KC’s Previews for May 2015

Ant-Man: Second Chance Man
Ant-Man: Second-Chance Man

KC recommends items you’ll want to be aware of in the March Previews catalog, for items shipping in May or later, in two Westfield columns. Part One tackles classic comic runs and the latest omnibus editions, while Part Two looks at books about comics, artist editions, and provides a special spotlight on all the Ant-Man movie-related releases. (Apparently, I need to read the new Ant-Man comic, because it’s funny.)

David Tennant Makes First Wizard World Appearance

David Tennant

Another one of this year’s Wizard World debut shows, Wizard World Comic Con Raleigh, launches next week, March 13-15. And they’ve got quite the headliner: David Tennant, the tenth Doctor Who, will be making his first Wizard World appearance.

However, there is one huge catch: although he’s scheduled for two Q&A panels, you have to pay extra to attend them. Only purchasers of the “David Tennant VIP ticket package” can get in, and those tickets are over $400 (including fees). You also get one signature and one photo op with him as part of the package.

This is a convention trend that’s not surprising, but still disheartening. And excessive — one-day tickets to Walt Disney World are only $100 or so. I’ve often compared the two experiences, since they’re both about waiting in lines in order to gawk at unusual sights. Wizard may be charging what the traffic will bear, and it’s hard to understand the economics without knowing how much the stars are asking in guaranteed fees.

I suppose it’s an effective way to control crowds, too. Other big names appearing in Raleigh include the expected William Shatner, Ian Somerhalder, and some people from The Walking Dead. Lou Ferrigno unfortunately had to cancel.

CONtv Digital Network Now Available

CONtv, the digital network for fans created by Wizard World and Cinedigm, is now live for US viewers. (It’s formally described as an “over-the-top multi-platform service” — TV terminology is pretty complicated these days.)

CONtv logo

It’s free to watch online with ads, or $6.99/month to get the full experience. Some of the programming (such as Farscape) is only available to subscribers, although that’s not obvious from the Browse pages. It’s only when you try to access it you’re told you have to log in. They are “striving hard” to “only deliver ads that are relevant to our community.” (The first ad I saw was for Nexium; they also run car insurance ads.)

The subscription fee will also include “early access to Wizard World conventions, reserved seating at panels, [and show] discounts”, combining real-world and online benefits. The service can be accessed on iPads, Android tablets, and Roku, with Xbox and PlayStation planned (although you may not be able to watch without creating a free account on some of those services — the web plays without any sign-in required).

They’re planning on updating the content weekly, and they seem to eagerly seek feedback, with lots of mentions of how to provide input on their FAQ page. In their press release, they promise, “The programming will evolve to meet viewer demands and the service will continue to grow as viewership data sheds light on fan preferences.”

None of the original shows are available yet, but Bruce Campbell’s pop culture trivia game show Last Fan Standing will be available March 9, and Fight of the Living Dead, a YouTube celebrity/zombie reality show, will debut March 22. Overall, I didn’t find any of the content a must-see (these days, I’m looking to cut back on viewing, not add another source), but for a number of people, the sheer variety (including fan-made movies) will make for a lot of fun exploration. Whoever is curating the content seems to have a great handle on a particular type of viewer.

Prophecy Book 2

Clearly, Prophecy is not a series you can dip in and out of. I hadn’t paid enough attention to the specifics of some of the disaffected men introduced in Book 1, so I found myself wanting to reread both books as soon as I finished this new volume.

However, there’s also a change in focus that means that much of Book 2 deals with different situations and characters than the first book did. The first scene, for example, effectively portrays the torment and despair of the terminally shy, as author Tetsuya Tsutsui contrasts the man’s thoughts with his inability to actually say anything to the waitress he finds cute. That’s just a prelude, though, to the main showdown between the hackers and the detective chasing them.

I didn’t find the primary conflict this issue that compelling. The Paperboy hackers decide to attack a Greenpeace-like environmental group because the group used the occasion of the Japanese tsunami to attack Japan’s whaling practices instead of demonstrating sympathy for the people surviving the disaster. The group’s leader is a media-hungry womanizer more concerned with his own fame than really helping the environment.

Everybody, including the police trying to protect him, hates him. Which is no wonder, since he’s a two-dimensional caricature, loaded with reasons to feel sympathetic to the attempts to humiliate him. When thwarted, he even resorts to media manipulation to take his own revenge. I like this series better when it’s more nuanced, less resorting to short-cut stereotypes.

