don’t really get a Nirvana vibe from WicDiv, but it makes sense now.

KG: Everything’s in there. I don’t want to do too much because the gods are disappearing down their own holes in their own different ways, which is kind of the point. They have their own hamartia. This collapse is how we delineate whether people are wrestling with their demons or not.

GP: Right now, Amaterasu is basically evil. When in the past issues of WicDiv did you start to seed in her heel turn and realize she would turn out this way?

KG: It’s like one of those questions, “How do you define evil?” Amaterasu is somebody who has been easy to forgive her foibles because she’s nice. She’s Cassandra’s opposite. Cassandra is easy to dislike, but is mainly right. She is very abrasive, and it’s the irony of “the Cassandra”. People aren’t listening to her because she’s annoying, but she’s mostly right.

As opposed to Amaterasu, who’s very sweet, very kind, and a coward. And she looks great. She’s a pretty white girl, and people let them get away with things. If you look back at the first speech she gives [in WicDiv #1], it’s creepy as hell. Amaterasu is someone who knows stuff, but isn’t great at putting the them together. She’s got her practiced lines, but her interview [in the first issue] falls apart when she panics.

I’m always worried that I make her IQ drop too much. But she just doesn’t get it. One thing I love about Amaterasu is that apart from the loss of her parents, she’s had a nice life. She’s 17 and the second youngest of the Pantheon. She’s slightly younger than Persephone.

GP: I always forget she’s so young.

KG: It doesn’t make her behavior forgivable, but you understand it. If you reread WicDiv, you’ll go, “Oh yeah, that was kind of coming.” But I think might be easy to miss what we’re trying to do with Amaterasu until you got to her solo issue and that image of her immediate rage when someone tried to take a toy from her. That’s Amaterasu in two pages. This is mine, and fuck you if you try to take it.

The darker side of the characters has started to come out. And, in the last issue, she’s a fucking monster. There’s some stuff that she does that is amazing as in “Wow, you actually did that.”

GP: Like the whole “ShinTwo” thing.

KG: I always knew she was going to lean into that, but only got the pun while writing her first scenes. ShinTwo, oh no! That’s so bad, and it’s completely the right thing to do [for the character].

The thing about WicDiv is that it’s all very planned. I know the characters’ arcs. But the specific execution is what I keep free; otherwise it’s just typing for four years. It’s got to surprise and delight me, or it gets boring. And if gets boring for me, it’s even more boring for the readers. A bored writer is generally a shit writer.

GP: Moving onto the recently released Complete Phonogram, what is David Kohl up to in 2017?

KG: I imagine he’s being interviewed about his glorious career as a phonomancer. He’s settled into being a complete has-been, which is kind of the weird joy of it, I think. That final story I did with Tom Humberstone when we pull away the mask a bit and let Kohl become Kieron, and he’s like “Yeah, you got me”.

And the weird thing is you’ve got this push and pull between Kieron Gillen the writer and David Kohl the character. There are bits, like when Michael Jackson dies, and that segue between time and space. Those panels are very clearly about me, Kieron Gillen, as opposed to the panels that are about this fictional character, David Kohl, who is a critique of my own writing of a certain period. I think David Kohl is about me.

 

GP: Phonogram: Rue Britannia especially has that autobio comic vibe to it.

KG: I’ve learned to hide it better. When I was writing Rue Britannia, I was influenced by Joe Matt’s The Poor Bastard, Eddie Campbell, and of course, Grant Morrison with this quasi-fiction suit sort of thing. That’s what I wanted to do with Kohl.With Rue Britannia, I hid [the autobiographical elements] less expertly than I did later. Like I gave Britannia some of the same outfits as someone I dated. It’s kind of funny when people come up cosplaying as one of my ex-girlfriends.

I realized that in Singles Club, which is more autobiographical in a real way.There’s more facts in Rue Britannia and more emotional truth in Singles Club. By splitting the stories into the seven characters of Singles Club, I could hide it better, which is what WicDiv is doing as well.

GP: I have one last musical-based question. I’m a big fan of the WicDiv playlist, and it keeps me sane during work. I was wondering what albums or artists you were listening to while scripting “Imperial Phase Part 2”.

KG: The easiest way is to look at the playlist, but there are songs I want to add that aren’t on Spotify, like “Shocked” by Kylie Minogue. And then there’s others I can’t add because of spoilers. You need to be an obsessive WicDiv fan to see what I’m adding, but sometimes I have to wait until various [story] beats hit to drop it in. Like if there was a song called “Sakhmet’s Eating Some People,” I would add it to the playlist.

