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Tag Archive: steampunk


Review by C.J. Bunce

Kim Newman’s Anno Dracula is a series of novels and short stories that began in 1992, showcasing an elaborate and detailed parallel history of Earth set between 1888 and 1990 (so far), where Bram Stoker’s Dracula is seen as a true biographical account of the real Count, and the Count controls England by winning the hand of Queen Victoria.  Anno Dracula is a steampunk mix of fictional characters and real people spanning a century in a bit of a The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Legenderry construct.  Gunga Din, Fu Manchu, Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes, Lestat de Lioncourt (from Interview with the Vampire), Prince Mamuwalde (from Blacula), Doctor Moreau, Allan Quatermain, and even Carl Kolchak from The Night Stalker all show up in Newman’s fantasy world, alongside real people of the past like Billy the Kid, Catherine the Great, Joseph Merrick, William Morris, Beatrix Potter, and Orson Welles.  Newman’s entirely new story is in the form of a comic book series, Anno Dracula–1895: Seven Days in Mayhem, published by Titan Comics and illustrated by Paul McCaffrey, and it is now available in a collected trade edition from Titan Comics.

As Dracula’s tenth jubilee approaches, an assassination plan is underway from radical forces in Great Britain.  Newman’s powerful lead Kate Reed–journalist, free thinker, and vampire–has joined a council of revolutionaries, but when Dracula’s secret police come crashing in she turns to a familiar old friend to try to save herself and the Count himself, but she must first get through Count Graf Von Orlok of Nosferatu fame.  As with past entries in the series, this is not a tale about Dracula, but more about every other living and fictional famous face of the day.  And my favorite piece of a Kim Newman story is his use of fantastic characters and historical figures sometimes only for a single page or, as with his new graphic series, in a single panel, but always for a reason, and often for a joke (Twilight books, you are not exempt).  So keep a lookout for a steampunk cyborg Thomas Edison and a ship captain with a striking similarity to Lon Chaney’s Phantom of the Opera.  Artist McCaffrey’s artistry is a great pairing with Newman’s classic prose.

Few authors have a such a command of their subjects as Newman has of vampire lore and film.  Check out my interview with Newman back in 2013 here at borg.com, as well as our reviews of his sequels to the novel Anno Dracula:  Dracula Cha Cha Cha here, and Johnny Alucard here.  Fans of Alan Moore’s several adaptations of classic characters will love Newman’s works, but be prepared:  Where Moore puts a few characters together to have an adventure such as in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Newman has deftly woven easily more than a thousand into his world.  Anno Dracula–1895: Seven Days in Mayhem is proof that the entire Anno Dracula series should be adapted to the graphic novel format.  An exciting, rousing tale, it’s too good to pass up.

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Kim Newman’s Anno Dracula is a series of novels and short stories that began in 1992, showcasing an elaborate and detailed parallel history of Earth set between 1888 and 1990 (so far), where Bram Stoker’s Dracula is really a biographical account of the real Count, and the Count controls England by winning the hand of Queen Victoria.  Anno Dracula is a steampunk mix of fictional characters and real people spanning a century in a bit of a The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Legenderry construct.  Writers take note:  If you want to see a master storybuilder in action, read Newman–few authors have a such a command of their subjects as Newman has of vampire lore and film.  Check out our interview with Newman back in 2013 here at borg.com, as well as our reviews of his sequels to the novel Anno Dracula:  Dracula Cha Cha Cha here, and Johnny Alucard here.

