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Surviving the Summer Break for ‘Once Upon a Time’ Fans – Graphic Novel Review – ‘Out of the Past’

ONCE UPON A TIME: OUT OF THE PAST
STORY BY:
 Kalinda Vazquez and Corinna Bechko
ART BY: Pascal Campion, Betsy Peterschmidt, Vanesa Del Rey, and Janet Lee
PUBLISHER: Marvel
PAGECOUNT: 112
COVER PRICE: $17.99
RELEASE DATE: April 14, 2015


With just 48 days to go (from time of this publishing) to the Season 5 premiere of Once Upon a Time on September 27, I’m champing at the bit while trying to amuse myself with OUaT related activities. I don’t know how you’re faring, but I feel that if we were all on a raft right now, I’d imagine you as a big hot dog and you’d see me as a giant hamburger.

I’m actually getting antsy. Like, drumming my fingers on the steering wheel, huffing loudly as I wait for my computer to boot up, grinding my teeth watching my tea heat in the microwave antsy. As I’ve explained before, I’m deeply emotionally invested in OUaT. It’s not just about romantic relationships either. I need to know more about the characters’ history and motivations. I need to know more about how magic works. I need to meet new characters and see new realms. I need ten minutes alone in Gold’s shop, darn it! I don’t even want to steal anything– I just wanna see what surprises and secrets my non-HD TV is missing!

Well, I can’t have any of those things, so this week I settled for something that was new-to-me to tide me over another seven days. Once Upon a Time: Out of the Past was published by Marvel in April 2015. But I’ve been obsessively writing fanfic busy doing important grown up things, so I haven’t made time to read it before now. But I’m actually glad I waited, as I really needed to digest this last season and appreciate where the main characters from this graphic novel started and where they ended up.


Unlike its predecessor Shadow of the Queen, this volume is comprised of four stories. It focuses on events prior to the series start for Hook, Rumpelstiltskin and Belle, the Evil Queen, and Jefferson. Hook’s story reunites him with his brother, Liam, long-thought dead. In Rumple and Belle’s story, we find out that Belle’s devotion to keeping her promise to Rumple isn’t just about pleasing him but being true to her word. In Regina’s story we see yet another painful motivator fueling her quest to destroy Snow White. And in Jefferson’s story we learn that the Hatter wasn’t always so mad.

Out of the Past is co-authored by Kalinda Vazquez and Corinna Bechko, and illustrated by four artists. Each story has its own unique style, but all remain true to the feel of the series we love. Hook’s story, Dead in the Water, is illustrated by Pascal Campion, and it’s a gorgeous homage, intentional or not, to Mary Blair’s days at Disney.

Rumbelle’s story, “Truth and Daggers”, is some of most gorgeous watercolor work I’ve ever seen. I confess, I can’t say with certainty whether or not Betsy Peterschmidt did the entire chapter by hand, but if she did, then I want to lie prostrate at her feet and kiss those fingertips… if she’d let me.

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Vanesa Del Rey and Esther Sanz’s work in Regina’s story “Ghosts” has a classic feel with a modern edge, perfectly befitting a story like Once Upon a Time.


Lastly, the art of “Tea Party in March” by Janet K. Lee is easily my least favorite offering.

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While the storytelling and layout are nice, the style is just shy of bad fanart that one might find attached to mediocre fanfics. And let it be known that I have produced my share of both mediocre fanfics and fanart, so I think I know what I’m talking about. But just because I didn’t like the style doesn’t mean it wasn’t appropriate for the story. Campion’s art was rough and eerie like the seas the Jolly Roger sailed, while Peterschmidt’s watercolors were soft and dreamy and warm, like the light that Belle brought into Rumple’s Dark Castle. Del Rey and Sanz’s work was dark and gritty, like Regina’s sadness and vengeance. All their art was befitting their main characters and their story, and Lee’s work regarding Jefferson is no exception.

I think that if you’re missing something original while you wait for Season 5 to commence, then Out of the Past is an excellent tide over. The art is (mostly) gorgeous, and the stories are excellent additions which are true to the characters’ mythos. Both paper and electronic copies include bonus material like character sketches.

All comics come with a price, though, and in my opinion, the $17.99 or less you’ll shell out for this book is well worth it.

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Comic Review: 21st Century Tank Girl #2

21st_TG_2_preview1Last month we celebrated the return of rough and tough Tank Girl in the first issue of her new series, 21st Century Tank Girl. This month she’s back in a new set of wild and crazy adventures, including a Mad Max-esque classic car delivery scheme gone bad (with more than one Roger Moore reference), a silly and overly literal military “how to” guide, a “journey to the centre of the tank” filled with 1970s starlets and explosive surprises, and a piece that is summed up perfectly by its title: “You’re young now, but you won’t be for long.”

