We’re back. it’s been a few too many weeks for my liking, but Graphic Content returns with another pair of reviews. I think the paired reviews will stick around for a while – it is easier to manage. Let’s just hope I don’t play the comics against one another too often. I indulge a bit this week, I can’t help it.
This week we cover the second issue of Marvel’s Alien, whose first issue I largely panned. I also continue to review Image Comics’ Ultramega, a surprising treat for fans of body horror and tokusatsu shows. Please read on to see how I feel about both and please leave a comment if you agree or disagree with my assessment.
Marvel’s Alien issue #2 follows almost immediately on the repercussions of Danny’s theft of Gabriel’s Epsilon Station security card. We get a chance to see more of the human cost of the anti-Weyland-Yutani group’s actions, including a fairly compelling moment where a father and daughter hide from one of the Xenomorphs. Gabriel is contacted by his handler and brought out of retirement to secure one of the Xenomorph samples and aims to save his son. His mission provides him with a couple of ageist marines and features flashbacks to even more marines back when Gabriel was younger. It’s like having the same pieces from a better, classic story and playing with them the wrong way.
The story is still very much a mess. I wasn’t thrilled with the first issue, but this issue, aside from the competent sequence of the dad and daughter, still has many gaps in logic. The comic is definitely leaning into one of the worst aspects of horror stories: characters making poor decisions to move the story along. One of the most egregious is that the company allowed Gabriel to keep a security card into his retirement – this could be fixed by having Gabriel have secretly copied it or made a back door to get back onto the station. Instead, writer Phillip Kennedy Johnson makes the most logically inconsistent choice possible for the supposedly feared Weyland-Yutani: they let Gabriel keep his access card to a secure biotech facility.
Unfortunately, Salvador Larroca is still on the art, and while the quality hasn’t dropped from the first issue, the overall quality is still very much a miss. Most characters feel lifeless and artificial like their expressions are cribbed from photographs rather closely. Also, there are a few instances where things look fundamentally off, such as a laughable panel depicting Gabriel’s head seeming floating above his pillow. Gabriel also, sill, looks like Jeffery Epstein in some panels. The coloring is also a problem, with the shading emphasizing how flat Larroca’s linework is. Sure, Larroca uses spotted blacks to attempt depth of shadow, but his lines have no weight on their own. The environment coloring is also pretty inconsistent. At least the Xenomorph itself – not the Xeno-dog hybrid – looks alright, not great. The pose is awkward, as though it was planned using a variety of stills from the movies.
I am likely to drop Marvel’s Alien series – I will have to see how issue three turns out. We’ll just run with the “three strikes, and I am out” rule. I appreciate that they seem to be setting up the alien hybridization program from Alien: Resurrection, and I enjoy some of the series staples, such as the androids, but I can’t get behind a bland protagonist, generic story, and mediocre artwork. (2 / 5)
Image and Skybound’s Ultramega #2 follows up on the surprising and shocking ending of the first issue. The assumed protagonist was replaced with an entirely different character in a thrilling stinger across the final pages. Readers get a dose of the weird cosmology of the series right in the first few pages of issue #2 until the focus shifts to the post-apocalyptic aftermath of the events of the first issue. There we follow the Masked Ultra, a scavenger who also carries a not-so-shocking connection to past events. The pacing is breakneck and several curveballs are thrown in this first issue – but it is never pandering or confusing.
The worldbuilding in James Harren’s funky, tokusatsu-tinged horror setting is fantastic. Within the first few pages, readers get a pretty immediate understanding of the new world’s rules after the flood of kaiju blood. Kaiju cults, raiders, territorial struggles… it’s all written seamlessly into a chase sequence with the Masked Ultra – only the Masked Ultra is not exactly what you expect. I adore the writing in this comic and how the story constantly upends itself and challenges what you think you know about the narrative. These frequent revelations may prove frustrating in lesser hands, but here they are compelling and make for a delightful, gory sci-fi nesting doll of a comic.