Gunga Din, Fu Manchu, Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes, Lestat de Lioncourt (from Interview with the Vampire), Prince Mamuwalde (from Blacula), Doctor Moreau, Count Orlok (from Nosferatu), Allan Quatermain, and even Carl Kolchak from The Night Stalker all show up in the early stories of Newman’s fantasy world, alongside real people of the past like Billy the Kid, Catherine the Great, Joseph Merrick, William Morris, Beatrice Potter, and Orson Welles.  Newman’s entirely new story is in the form of a comic book series, Anno Dracula–1895: Seven Days in Mayhem, published by Titan Comics and illustrated by Paul McCaffrey.  Here is the summary of the series, which will see its first issue available this week:

1895.  Prince Dracula has ruled Great Britain for ten years, spreading vampirism through every level of society.  On the eve of Dracula’s Jubilee, radical forces gather to oppose the tyrant.  Kate Reed, vampire journalist and free-thinker, takes a seat on the revolutionary Council of Seven Days, though she learns that the anarchist group harbors a traitor in its midst.  The Grey Men, Dracula’s dreaded secret police, have been ordered to quash all resistance to the rule of the arch-vampire.  With intrigue on all sides, the scene is set for an explosive addition to the Anno Dracula series.
   
Look for Thomas Edison, and his powerful, recurring leading women characters Kate Reed and Penelope Churchward in this all-new story, plus many more familiar names.  A variety of great covers to the first issue are available, with artwork by Paul McCaffrey, Tom Mandrake, Brian Williamson, Jeff Zornow, and Mike Collins.  Check out this preview of Issue #1 from Titan Comics:

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We’ve seen some celebrities turn to the unlikely medium of comic books to tell their stories recently.  First, we saw Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Darryl McDaniels turn to comic books to tell his own story under the DMC label.  Then Congressman John Lewis wrote a graphic novel about the civil rights movement called March–winning countless awards this year.  Now basketball legend and activist Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has adapted Arthur Conan Doyle’s Mycroft Holmes into the next best steampunk comic book series.

Mycroft Holmes and the Apocalypse Handbook, co-created with writer Raymond Obstfeld, artist Joshua Cassara, colorist Luis Guerrero, and lettered by Simon Bowland, is the ultimate mash-up of 19th century science fiction and fantasy motifs.  Sherlock’s smarter brother has been kidnapped by Queen Victoria, tasked with deciphering a building full of broken doomsday machines capable of doing the unthinkable.  Think Warehouse 13, if a suave Brit (think James Bond), with a quirky analytical mind (think Doctor Who) is plunged into a world-ending event and an impossible task to solve.

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Mycroft Holmes reads like Bill Willingham’s Legenderry–A Steampunk Adventure and Alan Moore’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, only with five issues to speed through the story the action is quick, the dialogue is brief, and the banter is witty and fun.  Abdul-Jabbar, who became a fan of reading Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories early in his NDA career, grew to become a connoisseur of 19th century fiction including Holmes and his infamous brother, enough to write the novel Mycroft Holmes–A Novel with screenwriter Anna Waterhouse, published last year.   Mycroft Holmes and the Apocalypse Handbook takes Mycroft on a parallel-world adventure from the Mycroft of Abdul-Jabbar’s novel.

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Five Man Midget Death Squad

The title and cover of Five Man Midget Death Squad makes for an easy purchase decision (midgets! death squad! Gatling guns and a skull!), but it doesn’t tell the whole story.  Nicholas Forrestal’s 2014 novel isn’t about midgets wielding machine guns as I initially expected, but a warrior tribe in the British Isles on a parallel Earth as told from a historian in the year 2201.  The “midgets” of the title are a famed band of dwarves of the Tolkien tradition, who we meet along with goblins, giants, and humans.  If you like the noble tribe of Orcs in Warcraft, you’ll find Forrestal’s fantasy world races familiar.

Beginning with the legend of Gith of the Tundri clan we meet one-by-one those influential leaders of the dwarves recounted to the best of the chronicler’s ability from stories passed down through the generations–this is not so much the “historical truth” as a tribute to carry on the noble dwarf culture in good Old World oral tradition.  Via separate vignettes about the history of the Tundri we learn about their culture, religion, and politics, Gith, the goblin race, the next great dwarven leader Kaiden, the giant Balor the Evil Eye and the deal he made with Cora the dwarf to protect all dwarves that resulted in the formation of the famed Death Squad, and lastly the contributions of Ethne and Caleb, and the story of M and the Leper Kahn.