If you look at the more recent stuff on the playlist, there’s ANOHNI and her track “4 Degrees” that’s amazing apocalyptic awfulness. Blood Orange’s album Freetown Sound is on there and very Persephone in its sadness. Then, there’s Downtown Boys and their cover of “Dancing in the Dark” [by Bruce Springsteen]. I was obsessed with that track for a week and kept breaking into tears about why this record meant so much to me.

[Downtown Boys] are an X-Ray Spex-like bisexual punk band from New York, and their cover of “Dancing in the Dark” reframes the sheer anger of the lyric as a song about depression with dancing in it. You’ve got the beat and the line, “I wanna change my clothes, my hair, my faces”, and it’s like someone carving their face off. It feels very political.

And you can scan the playlist for more great stuff.


Kieron Gillen is currently writing “Modded” and Uber: Invasion for Avatar, Doctor Aphra for Marvel Comics, and of course, The Wicked + the Divine at Image Comics.

You can find him on Twitter and Tumblr.

The Sights, Sounds (and Selfies) of C2E2 2017

Four years after I first visited it as a 19 year old journalist, I returned to C2E2 in 2017 to a much more crowded show floor and a world where a monosyllabic tree and a talking raccoon, not Iron Man were the most popular characters in the Marvel Universe. Most of my C2E2 was spent wandering around Artist’s Alley, chatting with creators/fellow fans/Twitter friends, and trying to not get lost.

One reason I love C2E2 is that they bring in excellent comics guests to balance the celebrities and their overpriced autographs. ($100 for Stan Lee. Come on!) There’s everyone from the very friendly and passionate webcomic creator Ngozi Ukazu from Check Please! to veteran writers, like Greg Rucka and Kieron Gillen, and I found myself flipping from Archie to Black Mask and occasionally a side of the Big Two while walking around. The Artist’s Alley is the beating heart of the con even though C2E2 also has two quite large gaming areas for console gamers and tabletop fans, and the Weta Workshop truly spoke to the Lord of the Rings nerd in me.

Here is a gallery of pictures of my C2E2 2017 experience starting with the Captain Marvel cosplayer I met while waiting for the shuttle bus and ending with a moment where I felt like a comic book character. (Dionysus from The Wicked + the Divine #8 aka the rave issue to be specific.)

 

 

 

Six Things at C2E2 I’m Most Excited About

I love C2E2, not just because it’s located in the great city of Chicago, home of the best pizza, rappers, and (As of this writing.) basketball team in the world. C2E2 one of the few big time cons that still focuses on comic books and their creators, not just celebrities and movie trailers. It’s also the first comic book convention that I attended many moons ago in 2013 when I strode into the press lounge asking how to interview a comic book creator and frantically texting my editor. But it was a great time, and I got to see some of my heroes, including Felicia Day, comic book painter demigod Alex Ross, Kieron Gillen, and the very kind Doctor Who and Wolverine writer Paul Cornell.

I am very excited to return to C2E2 in 2017 and bask in the glow of comic book fans, creators, and publishers. Here are six things you should check out at (or after) the show, which runs from Friday, April 21 to Sunday, April 23.

  1. C2E2 Exclusive Variants/Comics

At their most primal (and capitalist) level, cons are about buying stuff that we think is cool. Whether that’s a celebrity pretending to care about us for sixty seconds, a print by our favorite artist, or a replica of Mjolnir because we have a god complex. One thing I love about comic book conventions is the opportunity to get special covers of comic books. It can be a snapshot reminder of meeting a certain creator, having an artist draw a character you like, or a bit of both like when I picked up Joe Quinones’ Serenity: Leaves of the Wind variant at Baltimore Comic Con in 2014. (Mal and Inara drawn like a pulp novel cover equals major heart eyes.)

Number one on my list of special comics to pick up at C2E2 is an exclusive early copy of Matthew Rosenberg and Tyler Boss’ hilarious 80s period piece/crime comic Four Kids Walk Into A Bank #4, published by Black Mask Studios. There are only 66 copies of this comic, which features a cover by We Can Never Go Home so get to their booth quickly, and all proceeds to go to the anti-gun violence charity, CeaseFire Illinois. You get to read a cool comic early and help an important cause. Some other comics worth checking out are horror maestro Rafael Albuquerque’s variant for the new Alien: Dead Orbit series, Scott Hampton’s classic fantasy style cover for American Gods #1, Matt Wagner’s creepy Joker-centric cover for The Dark Knight III #1, and Mike Allred doing Flash of Two Worlds Harley Quinn #1 style.

