Indie Comics Review – The Showdown Vol. 2 (Broken Icon Comics)

Adam reads as many comics as he can afford. Every week he reviews of one of them, with potential minor spoilers.

Its Halloween soon, so this week I’m reviewing The Showdown Volume 2, the follow up to the indie comic from Broken Icon Comics that I reviewed back in 2015. The Showdown was created by Russ Lippitt, with illustrations by Ezequiel Pineda and colours by Nae Esteban.

In the depths of hell, once a millennium, The Showdown takes place, a brutal death race which draws the attention of every monster in the underworld. Vampires, werewolves, zombies, skinheads and demons all fix up their cars and roll up to the start line, eager for a chance to make it to the finish line first and claim the grand prize – the chance to raise hell on earth once more.

In Volume 2 the race is in full swing, and Lippitt wastes little time in whittling down his cast of characters. Across the layers of hell, teams who get a little too close for comfort start brutally eliminating each other, either through wrecking vehicles or direct slaughter. The Dead Belles face off against killer clowns, the Hell Howlers try to fend off the Rompers, and the skeleton Bone Crusaders creep ahead of the Marauders. But who will make real progress in the race, and who won’t make it to the end at all?

After a first volume that was largely set up, this is high octane action from the get go, with plenty of surprises along the way, including match ups not playing out quite how you would expect and the arrival of a late contender that is pretty audacious and shocking. The story continues the atmosphere of a crossover between Wacky Races and Mad Max, with a dose of campy horror thrown in that is very enjoyable.

Pineda’s heavy and oppressive style fits right in with the world created in Volume 1, with the various hot rods and vehicles speeding through the various layers of hell, and haunting looking creatures and monsters. There is a level of camp horror that is brought out in the art too, which helps underline a book that definitely doesn’t take itself too seriously.  The colours from Esteban fill the dark and depressing world of hell out, with the sharp contrast of bright hellfire and colourful monsters making the dreariness appear more real.

The Showdown. Volume 2 currently has a Kickstarter, with just over 2 weeks remaining, so go check it out here!

Score: 7.5 Layers of Hell out of 10

 

Indie Comics Review – The Showdown Vol. 1 (Broken Icon Comics)

Adam reads as many comics as he can afford. Every week he reviews of one of them, with potential minor spoilers.

This week I’m reviewing The Showdown, an indie comic coming up this month from Broken Icon Comics. Volume 1 was very kindly sent to me by its creator, novelist Russ Lippitt. Joining him on The Showdown is illustrator Tony Guaraldi-Brown, with colour assist from Jeremy Rodriguez and Jessica Lippitt editing the book.

In the depths of hell, once a millennium, The Showdown takes place, a brutal death race which draws the attention of every monster in the underworld. Vampires, werewolves, zombies, skinheads and demons all fix up their cars and roll up to the start line, eager for a chance to make it to the finish line first and claim the grand prize – the chance to raise hell on earth once more.

In this first volume we are introduced to several of the teams as they gather for The Showdown. The diverse range of monsters and their rides are really interesting, from the greaser ‘500’s’ and the ‘Dead Belles’ to Samhain’s ‘Mischiefs’ and the terrifying looking brother-sister team ‘The Freak’. Fights and threats are thrown around both on the night before the race and as the chequered is waved to start things off, but between two lovers, Stitch from the 500’s and Betty from the Dead Belles, there is also a promise to each other, despite the disapproval of their team mates.

the showdown2I think the most impressive aspect of The Showdown is the groundwork that has gone in to this first volume, a set up for when the actual race begins in the next part. Lippitt quickly introduces an array of different characters, teases their motivations and ultimately makes it easy for the racers to seem a little less two dimensional when it comes to the actual Showdown. The general approach of the story and atmosphere feels something like a mash up of the Wacky Races, Mad Max and Hammer Horror, resulting in a unique plot that was very enjoyable.

Guaraldi-Brown’s art is heavy and rough, giving an oppressive style to the book that makes the air of hell feel thick and hot. The designs of the different characters and vehicles are fantastic and really helps to sell the rich variety in the teams that Lippitt has come up with. The colour work complements all of this with a subdued and dark palette, providing a dirty, grungey looking book that really captures Dante’s vision of hell with a added punk aesthetic.

As a set up for what is to come, volume one of The Showdown is a success, and left me eager to find out what will happen when this death race kicks off. The book currently has a Kickstarter to fund Volumes 2 and 3 that ends in 4 days, so go and have a look at that now, where you can find out more about the plot and check out some more of the art.

Score: 8 Hot Rods out of 10

 

Kick Ass Stories You Should Really Check Out: Part 3! Cybernetic Armour, Feral Vampires and Mythological Bad-Assesery (With a Dash of Romance)

Our pal Kit hits us up with some more Kick Ass Stories You Should Really Check Out!

