Halloweek – False Positive Season 2

Do you want to know the terrible thing about fear? Even when you think you’ve gotten over it, when you think you’ve gotten rid of it for good, it always comes back.

Or more accurately, it never left…

And neither did we.

False Positive (Season 2)

2012-11-04

This comic is NOT appropriate for young children due to violence, gore, and occasional adult themes.

If you missed it, I reviewed False Positive‘s first season last October. If you haven’t read it or would like a refresher, just go ahead and link on over. Everything I wrote then is still true this season.

Now, since I don’t see the point in making the same review twice, I thought I’d use this as a chance to go more in-depth on the stories and what I liked about them in particular. With that said, let us gather round and commence this little…

Seance2012-12-26

One of my personal favorites from this season (and the whole series) “Seance” is a chilling mood piece that plays with type and throws expectations for a loop, not once, but twice. A group of people have gathered in order to reach out to their dearly departed, never imagining that something may be trying to reach out to them from beyond the veil. Cast in eerie green and spectral blue, this haunting story is a fantastic way to call the season to order.

Stink Eye

A fantasy yarn much like season one’s “Yolk”, this story features a band of adventurers on a quest that quickly goes wrong, leaving one of them with a wound that only seems to get worse. Not one of the strongest ones, in my opinion. I particularly like the design of the giant monster from the beginning, all gnarled limbs and teeth. On the other hand, I found the dialogue came across as rather forced, awkward fantasy speak (“Curses!”). Where “Seance” played with expectations, this one plays it more straightforward… at least, as straightforward as a horror short story can get. Still, it’s an enjoyable, gruesome romp that reminds us that horror doesn’t always have to be subtle, it just has to be horrifying.

Frenzy2013-03-29

A black and white Noir style tale of intrigue and terror. Follow a detective on the trail of a mysterious artifact. A trail that quickly ends in blood as vying parties close in to claim it. This one’s on the goofier side of horror (yes that’s a thing), but it’s zany enough to be fresh and hard to predict and there is a legitimately chilling scene about midway through. After that though, it’s pretty much just a gore fest with some exposition and a few ideas that – while still interesting – have already been seen by this point in the anthology. The strength for this one is definitely in it’s Noir atmosphere and its homage to the genre.

Sentinel

Two space travelers wake up from stasis sleep to discover the ship they were on has crashed on a desolate, deserted planet. Alone, separated from their only means of escape, and quickly running out of oxygen, the two must trek across a wasteland if they’re to have any hope of survival… but what they find may prove just as dangerous and far, far more sinister. Of all the stories this season, this one is definitely the blockbuster. It’s characters are engaging, their plight is riveting, and the pacing is just about perfect. There’s even a callback linking to the previous season, one that will (and has already) set readers frothing in the mouth with speculation.

Dig

Of all the stories this season, this one is the one I found to be the weakest. Two pioneer couples have taken up residence outside an abandoned mine that is still inexplicably rich in silver. Before they can figure out why, they are attacked by something from inside the mine and all hell breaks loose. Like in “Stink Eye” I wasn’t a fan of the dialogue here. There’s nothing to say about character’s either – they literally go the entire (admittedly short) story without any sort of established personalities. The pacing felt rushed all throughout, with most of it being nothing but action, while other parts are simply skimmed over. A few more panels here and there would smooth it out a little more evenly, I think. There was also just a bit too much pointless violence for my tastes. There are some uncharacteristic issues with perspective, a few repeated panels, and the action – which should be fast – comes across as awkwardly slow, when it isn’t being skipped over entirely. However, while this story’s art has its (admittedly minor) flaws, the detail is still fantastic and there’s a very impressive monster design featured in it. It just isn’t enough to carry the story.

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At only eleven pages, the shortest for the season, “Fail” manages to get a whole lot of subtext across in a very short amount of time. It’s short, so I won’t even go into the premise, but this one turned out to be one of my favorites this season just for how terribly subtle it is. There are no supernatural monstrosities waiting to eat people, no terrors from beyond space and time. It’s just a glimpse into a terrifyingly imaginable world inhabited by awful, hateful people. It’s not what most people would call science fiction – there’s barely any science in it and what little there is is already possible. A better term might be social fiction (i.e. Brave New World or Nineteen Eighty-Four). I’d almost call it slipstream if I knew what that meant. Either way, this story makes me feel uncomfortable, but in a good way that means it’s working and makes me wary of what might be.

And finally, we come to…

Redeem

The ultimate chapter in the season. A body floats in space, apparently dead from unknown circumstances, only to be taken in by a mysterious spacecraft and revived. What follows is a tale of suspense that hearkens back to older stories and pulls the threads between the seasons ever tighter. There is no horror in this story, no macabre, just a surprising revelation and the ominous sense that what we thought were unrelated tales of the unnatural are simply just corners of a much darker, vaster tapestry.