Five Man Midget Death Squad in Lerwick

Death Squad is full of deep world building–characters here make appearances throughout Forrestal’s Chronicles of M series of novels–and his prose is similar to the writing of real-life ancient chroniclers.  Early chapters read like a recollection of Herodotus, and later chapters like Suetonius’s The Twelve Caesars, Plutarch’s Lives, and primary writings of Augustus in his Res Gestae and Julius Caesar in his The Gallic War.  Forrestal has developed plenty of classic fantasyscapes here to expand into future novels.

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BOOM_DawnPOTA_003_A_Main    BOOM_Cluster_001_A_Main

With the dozens of new titles from all the comic book publishers being released Wednesday, we thought we’d hone in on a few with the independent publishers you might miss.  The first new Legenderry title featuring Vampirella is out tomorrow from Dynamite, as is a new Jungle Jim series and sci-fi series called Cluster.  From the classic genre film world, BOOM! Studios is releasing new issues of Escape from New York and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. 

Legenderry: Vampirella Issue #1 is packed full of great steampunk elements.  It’s the first of three new series spinning out of the world created by Bill Willingham.  King: Jungle Jim Issue #1 brings Flash Gordon creator Alex Raymond’s series to a modern audience.  Great characters and artwork have the classic feel of Raymond’s original stories.  BOOM! Studio’s new Cluster series is an interesting sci-fi story giving prisoners a chance to get out of life sentences if they’re willing to work in a futuristic military service.

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Escape from New York, Issue #3 continues the BOOM! Studios adaptation of the further adventures of Snake Plissken.  And Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Issue #3, also from BOOM!, follows the exploits of the apes from the successful reboot movie series.

Check out all the previews, after the break:

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LegenderryRS01CovABenitez   LegenderryVampi01CovABenite

As reported here earlier this year at borg.com, Bill Willingham’s successful steampunk/steampulp series is spawning three new series coming in February.  Starring Vampirella, Red Sonja, and the team of Green Hornet and Kato–as they all were re-envisioned for the Legenderry universe, these series follow the characters after the events in the seven-issue mini-series that wrapped this summer from Dynamite Comics.

We now have the images of the three main covers for each title, shown above and below.  Rarer variants will feature original art black and white versions of some of these covers.

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The first to be released is writer David Avallone and artist David Cabrera’s Legenderry: Vampirella.  Coming February 4, 2015, the publisher has describes the series as:

A return to Bill Willingham’s fantastical steampulp world of LEGENDERRY! Vampirella comes home from the epic battle in The Principality to find that her Scarlet Club has been closed, and powerful forces within The Big City are conspiring to destroy her… but they quickly learn they’ve pissed off the wrong immortal vampire.

February 11, 2015, Dynamite releases writer Marc Andreyko and artist Aneke’s Legenderry: Red Sonja.

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Legenderry Red Sonja Davila cover   Legenderry Vampirella Davila cover

Bill Willingham’s Legenderry: A Steampunk Adventure was one of this year’s best ideas, a combination of steampunk, superhero mash-up, and just plain great retro fun.  Legenderry saw a parallel universe including the creation of Steve Austin–the Six Thousand Dollar Man, and alternate versions of Flash Gordon, the Green Hornet and Kato, Vampirella, the Phantom, and Red Sonja, among others.  It was the ultimate new look at familiar characters that Dynamite holds the licensing rights to today.

We’re hoping for a future addition of Miss Fury to this steam-powered world, and to hear about a Legenderry: A Steampunk Adventure trade edition to collect the seven-issue limited series.  Until then Dynamite is branching out beyond Willingham’s story, focusing on three of the characters: Red Sonja, Vampirella, and Green Hornet, each to have their own new series.

Legenderry Red Sonja Poulat cover   Legenderry Vampirella Poulat cover

David Avallone will write the Legenderry: Vampirella series, featuring Madam Pendragon and her path to become Vampirella.  Daryl Gregory (Planet of the Apes) will write the Legenderry: Green Hornet story featuring Hornet and Kato in a Gangs of New York type setting.

