Tag Archives: Image Comics

Indie Comic Spotlight – Hex11

7 Apr

Hex11 cover art

Strolling the Indie Press section at WonderCon this past weekend I discovered Hex 11 by Venice, CA creative team, Lisa K. Weber and Kelly Sue Milano. Having tabled at Indie Press at SDCC 14 and DCC 14, I know how crazy hard it is to engage passers by. I’m extroverted so you can imagine how much of a challenge it is for me to be on either side of the table.

Duude, so glad I stopped.

The Hex Comix team looked me directly in the eye (all eight eyes staring at me) and hooked me with the perfect pitch for Hex 11:

Hex 11 is a cross between Blade Runner and Harry Potter.”

Mmm. Yes. Take my monies…

Maybe I’ll have to rethink my pitch for Caustic Soda, “a cross between Twin Peaks, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly and Neuromancer.” Eh…

But it wasn’t just the initial pitch that had me intrigued, or the incredibly confident and articulate fab four comprised of Lisa K Weber (artist), Kelly Sue Milano (blue tooth speaker review writer by day), Lynly Forrest (editor/producer) and Samantha Carrasco (colorist) cliff-noting the entire series for me in perfect harmony.

Okay, not in a pitch perfect vocal harmony but I’m sure they could totally pull that off too.

The covers were gorgeous and reminded me of the Eisner nominated, Nowhere Men by Eric Stephenson (writer) and Nate Bellegarde (penciller/inker). When I got home and began reading, I said God Damn!, just like Mia Wallace.

Strong female characters.

Bechdel test: PASS.

Hex 11 is definitely not a kids’ or YA comic. Adult themes and violence.

[***Spoiler Alert***]

In the world of Hex 11, magic is discovered and treated as a new technology. It becomes commoditized and a system of value is placed on the control and distribution of magical elements and properties. Regular ho-hum humans can use magic, brilliantly evoked by the use of an aural implant-like piece of tech characters use to communicate with rather than smart phones. Those little subtle ideas percolate throughout the books, inspiring and frustrating. Inspiring because they are well executed and frustrating because I wish I had thought of it first: true signs of smart writing and great ideas working together.
The narrative follows Elanor, an intelligent young witch living in the near future, in the mega-slum known as The Hex. For the past five years she has been training under the tutelage of a veteran witch name Vera. Elanor is sent on an errand by her mentor and stumbles into a fight between a smuggler named Booth Chaplin and a demon named Osrick (working for the evil Omega Corp) over an esoteric piece of magic tech. When her life and the life of Booth are threatened during the melee, Elanor unknowingly unleashes a powerful binding spell and transports herself and the demon Osrick back to Vera’s apartment. During their interrogation of the demon and his mission, it is revealed that a demon murdered Elanor’s sister, Clara.

Vera sends Elanor to find Booth Chaplin to secure the device.

Meanwhile, Omega Corp sends an assassin named Faye (who is “cray-cray”) to find the demon Osrick, kill any witnesses or collaborators and retrieve the mystery device.

The dialog, while a bit expository at times (at least in issue 1 and 2, and understandably so, as they have a huge world to build) is snappy and smart. There are genetic threads of Whedon’s Buffy in the exchanges. The characters develop over the course of the 3 issues dynamically without being cliché.

Worthy of note is how the creative team of Hex 11 depicts magic and the use of magic. It is quite ingenious. Rather than what we’ve come to expect as visual representations of magic from the Potter film series or even American Horror Story Coven, magic in Hex 11 has a digital energy quality to it. Depicted as an energy flow/blast in neon of a PCB board. They take the Arthur C. Clark maxim “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic” and mine it with wonderful effect.

The series is planned for 6 issues (fingers crossed for more). They are currently in production for issue 4. The art direction, character design, color and lettering are extremely well done.

They’ll have a booth at SDCC in the summer and issue 4 will be ready. I picked up 1 through 3 while I was there.

Issues 1 and 2 of Hex 11 are available on ComiXology pick ‘em up!