The art is very much fantastic, carrying on the quality of the first issue. The style still borrows liberally from manga and anime in a variety of ways. Character reactions are illustrated broadly at times, exaggerated, such as flailing limbs and large eyes when in shock, but Harren wisely knows when to tone it down for characterization. It is also not fair for me to compare the two comics this week with one another, especially when one is a corporate product and another is a creator-driven project. Still, the linework of Ultramega is utterly fantastic. Marvel’s Alien is sterile and flat, whereas Ultramega has such vibrancy, life, and depth – the contrast between them is night and day. As an artist myself, I envy Harren’s work here. It is utterly aspirational.
This week is like polished, overproduced rock vs. garage punk. I know where my own preference lies, but to further extend the metaphor, one comic plays it safe around what audiences have responded to in the past and accomplishes nothing but something bland. On the other hand, Ultramega goes in goddamn hard with its own indulgences and aesthetics, creating something that plays wonderfully.(5 / 5)
We’re playing catch up a bit, so our next Graphic Content will be another pair of reviews. We’ll get back into Swamp Thing later. Until then, feel free to send me suggestions for titles you’d like to see covered here in Graphic Content. As always, please let me know what you think of the reviews in the comments. See you next week.
Creepy Comics Collages by Jennifer Weigel, Part 5
Well, you won’t get rid of me that easily… Ha ha, I lied about coming to the end and the afterlife in the Creepy Comics Collages segment, it was just an opportunity for rebirth. Besides, it’s World Collage Day! So having come into another comic book to rework, here we go again…
Creepy Comics Story 9: The Voice (of God or Reason or perhaps an homage to my ex)
“Come to me my children, the voice of God awaits!… Don’t let them escape!” Please beam me up out of this weird comic collage alternate reality. “God I am your hand! Lift me… to your place. I commend my spirit!” I want to go back to dreaming about starfish.
The computer programmer behind the scenes turns to face us and smiles. “Guardians! This is a place of God!… Come to the true voice of God!” “I am everything.” “Come to the voice!” And the horrific AI generated creatures abide by his every coded word.
Just like last night in the — signs posted for Nightmare, No Exit. The deer spirit faun screams in surprise, “Eeek!” “No! I defy you!” She returns to the form of a little girl with arms outspread to the open sky. “Y’know, a day like today makes all the stuff that happened last night seem just like a bad dream!” The dream seems so real…
Somewhere in the city, the computer programmer sits up at night in pensive monologue, “You try to make a difference… But it doesn’t really matter.”
Creepy Comics Story 10: The City (Metropolis becomes self-aware)
This segment is brought to you by Dead Artists and Talking Dinosaurs. No really, wait for it…
Woooooo Uhhhh Wooooooo Uhhhh… Wump! Uff! Wump! Uff! “She belongs to The City!” The Glenn Fry 1985 hit single looms ominously overhead as Metropolis becomes self-aware. “The City… will live!… The City… will breathe!” The City gasps for air, “Got to… breathe!… Got to… Breathe!“
Her breath is the wind… Her eyes are windows. Her heart pumps fluid through buried plumbing… “I’m The City!” Her mind is The City!
And we have a celebrity appearance by Rich Koz “Son of Svengoolie” WFLD 1973: “I take a nap for 10,000 years and look what happens… some-body builds a city!” Kerwyn chimes in, “Geez! Somebody’s been busy!” And we cut out to a scene of Svengoolie standing alongside his coffin.
Well, that’s all folks. Or is it? For now, any way… until I get more comic books… Duh duh DUHHHH…
Creepy Comics Collages by Jennifer Weigel, Part 4
Wow, I can’t believe you’ve stayed the course through four whole strange story posts of these creepy comics collages. But this is the final frontier, the last segment, the standing ovation as it were. So here goes…
Creepy Comics Story 7: The Grave (shallow enough for ya?)
“It should take longer, it seems to all of them. Such holy flesh should not give before a blade so easily.” “His brow is growing so cold.” “Yes it would be. He’s dying.”
“My god… I’m not dead.” Put the shovel down. “Life is a no-win situation. Besides… You’re already dead!”
“I’m not dead. I’m not dead!… Oh, Oh my god… I can’t move… What’s happened to me?” Buried alive. Or maybe not.
