Tag Archives: ryan kelly

Review: Saucer State #1

She was abducted by aliens. Now she’s the President. She’s going to use the power of that office to find out what really happened. But will they let her?

Saucer State is the sequel to and the conclusion of the Hugo Award nominated Saucer Country and brilliantly mixes politics with a bit of The X-Files. Actually, a lot of The X-Files. That’s also not a bad thing at all as the two concepts mashed up make for an intriguing story. Usually, when we get this sort of tale the government is behind the conspiracy or it’s focused on an individual fighting for the truth. Instead, the government, in the form of the new President, is the ones fighting to find the truth.

If you haven’t read the first volume Saucer Country, and you should, you can still dive into this first issue as it does a solid job catching you up on what’s going on and moving the story forward. It helps having read the first volume, but it’s not a necessity. It adds depth, but doesn’t reveal anything that’s a must know at this point and time.

What I particularly like about what writer Paul Cornell has done with this series is the fact he gets a lot of the politics right. I’m not talking positions and platforms, I’m talking the backroom interactions and dealings. How the operatives act and talk and what’s discussed are often things I’ve experienced (though nothing about aliens). There’s enough of that to make it feel realistic and “lived in.”

Artist Ryan Kelly delivers with solid art that adds to the realism with characters that look completely normal and are all distinct, settings that feel real and worn, but also mixing in the sci-fi elements to it all. The fact Kelly is able to balance the real world and fantastical is impressive as it feels seamless and works together.

As a fan of the first volume, Saucer State has been a comic I’ve been looking forward to since it was announced and can’t wait to see where Cornell and Kelly take us as far as this conspiracy goes. If the end of the first issue is any indication, it’ll be a wild ride as already I’m caught off guard with the unexpected. A solid return and debut and I’m excited to see what happens next.

Story: Paul Cornell Art: Ryan Kelly
Story: 8.15 Art: 8.15 Overall: 8.15 Recommendation: Buy

IDW Publishing provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

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Preview: Saucer State #1

Saucer State #1

Paul Cornell (w) • Ryan Kelly (a & c)

She was abducted by aliens. Now she’s the President. She’s going to use the power of that office to find out what really happened. But will they let her? Saucer State is the sequel to and the conclusion of the Hugo Award nominated Saucer Country. It’s House of Cards does The X-Files. It’s a bulletin from the brightest timeline. She will break the world to find who hurt her. And new readers can start here.

FC • 32 pages • $3.99

Preview: Red Thorn #13

Red Thorn #13

(W) David Baillie (A) Meghan Hetrick, Ryan Kelly (CA) Choong Yoon
In Shops: Dec 14, 2016
SRP: $3.99

Cadros and Thorn face each other for the last time, as Isla’s new powers grow explosively and Tarek is forced to make the most important decision of his life. Join us as our story of Pagan Gods, Demigods and Red Caps comes to a close. Who lives, who dies and…will our world survive?

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Preview: Red Thorn #12

Red Thorn #12

Written by: David Baillie
Art by: Ryan Kelly, Meghan Hetrick
Cover by: Choong Yoon

Thorn travels to the Otherworld and does not like what he finds there. Tarek takes on a villain, but not the one you’re expecting. Amaka tells us how she managed to survive a threat that would have killed anyone else on Earth…and Ness prepares to do something she’d sworn she never would. The twelfth chapter of Red Thorn answers almost all the questions you’ve been asking all year. Almost.

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IDW Publishing To Revive Paul Cornell and Ryan Kelly’s Saucer State

Announced at San Diego Comic-Con, this one has me excited. IDW Publishing announced that Paul Cornell and Ryan Kelly‘s ongoing comic series Saucer State will be released in June 2017.

Saucer Country, created by Cornell and Kelly, was published by DC/Vertigo and ran for 14 issues. The series has found a new home at IDW Publishing with a new title name, Saucer State.

Saucer Country told the story of Mexican-American Arcadia Alvarado, the former Governor of New Mexico, has been elected President of the United States… and brings with her a veritable closet filled with bizarre skeletons. As Governor, she dealt with immigration, budget cuts and an alcoholic ex. Oh… and she claims to have been “abducted by aliens.” The nightmarish encounter has left her with terrible, half-glimpsed memories and now as President, she’s determined to use her new political powers to expose the truth—and maybe, to save the world.

IDW will release The Complete Saucer Country, a collection of the entire previous series, in a special edition to coincide with the release of Saucer State #1 in Spring 2017.

Saucer State

Review: Cry Havoc #4

cryhavoc_04-1With each issue of Cry Havoc, writer Simon Spurrier has the task of balancing three narratives that, while separate, are directly related. So far readers have met Louise Canton at three points in her life, denoted by location: London, Afghanistan, and the Red Place, with each place falling in this order, chronologically. The story isn’t as confusing as it’s made out to be, kept distinct by Ryan Kelly’s illustration and a legion of colorists.

