My Comics about the Vikings: One Step Further

If you are reading this, chances are that you have come seeking further knowledge from my previous post regarding comics about the Vikings and where to begin. If not, well, you are in for a double bill and you can find the first part of this here: https://manaburnt.wordpress.com/2017/10/09/my-comics-about-the-vikings-where-to-begin/

So, you have gone around reading about Thorsfinn, Sven the Badass, the reckless Siegfried and our daring Valkyrie and you have thought to yourself: I need more. I need that extra layer. Then, you are now part of the brotherhood and I shall guide you throughout this process. The next three pieces I present you with provide different looks on to Early Scandinavian society and the Viking Age. The vary in tone and style. But I think, above all, what they provide us with is a further degree of immersion. Now I appreciate Northlanders is pretty good for that…but I never said it was about better quality: this is just about the extra bits.

Gods of Asgard

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Monstress: It Is InSide You

I finally got some me time and managed to read Monstress, which I has really been looking forward for a long time. And let me tell you something: it was better than what I wished it would be, what I had read it was, and what it could potentially be. I mean every word.

This is not just a story heavily powered by the third wave of feminism, and a pretty bleak commentary on earlier feminism:  this is a comic written and drawn by women, about women, but not necessarily just for women: Monstress is a Warning. Monstress is about what lies inside and you don’t want to know about, and fight to keep within. Monstress is also, the crudest example of – please excuse my vulgar terminology – “bitches be crazy, bitches be powerful”. I do not think there is a single male character in this volume that has more lines than a female one. And I guarantee you every single one of them passes the Bechdel Test. In fact, I do not think a single woman talks to another about a guy…People are dying here! There are far more important things to talk about. There is magic, mystery, conspiracy, politics, idealism…But mostly Lies. Pretty much everything that drags the argument forward is a very deep and elaborate lie someone created for their convenience – and yeah, that someone seems to me always a woman. Again, I could sit here and tell you how the dialogue is brilliant, how the narrative combines elements of Western and Eastern storytelling. How the art work is with is the prettiest steam punk/fantasy/art decoish thing you can buy currently…But Why? You don’t need me to tell you that. It is Obvious. You just need to open and look at a page.

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Geek Economy: Comics & the Market

Today I come back with a subject that affects my pocket regularly, and possibly yours too. Of course, comics; I never have enough. I do have a double problem with this subject because I buy comics for research, and because I want them. So being practical about how I invest my earnings on this respect is pretty important and has defined the way I collect comics.

I was never into number serials. It never felt like value for money: just a few pages for all my weekend money. The economy if a child is limited. In addition, most of these comics were – and still are – superheroes. I still have the same problem with these. I don’t buy superhero comics much these days, except very specific stuff. My dad owns lots so I guess I never really felt the need to buy some, I could just grab whatever he had at hand. In addition, we have such a great culture for Francophone BD in Spain that a lot of the comics that ended in my hands at a very young age were volumes rather than serials, therefore the stories were pretty self-contained. I think it made more sense for me to purchase/read these even though periodically as it felt I was getting more value: longer read, usually cheaper price, easier format to keep – better “vol.1” than 100 “#1-#100” stacked up in a precarious way somewhere in my room.

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Reading Rat Queens Vol. 3: Demons

For my birthday one of my friends bought me the third instalment of this great series by Image – Rat Queens. You’ve already heard me talk about the series and its characters before, so today I am just going to go over some of the features that have caught my attention. Must warn you though: This May Contain Spoilers!

I think story wise, this is probably the best volume out of the three. Whilst volume one was great at creating the setting, and explaining everyone’s background, the story did not have the grit we are presented here. The second volume, probably the funniest, had some significant character developments and some absolutely to die for art work, a great deal of the story focused on the action, which was essential for the developments of vol. 3. Therefore, we have reached the peak of all the intrigues. We have also get to know each character in full. Betty is still my favourite. Her loving, kindred spirit is just overwhelming. And we see here, more than ever how she is the sensitivity of the Queens. Dee has gone miles ahead, she is a complete different person. She has a fully grown back bone fuelled by her intellect and high understanding of how the universe works. We have also got to learn more about her family thanks to the appearance of her brother Senoa. Violet has shown us her caring and selfless side. And to the surprise of many, she is rocking a pretty beautiful beard! What happened with screw tradition?! I guess everyone grows up. And then Hannah…although it was hinted I did not expect the progression to be so bold. Her look change really caught me by surprise – in general the last 10 pages really got me like this 😱😱😱😱 I followed the demonic agreement, and accepted the evil deeds at the Mage uni. But brushing off the Queens and going full on solo was hard to digest.

But I get it. I understand that the outcasts go through change. I understand that trust and friendship is always tested, sometimes in pretty brutal ways. And Rat Queens has always been excellent at pushing the boundaries, and testing the integrity of its characters. “Sometimes love isn’t good enough” says Betty. There is great opposition between nature and nurture in the four characters – probably less visible to this stage in our loving smidgen. And I think the plot is moving to explore deeper concepts already outlined in these first 3 volumes: belonging, family v friends, believes v principles, what is good and what is bad, and who is, and who can judge. Support – how much can you rely in those around you and how much must you only depend on your own self. Flexibility and tolerance, respect.