“Dead?” Perhaps I am actually dead. I was expecting something… I dunno… different.
“I’m not hungry, I’m dead. I’m not sure what I’m doing here, in fact.” At least I’m not a zombie. That seems a small consolation right now though. “My organs are shutting down. It is a relief.”
“Three days have already passed.” We’re just sitting here, rotting. Like Norman Bates’ Mother. At least someone was kind enough to supply a rocking chair. “Oh, one last thing before I go… You’re doing my fucking head in.”
Creepy Comics Story 8: Adrift Afterlife (why you save the best gold coins for the ferryman)
How’d we get here? “I do not stand alone. I am sat in a boat.” “.. to be millions of miles away from any care in the world.” Was that the Ferryman? “Only liberty I know.”
“He does not remember arriving here, or if he has been here before. It is not the island he grew up on, though it feels so very familiar… He has been waiting for the night tides to come in, for they will bring starfish. He has always liked watching them cling to the beach before the current pulls them back into fathoms.”
“And the ocean brings him starfish… Perhaps his father had nothing to do with this place at all.” The ferryman stands on the far shore. It makes no difference now.
“Beneath the ocean, razor-sharp coral grows and plunges towards the surface, sent by a green place that would not like to burn.” “The sand is soft between his toes and he is not ashamed of anything.” The ghosts are here, contentedly it seems.
Thank you for joining us for these creepy comics collage art stories. But here’s where we have to leave it off. Trust me, it’s best that way. Besides I’m out of creepy comics to collage with.
Creepy Comics Collages by Jennifer Weigel, Part 3
We’re ba-ack… Are you ready for the next creepy comics collages graphic story overload? After the last time and the intermission I wasn’t sure I’d see you again, but here we are, together again. You’d almost think we put something in the water – wink.
Now where were we? Oh yeah, the world was going to hell… or was it?
Creepy Comics Story 5: Alien Invasion (A Fist Full of Physics!!!)
“Elsewhere… months… earlier…” “It begins as a flicker pin-point of light getting closer ever closer until it takes form.” The sky is falling, damn you Chicken Little.
“…unconfirmed rumors of extraterrestrials have surfaced this evening following reported sightings in upstate New York earlier today.” There’s the news for you. Always blowing things up to increase viewership ratings.
“Then I would suggest a test immediately.” ‘K Doc, we get it; maybe there’s cause for concern. Guessing these aren’t friendlies based on intel, or that the government pissed them off. “Where’s William Shatner when you really need him?”
“Next morning… City Hall…” “A Fist Full of Physics” Blamm-o! “As if that’s some kind of homage.” It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I was feeling fine but now I’m not so sure. “All of this is on your head.” You can thank the world governments with their shoot first, ask questions later policies for that.
“The act was deplorable. It’s ramifications were permanent.” Doc looks unamused. “And the doctor drones on in his cold monotone… ‘Then we all die.’”
Creepy Comics Story 6: Werewolves (Londoners, eat your hearts out)
“Fables Werewolves… no one can hear you howl.” So now we’re elbow-deep in lycanthropy? This story just keeps getting weirder and weirder…
“… I feel so… disoriented… is this vertigo?” No, you wouldn’t be so lucky. Once bitten, twice shy. It’s The Change. Prepare yourself for the transformation.
“What now?” Enough with the damned interruptions already, can’t you see I’m at work?!
“Shall we start a war?”
“No! No! Leave me alone! Leave me alone! No!“
“I know one thing.” “Never will you suffer the indignity of this animal’s touch again.” The wolf seems somewhat offended by that statement. No really. And probably rightly so.
“Maybe it’s just an excuse, a fucking cop-out for when we inevitably fuck-up our lives and hurt people… We’re not cursed, we’re rotten, or mad or…”
“I don’t deserve this!” he howls. Stop blaming the werewolves for your own human indecencies. Teacups get broken and the London werewolves get angry.
Thank you for going all in with us over this series, there’s… one… more… final… huzzah… In the meantime, check out more of Jennifer Weigel’s work here on Haunted MTL or on her writing, fine art, and conceptual projects websites.