And that’s False Positive season two. Just as enjoyably dark and disturbing as the first batch, this set of stories manages to stand on their own and build off the older ones both at the same time to satisfying success and once again we are left with the foreboding suspicion that the universe is much more vast, and dark, and terrifying than we can perceive.

And we’re just floating in the dark, waiting to be snatched up.

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False Positive is written and drawn by Mike Walton. This comic, including all images used here, belongs to him.

Happy Halloweek

Halloweek – Nimona

It’s officially the week of Halloween! So, what shall we dress up as this year?

A knight? A supervillain? A cyborg? How about a shark?

Oh, I know! Why not all of them.. at once!?

This is Nimona.

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Written and drawn by Noelle Stevenson, Nimona is the award winning story of Lord Ballister Blackheart, a professional villain who isn’t as evil as the system would make him out to be. As supervillains are wont to do, he spends much of his time being foiled by Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin, his foppish arch-nemesis and former best friend. The status quo gets shaken up, however, when Blackheart hires on Nimona, a shapeshifting spit-fire with a penchant for violence, as his sidekick. Nimona wants to help him take his villainy to the next level, but Blackheart has his own moral code, one he struggles to uphold even as the Institution that vilifies him conceals villainies of its own.

At it’s heart, Nimona is a story about perceptions and identity, how others perceive us and – most importantly – how we perceive ourselves. Ballister Blackheart, the most reviled man in all the kingdom, is quickly established as the most heroic. Regal, scrupulous, and highly intelligent, Blackheart is the epitome of an anti-villain. Even as a “villain”, he resorts to violence only as necessary, always taking precautions that his schemes don’t inadvertently harm someone. In fact, his moral dictum against taking lives strongly echoes the core tenant of the superhero Batman, another iconic character who acts outside ineffectual or even corrupt laws in his crusade against evil. Plus, he practices safe science. As the story progresses, we get to see Blackheart take on an almost fatherly role towards Nimona, whose childlike yet vicious tendencies he tries to temper with morality and consideration of consequences. Interestingly, it’s this ersatz father-daughter relationship that leads Blackheart into becoming the compassionate leader he so naturally is.

nimona3_2newNimona, the eponymous character, is reckless, pugnacious, delightfully zany, and emotionally guarded. So, in a word… she’s a teenager. Like a teenager, she’s beset with the belief that life’s just a game and there’s no way she can lose. Considering the scope of her powers, she might not be entirely wrong in that regard. She is arguably the most complex of the cast, partly because she’s also the most mysterious. She’s as much a protagonist as Blackheart is, but she also serves as a sort of living McGuffin – it’s her presence that allows Ballister to finally make progress in his crusade against the Institution. It’s also because of this that said Institution wants to remove her from the picture. Nimona’s shapeshifting powers and constantly changing mood make it hard to know just exactly who – or even what – she is, tying into the series’ theme of perception and identity always shifting.

Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin (no, seroiusly, that’s his name. He picked it out himself) is our main antagonist, though not our Big Bad, serving more the function of a tritagonist. He was once very close friends with Blackheart, but a falling out between the two has set them both upon their paths. Arrogant, vain, and more than a little naive, Goldenloin serves as the Institution’s figurehead. Despite his role as a lapdog, however, at his heart Goldenloin is a virtuous character who wants to do good, but doesn’t always know what that is and is hampered by his own selfish faults. He and Blackheart spend most of the series as frenemies, though we get occasional glimpses into their past friendship. As the plot advances their relationship as arch-nemeses escalates before coming to a head in the final act.

nim120The art is charming and all around pleasing, even if it’s somewhat sloppy in the beginning An ambitiously simple style and restrained use of color help keep it from looking crowded or visually overpowering and the end result is rather reminiscent of a French children’s book illustration à la The Little Prince or Madeline. Overall, I think the style does a fantastic job of taking a story with complex themes and attitudes and depicting them simply and elegantly.

Spoilers ahead

And what a story it is. Nimona begins as a fairly straightforward comedy action story that plays with the typical good guy/bad guy dynamic and other tropes. The setting itself plays with traditional norms – a kingdom protected by knights who use swords and arrows as readily as holograms and rocket launchers. Personally, I find the idea of knights fighting dragons with laser gauntlets is just too much fun to not enjoy. As surreal as the setting is, it somehow works, in part because we’re shown from the beginning that things aren’t always how they appear and assuming something to be doesn’t always make it so.

nim141Again, one of the main themes of Nimona is identity and how we can either embrace, or defy it. Blackheart is labeled a villain by society simply because it needed a villain and he doesn’t fit with its ideal of what a hero should look like… at least that’s partly the reason. Nimona, on the other hand, fully believes villains should be dastardly, violent, ambitious threats to be feared by all. This may be a result of her past trauma – people have treated her as a monster for so long she begins to believe it herself, so that’s exactly what she gives them. It’s Blackheart’s faith in her and her trust in him that allows both to grow beyond the labels that others place on them. This contrasts and compliments Goldenloin’s own character development, including his eventual understanding that a hero serves not the Law or his own vanity, but the people who need him.

