Previously announced We Stand On Guard by Brian K Vaughan & Island by Brandon Graham, Emma Rios & every comics creator that you should be reading will debut. New book by Ales Kot & Matt Taylor titled Wolf, graphic novel from Invisible Republic team Garbiel Hardman/Corinna Becho and good old Rob Liefeld is brining back Bloodstrike baby. More details at Image Comics
Previously announced 8House by Brandon Graham, Starve by Brian Wood, Covenant by Rob Liefeld & Airboy by James Robinson will all see release in addition to new work from Charlie Adlard & Jason Shawn Alexander. Ales Kot’s Zero & Jim Zub’s Skullkickers are also concluding. More details at Image Comics
The use of metafiction in the superhero genre has become an old hat for the comic book medium. Alan Moore & Grant Morrison made it a central tenant of their storytelling style in the 1980s and it’s become a tool for almost every creator that’s been influenced by them since. As per Google dictionary, Metafiction is
“fiction in which the author self-consciously alludes to the artificiality or literariness of a work by parodying or departing from novelistic conventions (especially naturalism) and traditional narrative techniques.”
It’s when the story comments on the story. Think Alan Moore’s work on Marvel Man, Grant Morrison meeting Animal Man, all the way up to Deadpool talking to the reader; it’s a constant in comics and, as is with most tools, it’s how you use it that makes the difference. Just because Grant Morrison inserts himself into Animal Man doesn’t make it the same thing as when John Ostrander inserted Grant Morrison into Suicide Squad and that’s all a million miles away from the many hackneyed attempts to have Deadpool break the fourth wall because IT’S DEADPOOL LOLZ!!!!!! But ideas never die they only evolve and the use of metafiction is no different, like in Warren Ellis & Tula Lotay’s deep dive into the practice in their excellent Supreme Blue Rose miniseries, an exploration of comics metafiction unlike anything before it.
In the late 1980’s/early 1990’s, artist Rob Liefeld was at the top of his profession from creating insanely popular new characters at Marvel & Image comics by doing a sort of genre madlibs. Deadpool is part mutant, part ninja, part goofball, Cable a cyber punk Wolverine/Punisher mashup, X-Force is X-Men meet’s GI Joe, Young Blood is X-Force ect. Liefeld himself has often stated how his love of genre was rooted in the biblical imagery of the old testament that he grew up being indoctrined into from his grandfather, an evangelical preacher. At some point he started trying to splice that influence into his superhero work on titles like Supreme or Prophet and it’s probably not a coincidence that things went slowly downhill for him going forward. You may not like Rob Liefeld, which is a completely reasonable reaction, but to disrespect him is to discount an important piece of comics history. Because for all his many, many faults; he has two things going for him that are indesputible; he is one of a small handful of creators that has made not one, but several enduring characters in Marvel comics cannon that weren’t derivative of another and he is one of the most important figures in empowering comics creators in the mediums history. Just co-founding Image Comics in and of itself is enough to put him on the pantheon of the latter, the fact that he didn’t turn around and try to rip off other creators when he got on the business side or sell out to the man put’s him ahead of some of his peers in that regard, and what he’s allowed on his Extreme line of titles and creations has made for some of the best work for hire comics in the industry, at least whenever he’s been financially solvent enough to support them. Love him or hate him, just don’t deny him his due. Over the last five years, Liefeld has used his platform to enable some of the freshest voices in comics. He’s either introduced or raised the profile of such comic’s pro’s as Joe Keatinge, James Stokoe, Brandon Graham, Sophia Campbell, Tula Lotay, Tim Seely and more just by virtue of letting them use his properties as a platform to do whatever the fuck they want and comics is all the better for it. It’s reasonable to believe that, if your enjoying the kind of creative freedom that we’ve seen on Marvel books for the last few years or on the new DCYOU initiative, part of that is a byproduct of the success of books like Prophet & Glory that opened up the possibility for how far you can push a work for hire series. Liefeld has returned to comics creation after his infamous DC twitter meltdown with The Covenant, a book that see’s him trying once again to blend his love of biblical stories with genre fiction. It feels more natural here then it ever did prior and while a lot of it doesn’t really work, the parts that do are surprisingly enjoyable.
The Covenant takes Christian biblical mythology and mixes it with a sort of Conan The Barbarian meet’s Game Of Thrones sword & sorcery template for an introduction into the series world and modus operandi. In that sense, the debut issue works relatively well. As is probably Liefeld’s greatest strength, there are some serious “whoa cool” bombastic moments that while totally devoid of subtlety, are undeniably visceral and thrilling. New comer artists Matt Horak is deftly skilled at these instances, as is probably unsurprising, Liefeld has a good eye for finding an illustrator that’s adept at drawing punches, gore and destruction. And to Liefeld’s credit, the dialogue work is not terrible, perhaps the creators biggest Achilles heal besides, well you know….
But while all those elements are surprisingly effective, The Covenant is still kind of a mess. The main plot of the story is that the Arc of The Covenant has been stolen by the Philistines, it’s literally where we open up the book. It’s also never explained how or when the Arc was stolen, or if the beginning is a flash forward and we are going to see the Arc get stolen later on. While artist Horak is great in all manners of action, the rest of his work is pretty flat and basic. Much of it feels like the art you see from Dynamite books, not terrible but not very good or interesting and certainly not trying to be anything but serviceable. Liefled doesn’t do Horak any favors where although his dialogue isn’t objectively awful, his characters are still incredibly thin and mostly come off as archetypes.
