Tag Archive: Top Cow Publishing


 

Review by C.J. Bunce

The entire world stops, like something out of the 1980s sci-fi classic film The Quiet Earth, only this time all of the people are frozen in place, in an instant, wherever they stood or whatever they were doing.  But one computer technician was experiencing an electrical jolt as it happened, and he may be the only person on Earth who can unfreeze people back to normal.  That’s the set-up for the first issue of the new Image Comics/Top Cow series The Freeze.

This tale of an arriving apocalypse is not like the standard fare of the trope.  Those typical end of the world supernatural events you might find, fire and brimstone, nuclear devastation, zombie plagues, and the like, yield to a simple global event of unknown cause, a bit like the vanishing people at the end of Avengers: Infinity War.  Airplanes keep flying until they fall from the sky, cars smash into each other–it’s the opposite of The Day the Earth Stood Still, instead the day the people stood still.  The first issue introduces the main character, Ray, and those around him as he stumbles into one of them, and he learns his simple touch is enough to fully revive them one at a time.  Where can we go from there, since one man can’t literally touch everyone on the planet?

 

The Freeze is a creator-owned series from writer Dan Wickline (30 Days of Night) and artist Phillip Sevy (Tomb Raider).  The first issue provides a glimpse at the direction of the story, as Ray becomes the part of a squad that selectively is unfreezing individuals.  But for what purpose?

Take a look at this excerpt from Image/Top Cow:

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Fans of the television series 24 and Mr. ROBOT should check out a new series from Image Comics/Top Cow now available at newsstands: Samaritan: Veritas.  Written by Matt Hawkins with artwork by Atilio Rojo, readers are taken into a modern world of high-tech hacking and espionage.  A woman with a vendetta is about to get revenge by taking down the top tiers of government and the most successful company in the world.  Think Absolute Power (Clint Eastwood’s 1997 film about scandal in Washington) meets Tom Clancy’s Clear and Present Danger and you’ll have a taste of the action and excitement of this new series.

Samaritan: Veritas is a good jumping-on point for Hawkins’ Edenverse series, requiring no prior knowledge of the prior books to get onboard.  As with Hawkins’ earlier works, Samantha Copeland is the protagonist, this time dead set to take down the man who killed her lover.  Hawkins pulls together characters with unclear agendas, taking readers through a shadow world of the “dark web” and underground networks as Copeland formulates her strategy.

Copeland is a tough female lead in the latest twist on a Robin Hood story, much like season one of Mr. ROBOT.  You’ll find some edgy tension and thrilling situations, thanks in part to some great environments and sequences by artist Atilio Rojo, who also supplied his own color work.

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Copperhead #1 Peeples Hastings cover

Review by C.J. Bunce

Fans of Firefly and Common Grounds have a great new comic book series to look forward to each month.  Image Comics released Issue #1 of Copperhead this past week, a new Western that takes place on what appears to be a future planet Earth.  We’d call it a police procedural, but it feels more like a classic Western.

Written by Jay Faerber, with art by Scott Godlewski, and colors by Ron Riley, Copperhead is the new hometown of Sheriff Bronson, a tough lawkeeper looking for a fresh start with her son Zeke.  Copperhead is not a friendly town, it’s a dusty place just near the Badlands—we’re not sure yet whether these are the American Badlands or a location on a different world.  But it’s inhabited by the same rough types of Earth’s Old West, only these folks all appear to be of various alien origins.

Copperhead Image Comics Issue 1 cover    Copperhead Godlewski cover

Heading up the cast of characters is a slightly ruffled deputy named Budroxifinicus, a giant hamster built like The Rock.  He’s been passed over for promotion so he’s not too welcoming of Bronson.  He seems harmless enough but we’re thinking he’d being set up to be an interesting partner for Bronson.  Just don’t call him “Boo.”

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Ryan Sook Futures End cover 1    Ryan Sook Futures End 14 cover August 2014 release

We’ve delved into some great cover artists at borg.com in the past three years, from Alex Ross to Mauro Cascioli to Frank Cho and Mike Mayhew.  With his cover run on the DC Comics New 52 series Futures End, Ryan Sook is the artist you just can’t miss these days.  His cover for Issue #14 (above right) of Futures End is being solicited for August 2014 already, and it showcases several styles.  If you take a look back over the past few years you can see one of the best artists around developing his style and craft, putting his mark on the covers of some great comic book series.

You can see Sook as the cover artist of choice to start up several new series with the number one issue out of the gates, for series including Robotika (2005), Giant-Size Hulk (2006), Friday the 13th (2007), Batman and the Outsiders (2007), Death of the New Gods (2007), Countdown Specials, Countdown Presents and DC Universe Specials (2008 and 2011), Broken Trinity: Aftermath (2009), Blackest Night: Wonder Woman (2010), JSA All Stars (2010), The Magdalena (2010), B.P.R.D. Hell On Earth series (2011-2013), Victorian Undead II (2011), DC Universe Online: Legends (2011), Kirby: Genesis (2011), Justice League Dark (2011), Lord of the Jungle (2011), Rose & Thorn (2012), Sword of Sorcery (2012), and The New 52 Futures End (2014).

Sook is able to render men and women superheroes equally well, yet his women really stand out.  Here’s his Wonder Woman, showcased in the Blackest Night series:

Ryan Sook  Blackest Night Wonder Woman 1 cover    Ryan Sook Blackest Night Wonder Woman 2 cover

Less stylized than Cliff Chiang’s current angular Wonder Woman look, Sook may have created a modern twist on the definitive look of the classic character for other artists to emulate.

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First of all, there needs to be some ground rules when you tackle a “best of” list for someone as talented as Frank Cho.  With Alex Ross, we took his entire body of work and picked our 15 favorite images, whether from cover art, interior pages, or marketing pieces Ross painted.

