I was lucky to get
sent a pre-release copy of this title by the writer Jay Faerber. I have admired
Jay’s work for some time now and loved his Noble Causes series. He mixes great
personal moments with super hero action in his work as a stylistic choice that
works really well.
This book is
currently a digital only book from Monkey Brain Comics and is well worth a
look. It follows the hero Paragon who inhabits a city of superheroes and super
villains. Paragon seems to be a reliable and heroic figure fighting for justice
with a pensive and practical manner. He successfully completes a mission and
beats some gangsters up. One of the gangsters is a capo in an organised crime
family who follows Paragon and witnesses him unmasking. This criminal decides
to keep this discovery to himself and use it to his own benefit. He blackmails
Paragon into becoming a costumed villain called Bludgeon. They then conspire
(against our hero’s wishes) to steal cash from the very mobsters this capo
We follow Paragon in
his civilian life and watch as his life turns to banality and sadness as this
oft times hero meets with his soon to be ex wife to sign some divorce papers he then has to explain this to his kids and then apologise to his boss for being late to work.
Each of these books
are priced at 99 cents – exactly how much a digital comic should be in my
opinion. The covers evoke pulp crime novels of the 1950s and are striking to
Mr Faerber works this idea of the manipulated hero logically and with
imagination. It all feels real and has that crime noir mixed with regular superheroics
feel to it. It reveals to us a little bit of nastiness as the story builds in a
masterful fashion. It rattles along speedily and pays attention to character
and action in equal measure. The action is handled well and not unnecessarily dragged
out and the personal moments (a stand out moment in the signing of the divorce
papers) is handled with Faerber’s usual style and care. It has that ‘what if
superheroes existed’ exterior with more depth than we usually get. He
extrapolates real world problems well in the initial issue and lays it all up
for future instalments.
The art is crisp and
well coloured. It reminds me a little bit of a book like The Boys or Incorruptible (from the last couple of years in story and style) and we get an almost cartoony feel that
counterpoints it’s gritty ironic edge. Nate Stockman uses style (and Little’s
colours) to differentiate between the two alter egos. These two costumes
reflect current trends in capes and cowls as one is bright and showy whilst the
other is dark and armoured. I had not seen Stockman’s art before and you can
tell that he is still learning but so far the book looks great and flows well
from panel to panel. His storytelling works well for me and it’s an enjoyable
ride art wise. He quotes Sal Buscema and John McCrea as major influences and you can see this through the pages of this title. He is straightforward in his action but also with energy. He will be one to watch in days to come.
What this book does
successfully for me is in making the dilemma the core of the story. We don’t
get pages of exposition that lay out the heroes powers or place in a super team
or organisation. The main narrative stream is the fact that he is being
manipulated successfully by someone who would normally be dealt with in a
punchy or kicky moment. This is mixed up with some Stan Lee style grounding of
the hero in the regular world with all his regular world problems. One moment
he is punching bad guys, then he’s getting a bollocking from his boss, then he
is being ordered around by a sleazy con man.
It’s great fun and
really wants me to read on into the series. It doesn’t pretend to be anything
more than an interesting and fun crime / superhero comic. In keeping to this it’s
perfect for these shorter chunks that you can read on your digital device.
Issue one is great
vale and is double sized and Faerber hopes to get out ten pages for each
following issue. I have to admit to not being a regular digital reader but will
try out future issues and have a look at the rest of Monkey Brain’s output.
Anti-Hero issue 1 is
released tomorrow (June 26th) through Comixology or direct through
the Monkey Brain website.
I thought that is was only fair since I make use of iTunes and comics podcasts throughout my week that I devote one of the reviews this month to one of their best.
Wordballoon. The Comic Book Podcast.
Twitter - @johnwordballoon
Facebook - John Siuntres.
Wordballoon is the brainchild of John Siuntres. Now in it's eigth year it is primarily an interview show and gets some great names and talent. John is a radio presenter from Chicago and always the proffessional. He has built up quite the porfolio of interviews and I have lost count of how many hundreds of great episodes he has notched up. (You might even spot him as the Principal of Peter's school in Ultimate Spider-Man a few years ago).
He has strands of regular guests. The Bendis Tapes, The Rucka Debrief, Fireside Chat with Matt Fraction, amongst numerous others. He loves the history of the medium and it is well worth looking out interviews with Marty Pasko (one is due soon I think), Mark Waid, John Ostrander and Dave Gibbons (a truly great interview as he mentions my LCS). There are too many great guests to name. I can only suggest listening in.
It's not just a show for us fans but also for professionals. You often hear artists and writers saying what a thrill it is to get on there. John is a real gentleman and clearly an interviewer of insight and ability.
Over especially the last few years it is commonplace to turn on a podcast and hear that the presenters haven't really 'read much lately' or you can tell that they are ill prepared for the subject matter. None of this with Mr Siuntres. He is a fanboy like us all (although both he and I are no longer boys!). His knowledge in this and realted fields is flawless and he speaks constantly with huge enthusiasm.
He drifts a little bit on occasion into film, TV and radio. Well worth a listen are the 'Ape Talk' strands where he talks about that subject - mostly with Gabriel Hardman and Corine Bechko.
I had the pleasure of meeting John briefly at the 2011 New York Comicon. He is as friendly and enthusiatic in person as he is on my iPod. He is however a one man band. So if you do listen and can spare a couple of quid or dollars or euros (or whatever) drop some in his paypal account. I have sent him a few quid over the last year and he even sent me an email thanking me. You gotta love the comics community right?
I have of late been reading through my long box of books that I haven't got round to. There have been some surprising high points.
One if these was Incorruptible from Boom Studios.
This is from the penultimate issue (29).
Written by Mark Waid.
Art by Damian Couceiro.
Colours by Nolan Woodard.
The series was written as a companion piece to Irredeemable and is superbly thought out fun. While Irredeemable is a hero turned bad this is the story of Max Damage who is a villain turned good (kind of).
It has a little bit of The Boys about it (without the sex). It's pretty super violent and as always with Waid is an intelligent take on the super hero deconstructed genre.