by Alex Bardy (@mangozoid)
Way back when (nearly a year ago, embarrassingly), I had a look at some of the gorgeous graphic novels and adaptations coming from the Titan stable – the original article is here: Graphic Novel Round-Up. I’m really pleased to share with you this second glance at some other Titan graphic titles, with another round-up to follow relatively soon – rest assured I sincerely hope you won’t have to wait even three months for that one… 😉
WORLD WAR X Vol. 1: HELIUS
Titan Comics, April 2015, £11.99 cover price (56pp)
(Writer: Jerry Frissen, Lead Artist: Peter Snejbjerg)
This one’s a strange beast (no pun intended)... World War X Vol 1: Helius is really too short to serve as anything other than an introduction to the rest of the series but… In brief, aliens have been invading Earth for hundreds of years; they’re asleep in giant sarcophagi dotted all over the globe (with suitably esoteric hieroglyphic scrawlings on them); they’re slowly waking up and causing chaos, starting with the destruction of a lunar base; but the subsequent changes in time-zone and narrative clearly shows they’ve been doing this for many years…
Enter our heroes: a nigh-immortal warrior philanthropist (Helius) who has honed a team of fighters over the centuries, and an estranged couple – scientific researchers Tara and Adesh Khan – all of whom are clearly fighting a losing battle.
The art is clear, precise, and keeps an air of mystery for the most part as to just what these xenomorphic giants look like, and the story gives nothing away as to where they may’ve come from. The consequential havoc they wreak however, not just on the moon in the 21st century, but also in the French Middle Ages (13th century), Pombaline era Portugal (18th century), etc. maintains these clean and crisp lines throughout. The art is not necessarily memorable, but it is consistently tidy.
All told, it’s a promising start for a series, but also really short, and although it does whet the palate, in truth that’s about all it does at the moment. There are many other graphic novels (and series) competing for your moolah, and weighing up the pros and cons, I think this one could get lost in the shuffle all-too easily.
MASKED Vol 1: ANOMALIES
Titan Comics, March 2015, £10.99 cover price (48pp)
(Writer: Serge Lehman, Lead Artist: Stephane Créty)
Sgt Frank Braffort returns home from war to a changed Paris and is recruited shortly afterwards to help assure the safety of the city against a new species of smart robots, the so-called ‘Anomalies’ of the title – these devilish little things seem to spring up and ‘grow’ seemingly out of nowhere only to disappear just as fast…
It soon transpires that as well as having a few personal issues of his own to iron out, Braffort seems to be an important cog in the whole machine, and having already been head-hunted by the Special Prefect for Greater Paris for a very important, significant role in the current crisis, very soon finds himself deeply embroiled in a war that may have its roots decades in the past. Yup, of course there’s a twist, there always is with these things, but I’ll leave that one for you to investigate at your leisure…
To say much more would be to give the game away somewhat, but this is a cracking start to a new series, with some fabulous artwork and a genuinely interesting premise holding it all together. Needless to say, I look forward to reading subsequent volumes, and sincerely hope they manage to keep the same artist(s) on board: Stephane Créty.
Also included, is a snazzy blog entry at the back (“A Night at the BPA”) from a Parisian socialite providing an eyewitness account of some of the happenings, and a fake news article detailing the history and technical specs of various Anomaly incarnations.
An impressive first volume, setting the quotient high both on standards and anticipation for the next one…
THE EVIL WITHIN
Titan Comics, May 2015, £14.99 cover price (108pp)
(Writer: Ian Edginto, Lead Artist: Alex Sanchez)
One could be forgiven for expecting a graphic novel prequel to a computer video game to at least set the scene, if not get you excited for a game’s release, so with this in mind here is the official prequel to the video game of the same name, created by master horror writer, Shinji Mikami, and set in a similar world to Resident Evil, Silent Hill, etc…
First off, then, our main protagonists include Dana searching for her lost friend, Kate, and nurse Paul, who happens to be running away from an army of zombies when we first meet him… Kate comes into the heart of things a little later, but don’t worry about that for now. Herded into a mysterious abandoned building, we proceed to witness various bizarre manifestations of their biggest fears and individual regrets, and in typical Saw territory, they also encounter a load of traps and horrific devices designed to sap their sanity and of course, publicise a motley collection of monsters that I’m sure you’ll find in the main game (The Keeper, The Sadist, etc).
The art really whacks up the bloody horror and sick, twisted nightmare content, and for the large part is actually very good, but it’s also crazy, chaotic, occasionally nonsensical, and in places just very confusing.
It’s hard to recommend this unless you’re a die-hard fan of the computer game or the world(s) it tries to depict, but it’s very expensive for what it is and I’m pretty sure you could sate your appetite for horror and blood-letting elsewhere without looking too hard. That said, if you can get a sneak peak at it before purchasing, do so and then make your own mind up…
A gallery of covers, images, and pinups at the back is a nice little bonus, but alas, probably not strong enough to carry the whole book.
ELRIC Vol 2: STORMBRINGER
Titan Comics, May 2015, £10.99 cover price (64pp)
(Writers: Julien Blondel & Jean-Luc Cano, Lead Artists: Julien Telo, Robin Recht, and Didier Poli)
By far the best of this bunch, and arguably fast becoming the go-to flagship graphic novel series from Titan, Elric Vol 2: Swordbringer is another brutally violent, gorgeously illustrated portrayal of our tragic albino anti-hero from the original pen of Michael Moorcock… It helps a lot that the physical size (of the page) is bigger than the ‘usual’ graphic novel format.
Following the unfortunate end of the first volume, in which Elric’s lover, Cymoril, was kidnapped by his nefarious brother-in-law, Yyrkoon, this volume sees Elric in the depths of despair at not being able to find his beloved. With his empire crumbling around him, Elric is a physically weak, demented emperor who can’t get through daily life without support from dark magic, the blood of innocents, drugs, and Lord knows what else hidden deep within the towers and canyons of Imrryr…
Once again we find Elric turning to the chaotic, ancient gods of his empire for help, and with the longer-term consequences only hinted at (and assuredly, he probably hasn’t even considered), acquires the legendary Stormbringer demon-sword from Arioch, Duke of Swords, and forces a confrontation with Yyrkoon. Regardless, when all is said and done, Stormbringer needs to feed on the souls of the living, and that sets up the next volume just perfectly…
To say more would be to spoil things, but rest assured that this super-sized second instalment had a larger team than the first volume working on it, moves at a cracking pace, looks amazing, and also includes a great introduction by comics-meister Alan Moore; he and Moorcock himself (in the previous volume) are both bigging this series up as a superb adaptation of the original epic tales, and I’m certainly not going to disagree with them on that score… A great production, this, and well worth seeking out, but you might want to grab the first one …erm… first…