For example, the cops’ dragnet fails because one of the employees they’re relying on to report suspicious activity has more sympathy for the hunted than the government. That aspect, exploring the nature of public support and how it can be swayed, is one of the title’s strengths.

We also learn more about the female detective leading the investigation, but it’s a shame that she’s the only significant woman in the series. Much is made of her good looks, which distract those around her, a quality she uses to her advantage. Again, this characterization isn’t as nuanced as I’d hope for. I don’t have an idea of her inner motivations, but perhaps that is intentional, to keep her at the same level as those she’s chasing. Much speculation happens throughout the book as to why people make particular choices, but some things we can never know, which appears to be something the author is reinforcing.

I found this volume slightly disappointing, perhaps because my expectations were incorrect. However, I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that parts of it were more significant than I thought after reading the next, final book. Based on the situation set up here — a politician is faking support for his proposal to prevent anonymous internet use, only to be threatened with death by Paperboy — things will become even more dramatic in the next book. Particularly since the hacker coalition may be falling apart, due to a small act of kindness.

They’re Not Like Us #1-3

I don’t like They’re Not Like Us. It’s aggressive and sometimes violent and mean and selfish. But I’m amazed by how Eric Stephenson and Simon Gane have found a truly new thing to do with superpowered young people.

They're Not Like Us #1 cover

The first issue opens with Syd thinking about committing suicide by jumping from a building. She’s tired of the voices in her head and doesn’t know any other way to quiet them. You’re a superhero comic reader, you’ve seen this before, right? She’s a telepath, and she needs a helpful mentor.

Instead, she gets a smoking asshole in a nice suit who tells her in not so many words she’s lying to herself. So she jumps. Surprise #1. Someone’s supposed to save her, to show her how life is worthwhile, but that’s not what happens here.

She doesn’t die, though. Instead, she’s kidnapped by suit guy, who’s called the Voice, to a wonderful house full of other young people who can do the kinds of things she can. Who are all living under pseudonyms to protect them from their old lives. Surprise #2.

They're Not Like Us #2 cover

Surprise #3 is that they’ve stolen everything around them, because they do whatever they want because they can. And that is the biggest change in direction in this comic. It’s also what makes it very modern and timely, exploring the end results of the individual-focused, “what’s in it for me” culture that we have. They’re “better than everyone else”, so why not live like it? Only in secrecy, to avoid it being taken away.

They live by a set of rules, but they’re not strongly behavior-based, but appearance-focused. They dress well because that way they avoid suspicion. They don’t have tattoos or piercings to avoid attracting attention, and they don’t use smartphones to avoid tracking. (That last is the part I have the most trouble believing — these self-centered kids would have real trouble with that, I think, but it does simplify things for writers.)

To mention the biggest surprise would ruin the first issue cliffhanger, so I won’t. It’s a logical conclusion to this self focus, however, and nicely mythic.

They're Not Like Us #3 cover

As the writing contrasts with so many other comics out there, Gane’s art nicely avoids the perfect, polished sheen typical of superheroics. His characters have a gritty air of emotion about them, whether anger or despair.

Issue #2 brings home that these characters are new-style vigilantes. Instead of Superman protecting someone weaker, this gang beats up others for vengeance, or because they foresee negative possibilities.

Superheroes traditionally are wish-fulfillment figures, where the downtrodden (or those who feel they are, like adolescents) can imagine a world with more justice in it. I’m not sure how much that applies to this group of spoiled misfits, but my choice of that word indicates I clearly don’t identify with them. Other readers might better enjoy fantasies of young people secretly on top of the power pyramid, a group who protect each other and say “screw everyone else”. Underlying it all is a preference for emotion over decision.

Issue #3, though, shakes things up by taking revenge on a guy who’s definitely a villain, showing that this series aims to keep the reader guessing. I haven’t felt a superpower book was this fresh since Planetary. I hope They’re Not Like Us is able to continue as strongly, bringing these various threads together tightly.

Abigail and the Snowman #1-3

Abigail and the Snowman #1 cover

Abigail and the Snowman is exactly what it says on the tin — a charming all-ages adventure between a girl and her fantastic friend.

Abigail and her dad are new in the neighborhood. Dad’s a good-humored electrician who’s just gotten fired from his new job, so while he applies to find work, Abigail works at fitting in to her new environment. Joining a new school is tough, so when no one wants to play with her, she shrugs and pets Claude, her “invisible dog”.