CHECK it out:
http://hexcomix.com

Understanding the Undead: TACKLING “THE OTHER” IN THE WALKING DEAD

6 Nov

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I hear constant chatter that The Walking Dead (both the comic and its companion television series) is not about zombies at all, but about the struggle for survivors to retain their humanity. Robert Kirkman himself has confirmed this. Horror is used as a backdrop to the human condition. As a writer, this is a tactic I can relate to, and also one I have often employed in my own work.

However, I would like to push deeper into the philosophy of The Walking Dead, perhaps further than Kirkman ever intended. Though the story as a whole may not be “about” the zombies, their distinct presence is there for a reason, so it would be a great disservice to not acknowledge their thematic importance. Once a work of fiction has been released to a world of readers, it is open to endless interpretation, and this is one option that I have returned to when considering The Walking Dead’s artistic merit:

The zombie is The Other.

The idea of The Other is an ancient one, its themes expressed in all factions of art, gaining philosophical popularity in the 20th century when intellectual minds such as Jacques Lacan and Michel Foucault developed it into a concept with the potential to impact all humans. Broken down into its simplest form, The Other refers to that which is different—a person who does not fit within the confines of society’s accepted box.

In The Walking Dead, people from all walks of life and racial backgrounds are forced to work together despite their differences or face extinction. One can easily see this theme at play in both the comic and the television series. Cooperation does not always prevail amongst these groups, but those who continue to survive the harsh conditions understand that there is no room for The Other in human society; everyone needs a role. As a result, the idea of The Other becomes displaced, shifting instead to the undead. To most humans, this is a convenient solution, one that does not cause any loss of sleep at night. Though the undead have faces and traces of identities from former lives, those have been abandoned in an infected world. Humans make the mistake of thinking that the zombies are not “us,” when they are in fact the lurking unrealized potential of humanity. From here it is just a short leap to labeling the undead as The Other; a zombie’s only instinct is to consume the living, which often results in the transformation of a living person into their ranks.

This is where a thick grey fog begins to gather over this particular theme of The Walking Dead. When a member of the undead horde is simply the shell of someone a character has never met, it is much simpler to dismiss the zombie as Other and destroy it in the name of survival. When someone a character has held conversation with or learned to love becomes infected, it then becomes much more difficult to view them as Other. Take the Governor for example. For all his terrible qualities and failures at humanity, he refuses to let his niece (or—in the television version—his daughter) Penny be known to the world as a zombie, and he cannot bring himself to kill her himself. He knows that death is the only fate for The Other in this new world. Not just rejection and isolation, but total eradication. The Governor does his best to treat her as close to normal as is possible, but the concepts of normalcy have been twisted. Was he insane, or was he able to acknowledge something human still lingering within Penny? And where exactly is this line drawn?

Once any human becomes referred to as “it” versus “he” or “she,” the label of The Other automatically transfers over. But at what point does this transition occur? When a zombie bites a man or woman, their death is imminent save for a lucky quick amputation such as when Dale is bitten on the leg (again, this differs slightly in the television series; it is Herschel who falls prey to this near demise). The victim is treated as sort of a Transition Other, often quarantined from the rest of the group and taken care of by those closest to him or her. More often than not, the bite victim receives a bullet through the head immediately after death takes them. This allows the once thriving human to avoid regressing into the undesirable Other. Before the apocalypse occurred, most humans wanted to know what existed—if anything—on the other side of death’s tunnel. In the new world, there is almost a unanimous decision to avoid this completely. A notable exception would be the character of Jim, whose comic and television personas both face the same sad fate—after being bitten, he wishes to be left alone to follow through with his transformation, hoping in some disturbed way that he will be able to reunite with his fallen family.