And if you’re a huge Lord of the Rings geek and have money to burn, you could always grab an exclusive Helm of Sauron from Chicago Costume…

2. The Valiant X-O Manowar Release Party (And General Con Presence)

The resurrection of Valiant Entertainment as a publisher has been one of the great comics success stories of the past five years. And they have quite the C2E2 planned with everything from a special beer to commemorate the launch of X-O Manowar #1 by Matt Kindt and my favorite Conan artist Tomas Giorello to Bloodshot coffee mugs.

Valiant is doing a full spread of panels, including ones about X-O Manowar’s past, present, and future as their flagship book and one about the upcoming Harbinger Wars 2 crossover with never seen before art and information about this book, which will affect almost all Valiant titles, including Faith. There’s also an early look at Ninjak vs. The Valiant Universea live action webseries featuring many Valiant heroes, like Ninjak, who will be played by Jason David Frank. (The former Green Power Ranger.)

And to cap things off, there’s the X-O Manowar #1 release party held at 7 PM on Friday at the Cobra Lounge. The party is also celebrating the release of Pipeworks Brewing Company’s X-O Manowar Galactic Golden Ale and has a $5 cover charge that will be donated to the suicide prevention charity, Hope for the Day. Comics and craft  beer are an excellent combination, and maybe you’ll spot Valiant’s famous ale and wine swilling immortal, Armstrong, at the party.

I HATE FAIRYLAND

3. Image Comics Panels

Image Comics is home for some of the creative comics of the 2010s in a variety of genres from dystopian science fiction (Bitch Planet) to space opera (Saga), urban fantasy (The Wicked + the Divine), and even sex comedy (Sex Criminals) and autobiography (Self-Obsessed). And all of Image’s books are owned by their creators.

One place to see all of your favorite Image creators at one place is at various panels. The one I’m looking forward to most is  “Image Comics Presents: Storytelling Essentials”, which will be held on Saturday at 11:15 AM and is a general chat about craft, influences, and inspirations. The panel lineup is pretty stacked and includes up and coming writer Donny Cates (God Country), queen of all colorists Jordie Bellaire (Injection), artist of all the pretty people Jamie McKelvie (WicDiv), the legend Greg Rucka (The Old Guard), the artist with one of the cleanest lines in comics Declan Shalvey (Injection), and writer/artist of adorable superhero babies and demented fairy tale characters Skottie Young (I Hate Fairyland).

I can’t wait to hear the interactions between this eclectic group of creators, who demonstrate on a daily basis that comics are much more than superheroes, and artists and colorists are equal, if not superior participants to writers in the creative process.

4. Weta Workshop Awesomeness

Before I got into comics, I was a huge (and still am) J.R.R. Tolkien and Lord of the Rings nerd. They weren’t splashed on the covers of Entertainment Weekly and People, like the trilogy’s stars and Academy Award winning director Peter Jackson, but the visual effects and makeup team at Wellington, New Zealand’s Weta Workshop truly brought the denizens of Middle Earth to life in both Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. Plus they’re named after a prehistoric, resilient cricket that only lives in New Zealand.

Weta is also responsible for crafting the worlds of Narnia, the Planet of the Apes, Mad Max Fury Road, and the upcoming Thor Ragnarok and excels at both practical effects and CGI. One thing that they are especially known for is creating large scale miniatures, like the ones of Minas Tirith, Helm’s Deep, and the dark fortress of Barad-Dur in Lord of the Rings as well as the Great Wall of China in the recent 2017 Matt Damon film with the same name.

And lucky for fans of science fiction and fantasy, they have booth and panel at C2E2 where you can geek out over Gollum, King Kong, Elven blades, or Power Ranger suits and check out the company’s portfolio and history. As icing on the cake, you can see a live makeup “transformation” featuring Warren Dion-Smith. Basically, you will see how flesh and blood human beings become orcs live and in person. The panel is at 2:30 PM on Sunday.

5. Mike Colter Panel

Marvel Studios is bringing several of the actors from their TV shows to C2E2, including Iain de Caestecker and Elizabeth Henstridge, who play the adorable, quirky British agents in Agents of SHIELD, the Kingpin of crime himself Vincen D’Onofrio, and finally, Mike Colter, who played Luke Cage in Jessica Jones and Luke Cage and will reprise his role in the upcoming Netflix series, The Defenders. Before playing the hero formerly known as Power Man, Colter was a crime lord in CBS’ The Good Wife and had roles in The Following and American Horror Story: Coven.

