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Creator: Rob Walton
Publisher: Planet Lucy Press
Price: $29.95 US (Paperback)
**** (out of 5)
The beauty of the biting satire that is Ragmop is that you don’t have to agree with the views expressed to appreciate the divine delivery of the argument.
Toronto writer/illustrator Rob Walton blends homage to the classic comic books of his childhood with left-wing politics and nearly every conspiracy theory involving economics, history, science and religion to create something hilarious, action-packed and thought provoking.
It doesn’t matter whether you agree that:
- There is a secret society that actually runs the planet in place of elected governments.
- Capitalism and democracy are really shams.
- The C.I.A. is behind almost every major assassination of the 20th century.
- The U.S. government began the U.F.O. conspiracy.
- Dinosaurs evolved from fish.
- Quentin Tarantino is a genius.
In fact, this book might be better if you don’t.
The plot sees would-be villainess Alice Hawkings racing around the globe, and then the galaxy, in search of a device of God-like power called the O Ring. Of course, something like that attracts the powers-that-be of the world, including politicians, religious leaders, angels, devils and everyone in between in what becomes a sometimes-slapstick battle for power.
Originally begun as a serialized comic series in the mid-1990s, Ragmop has been revamped using current-day politics and societal issues. The transition is nearly seamless — a tribute to Walton’s skill as a graphic storyteller — and this now-completed volume is sure to become an underground classic.
Creators: Mark Askwith, R.G. Taylor
Publisher: Desperado Publishing/Image Comics
Price: $14.99 US (Paperback)
Sandman creator Neil Gaiman calls Mark Askwith "one of the secret masters of everything."
Askwith, the one-time manager of Toronto’s popular Silver Snail comic book store, is a TV producer who first developed the groundbreaking Prisoners Of Gravity for TVO before going on to become the big brain at Space: The Imagination Station.
He is also the nation’s foremost comic book journalist, having interviewed more creators than most fans have even read about and in the process inspiring people like me to do what I do in this space every two weeks.
On top of all this, Askwith is a comic book writer himself, most notably penning a cult-favourite miniseries based on the British TV show, The Prisoner, along with lesser-known works like his 1991 series Silencers, collected for the first time this month.
The story — focusing on the tribulations of a small group of Canadian spies near the end of the Cold War — is solid, if not spectacular. But Askwith and artist R.G. Taylor’s use of actual people in the roles make it a standout. Notable faces include Askwith’s own, along with that of his wife Catherine Marjoribanks, Ragmop creator Rob Walton and Seth, creator of Clyde Fans Book One and Wimbledon Green.
Silencers is more proof (as if we needed any) that Askwith is everything Gaiman says and more.
Archaia Studios Press
$19.95 US (Hardcover)
It takes mighty big stones to give the star of your very first miniseries no dialogue.
Kudos, then, to Alex Sheikman for giving us Niko, steampunk samurai star of Robotika. Not since G.I. Joe’s classic ninja Snake Eyes have a character’s actions said so much while he said so little.
With eye-catching detail and rich and lavish colouring, Sheikman brings Niko’s far-future world to life and unveils the truth behind his mysterious existence.
Niko, in the service of the queen, is sent on a mission to retrieve the recently stolen results of a key experiment in cybernetic engineering. Without a word he completes his task, but the results of his actions force him to call into question his life, his past and his future. Is he simply the perfect warrior? Or is he something more?
Sheikman’s Robotika is as impressive a debut as you’ll see in comics and sure to whet your appetite for a pending sequel in 2007.
The New Teen Titans: Terra Incognito
Marv Wolfman, George Perez
$26.99/$19.99 US (Paperback)
Thank you Teen Titans cartoon fans.
It really is for you that Terra Incognito is in print, much more so than for die-hard New Teen Titans fans like me (who has every Titans comic printed over the past 28 years).
You see fanboys like me could have told you all along that while The Judas Contract, the storyline which follows this volume, was the pinnacle of writer Marv Wolfman and artist George Perez’s 50+ issue run on the Titans, these set-up chapters are essential reading.
