Monsterkind Kickstarter

Fans of Monsterkind rejoice!

Earlier this month, comic creator Taylor C. launched a Kickstarter campaign for her webcomic Monsterkind, a story about monsters and humans living in a world rife with social injustice. In mere days, the campaign met it’s goal, but it’s not too late to contribute, reach some stretch goals, and snag your own copy of this wonderful comic as well as the backer rewards that go with it.

Monsterkind Book One will collect the prologue and first chapter of the comic and will include bonus material such as concept art and special guest comics from Taylor’s fellow comic creators.

There’s less than a week left, so don’t miss out!

This way to the campaign!

Kickstarter for Sorcery 101

Are you a fan of Kel McDonald’s webcomic about sorcerers, vampires, werewolves, and more? Are you sitting there wishing you had physical copies of Sorcery 101 and Kel McDonald’s other works in your personal collection?

Then I have good news for you – you can!

This omnibus edition will feature 750 pages of content covering five years of the comic, including 460 pages with remastered artwork. This kickstarter only has a little over four days left to reach it’s goal and it’s already 95 percent funded.

Time is running out to get in on this campaign and earn the rewards. So if you’re fond of this spellbinding series, wander on over and stake your claim.

Kickstarter for Skin Deep, Vol 3 going on NOW

OK, I have two bits of news:

1. I am still alive (yay me!)

and

2. There’s a kickstarter for Skin Deep Volume 3 going on right now.

Softcover (left) and Hardcover (right)

There’s still just about a week left and it’s already over 70% funded. All it needs is that little bit of help to meet it’s goal. That little bit of help could be you!

So if you’re a fan of Kory Bing’s wonderful webcomic about mythical creatures living secretly among us and want a shot at some of those sweet pledge rewards, now’s your chance!

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)

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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

EDITOR’S NOTE; most of Nimona has been taken down and can only be read in physical book form. However, the first three chapters are still available to read online.

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 tenet 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!