21st_TG_2_preview3What I love about Tank Girl is that while Alan Martin consistently guides the stories, each vignette is illustrated by various different artists (including Jamie Hewlett, Warwick Johnson-Caldwell, Phillip Bond, Jonathan Edwards, and Brett Parson). This constant shift in art style keeps the stories fresh, fun and interesting –  just like Tank Girl.

While I enjoyed all of the art in the issue, I especially loved Edwards’ work in “Journey to the Centre of the Tank,” which was filled with thick, angular lines and interesting point-of-view shots that perfectly complimented the strange twists in the story.

I feel like every time I’ve read and reviewed a 21st Century Tank Girl issue, I have to make some sort of disclaimer: Tank Girl is not for everyone. It’s just not. However, it doesn’t try to be.

The cover (which is brazenly illustrated by Parson) features a pin-up style shower scene of three punk rocker chicks in a shower. It doesn’t hold back, it doesn’t sugar coat anything, it doesn’t pretend. It’s not fake.

But even though it’s not for everyone, maybe it should be. I believe that everyone can learn a thing or two from Martin and Tank Girl about how to be honest and authentic.

Want to see what Tank Girl is up to next? Stay tuned for issue #3, on sale August 2015 through Titan Comics!

21st Century Tank Girl #2
STORY BY: Alan Martin
ART BY: Jamie Hewlett, Warwick Johnson-Caldwell, Phillip Bond, Jonathan Edwards, Brett Parson
PUBLISHER: Titan Comics
PAGE COUNT: 32
COVER PRICE: $3.99
RELEASE DATE: July 8

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Graphic Novel Review – Once Upon a Time: Shadow of the Queen

Once Upon a Time: Shadow of the Queen
STORY BY: Daniel T. Thomsen and Corinna Bechko
ART BY: Chapter 1: Michael Del Mundo; Chapter 2: Vasilis Lolos; Chapter 3: Mike Henderson and John Rauch; Chapter 4: Michael Kaluta, Scott Hanna, and Christopher Sotomayor
PUBLISHER: Marvel – Dan Buckley
PAGECOUNT: 117
COVER PRICE: $19.99
RELEASE DATE: September 4, 2013

I call myself a fan. I call myself that. But it’s been almost two years since Once Upon a Time: Shadow of the Queen was released, and I just read it this weekend. I’m a little embarrassed, not gonna lie. And since I’m getting things off my chest, I also need to confess that I didn’t start watching OUAT until Season Two was already complete. Yep. Superfan over here, kids. Don’t be jealous.

But what I lack in timeliness I make up for with enthusiasm! Never let it be said that there isn’t a method to my madness. Sure, I waited two years to read Shadow of the Queen. But that just means that now, in the doldrums of the summer break, I’ve got something to talk about. So really, my laziness benefits you!

The story is a familiar one. The Evil Queen, Regina, is trying to capture and kill Snow White in the Enchanted Forest. But this time Regina’s got new allies. Armed with the Huntsman’s heart and some silver-tipped arrows, Regina seeks the allegiance of the Werewolves in her mad quest to finally extract revenge. It’s the dead of winter, so Regina is counting on the wolves’ hardiness and tracking skills to ensure Snow White is left no quarter in the royal forests. But the wolves are not the complacent servants Regina demands, and soon she’s got a pack of clever lycans, a rogue Red, and a rehearted Huntsman between her and her quarry.

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I liked the pace of this book because it gave time for the progression of the main tale while allowing for backstory to be told. To me it felt neither rushed nor slow, and there was plenty of space for both dialogue and action. And while I wasn’t a fan of the ending, it did align perfectly with where the Evil Queen and Huntsman’s storyline picked up in the television show in Season One. And while Snow White is the prey in this tale, she is rarely the main character. Often she is layered behind the other characters, and this allows those we would normally see as “supporting characters” to become the interesting focus of the book. I really enjoyed seeing the natural and logical chemistry between the Huntsman and Red, especially in defiance of Regina’s desire to literally control his heart.

ch4Shadow of the Queen is also pretty gorgeous. The story remains linear, but the artist changes by chapter, so you get four distinct takes in one book. Some readers may not enjoy this change up because they might find it hard to follow which character is which. That being said, I had no problem whatsoever deciphering any of the main characters from chapter to chapter. The artists had an excellent grasp of the main characters’ traits and styles, so for me there was no confusion.