Colter’s appearance at C2E2 is almost perfectly timed as a bulletproof, black superhero is a powerful image for the United States in 2017. We currently have an Attorney General in Jeff Sessions, who has disparaged the NAACP and was considered by Coretta Scott King to be too racist for a federal judge and is one of many cabinet members and high ranking racist, xenophobic (usually) men that run this country. By standing up for his community of Harlem against corruption, Luke Cage is a symbol of hope in this dark time, and Mike Colter embodies him perfectly by playing him with a wonderful mix of physical presence, understated politeness, and a touch of rage in the middle of battle.

And, on a pure fan level, it will be interesting to see how much (or little) Mike Colter is allowed to say about Defenders, which is coming out in about four months. I am intrigued to see if he has anything to say about working with Finn Jones’ Iron Fist, and if they had any of the chemistry that Luke Cage and Danny Rand had in the comics. Jessica Jones, Daredevil, and Luke Cage were all enjoyable shows, and the environment in this panel room is bound to electric with anticipation for their team-up in Defenders with the audience hanging on every crumb of information Colter doles out about the upcoming show.

6. WicDiv Panel and Exclusive Merchandise

If you have read my work at all, you know that I wouldn’t end an article about a comic convention without bumping The Wicked + the Divine, which is my favorite current comic. Writer Kieron Gillen is making his first appearance at C2E2 since 2013, which was the glory days of Young Avengers, and artist Jamie McKelvie is going to his first C2E2 ever. They are bringing some exclusive merch, including pins of a death skull and Persephone’s hand and a very metal Baphomet t-shirt. Wearing this shirt instantly gives you the superpowers of ripped abs, Andrew Eldritch sunglasses, and fire swords.

And it’s kind of fitting that the WicDiv panel is being held on Sunday as fellow fans, er, worshipers of the Pantheon can join together and air out our feelings about the bittersweet ending to the “Imperial Phase” arc and get ready for the WicDiv #455 featuring the gods of ancient Rome. The panel is at 2:30 PM and will most likely have some glorious cosplay.

And that is my highly subjective list of the six coolest things to do at C2E2. Remember to stay hydrated, pack a portable phone charger, and take plenty of selfies with your favorite comic book creators and fans of general awesome things.

Star Wars: The Screaming Citadel #1 – A First Look At The New Epic Crossover!

Two of the biggest comics in the industry collide as Star Wars and Star Wars: Doctor Aphra cross over for the first time! Today, Marvel has released a first look inside Star Wars: The Screaming Citadel #1 – the first chapter in a blockbuster five-part story kicking off May 10th! Superstar writers Jason Aaron and Kieron Gillen join forces once again to combine their two hit series for an epic crossover in the mighty Marvel manner!

Rebel pilot and rogue archaeologist wander side-by-side into the darkest corners of the galaxy as Luke Skywalker reluctantly teams with Doctor Aphra! The good Doctor has an offer for this flyboy farm boy – help her, and she’ll provide him with information crucial on his quest to become a Jedi. With an offer he can’t refuse on the table, this unlikely duo finds themselves deep into the heart of the infamous Screaming Citadel! Can Luke find what he’s looking for? Can Aphra be trusted? Or will the Citadel’s Queen and the dark forces lurking within make their journey a one-way trip?!

Kicking off in this oversized one-shot, Kieron Gillen ans artist Marco Checchetto kick this epic story off in grand style! Then, the adventure continues later that month in the pages of Star Wars and Star Wars: Doctor Aphra!

Featuring covers by Marco Checchetto, Rod Reis, Chris Samnee, and Michael Walsh.

Review: The Wicked + the Divine #28

To steal a phrase from the great Hunter S. Thompson, The Wicked + the Divine #28 (and the end of the “Imperial Phase” arc) is decadent and depraved. There’s cocaine, an orgy, and even some cannibalism in store as writer Kieron Gillen, artist Jamie McKelvie, and colorist Matthew Wilson show once and for all that the members of the Pantheon are terrible people for the most part. I’ll still vouch for Dionysus and Urdr, but I’m probably being naive. Also, Urdr is kind of an asshole in this issue. The comic is centered around a party once again as Amaterasu thinks she is the actual Shinto goddess Amaterasu even though she is a white girl from England and throws a soiree for her “worshipers”. She goes from a favorite to beyond problematic in just a couple painful pages. Choosing anarchy has taken a real toll on the Pantheon, and after an incident like what happens in this issue, they won’t be much of a match for the Great Darkness.