What would it be like to enter the psyche of the undead, if such a psyche even exists? It would take the hand of a careful writer with serious intentions to handle this idea. The recent film Warm Bodies was overall surprisingly successful in capturing a humorous take on this vision, though I am not familiar with the novel it was based on and to what depth it might explore this same idea. As much as I am fond of satirical approaches, I think the psyche of the undead deserves deeper examination. I often recommend the little seen 1998 film I, Zombie: The Chronicles of Pain, which features a decidedly more depressing take on the subject matter.

These questions are worth asking: Would a zombie, in fact, retain any sense of their former self and feel some dark regret that can never be mended? Would a reader ever be capable of experiencing some level of pathos for the undead instead of sheer disgust? It’s hard not to pity such a creature when the specifics of its existence are spelled out. Once a human with a family and dreams for the future now reduced to a cannibalistic ghoul with nothing left beyond instinct and hunger. How much of a stretch is this fate from those afflicted with terminal illnesses—their bodies wasting away into glorified mummies, or coma victims with no more to offer than common garden vegetables? Humans can only speculate about this. Much like we can never truly tap into the mind of non-human animals, it would be near impossible to do the same with a zombie. Of course, this entire angle may not even be applicable to The Walking Dead, but that does not make it any less fascinating to ruminate upon.

Perhaps I’m reaching too far within the themes of The Walking Dead, but I am a firm believer that any successful piece of horror art is worth analyzing beyond the surface. There are reasons why so many readers connect with this series; what those reasons are will forever be up for debate. For many—including myself—it is the characters. Without a core group of survivors to identify with, there is no hope to cling to and the entire story falls apart. The few that have managed to survive over the comic book’s entire arc often feel like distant family for the moments that I am turning the pages, so much so that it was crushing to witness my favorite character receive the most brutal death of all in issue #100 (I won’t spoil who that was for those who have not made it that far into the series, but if you aren’t emotionally demolished by that scene then it is possible that you have become a zombie yourself.).

Will we ever grasp the extent of death and the great beyond? At this point, the zombies are much closer to understanding this than humans ever will.

By Chad Stroup

Chad Stroup is currently pursuing his MFA in Fiction at San Diego State University. His work has most recently been featured in Fiction International, The Newer York, Coffin Catalogs, and an exciting new horror anthology titled Splatterlands. His blog, Subvertbia, is a showcase of some of his short fiction and poetry. http://subvertbia.blogspot.com/. Like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ChadStroupWriter.

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Hickman’s Secret – Gainful Employment

11 Sep

Jonathan Hickman is having a very good year.

One of Image Comics many gifted talents!

Between the schizoid homicidal scientist historical (sci)fiction series, Manhattan Projects and the vintage-modern spaghetti western, East of West, Hickman’s latest, Secret hit shelves recently.

Secret appears to be more refined and subtle, subject-wise, than the other two titles. It focuses on the minutiae of a private security organization and the relationships of it’s members and the family at the heart of it all.

This collab with artist Ryan Bodenheim is climbing my year’s best of list. I’ve reread 1-3 twice already.

It’s a mystery-thriller with some incredibly rendered panels. Check out this panel from Secret #3 – The System.

Three panels in one. Brilliantly composed.

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Color is used quite effectively throughout to denote flashback or some other sequence of events that have some significance in the ‘present’ narrative.

If you’re trying to figure out a new monthly to get into or you missed out on Image Comics associate and Walking Dead scribe Robert Kirkman’s Thief of Thieves series, then this title comes with my highest recommendation.

Transhuman – Comic Wednesday

19 Jun

ImageFor comics wednesday we’re looking at writer Jonathan Hickman and artist JM Ringuet’s darkly humorous tale of genetic lunacy, Transhuman (available as Trade Paperback from Image Comics). It’s told in a wonderfully intuitive mockumentary style, sort of similar to Christopher Guest appropriating JG Ballard and Phil K Dick.

This is the book that put Hickman on the map as an incredibly talented visual narrative storyteller and if you’ve read any of his Marvel titles, I’m sure you’d agree.

Also, Manhattan Projects #12 is available. Feynman gets all spider monkey drone and as a result, Einstein gets all Scarface shower scene on the traitor.