In fact it was nice to see so many different takes on the same characters because each artist highlighted something different about them. For example, in Chapter One, Del Mundo somehow marries Alphonse Mucha’s art nouveau grace with the imposing and sharp, intimidating angles of Citizen Kane to create a beautiful but terrifying Evil Queen.

ch 1

And in Chapter Two, Lolos changes up the tone drastically with his sexy, psychedelic tarot card style. Chapters Three and Four provide just as lovely artwork that, while more traditional, is no less impressive and dynamic. There are so many pages in this book that I would happily hang a print of on my wall.

ch 2

It’s important to state that, as of this article’s publishing, there is no word as to the Shadow of the Queen being accepted as canon, or official, despite many Tweets by fans to Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis, the show’s creators. Even so, this story seems to mesh up nicely with what we already know to be true in regards to both Regina and the Huntsman’s story and also Red’s tale involving her former wolfpack. And because it doesn’t waiver too far from canon, I can happily accept it into the timeline until I’m told otherwise.

If you’ve never picked up a graphic novel before but are a fan of the show, I encourage you to give it a read. I personally read my copy on my Kindle because I didn’t want to wait for the paper copy to arrive in the mail. Full disclosure, I ordered it anyway, because books. As an added bonus, both physical and electronic copies come with character development sketches and costume design layout pages. Even if you are new to comics and don’t enjoy the storytelling style, you will definitely appreciate the artwork.

Have you read Shadow of the Queen already? Tell us what you thought of it in the comments!

All images property of Marvel comics.

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INTERVIEW: Surface Tension’s Jay Gunn

Readers around the globe are anxiously awaiting Jay Gunn’s comic book debut, Surface Tension. This highly anticipated 5 issue mini-series is already being talked about within sci-fi and horror circles, but not a lot is known about the man behind the project. GeekGirl World had the unique privilege of asking Gunn about his work, feminism, the fate of the world, and what would happen in a celebrity death match between two Zombie Superstars. His eloquent answers left us completely enamored, and if his prose is anything like his graphic novel, then we absolutely can not wait for Surface Tension, which debuts May 2015 via Titan Comics.

Surface Tension
GGW: We heard that Surface Tension is creator owned, and you’re both the writer and artist of the work! Nice job. Did you have 100% control over the end product? What was that experience like? Did you prefer any one aspect of the job over another?

Gunn: When I originally pitched Surface Tension to Titan I had written a much longer treatment that focused more on the human relationship drama within the island community. Senior editor Steve White really liked the idea of the story but asked me to cut the page count down by about 50% and to merge a number of the characters. I restructured the story that helped to focus and streamline the action. I’m actually thankful for that initial steer as I’d still be drawing the book years from now and would never finish it!

I tend to think in visuals more than I do words and, if I could, I would prefer to just draw the story right onto the page and think about the words later. I had a very strong idea and vision of the overall story but I’m also a very collaborative artist so I enjoyed bouncing ideas around with others which is something you can do at the writing stage. Drawing is very time consuming, or at least it is for me as I was doing everything, I labour over every panel – what is the meaning in this drawing, what is the feeling I’m trying to convey?

From Gunn's Facebook: "A strange ceremony is taking place on the remote island of Breith! The font is a placeholder."
From Gunn’s Facebook: “A strange ceremony is taking place on the remote island of Breith! The font is a placeholder.”

GGW:  Surface Tension has been described by Titan Comics as The Walking Dead, meets Studio Ghibli and Invasion Of The Body Snatchers. In what ways would you say your work is similar? Were they a conscious inspiration? What other works have inspired your career?

Gunn: I’d say I was more inspired by “Ghibli” and “Invasion of the body snatchers” than I was of “The Walking Dead.” Invasion of the Body Snatchers (the Philip Kaufman version) is a masterpiece of building up slow burn paranoia and there are some wonderfully composed street level shots and scenes that work at a subconscious level to make you feel uneasy. It’s such a carefully crafted film, in some ways it is the ultimate ‘nature versus humanity’ film. Everything worked so well, it had a very clever use of location – setting an alien seed pod invasion in San Francisco – the home of ‘flower power’, hippies and alternative psychotherapy. And that ending! Perfection! I tried to capture some of that sense of location in Surface Tension, both beautiful and at the same time a little off kilter.

It may not be obvious from the first episode of Surface Tension but the work of Hayao Miyazaki was instrumental in helping me to have the confidence to tell a story without the need for macho superheroes or overt violence. Underneath the lovely colourful visuals of his films are ideas and a philosophy, they’re not just stories of good versus evil. His films have a lot to say about our relationship with the world around us. I respond much more positively to these sorts of stories and so I wanted to put some of Miyazaki’s philosophy on nature and society, which is very similar to my own, into Surface Tension.