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Legenderry07-Cov-Benitez    legenderry-a-steampunk-adventure-7-concept-cover-a

We say “first” in a hopeful way.

Legenderry is the seven-issue mini-series from Dynamite Comics written by notable Fables writer Bill Willingham.  Legenderry is also the steampunk setting where in Issue #7 Red Sonja joins up with Six Thousand Dollar Man Steve Austin, Zorro, Vampirella, the Green Hornet and Kato, Captain Victory, Silver Star, and the Phantom, all to face off in a final showdown with Ming the Merciless, Queen Flor Zora, Kulan Gath, Lydia Valcallan, General Tara, and Doctor Moreau.

And we hope this is the first of several series with these classic characters in their newest and most creative incarnations.

The best character development in the series is that of Red Sonja, who has spells leaving her to think she is actually the mild and citified Magna Spadarossa, sister of Sonja.  By the end of the series her primitive side breaks through and she is the savage we’re all familiar with.  A close second is Willingham’s Six Thousand Dollar Man and his then-pricey 19th century prosthetics.  Including Oscar Goldman as his companion was a brilliant move.

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Artist Sergio Fernandez Davila creates a visually stunning location, and Willingham’s fun take on these classic characters makes the series one of the best steampunk stories to enter the comic book medium.

Issue #7 hits comic book stores this week.  Take a look at the first five pages of this final issue after the break.

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Battlestar Galactica in 1880?  As a graphic steampunk story?  Steampunk Cylons?  You bet.  Today, Dynamite Comics launches its new series Steampunk Battlestar Galactica 1880, taking an alternate universe look at the popular 1978 and 2004 sci-fi television series characters.  And for even more sci-fi fun, our favorite borg is back this month in a new issue of The Six Million Dollar Man Season Six–with some familiar “faces”.

If classic pulp noir reads are your thing, you’ll want to check out our preview of the new Dynamite Comics series Justice, Inc.  The Shadow is back, this time with The Avenger and Doc Savage.

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After the break, take a look at previews for each of these new books, courtesy of Dynamite Comics, available at comic book shops everywhere today.

Steampunk Battlestar Galactica 1880, Issue #1, features a story by Tony Lee with art by Aneke.  The Six Million Dollar Man Season Six, Issue #5, is written by James Kuhoric and art by Juan Antonio Ramirez.  Justice, Inc., Issue #1, has a story by Michael Uslan and artwork by Giovanni Timpano.

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Toshiro cover

A steampunk robot samurai.  And Civil War era zombies.

It’s the Dark Horse June 2014 release of Jai Nitz (Dream Thief, Kato, Tron: Betrayal, El Diablo) and Janusz Pawlak’s new graphic novel, Toshiro.  We’ve discussed Nitz’s writing plenty of times here at borg.com.  Toshiro is Pawlak’s first published work in comics.

You will love Nitz’s creation story for this mecha-samurai who shares a name with the actor who played one of the most famous samurai on film (Toshirô Mifune’s Kikuchiyo in The Seven Samurai).  Toshiro is a creation of the Northern forces in the Civil War, a self-aware, living robot with a steam-valved heart.  He’s an American-built super-soldier, sold to Japan as the highest bidder.  “Raised” with Japanese traditions and old world values, he winds up in Manchester, England, 1867, with an equally deadly, and maybe wiser, partner.

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Toshiro knows he is machine, yet he reacts as if he is a true samurai.

This is a steampunk buddy cop story, with roots in a story out of a spaghetti Western.  Here a Zorro-esque, anti-hero has a tough-as-nails partner and they live in a world at war, but with incredible tools of battle well ahead of their time.

Polish artist Pawlak’s work is something out of a Quentin Tarentino novel, yet Tarentino’s blood and guts is kids’ stuff compared to Toshiro slicing heads with his katana.

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