By now, it’s clear that London was the first part of Louise’s journey, as she grappled with control over her inner monster. Afghanistan has been framed in the context of getting rid of the monster, and the Red Place would appear to be a mission gone FUBAR. The events leading up to the Red Place are still an unknown, but the first three issues ended with images of Lou, pregnant and locked in a cage. This is largely playing catch-up on the series, but it all bears relevance to #4.

With Cry Havoc #4, Spurrier finally discusses the elephant in the womb. (I’d say I’m sorry about the pun, but I’m not.) Lou was decidedly pregnant in issue #2 (and in #1, upon closer examination of the last page) something on which that the villainous Lynn Odell clearly means to capitalize.

Given that the only relationship Louise has been in was with a woman, it certainly seemed possible that the pregnancy was the result of unspeakably awful circumstances. However, Spurrier deserves the faith readers have invested in the story so far. While the events surrounding the pregnancy aren’t ideal, the way in which it’s handled brings the narrative into a clearer time frame.

The story also continues to make some interesting points about how, culturally, stories are valued and told. Other characters continue to develop while the world of inner demons, for lack of a better term, develops.

As usual, one of the highlights of the story is the art. Kelly’s illustration is highlighted in different ways by each of the three colorists, and the palettes begin to blend a little more as each place comes closer to the next in terms of the timeline. Lee Loughridge emphasizes the characters in red hues more than any other aspect of the Red Place, giving the sense that Lynn and Lou are the most important players in the game. Nick Filardi’s London colors but equal focus on the characters and their surroundings, which are most often portrayed in colors that have an underlying blue tone. Matt Wilson’s Afghanistan is a blend of the two–most often neutral, but with some spectacular pops of color that highlight each mythical being in a unique way.

Cry Havoc is still a fun and engaging read four issues in, with solid pacing that reveals enough to both move the story forward and to keep readers feeling like they’re not waiting forever. That said, the endgame largely remains a mystery, as does the fates of many of the characters.

Story: Simon Spurrier Art: Ryan Kelly Colorists: Lee Loughridge, Nick Filardi, Matt Wilson
Story: 8.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review.

Review: Cry Havoc #3

cryhavoc_03-1Cry Havoc continues its bloody campaign with #3, in which writer Simon Spurrier pulls no punches and artist Ryan Kelly renders each page in clear, gruesome detail. Once again, Cry Havoc proves itself to be something more than just werewolves, delving headfirst into a diverse cast of mythological beings. So far, three different characters (wolf, Hildisvini/Battle Pig, and most recently, the vampiric Adze/Swarm) have gotten a moment in the spotlight on Joe Kelly and Emma Price’s gorgeous covers, though Louise Canton remains the main character within the narrative.

For as much as Cry Havoc confounds using myths and time jumps, it also gives generously. The plot progresses significantly in #3 while continuing to flesh out the character of each of Lou’s companions. Perhaps the most enticing information is background on the mysterious and much discussed Lynn Odell. As with the previous issues, pages about the Red Place bookend the beginning and middle of Lou’s story. However, the events of the Red Place provide more to chew on literally and figuratively in this issue more than either of its predecessors. Cry Havoc has miles to go before the Red Place’s mysteries are known, but one sure thing is that the Red Place is far more significant and larger than Lou’s cell in the cave would have readers think.

The coloring and art once again work harmoniously to provide a narrative that is certainly connected even though it isn’t linear. Kelly’s art is clean and consistently great, highlighted wonderfully in different ways by each of the book’s three colorists. As far as time jumps go, Cry Havoc’s are easily navigable because each is so distinct in its setting and color scheme. Nick Filardi’s mostly-blue scheme has subtly shifted in a way that sets Lou apart from the rest of London. The red undertones in her skin emphasize her difference. Lee Loughridge also employs a distinct palette made up of warm colors, particularly consisting of yellow hues. The contrast of red with blue-toned shadows emphasizes not only the characters, but what’s inside them as well.

Matt Wilson’s Afghanistan colors are particularly stunning in this issue. For the most part, Wilson’s colors are less dichotomous than the distinct palettes of London and the Red Place. The more natural scheme is used to an advantage, though, and with it Wilson is able to emphasize certain scenes and create some unbelievably striking pages.

Spurrier’s inclusion of writer’s notes in the backmatter is both interesting and educational. They contain little hints about future events, but largely provide information about turns of phrase and situational history that are relevant, but wouldn’t necessarily have a place in the story. Overall, the complexly woven narrative, use of color, and inclusion of mythology continue to make Cry Havoc an interesting read.

Story: Simon Spurrier Art: Ryan Kelly
Story: 8.5 Art: 9.5
Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Read

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review.