Most of all I wanted Surface Tension to be about my own personal outlook on with the world around me. In the end I was less inspired by the works of others than I was of my own experiences. In the early stages of writing Surface Tension I was diagnosed with cancer and, for a time, I thought I would be too ill to finish the book. I had to take some time out to re-evaluate my relationship with life in order to get better. I started to spend a lot more time outdoors and I started to notice the small things that I’d always taken for granted, the changing of seasons, birds, insects – all of that stuff that happens outside of the home or office. I soon realised that I had become disconnected with the natural world around me, always too busy hurtling from one office deadline to the next working on jobs that didn’t fulfil me and making myself very ill in the process. So I pulled myself together, took a deep breath and went back to the book with a new vigour for life, I wanted to write something that was full of optimism and hope. Even amongst the horror of human bodies falling apart and when most of humanity is threatened – there’s always that glimmer of hope, something to cling on to! So the biggest inspiration for the story was life itself.

From Gunn's Facebook: "Continuation of a Work In Progress... The final illustration will depict some of the more 'fantasy' elements"
From Gunn’s Facebook: “Continuation of a Work In Progress… The final illustration will depict some of the more ‘fantasy’ elements”

GGW: GeekGirl World is excited to see the story appears to contain a female protagonist! Gender in geek culture, specifically comics, is currently a hot-button issue. How would you describe the character? Do you feel as though she would be considered a feminist? What does the word “feminist” mean to you?

Gunn: All my life I’ve been surrounded by strong women. My mother was a home helper for the elderly and people with disabilities such as motor neuron diseases. She would bring them food, cook for them, bathe them and so on. As a child I would sometimes accompany her on these visits and see her helping. I was a little afraid, and sensing my fear the patients would chat me and try to put me at ease. At that young age I witnessed human frailties but there was always a smile, a joke or a story to be had. These people had a strength and a lust for life that, today, I don’t see in people half their age or ability.

It was natural for me to write strong female characters. For me strong female characters come in all shapes, skin tone and age and from all corners of the globe. I’m not overly keen on the ‘superhero’ representation of female strength. The superhero myth perpetuates this idea in society that ‘strength’ always comes down to a perfect physical appearance and who can hit the hardest.
I read a brilliant graphic novel, “The Photographer” that follows Medicins Sans Frontieres and Juliete Fournot who served as the head of a mission to bring aid to those caught up in war torn Afghanistan. Now she was a true depiction of a strong female ‘superhero’, someone brave and strong enough to stand up to traditional male dominated hierarchies, enduring and overcoming many hardships to alleviate the suffering of others. She was a strong and beautiful person!

There are two strong female protagonists at the heart of Surface Tension, Mary and Megumi;
Mary is a kindly 50 something lady who, even in darkest of times, believes in people, the community and the potential of people and humanity. Megumi is a 30 something biologist, she works in the field of environmental studies, going out to disaster areas. Megumi is world wear and has lost her faith in mankind, she now believes that the planet would be better off without us.
There is a debate at the heart of the story between the two female characters – can we be trusted as custodians of the planet, as a species are we cursed with a perpetual desire to destroy each other and everything around us? The outcome of this debate will decide the fate of the human race. The heart of this debate drives the story and the fact that two strong female characters are having this passionate conversation was very important to me and the story.
What is ‘feminism?’ For me, the answer is the same for both men and women – it is a belief in one’s self, to buck conventions (cultural and establishment) and to have the strength and the autonomy to stand up for one’s sense of ideal. Men and women should be the same in these regards, we’re all people prone to same strengths and weaknesses. I didn’t set out to write a pro-feminist story, I just wanted to write a story about men and women being equal, we all bring something different and unique to the table regardless of sex, race or creed.

From Gunn's Facebook: "non-official teaser montage"
From Gunn’s Facebook: “non-official teaser montage”

GGW: Surface Tension appears to take place in a post-apocalyptic world, in which most of mankind becomes ill and walks into the oceans, leaving the planet (and those who remain behind) radically different. Things appear to get stranger on earth when some return from the sea! How do you really imagine earth being 10 years from now? 50 years? 100?