Well it’s the time of the year where love and romantic themes are shoved down your throat wherever you go. It’s a day where you’ll find one half of the internet covered in soppy messages, hearts and flowers, while the other half complains about soppy messages, hearts and flowers. What it also leads to is writers using it as a lazy excuse for a theme for their material. With that in mind, you’ve guessed what this article’s theme is: Romance! Though each of these stories is great, even if romance isn’t your thing.

This will probably be going up on the site after Valentine’s Day itself. Sorry I didn’t get it up in time but I was busy eating bacon and playing video games inside a fort. I’m sure you all understand.

Romance is in nearly all of our literature in one way or another, be it an action hero winning the heart of the beautiful reporter they barely know, the loving old parents in a kid’s book, or the relationship that starts off so happy and joyful but ends in ruin and then there’s is also Twilight (unfortunately a fair bit of romance is kind of crap, so the less said about Twilight, the better). It has, of course, featured in some of the stories I’ve mentioned before – Another End to the Empire and Tom the Universe are both excellent and well worth checking out (also, read my previous articles with them in if you haven’t already.. go on, do it now…).

We’ll be covering a range of genres today, and to start we have Power Armour – A Love Story. Yes, it’s a love story, but if that isn’t your kind of thing then it has power armour, a dystopian future, time travel and assassins. I’m pretty sure at least one of those things should appeal to you! Then After the Cure – A Post-Post-Apocalyptic setting (is that the actual term for it? If not, it is now!), Vampires, dealing with the psychological trauma of having eaten people and, yes, a bit of romance. Finally another physical book – The Song of Achilles – Achilles, Ancient Greek myths, wars, gods and romance. Sounds like a pretty fun Friday night!

 

 

Power Armor: A Love Story

“I don’t mean to scare you, Mira, but where I come from there are . . . secret police. Unlike anything you can imagine. Cyborgs. Shapeshifters. I’d have no chance against one of them. Unless . . .” He showed the hint of a smile. “In the same lab was something else we’d been working on. This armor.”

Set in the modern day the story follows Anthony Blair and his attempt to save earth from the dystopian future he escaped from. This is a very dangerous possible future he must prevent, with incredibly high tech cyborgs and assassins, and he’s certain that at least one has been sent after him.

Believe it or not this is really the most romantic story we’ll check out this week. It does have a lot of cool sci-fi concepts, although these are used far more to drive the plot along, or as metaphors to communicate the story’s themes.

For those of you capable of feelings outside of apathy, whiskey and rage (yes, you can skip this part Adam) hopefully you’ll find this as adorable and lovely a story as I did. This is where some implied spoilers crop up, so skip forward a paragraph if you’d prefer to!

This story really emphasises the idea that you can meet someone in the strangest of situations, and that loving someone will mean you’ll have to let your defences down, meaning that those you care most about can hurt you more than anyone else. It also shows that actually this really is a risk worth taking.

If you, your partner or anyone really wants a good romantic story then they should check this out. If you feel like you’ll be forced to listen to something romantic but prefer sci-fi, this should provide enough mech suits and dystopian ideas for you to enjoy!

power armour

Author: David Barr Kirtley

Link: http://www.drabblecast.org/2013/02/14/drabblecast-272-power-armor-a-love-story/

 

 

After the Cure

“I was shot with the cure in the dark. Later, someone would tell me it was a Tuesday, but before the tranq dart I didn’t know such a thing existed. It was either day or night, hungry or sated, alive or dead.”

This story has some warnings:

  • If you don’t like horror, specifically feral vampires – move along.
  • If you don’t like graphic descriptions of gore – move along.
  • If you want a romantic sparkly vampire – seriously, move along.
  • The first 10 minutes of this recording is promoting a sponsored episode of the Drabblecast they eventually do (which one day I’ll include in one of these). You may want to skip this.

Right, with that out of the way, onto the review. This is a story about both a girl who’s survived a vampiric apocalypse and society, as it tries to rebuild itself. Vampires in this world are wild and feral. They live on instinct, eating and feasting on anyone they find. Anyone who survives a bite becomes one of them. Mankind has been fighting back though and they’re beginning to win, having developed a cure. The cure returns people from this monstrous state back to human, letting them return to a normal life. Well, that’s the theory at least.

In a world trying to rebuild itself we find that though Vale, our main character, survived the apocalypse, she didn’t make it through ‘pure’. She was turned into a monster and spent years hunting people, tearing flesh from bone. Now, she’s back to normal but life is not easy, as although the cure was meant to erase all her memories of her time infected, it hasn’t. To make matters worse, she was infected for so long that most of her pre-infection memories have gone. She barely knows who she was and, without name or identity, has to face a society where, just a short while ago, someone would have shot her on sight and many still might.

The story is focused on Vale coping with this trauma, trying to find a way for herself in this world, while dealing with the monster she feels is still inside her. She has killed and everyone knows it. It doesn’t matter to most people that she had no control over herself, or even a concept of self, at the time. It’s a very introspective tale, more of the narrative dealing with what she thinks of herself and her feelings.

I like how the story explores what might happen after a monster-based apocalypse and how society might fair. There’s plenty of fantastic stories set during an apocalypse, but if mankind wins, it either ends at that point. We just assume society rebuilds itself, all of the monsters die, or they return to normal with no apparent side effects.