McKelvie and Wilson’s visual stylings for WicDiv #28 are EDM meets hot lava, especially when Amaterasu gets angry at the always skeptical  Urdr, and her usual kind mannerisms turns orange and rage filled. However, the plot and tone of the issue felt a lot like the end of Brit Pop in 1997 when Oasis was focusing on cocaine and hanging out on 10 Downing Street more than music and releasing nine minute long tracks with multiple key changes that really should have been a four minute pop rock song. Their key rival band Blur was more self-aware releasing tracks like “Death of a Party” and sounding like an American alternative band and later experimenting with hip hop and world music.

Amaterasu, Sakhmet, Woden, and to a certain extent, Persephone, are Oasis in this case and have given up on fighting the Great Darkness or being artists to basically party and use mortals to make themselves feel better instead of inspiring humanity like the Pantheons supposedly did in the past. Like Oasis, they are caught making the same album over and over again and coasting on the fact that they once played a gig to 250,000 people. (Thankfully, Liam Gallagher never ate anyone.) WicDiv #28 is self-indulgence at its peak giving readers a dose of the old sex, drugs, and ultraviolence, and there is going to be one hell of a hangover once “Imperial Phase Part II” kicks off. And this decadence extends to Jamie McKelvie’s clothing choices, especially Sakhmet’s drop dead gorgeous dress, which gets a full establishing panel and sets her up for a major role in the plot of this issue.

The cast of WicDiv has been pretty well-established, but a character, who has been on the margins, ends up kicking off WicDiv #28 with some real emotions. It’s David Blake, who is a scholar of the Pantheon and Recurrences, and is revealed to be Woden’s father. McKelvie draws him as tired, yet angry as he quickly snatches a family picture out of Urdr’s hands complete with a speed line. Gillen’s dialogue for David is full of regrets even as he openly admits being proud of his son, who is at a “finishing school”. With all the battles, motorcycle rides, and non-stop hivemind parties in “Imperial Phase”, it’s nice to have a reminder than the Pantheon members are human beings with parents and families beneath their divine trappings. Also, Woden has an Oedipus complex because the Valkyries remind him of his Asian mother. It’s pathetic, really, but Gillen and McKelvie don’t make a big deal about it and “reveal” it only in a background picture in David’s flat.

WicDiv #28 is so draining that an epilogue featuring an Ananke flashback actually comes as a comfort. She writes about how difficult this particular era is, and in an age of Trump, Brexit, missile strikes on Syria, concentration camps for gay men in Chechnya, and corporate airlines physically dragging paying customers off their flights, this rings true. 2017 is scary and difficult, and Gillen, McKelvie, and Wilson reflect this in WicDiv through the metaphors of youth and divinity.

Everyone is just fucked up in WicDiv #28 as Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, and Matthew Wilson show the unraveling of relationships as conversation turns to violent threats and actual violence in shades of red and black. These stylish characters have been stripped down to their ugly essences with Sakhmet’s bloodstained mouth representing most of the Pantheon, who have been utterly consumed by fame and power, that they are inspiring absolutely no one and could end up leading to the end of the world.

Story: Kieron Gillen Art: Jamie McKelvie Colors: Matthew Wilson
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy 

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Preview: Star Wars: Doctor Aphra #6

Star Wars: Doctor Aphra #6

(W) Kieron Gillen (A) Kev Walker (CA) Karmome Shirahama
Rated T
In Shops: Apr 12, 2017
SRP: $3.99

Aphra Jr. and Sr. have stumbled upon an ancient Jedi citadel… but it appears that some form of life has survived… and they are NOT happy to be disturbed.

Preview: Star Wars: Doctor Aphra #5

Star Wars: Doctor Aphra #5

(W) Kieron Gillen (A) Kev Walker (CA) Karmome Shirahama
Rated T
In Shops: Mar 08, 2017
SRP: $3.99

Has Aphra actually found a lost ancient Jedi site? And if so, can she make it out with her life? And if so, will she be able to get a good price for it?

Kieron Gillen and Antonio Fuso Take on James Bond this May

Dynamite Entertainment introduces an all-new take on the icon of espionage in an upcoming oversized James Bond special, James Bond: Service, written by Kieron Gillen and drawn by Antonio Fuso!

In contemporary politics, where Britain’s world standing is often more zero than 007, an assassin plans to exterminate the “special relationship,” and lead Britain and the United States into a very dark place…especially when he does so by aiming down the sights of an ancient Enfield rifle! It’ll test Bond’s deadly talents to their limits, in order to defeat the assassin and avert certain geopolitical disaster…

James Bond: Service will be released as a 48-page special and slated for release in May.

bondservicecovamckelvie

« Older Entries