End Spoilers

With marvelous, deep, complex, and evocative characters, a delightful mishmash of a setting (including knights with lasers and genetically altered dragons) and an ambitious, elegantly illustrated story, Nimona is a wonderful journey into a world of virtuous villains, haughty heroes, and pure, unadulterated, fun.

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Nimona was written and drawn by Noelle Stevenson. This comic, including the images used here, belongs to her. The story may have concluded already, but it’s already been picked up by HarperCollins to be published in print May 2015. Preorders can be made here.

Happy Halloweek!

Thistil Mistil Kickstarter

Read Thistil Mistil Kistil? Missed out on its first Kickstarter?

Then have no fear, Round Two is here!
2010-08-26-ch03-pg11-12

If you’ve been following Thistil Mistil Kistil, then you probably already know about the Kickstarter campaign that its creator, Sarah Schanze, has started.

If you didn’t know… well, now you do.

The kickstarter (link in the image) is for another batch of print copies of TMK Volume 1, which, if it pulls through, will include the first five (5) chapters and an additional story. As usual, there are various other rewards based on tiers.

If you enjoy Thistil Mistil Kistil (or think you might) and would like to see it in print, I encourage you to check it out. There are only a few weeks left.

Beefpaper

Hello, readers! Happy Halloween Month!

It’s been a while, so I thought I’d break the ice with a joke. OK, here goes.

Knock knock.

You (presumably): “Who’s there?”

And I answer “Death!”

I was going to make the punchline “The IRS” but that might’ve been too terrifying.

Anyways, this is Beefpaper.

3rd-July-2013

Like Happle Tea, Beefpaper‘s a gag-a-day style humor comic “very loosely based” on the life of it’s writer Shane Sheenan. VERY LOOSELY.”

As such, no characters, just a series of ceiling ghosts, an armada of pigs, and the hilarious antics of one very childish, somewhat overdramatic human being who still manages to be completely relatable… at least to me (I’ll elaborate later).

I’m not entirely sure how I first stumbled onto Beefpaper, but I think it must’ve been while I was scrolling through the now defunct webcomic site Just the First Frame. Beefpaper was linked there fairly regularly and I’m sure its sketch-over-photo style is what caught my eye. It isn’t the first webcomic to use photography as part of its medium, but it’s still uncommon enough that when you do find one, it sticks out.

Unlike most other photo webcomics, though, Beefpaper features sketches of Shane’s character and others superimposed over photo-realistic backgrounds. This lets the characters really stand out no matter where they are or what they’re doing. It also plays with the theme of Shane being a cartoonish man-child who does his thing while the “real” world goes on in the background, but maybe I’m just reading too much into what could easily have been a “just because” decision. It’s a fun comic – there’s no reason it can’t look fun, too.

5th-September-2013

At the same time, though, there’s no denying how weird this comic is, but that’s one of its strengths, I feel. No matter your age group, you can’t help but chuckle at this comic’s utter weirdness.

Humor, of course, is subjective and this brand of humor in particular might not be for everyone, but I like it. Not only does it make me laugh, more often than not I totally get how Shane feels. Like, I can empathize completely. As someone in his early twenties, I know exactly what it feels like to feel like a kid in an adult world. I know what it’s like to make mature decisions and then decide “Nah!”, throwing all sensibility to the wind and forsaking all adultness in the name of Childish Fun because, honestly, you’re still a child, at least in your own eyes. What business do I have being a grown-up?

Not that the comic is bleak. Oh no, by no means. And that’s the thing. As a comic semi-inspired by the writer’s life, it honestly could have been.

Last year, Shane Sheenan was told he had an otherwise benign tumor in his pituitary gland. It’s steadily shrinking now, but that kind of thing can be pretty scary and is certainly no walk in the park. How did this influence his humor?

Not at bit.

And that, I think, is the beautiful thing.

Behind it’s borderline black comedy and surrealistic non sequiturs, there’s a bit of an underlying philosophy. Stuff happens – sometimes a lot of it – but no matter what, you just keep doing what you’re doing.

You’ll be OK.

26th-April-2014-How-I-Do-My-Lunch

Beefpaper is written and created by Shane Sheenan. This comic, including all images used here, belongs to him.

 

 

Kickstarter for Valor

Do you love fairy tales? Does the idea of a courageous, intelligent heroine excite you?

Then this might be the Kickstarter for you.

Isabelle Melançon and Megan Lavey-Heaton, the creators of the fantastic webcomic Namesake, present Valor “a comic anthology that pays homage to the strength, resourcefulness, and cunning of female heroines in fairy tales… showcasing the talent of some of the top creators in the field of digital comics.”

Promising retold classics and brand new favorites – all by wonderful, highly talented comic creators – Valor has already met it’s pledge goal of $20,000, but it’s not too late to support the book (and maybe snag some sweet rewards, too).

Give their work a read-through and see if it’s something you might like to help happen.