Review: Cry Havoc #2

cryhavoc_02-1Cry Havoc #2 is out (coincidentally, one of two werewolf-related comics published by Image this week) and it’s just as good as the first issue. However, as much of a presence as werewolves have in popular culture, Cry Havoc has twice proved itself to be something more than its monsters, so to speak.

Writer Simon Spurrier pushes the boundaries of traditional werewolf stories by incorporating shapeshifters from all backgrounds and cultures. In Cry Havoc #2, readers are introduced to more Hydes than Jekylls, as the plot of each place in the story progresses. More of Lou’s dramatic life as a shapeshifter is revealed, giving some potential hints about where her story is going and how she landed in The Red Place. Readers also get to meet other shapeshifters of different nationalities.

Spurrier has clearly done his homework, and while not all of his research makes it into the story, the backmatter for issues #1 and #2 consists of writer’s notes on each page of the story. He also includes information regarding the geographical background of each shapeshifter, something that doesn’t necessarily belong in the story itself, but makes for incredibly interesting supplemental reading.

The story itself is also notable for its threefold plot, with the reader seeing the main character, Lou Canton, at three different points in her life. Each “place” in the story (London, Afghanistan, and The Red Place) would seem to be relatively close in terms of the character’s life, though it hasn’t been formally stated. Despite having three narratives running parallel, the story is fairly straightforward. The time jumps are easily navigated by paying attention to the distinctive color scheme and panel structure of each place.

As with Cry Havoc #1, each place was colored by a different artist (Nick Filardi on London, Lee Loughridge on The Red Place, and Matt Wilson on Afghanistan). Though each place is denoted by a different color panel border, each artist’s style is distinctive enough that it’s not totally necessary. It is a unique concept though, and each color scheme highlights a different aspect of Ryan Kelly’s art. Kelly is a versatile artist, and the emphasis on varied color schemes is an innovative concept that really shows how the art can evoke a specific mood in relation to the writing.

All in all, the team on this book works extremely well in terms of art and writing. The idea of a threefold narrative colored by different people is a concept that could come off as gimmicky if done poorly, but this comic is not done poorly. It’s engaging and fresh in both its writing and structure, and it’s definitely worth a read.

Story: Simon Spurrier Art: Ryan Kelly, Nick Filardi, Lee Loughridge, and Matt Wilson
Story: 8.5 Art: 9 Overall: 8.7 Recommendation: Buy

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review.

Review : Cry Havoc #1

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What’s the old saying again — “cry havoc, and let slip the dogs of war!” or something? Yeah, I think that’s it — except in this case we can substitute dogs with their nearest evolutionary relative, wolves, and be a small step closer in the accuracy department.

Or will we? I mean, sure, the promotional blurb for writer Simon Spurrier and artist Ryan Kelly’s new Image Comics series, Cry Havoc, definitely states that “It’s not about a lesbian werewolf going to war — except it is,” so perhaps “definitely” is a piss-poor choice of words on my part given that, ya know, there’s (supposedly, at any rate) very little going on here that one can state is “definite” in nature.

All of which is kinda funny because I found Cry Havoc #1 to be a fairly straight-forward read. Not that I’m complaining, mind you, because it was an engrossing and fun one, as well, but the conceit of splitting the story of busker-turned-lycanthrope Lou Canton up into three distinct times and places — London, Agfhanistan, and the mysterious “Red Place” — and then employing three different colorists (Matt Wilson, Lee Loughridge, and Nick Fialrdi) to handle the hues on each in order to give them a more distinctive individual look is frankly old hat to anyone who’s read, say, Bodies, where different artists altogether were utilized for the same purpose, or even to anyone who’s seen a Tarantino flick, where jumping back and forth along any given character’s timeline is a matter of course.

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All of which leads me to believe that CryHavoc desperately wants to be more “far out” than it is — which is pointless, really, because it stands pretty darn well on its own, no gimmicks required.

I’ve long been of the opinion that Spurrier is on the verge of the ever-elusive “something big” in his writing career : certainly he’s done the best one can possibly hope to following-up Alan Moore on Crossed + One Hundred and his soon-to-be-completed eight-part series The Spire is a fascinating exercise in world-building (also featuring, it should be noted, a lesbian protagonist) that perhaps sees his fine script overshadowed by the truly spellbinding art of Jeff Stokeley, but let’s be brutally honest here — when you’re stuck playing second-fiddle to either the person who came before you or to your monumentally-talented collaborator, it almost doesn’t matter how good the work you’re doing yourself is, because you’re still stuck in the “bridesmaid” role.