Unfortunately it has taken the popular cartoon series which features so many of the characters introduced in this book to see it collected for the first time in 24 years.
Oh well, better late than never.
This collection — reprinting New Teen Titans Vol. 1, issues 26, 28-34 and Annual 2 — sees the introduction of Terra, the super-powered teen who infatuates Changeling (A.K.A. Beast Boy), and quickly works herself into a position of trust and onto the Titans roster. Of course she turns out to be a villain in the end, but that’s another story.
Also seen in Terra Incognito are the seeds for Wally West’s decision to quit being Kid Flash and Dick Grayson’s change from Batman’s partner Robin to the hero we known him as today: Nightwing.
So thanks again cartoon fans for giving us diehards back a classic.
The Spirit #1
Darwyn Cooke, J. Bone, Dave Stewart
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Will Eisner would be proud.
Hot on the heels of the fantastic Batman/Spirit one-shot issue, award-winning Canadian writer/illustrator Darwyn Cooke opens the next chapter of Eisner’s classic series with a bang — delivering a sensational story and art that’ll take your breath away.
Cooke, whose work on the miniseries DC: The New Frontier earned him both an Eisner Award (the comic book industry’s top honours) and a Joe Shuster Award (Canada’s highest comic prize), returns The Spirit to his rightful place among comics’ most enduring heroes with a near-perfect blend of fast-paced action and dialogue as he rushes to save a TV hostess from the clutches of a nefarious mobster.
This series is so good you’ll need to catch your breath after every issue.
Okko: The Cycle Of Water #1 (of 4)
Archaia Studios Press
Tikku has just given his life away.
To help save his geisha sister, Little Carp, from the clutches of marauding pirates, Tikku gives the only possession he has — himself — to the ronin samurai demon hunter Okko in exchange for 10 days of his services.
But will that be enough to find Little Carp and set her free?
French writer/illustrator Hub delivers a visually stunning debut issue and promises a compelling miniseries to come.
Outer Orbit #1 (of 4)
Zach Howard, Sean Murphy, Reed Buccholz
Dark Horse Comics
Babes, explosions and laughs — in space!
Outer Orbit blasts off with hulking alien ex-cop Krunk and shifty ex-pizza delivery boy Quinn weaseling into a card game with the promise of a great story and they quickly deliver with the beginning of the outrageous tale of how Quinn met the beautiful and deadly Neoki.
From the first time they bump into one another — where the interstellar pizza boy gets one heck of a tip, if you know what I mean — to the deadly battle that ensues and their eventual run in with Krunk (in a battle over Galactic Girl Guide cookies) the yarn is first-rate.
Zach Howard, Sean Murphy and Reed Buccholz have a slick, off-the-wall space tale going that is not to be missed.
Mark Kidwell, Nat Jones, Jay Fotos
It’s The Walking Dead meets The Nam.
In February 1968, a five-man platoon of U.S. troops is sent deep into the jungles of Viet Nam to learn the fate of a listening post that has stopped transmitting.
But when the soldiers discover their countrymen’s remains still moving around and hungry for brains, all hell breaks loose in the jungle.
The result is a horrific and delightful one-shot written by Mark Kidwell, drawn in spectacularly gory detail by Nat Jones and gruesomely coloured by Jay Fotos.
Warhammer 40,000: Damnation Crusade #1 (of 6)
Dan Abnett, Ian Edginton, Lui Antonio
Honesty time: I’ve never played Warhammer or Warhammer 40,000.
But that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate a well-made comic set in the violent far-flung future world 38,000 years from now.
A kidnapped Raclaw of the Drumkil Clan is forced into battling first his kin and then a vicious giant lion-esque beast called as carnodon to prove his worthiness to join the space marines’ Chapter Of Eternal Crusade.
But will Raclaw choose to join the Chapter’s deadly campaign or be doomed to life as a slave?
This first glimpse into the world of the popular role-playing game is shocking and visceral and the rest of this miniseries by writers Dan Abnett and Ian Edginton and artists Lui Antonio promises much more of the same.