But with Frank Cho, the world renowned artist known for his voluptuous women characters and funny and sarcastic animals, it was a bit harder to choose.  In particular, his work on Liberty Meadows, and before that, his hilarious college series University².  Cho’s drawings of Brandy and her animal friends are so expressive and fun that we think they beat out all his other work.  And we think Cho would approve–he told us this summer that he doesn’t sell any of his original Brandy pages.  We wouldn’t either!  You can see some of the Liberty Meadows covers behind Brandy in the image above from Cho’s great website, full of his blogging and galleries, apesandbabes.com.  If you don’t know Frank Cho’s comic strip-turned-comic book, we suggest you start with University², available in a compilation of comic strip humor called University Squared: The Angry Years that is my personal favorite.  Beyond that, Liberty Meadows is available via Image Comics in Liberty Meadows: Book One, Eden, Liberty Meadows: Book Two, Creature Comforts, Liberty Meadows: Book 3, Summer Of Love, and Liberty Meadows: Book Four, Cold, Cold HeartLiberty Meadows is about Brandy, a animal psychologist at an animal sanctuary/rehab clinic, her animal friends, and Frank, a veterinarian, who is in love with Brandy…but won’t tell her.  It is funny in the vein of Bill Waterson’s Calvin and Hobbes, yet dramatic like Terry Moore’s Strangers in Paradise.

So before taking on a “best of” or “favorites list” for the other comic books series Cho has created covers for, could we select one Liberty Meadows piece that stands for them all?  We came up with this cover, with Brandy sporting her Beltsville shirt.  This image is classic Frank Cho.  But even this is sort of a cheat, since it is a cover to Cho’s Liberty Meadows: Cover Girl compilation book, as opposed to a regular series comic, but it is the cover Cho chose for the book on his own covers.  Hey, you try and pick the best from Liberty Meadows!

Oftentimes we think you can see his Liberty Meadows characters Brandy the brunette and Jen the blonde as the superheroes in the mainstream comics he draws.  They are fun to watch for.

It’s probably easier to discuss Cho’s best cover art by referring to each series he has drawn.  And we’ll focus here on just a dozen of his cover projects that blow us away.   You’re dealing with a body of work that includes Shanna the She-Devil, New Ultimates, Fear Itself, Schism, Ms. Marvel, Red Sonja, and New Avengers, and his many variant covers, which often eclipse the regular issue covers of other artists.

First up is his work with “dinosaurs, Nazis, guns and babes” in Shanna, the She-DevilThis cover to Issue 3 is a standout, with Shanna in about as much danger as a human in the Jurassic era can get into!  If you like this also check out his Jungle Girlseries, his Red Sonja series, and, coming soon, his Guns and Dinos.

A lot of Cho’s work has the feel of 1940s pin-ups.  This Dark Horse Comics Hellboy: Weird Tales, Vol. 2 cover image has a great retro look, and shows that, like Alex Ross, Cho gets to work with a variety of publishers’ star characters:

We only wish we’d see Cho take on more DC Comics characters!

Cho hasn’t come close to hitting his full stride yet, with some of his best work coming out in 2010 and 2011.  Check out these covers for the Ultimate Comics New Ultimates: Thor Reborn.  And his interior work is as good or better than the covers.  In fact, most of the cover work featured here reflects covers of books where Cho drew the interior art, too.  When you usually find a great cover but lesser art inside with other creators’ books, Cho’s books give you top illustrations, cover to cover.

   

Cho practically re-ignited Ms. Marvel through his drawings of this once minor Avenger.  Two covers with Ms. Marvel stand out:  the Mighty Avengers cover that was redone for the Irredeemable Ant-Man series, and this stunning cover for her own series:

  

The other Avenger Cho brought into the limelight was Spider-Woman, especially in this cover to New Avengers (left), yet check out this incredibly powerful image in the variant of Secret Invasion (right), with Cho showing his pre-Raphaelite influence:

 

Cho has said that his favorite superhero to draw is Spider-man.  Here he drew Spider-man in contrast to this dark, Gothic, seemingly medieval woodcut-inspired image in Ultimate Spider-Man: Death of Spider-Man, one of his best variant cover pieces:

  

The second piece above is the Scarlet Witch from Ultimates 3: Who Killed The Scarlet Witch? (v. 1), and it is just another example of a great Cho female character.

Right now on the shelves, Cho returns to his Gothic imagery with the Fear Itself: The Fearless series with these two incentive comic covers from one original grand Cho artwork.  Contrasted with his beautiful Valkyrie on the left is his self-described “fugly” character Sin, daughter of long-time Marvel villain, the Red Skull.  Good luck to whoever gets in the way of either of these women.  Doesn’t look like anyone will stand a chance against either of them.

 

Keeping with the angel theme, this early Witchblade shows another, earlier Cho style, likely influenced by the paintings of Maxfield Parrish:

Finally, to get the full effect of this next image, Cho’s magnum opus of X-Men in X-Men: Schism, you’ll need a wide screen.  In the alternative, click on each image to see how nicely done this new pentaptych is close-up.  Again, Cho’s work gets the exclusive variant edition status…those comics that don’t easily get into readers’ hands, unfortunately, because they are issued in limited numbers to comic shop owners as incentives.  But no doubt the trade edition will include these images not long from now.  Pretty hard to pick a favorite just from these five covers:

Although the most recent work isn’t out in trade versions yet, a lot is still on the shelves as individual issues (see links in the series names above to check out what is available).  Original prints of Cho’s work and other cool stuff is available at Cho’s website.

So… what do you think?  Any glaring omissions?

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg

*All images posted above are owned by Frank Cho or the respective publishers listed above.