Gunn: I think the Earth will go on with or without us, we might make a mess of it but it will always prevail over us, it’s vanity to think otherwise, the planet doesn’t need us but we need it. Now the future of the human race, that’s a different story! There are times that I can get quite pessimistic about our future. You only have to watch the news to lose one’s faith in humanity; images of war, human greed, clashing of cultures, environmental catastrophes, the list goes on. I feel that things will get even worse before they have a hope of getting better. The human race is just like any one person; it sometimes takes something bad to happen before you realise the error of your ways, something to wake you up! Be that from an unhealthy life style that you know is wrong or a job that is slowly killing you, a toxic relationship, or whatever it may be. Once you’ve had this bad thing happen to you then you might decide to change your life and try to prevent it from happening again. I think the human race hasn’t quite realised how bad things are getting, it is in a collective denial. I’m sure that there will be a major event in the near future that will shake things up and if we’re wise enough we’ll have to radically rethink our way of life in order for us to survive. I don’t think that we can sustain our way of life for much longer, we’re rapidly outstripping the planet of all natural resources without giving back, something has got to give – it always does. And that’s the debate that is at the heart of Surface Tension.

GGW: Who would win in a fight: George A. Romero or Frank Darabont?

Gunn: Who would win in a fight between Romero and Darabont? I see them as two different beasts; Romero I see as an outsider, a wily old coyote, a survivor that’s always circling the chicken coup of Hollywood. And Darabont, well he has way more heavy hitters behind him so he’s more as a big old grizzly bear. Would they fight? I know that they have a mutual respect for each other and they’re fiercely independent so I think that they would sit down together and have an understanding and then they would team up together to fight the suits that threaten their creative existence. :)


 

Watch the Surface Tension Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Px48D2F1aRQ

Pictures provided by Jay Gunn’s Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JayGunnArts

Learn more about Titan Comics: http://titan-comics.com/

 

 

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REVIEW: Alien Legion: Uncivil War

ALIEN LEGION: UNCIVIL WAR (COLLECTION #1-4)
Writer: Chuck Dixon (Punisher War Journal, Savage Sword of Conan, Batman and the Outsider)
Artist: Larry Stroman
Colorist: Tom Mason
Creator: Carl Potts
Pagecount: 104pp
Price: $19.99
Release date: Wednesday February 11, 2015

ALIEN_LEGION_UNCIVIL_WAR 1Hi, my name is Nicole and I apparently was born in a barn. Prior to reading, “Alien Legion: Uncivil War,” I didn’t know anything about the military unit made up of foul-mouthed, tough, space soldiers who aren’t above getting their hands dirty for safety’s sake. Think: Guardians of the Galaxy, but more structured, and sadly, less funny.

This particular story starts when a mission to assist refugees escaping a civil war turns into a full-fledged battle of epic proportions, with the fate of an entire planet up in the air (no pun intended). The story includes a few inspirational quotes that teeter-tottered between being cliché and being super sentimental. I’m a bit of a sap, so I appreciated glorious lines like, “We can run. We can hide. Or we can fight!” and “’Where we goin’?’ ‘To become heroes, son.’”

 

ALIEN_LEGION_UNCIVIL_WAR 3

Still, to be honest, I had a hard time connecting to this story. As the title states, it’s an “Uncivil War.” So, while I certainly expected sheisty shenanigans in battle, I was still expecting to see two sides to a story. However, the point of view is rather shallow, and there’s clearly the “good guys” and the “bad guys.” It would have been more interesting if the characters and their plights had been more morally ambiguous.

While the art work and coloring were quite nice, and properly depicted the story’s many action sequences, I still found myself wanting to skip ahead to the end. Though the story didn’t hold my interest, I do think I was the minority. Fans of the characters and their history will probably be intrigued to see familiar faces back in action again. However, I just wasn’t as invested.

Learn about Alien Legion: http://alienlegion.com/

More information on the comic: http://titan-comics.com/c/88-alien-legion-uncivil-war/

Buy it on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Alien-Legion-Uncivil-Carl-Potts/dp/1782760733/

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Tainted Love Launches Today on Machinima

TL101_STORE_017

Tainted Love is a graphic novel-style web series that follows the story of expectant parents with good intentions, but not the best of plans.

Orlando Jones (Drumline, Evolution, The Replacements) stars in this fast-paced visceral story as Black Barry, a criminal and soon-to-be father who quickly comes to the realization that he and his pregnant girlfriend Jezebel Jackson (Deanna Russo of Being Human and Burning Love) may not have the means to raise a child. The two of them come up with a plan to rob Fred Lucas (Eric Roberts), who just happens to be Black Barry’s boss and the baddest gangster in town. However, the plan doesn’t go as expected and Black Barry find himself on the defensive trying to protect his love and his unborn child.

Just a warning that the language in this is R rated so brace yourself for a ton of F-bombs. Literally and figuratively. Episode 1 gives us a glimpse as to how much of a wild romp we are in for.

Tainted Love will have a six episode run on Machinima Prime every Sunday at 9am PST.

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