It’s not a focus of the book, but I really enjoy Abigail and her father’s relationship. He encourages her imagination and clearly deeply cares for her. He believes in her and keeps a good attitude while still being honest with her. He’s a dream parent, but still realistic. It’s refreshing to see, and it’s a wonderful basis for the sense of humor throughout the book.

Abigail and the Snowman #2 cover

Similarly, it’s not clear whether Abigail really believes in Claude, or whether she’s entertaining herself instead of settling for being bored, or whether she’s just nicely imaginative. That’s not a complaint; it’s recognition that it might be all of these things, and a compliment as to the complexity Langridge is putting into a “kids’ book”. Regardless, it prepares her for meeting a yeti, whom she also names Claude.

He’s able to make himself invisible to adults, but the kids can see him. And, suited to Langridge’s approach to comedy, he’s wearing a jacket and tie and smoking a pipe. He’s like your dream uncle from the 1950s. He’s escaped from government captivity, which provides the conflict, since two bumbling men-in-black are pursuing him.

Ladgridge’s cartooning is, as always, astoundingly good. The characters are animated, with strong senses of personality and movement. He builds rich environments quickly with just the right images. The characters show themselves through visuals, both in design and action.

Abigail and the Snowman #3 cover

Issue #1 sets up the meeting between the two title characters. In issue #2, Claude (the yeti) comes home with her before she takes him to school, making for some lovely, funny sequences. This installment is setting up the coming showdowns, giving us emotional background to care about what happens.

Issue #3 ramps up the action, as the big bad guy is revealed, and we see how the pair decide to proceed. Skilled wordless sequences demonstrate both Abigail and Claude’s friendship and his history. I’m also touched by the back-and-forth between Abigail and her dad. He’s protective, but he’s also willing to let her make decisions and take action. It’s the most surprising (and pleasing) part of the book for me.

This month’s issue #4 will conclude the short series. I’m eager to see how Langridge next astonishes me. Also, read his commentary on issue #1 to learn even more about how beautifully he assembles a page.

Dark Horse Moves Selected Titles From Print to Digital Serialization

Dark Horse Comics has announced the launch of Dark Horse Digital Exclusives, a set of titles that will be serialized digitally followed by “expedited print collections”. The affected titles are The Ghost Fleet, Resurrectionists, and Sundowners. Said Dark Horse president and publisher Mike Richardson,

“We are confident in the quality of these stories and want to ensure that readers have the opportunity to fully experience them. Dark Horse is throwing its support behind these creators and their innovative titles, and we are choosing to continue them in a series of original graphic novels. These stories deserve to be told, and to continue in a reader-friendly and accessible format. In the meantime, for those who would like to continue reading the series, we will also offer new issues of each title on our Dark Horse Digital platform.”

Dark Horse Digital Exclusives

This is putting a positive spin on some bad news. Apparently, sales on these titles have dropped enough to make print issues unfeasible, but I’m glad that readers of the series will be able to finish them out, as Sundowners writer Tim Seeley points out: “I’m not sure why some books succeed while others don’t, especially when I know Dark Horse has been making some super-cool, all-new, creator-owned material that I was proud to be part of. But I’m glad they’ve got the dedication and respect to ensure readers and creators get to bring their stories to a logical conclusion.”

Unfortunately, some fans won’t like the format change, as seen in a comment thread at Robot 6. Resurrectionists readers who want print are grumbling about having to rebuy issues they already have in the collection, while others are dropping series because they don’t want to split formats. As someone points out, though, this is more likely to happen more in future, as so much competition makes it tricky for new, creator-owned comics to find shelf space and customers.

Resurrectionists: Near-Death Experienced, collecting the entire series, will now be available August 19 for $19.99. Sundowners Volume 2 will be available August 26 for $19.99, and The Ghost Fleet Volume 2: Hammer Down will be released October 7 for $14.99.

What will be interesting to note in future is whether Dark Horse moves other titles in this direction, or even launches new projects with this digital-to-print format.

KC Recommends the Deluxe DC: The New Frontier

DC: The New Frontier: The Deluxe Edition
DC: The New Frontier: The Deluxe Edition

In his latest Westfield Comics column, KC recommends the new release of DC: The New Frontier: The Deluxe Edition, with a rundown of its contents (particularly in comparison to the out-of-print Absolute Edition) and why it’s such a great read.




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