In the end, The Covenant is basically dumb, popcorn movie fun with a bible story which is fine other then it doesn’t really succeed in reaching those meager ambitions. It’s better then expected, but it’s still not very good. Rob Liefeld will always be Rob Liefeld for better or worst, just don’t expect that better to be of equal to the creators he let’s work on his comics.
Special thanks go to the good folks at Bell, Book and Comic (458 Patterson Rd, Dayton OH)
for helping me keep this series of articles going.
Since both series I read this week featured duos, I thought it would be appropriate to devote the article to both of them, a double helping if you will. First up; “The Fury of Firestorm”!
I’ve only had three exposures to Firestorm that I can remember: “Crisis on Infinite Earths”, “Blackest Night”, and “Brightest Day”. None of those really got me interested in the character, although I thought it was cool when Deathstorm turned somebody into table salt just by knowing the chemical formula for it.
Gar Systo Shapeshifter (true form)
Decades ago, the extraterrestrial Gar Systo sent shapeshifter agent Bor Torax to spy on Earth culture in preparation for a future invasion. Bor discovered the Image Comics series Prophet several years ago, and was impressed with writer Brandon Graham’s creative re-imagining of the superhero character created by Rob Liefeld.
Graham’s story transported Liefeld’s character centuries into the future, where Prophet’s superhuman genes were used to create a race of super-soldiers that were the backbone of a human interstellar empire.
Bor was delighted that Graham used an obscure superhero character to build an impressive, complex space opera story. Bor was also impressed with the high quality of artists that worked on the series, including Simon Roy and Giannis Milonogiannis (Bor often wondered if Giannis was related to Milonogiannis IV, tyrant warrior emperor of the planet Kartax).
Bor was disappointed that the series was on hiatus until the upcoming Prophet: Earth War series, but its three hearts skipped a beat when it discovered Prophet Strikefile #1. This encyclopedia-that-is-really-a-comic provides excellent, visually stunning summaries of some of the many strange characters and devices found in Graham’s science fiction opus (with art provided by Graham, Roy, Milonogiannis, Dave Taylor, Grim Wilkins, and Sandra Lanz, among others), and is an enjoyable treat for both new and veteran Prophet readers.
UPDATE: Bor Torax has not communicated with the Gar Systo Military Intelligence Service since purchasing Prophet Strikefile #1. Bor’s last communication to the Gar Systo consisted only of the following image from Earth artist Dave Taylor (after careful review, the Gar Systo Empire has cancelled its invasion plans):
The cover image of the lady sitting at a bar holding a drink haunts me as I type this review while the great hidden machines that annihilate everything hunt me towards death. It’s a race to type something beautiful into existence in this cruel world.
THIS COMIC IS WRITTEN BY WARREN ELLIS.
The comic is surreal and nonlinear but poetic. Did I read this comic, or did I dream that I read this comic?
THIS COMIC IS ILLUSTRATED BY TULA LOTAY.
The concepts are fascinating. I don’t yet fully understand what I’m reading. I’m not sure my understanding is important.
THIS COMIC IS PUBLISHED BY IMAGE COMICS.
BUY THIS COMIC.
I am entertained for a treasured moment in infinity.
YOU ARE DREAMING.
What’s been perhaps most interesting about seeing Warren Ellis come back into writing monthly ongoing comics is how he’s managed to take different tones and styles for each new project along the way. Where as today most creators are known for one writing style that is applied against many different comics Ellis has used different approaches and narrative styles while still using many of the same themes for each book. Moon Knight is fast paced and kinetic while Trees is slow and deliberate and his new comic Supreme Blue Rose lies somewhere in between the two as it is an intriguing and engaging introduction that does wonders in both character development and world building while also setting up multiple points of intrigue to be revealed later on. The Supreme title is a relic of Image Comics early days when they were essentially creating “modern” superhero analogues with Supreme being Rob Liefeld’s attempt at Superman. The title has hosted various iterations of that concept over time, most notably with Alan Moore who played with the parameters of reality in his run mixing in silver age style comics being read literally within the story of the modern Supreme on a meta level that was interesting without ever really paying off. In this version Ellis is also playing with the idea of a shifting reality albeit in a very different way then Moore had done as the fist issue doesn’t even feature an allusion to Supreme himself let alone an appearance. Instead we get a down on her luck journalist given an offer she can’t refuse that’s set up by a strange dream sequence where we only learn that reality is fluid and who we shouldn’t trust although our protagonist doesn’t appear to be listening. The narrative is translated beautifully by artist Tula Lotay’s fluid and washed out pencils that bend the line between dream and reality as we watch everything transpire. A lesser artist couldn’t make this work but Lotay is able to keep the narrative going in a sort of subtle movement. Even as the majority of the issue is essentially just people talking, the scenery and people that do the talking look so gorgeous that you can’t help but engage. This is another strong new comic from Ellis that opens up a world of mystery while lightly touching on geo politics, modern economics and metaphysics without landing on anything. It’s smart and intriguing in it’s set up but wholly worth it as a single issue in spite of what little actually takes place. Warren Ellis is doing the best writing in comics right now and Supreme Blue Rose is another fantastic addition to his already impressive body of work this year as the first chapter feels wholly worth investing in for the time being. A great debut from great creators that takes a lot of what worked for the title in the past and flips it around to be something more. Supreme Blue Rose is worth your attention.