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Could this, then, finally be Spurrier’s chance to step to the forefront as the cliched “emerging talent” with a “distinctive voice” that he actually is? Time will tell, but so far all the signs look good : the characterization here is strong, the Abu Ghraib-esque subplot is still reasonably topical, his writing evokes a strong “sense of place” in each of the locales employed, and his only-semi-convoluted story structure serves its purpose of mystifying what’s actually a pretty simple plot that can be reduced, basically, to girl gets bitten by werewolf, then conscripted against her wishes into a mercenary force of other “differently-abled” folks, and finally finds herself (spoiler alert!) captured by the same person she’s been tasked with tracking down — and with whom she appears to share a rather unique bond. That’s certainly plenty to pack a debut installment with, and the breakneck-if-disjointed-by-design pace of Cry Havoc #1 doesn’t really slow down to give you much time to think — which is just fine in my book, especially given the fact that the backmatter at the end more than ably demonstrates that Spurrier has indeed done his homework here, most notably as it relates to werewolf legend, and that there’s more going on beneath the surface, as promised, than one would initially suspect given the rapid-fire rate at which events are occurring.

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So, yeah — all good in that department, then, and all good as far as the art goes, as well. Kelly’s always been an under-valued talent on the various projects he’s been involved with, but now that he’s got plenty to (sorry in advance) sink his teeth into, I expect him to continue the trend established here of leaving readers saying “wow, I never knew the guy was this good” in subsequent issues. The “multiple colorists” trope works really well, too, it must be said, flavoring each time/place with a little different metaphorical “spice” while not upsetting the “main course”(do I need to eat dinner or what?) to any noticeable degree. Wrap it all up under either Kelly’s main cover or Cameron Stewart’s uniquely-designed variant, and the end result is a comic that looks as good as it reads.

So, what the heck? Count me in for the foreseeable future, barring a drastic and unexpected drop in quality. I’m a little bummed that Image is joining Marvel and DC in sneaking more of their books up to $3.99 (and I paid for this one myself, no digital freebie here), but I guess it was probably inevitable, and I certainly feel like I got every penny’s worth in this case, since subsequent re-reads have revealed more than I caught the first time through. Maybe this will prove to be the Simon Spurrier-penned masterpiece he’s been hinting that he’s capable of?

Story: Simon Spurrier Art: Ryan Kelly
Story: 8 Art: 8 Overall: 8 Recommendation: Buy

Review: Cry Havoc #1

cry havocNot new but fresh, Cry Havoc brings a story of using monsters for militaristic means. It’s a premise we’ve all seen before, but the feminine tone and perspective prevent the story from being stale.

Louise was young, a bit irresponsible and very much in love with her girlfriend. That was before being attacked in the street by a werewolf (hey, it’s tough being a street musician). Now she volunteers with a special forces unit, hunting down monsters in the hopes of being cured from her affliction.

What really brings this story to life is the insight writer Simon Spurrier breathes into his characters through their dialogue and insights. Louise’s girlfriend’s first appearance takes place at the zoo where a fair amount of time is spent discussing hyenas. Specifically, the topic of matriarchal practices and pseudo-penises lends itself to this feminist lens, usurping the dominant status of males while placing the power and ferocity in our central character without the demand of actually demonstrating it within the first issue.

Louise and her group of militants are seeking out another werewolf, rogue commander Lynn Odell. In this regard the story also manages to set itself apart from Marvel’s Legion of Monsters and DC’s Creature Commandos by taking its feminist approach to Louise’s human experience. Instead of her lycanthropy being gimmicky, it serves as an effective metaphor for her inner power and emotional complexity. Further, the sororal conflict allows more of a cultural review than similar stories that feel more like they were written by an eight-year-old boy playing with his action figures.

Most interestingly, this comic employs three different colorists, each tasked to one of the distinct time periods in the story. This is a fantastic choice by Emma Price and most effective in tying the chronology of the stories wandering narrative together. With zero confusion and little to no explanation, the reader jumps through Louise’s life without needing to reorient or seek out context clues. All three colorists are very talented, but Matt Wilson stands out with his attention to Ryan Kelly’s line-work. Wilson’s warm tones provide great dimensionality and awareness as to where the light falls in each scene. The mundane details to the supernatural glowing bring the Afghanistan-portion of the story to life all thanks to his skill.

Though the rest of Louise’s mysterious team will surely be important in later issues, they serve largely as a distraction here and, in a way, even undermine how special she is. If she were the only character with powers or special circumstances, the lycanthropy would seem to really make Louise stand out as a powerful woman. If all the characters were werewolves, it would seem to be a metaphor for the hidden power within everyone. That so much time is spent establishing that everyone else is a bit different but not really getting into how really distracts from what is, so far, the story of a woman coming into her own strength. The rest of the team confuse the metaphor.

The tone is on-point which makes it easy to believe these observations will be resolved going forward. In fact, it’s the book’s voice that makes the next issue so enticing. Now, would anyone like to place bets on whether or not Louise killed her girlfriend?

Story: Simon Spurrier Art: Ryan Kelly
Story: 7 Art: 6 Overall: 6.5 Recommendation: Read

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

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