There is some romance in this story, with Vale trying to rebuild some kind of life for herself (obviously, or it wouldn’t be on this list!). However, I feel that here the romance is a plot device within a horror story. If you want a short mushy tale, then scroll back up and click the link to Power Armour. If you want an excellent story, about someone trying to find their place in a dark world where monsters still roam, with no guarantee she’ll find anything or anyone, then this will be more your thing.

after the cure

Author: Carrie Ryan

Link: http://www.drabblecast.org/2014/08/02/drabblecast-33-cure/

 

 

The Song of Achilles

“Name one hero who was happy.”

I considered. Heracles went mad and killed his family; Theseus lost his bride and father; Jason’s children and new wife were murdered by his old; Bellerophon killed the Chimera but was crippled by the fall from Pegasus’ back.
“You can’t.” He was sitting up now, leaning forward.
“I can’t.”
“I know. They never let you be famous AND happy.” He lifted an eyebrow. “I’ll tell you a secret.”
“Tell me.” I loved it when he was like this.
“I’m going to be the first.” 

Achilles. We all know the name, and the story of the invincible god-touched man who led the charge at the battle of Troy. There will be some small spoilers in this review, as I’ll assume that most people know the basics of this legend. If you do want the spoiler free summary though:

This book is excellent. Based on the myth, but from a different point of view (Yay! Perspective again!), it contains a very sweet love story as well. If you want some ass kicking, and one of the greatest heroes in any legend, then this is for you. If you want a love story about somebody who cares deeply for someone else then this is also for you.

Right, onto the details. This is a story where Achilles, although a huge element, is not our protagonist. This is the story of Patroclus. He always plays a huge part in the legend, being depicted as either Achilles’ closest friend or lover. This book portrays their relationship as a romantic one and shows us Patroclus’ side, instead of Achilles’, which most interpretations run with.

The book begins with their youth. As a child, Patroclus is innocent and caring, qualities that stay with him as he grows up. He acts as a moral guide to Achilles when he can, while supporting him as he fulfils the prophecies that will make him a hero. At the beginning, Achilles is faced with a choice – pursue a happy and simple life, or become one of the greatest heroes there has ever been, but at the price of his happiness.

Achilles is idealistic and hopeful, wanting to take on the world and make it his own. Patroclus deeply cares for Achilles and thinks the world of him. He shows us the side of Achilles the legends don’t speak of, his carefree and forever optimistic side. Achilles always expects things to work themselves out, largely thanks to the support of Patroclus, who helps him deal with the difficulties he faces.

There’s action as well. We see Achilles and Patroclus both kick ass on the battlefield, and also try their hands at the political games played at war. Their relationship has everything, from an awkward first love, the disapproving parent, and heated arguments as the relationship gets strained under the pressure of both prophecy and war.

I really enjoyed this book and do highly recommend it. If you’re a fan of mythology, or a fan of romance, this book holds up as a fantastic read.

achilles

 

Author: Madeline Miller

Link: http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Song-Achilles-Madeline-Miller/dp/1408821982

 

Kit

 

Why the Hell Haven’t You Played Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver yet?

Nath sits back and judges people for not playing some of what he considers to be absolutely essential games.

Vampires have become increasing popular in the media in recent years with programmes like True Blood and truly terrible films called Twilight. I think I stomached 5 minutes of the first film and to be honest I was ashamed that I even managed that. However, if we go back to about 1999 a game called Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver was released and trust me on this, it is really worth a play.

You are thrust into the fictional world of Nosgoth, a world ruled by Kain. You play one his lieutenants called Raziel (badass name right?) and you are approaching him at the throne. You have recently grown wings and therefore you are out-evolving Kain. In an act of jealousy, he tears the bones from your wings and throws you into a whirlpool called the Lake of the Dead. You burn and writhe around in pain because Raziel is a proper vampire and cannot touch water until you die. However, you are resurrected by the Elder God, an omnipresent being, in order to become his Soul Reaver and with his guidance, you can enact your revenge on Kain.

Armed with claws, various weapons and magic, you patrol the world 1000 years after you first cast in the lake. Many things have changed, especially the appearance of your vampire brethren, as they have also evolved and become more powerful vampires. You fight your way past all the vampires and absorb their souls to make yourself even more powerful.

You also control the world around you, you can shift between the material and spectral realms in order to reach new heights on the map, or open new areas that weren’t previously there. At a later point in the game, you gain a spectral sword. How can you say no to that?

soul reaver

Honestly, this game is certainly up there as one of the best games I have ever played. The gameplay is a bit annoying at times, but what do you expect from a game from 1999. The storyline is epic, the voice acting is incredible and it ties in very well with the Blood Omen series and the amazing final chapter, Legacy of Kain: Defiance.

It is available on the Playstation network, although there are some rumours floating about that a reboot may well be on its way. I will be keeping tabs on this, but hopefully we may not have to wait very long to play that game too.

Nath