It hurt me that Dee openly challenged Hannah’s intention of rescuing her father even though Hannah had a point and it was her duty. Or how Violet was not up to the task of assuming the so contested leadership of the group when her sense of honour and deep mindedness was most needed. It demonstrated that now that she found comfort in her relationship with Dave the orc, perhaps she didn’t feel she needed that recognition and that made her more detached. If she would have been more on the ball, things may have been different….And what is it with that sword she got from Daniel the Dragon? Perhaps that is responsible for her behaviour? Too early to tell.

I think Hannah only had one way out. In her eyes her sisters walked away from her: Dee did so very vocally (perhaps without meaning to), Violet was clumsy and did not live up to standards. Betty tried, Betty understood, but Hannah clearly dismissed this as naivety rather than honest concern and respect.

I am certainly interested to know what we got coming in volume 4. Now, I know there has been a lot of controversy with the announcement that Fowler will not be continuing the artwork in the fourth arch and that she will be substituted by Roc Upchurch (first artist of the series who has dismissed following his arrest for domestic violence). I personally don’t think one half does the other. You could tell through this volume that although Fowler’s artwork is great, there was a dissociation between the art and the plot. While it worked brilliantly for volume two – spectacularly well I’d say – the darker development of the story requires a more moody type of drawing. The tone needs to be in accordance. So, personally I don’t have a problem with this decision – politics aside.

And I think that is all I can say without repeating myself too much – and I don’t like repeating myself, so it is probably wise to call it a day. Not before though, before I encourage you to read the entire collection and get some Queen attitude in you. After all this is a comic by geeks for geeks – embracing and loving those outside of the norm, and bringing them home, wherever home is…although not with a rocky, muddy climb. That’s how epic is forged

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Pretty Deadly: What Good Stories and Comics Are Made Off

I found myself yesterday in Megacity Comics (Candem, London). I came home with a comic I had already eyed out in Outland during my visit to Oslo, called Ragnarok: Last God Standing. And Pretty Deadly. It is no secret that I am a big fan of Image. I was pretty thrilled when they announced that Kelly Deconnick and Emma Rios were teaming up for this one. They are kickass; only something epic could come out of this union – yet I’d never guessed how this would be achieved. They had already worked together in Osborn (2010). Deconnick’s reputation working with Marvel precedes her, as well as her fabulous work in manga adaptation – and The Witching Hour which I love! Rios is a talented compatriot whose art amazes me – Spiderman and Runaways. So I knew things would go well. But this?… This was something different. Train time comes and I think to myself “got an hour to kill”. Rganarok was ticker so I grabbed the Image volume. I have a page and a half when the train got home…I did not stop reading until I was done.

The thing is, Pretty Deadly is a bit like Memento: if I tell you about the plot, there’s no point you reading it: it would be ruined. So I’ll limit myself to give you reasons as to why you should! For starters the art work is LUSH – SO Refreshing. The colours are so moody, and Emma Rios can draw, in such a way that even when drawing something disgusting, it is still beautiful. The landscape is relatively minimalistic, yet so effectively used. The composition of the pages shows synergies: touches of American style comics, with manga design and yet such a remarkable good taste for French BD at stages. In that sense it was like American Vampire meets Long John Silver and Vinland Saga.

The narrative is incredible. Fantastic use of several voices sometimes at he same time. Moving from first, third and even second person seems so natural. Flashbacks are classy and very fitting of this western/fantasy mix. They are not jumpy; they take place as part of the characters own discourse. Moreover, the story-telling is remarkable. The plot doesn’t begin at the beginning, neither does it start at the end, and it most certainly doesn’t start in the middle. Have you seen Zu Warriors? Or like the Legend of the Monkey King? It is a very different way of telling stories. It is mythical. By beginning the story with a seemingly random but ultimately crucial point of the narrative it allows you to set a degree of unexpectedness. Here the is no guessing the plot or the characters evolution, because you lack the understanding. You think you know them but you actually don’t; you have only been told what you needed to know thus far. You are instead introduced to a concept, and in fact that is that Pretty Deadly is a conceptual narrative. It’s not about emotions, although they play a part in the plot. It’s about ideas and the nature of things. But at the same time, it is a story of stories. There is a narrative drive that reminds of medieval tapestries, where the main action would take place in the big scenes, but the borders will often contain animals and symbols that presented allegories and motives, which are intrinsically linked with the scenes above. And if you missed them, you will only be getting part of the picture. Bunny and Butterfly do this in a very modern way, which is beautiful and demonstrates such a mastery of these dynamics. How to use something seemingly unconnected to actually tell you what really is happening. That is the first story. Then you have the main narrative. Moreover, the plot and several characters at multiple stages refer to stories within their own to move the action forward. The degree of meta and self reference is only rivaled by folk legends. And that is what I was saying earlier, this is not something you find in modern times. It’s not linear, it’s not multilinear, it’s not a compilation of stories to add to the gran narrative. It is like the murmur of a river being whispered by the trees and that you only hear far away from the river, yet you know it is there. It’s a folk tale you should have always known, yet you didn’t.

I am trying really hard in here not to destroy this – so excuse me if my argument is not very tangible. Now there is one thing I will tell you in a bit more depth, because I think encapsulates the general spirit of the comic. One of the main characters in this tory is Death. But Death is nothing like you believe it to be, or maybe it is everything everyone thinks it is. Death is depicted wearing black robes but of rich textures like a lord would. There is nothing creepy about it, not even remotely. Represented with the skull of a long mouthed mammal, perhaps a wolf, it stands in glory, yet in the shadows. Almost, like Hades in Greek mythology, as lord of the underworld, something that should be revered. Death is capable of emotion, and his actions are driven by it but also forced by untimely fate. A fate he is aware of. I thought, in a way I wished this death to be like Sir Terry’s DEATH from a less loving and more romanticist yet clinical perspective, but that it such a trivialisation of the concept it just doesn’t justify it. Death has minions. Death has weapons – a blooming shotgun! Death thus stands there as a god, and unstoppable force of the universe…Yet, vulnerable.

Through twist and turn, construction and deconstruction, almost like the product of some shamanistic dark magic, Pretty Deadly is like nothing I’ve ever read. It truly is one of those stories that happen once in a million years. And it comes delivered by two amazing women. So much for being underrepresented, not involved, lacking and ignored. If Deconnick and Rios are to go by, then the future of the comic industry is going to see perhaps one of its greatest eras. And if being marginalised means creating volumes such as this, Bitch Planet, and being nominated for awards like the Eisner…Then so be it.

Wytches & Scott Snyder’s Magical Narrative

Today I come back with a comic book that has really marked me and which I would happily considered one of the best written comics of the 21st century. It is interesting too because it is the type of story I wouldn’t normally read – in fact, horror/thriller comics are a pretty niche subgenre in general. Personally, though, you’d never see me going nearby scary things – I don’t do spooky very well. Yet here I was reading Wytches in one go as I could not find the courage to actually stop reading. For those of you who have read it, I hope you agree. But for those of you who haven’t, please let me tell you that this will completely change your perspective of horror comics.

First things first – everyone knows Scott Snyder is amazing. American Vampire hit the market like a bomb, and has been a great long running series since its release in 2010. We are currently on the second cycle of the story, and the intensity of the writing has not changed at all. Simply great, thrilling and refreshing. Snyder and King make a fantastic team, and their styles compliment each other like bread and butter. I remember buying a serial magazine that is now out of print in the UK just for the promotional poster in my first year of university. It was vampires made new, and made right, with a touch of Western – thank you for thinking of something new! Now, I must admit, I lost track of Snyder for a little while, perhaps I was too concentrated on other publications at the time, and to my shame, I almost forgot about it. Then I was at Waterstones’ one good day and to my surprise I see volume 1 of Wytches – who did this escape me?! I read the premise and my first thought was “Nuh-Huh. I don’t do Scary”. Here I was presented with the idea that the Rook family move to a deeper part of the American woods after the daughter, Sailor, is accused or suspected of having murdered this girl who used to bully her at her previous school. Dad – Charlie is a writer, a man who seems to be trying to do the right thing for his family and that ultimately you know he is scared and terrified of what the change, the possibilities and his capability to deal with the situation. Mum – Lucy is currently on a wheelchair due to an accident, seemingly a car crash. And a deep, dark broody witch cult runs in the background. Then I opened the book and Jock’s amazing artwork just compelled me to perhaps reconsider. I have seen few such good matches of narrative and art style like this one. The flashes of colour, the gradual change, moving from psychedelic to the darkest type of new gothic, bleak yet bright. The colour was the work of the fantastic Mark Hollingsworth. It was amazing. Then I notice it’s written by Mr Snyder…And how I could not take it home?

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Wrecking Palisade – The Rat Queens are Coming!

With the upcoming release of volume 3, I saw it fitting to dedicate this post to talk about a comic series that has captivated me not only on a personal but an academic level. I am of course talking about the biggest badassess ever known to inhabit Palisade: the Rat Queens!!

Since 2010 Image Comics has been in a roll of good releases, more innovative, fascinating and generally speaking, “New” in comparison with the other two titans ( DC & Marvel). Saga, Wyches, Pretty Deadly, East of West, The Wicked and the Divine, Monstress, etc,etc. Image Comics is Booming with fresh content. And Rat Queens is just another example. I mean we are talking of such a radical success since its release in 2013 that there have even been discussions to adapt the series to a cartoon for TV. What else you want?!?!

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