All is promise today.

*Say, remember back when I posted the trailer to a Matrix-flavored Russian fantasy/action/horror thing titled Night Watch (Nochnoy dozer), part one of an intended trilogy of films? Directed by a guy by the name of Timur Bekmambetov? Well, part 2, Day Watch (Dnevnoy dozor) is apparently in post-production, but the final chapter may have to wait, since the fellow has apparently been tapped to direct the film adaptation of Mark Millar’s Wanted, with a script by the team behind 2 Fast 2 Furious. No word on casting, sadly.

*Revamp Dept: Warren Ellis to revive the New Universe at Marvel in 2006. On first blush, I thought this was going to be Ellis’ Seven Soldiers, but it’s actually a single ongoing series called newuniversal (a working title - working, no doubt, under the impression that capital letters and spaces are for dad’s comics!) that will bounce through the entire New Universe, mixing old and new concepts. The launch, however, will be hyped via a weekly series of themed one-shots (just like how the Marvel Monsters series was essentially support for that Nick Fury’s Howling Commandos thing) with various writers and artists tackling ‘lost’ New Universe stories (for StarBrand, NightMask, Justice, Psi-Force, and DP7). Additional New Universe material (Merc, Spitfire, and Kickers, Inc.) will also be seeping into Amazing Fantasy and New Avengers as back-up features, and trades of the original New Universe material will be appearing. Expect all of this to kick off in Summer 2006. (UPDATE 12/9/05 7:10 PM: Ten thousand apologies - Warren Ellis has noted in his Bad Signal list that 'newuniversal' in fact does not have any capital letters in it, rather than simply a reduced number. The title has been fixed in this post.)

I have never read a New Universe book. Dan Coyle makes The Star Brand sound pretty interesting, although the updated ‘StarBrand’ title is far more appealing to my youthful tastes, what with the lack of spacing and all - and nothing screams obsolescence like ‘The’ (unless, of course, it's in the title of a blog, which means it's bleeding-edge shit for sure).

Rock ‘N’ Roll #1 (of 1)

Even as that Image Comics hardcover thing sits around on shelves across the country, serving as a reminder of what the company used to be, the aware comics reader of today knows that Image carries a fairly wide variety of books under its banner, the diversity patent enough that the clarifying term ‘Early’ must be added to references to the Image of impossibly muscled titans and multiple pouches and splashes and all of the other things that readers of a certain age have had burnt into their brains. Contemporary Image is a bit different.

Case in point: this one-shot special, a $3.50 new edition of a 2004 self-published Brazilian comic by two sets of brothers: twins (and regular collaborators) Fábio Moon & Gabriel Bá, and Bruno D’Angelo & ‘Kako.’ The former pair will be more familiar to most of this site’s readers; I first heard of them through their impressive contribution to Dark Horse’s otherwise lightweight Autobiographix anthology, and they’ve since done some fairly high-profile work, both together (Ursula, from AiT/Planet-Lar) and separately (Moon provided excellent art for AiT’s Kirsten Baldock-written Smoke and Guns, while Bá will soon be seen in the Matt Fraction-penned Casanova from Image, published in the Fell format). The latter duo, however, have had quite a few projects released by Terra Major (indeed, the entire quartet can be found in Terra Major’s recent Western anthology Gunned Down, along with six other Brazilian artists). This book acts mostly as a showcase for their individual visual styles - indeed, this Newsarama interview indicates that the book’s story was constructed as a means to accommodate everyone’s personal visual strengths, with most of the ‘plot’ left deliberately up to the reader to suss out.

There isn’t much ambiguity to work with, though: a strapping hulk of a man named Romeo discovers a girl named Kelsie, whom he cares about, has been kidnapped by an evil gang of rock and roll occultists for some reason or another. He must save her before she’s sacrificed to a monster (of rock, presumably). That is all. Sure, some of the particulars are left up in the air (is Kelsie a lover or a younger sister? why does the cult of rock want to sacrifice her?), but that doesn’t provide a substitute for depth, of which there is virtually none. Granted, I seriously doubt that the project ever intended to have any, given the extreme focus on visual aplomb - nobody is even credited with ‘story,’ though the back cover provides a nice index to who drew exactly what. Save for a few key phrases, the sparse dialogue is intentionally incomprehensible. This is a purely visual piece, and those not prepared for something of the type should best stay away.

Visually, the book is set up as sort of an extremely short manga collection, its 32 pages (with both inside covers also acting as story additions) stuffed with big panels and a stretched-out atmosphere and lavish double-page spreads allotted to introduce each of the book’s three chapters (indeed, these chapter introductions, symbolic images of fishes and lures, are Kako’s contribution to the book - it doesn’t seem minor at all, however, considering that these chapter breaks take up a full 1/6 of the book’s art space). D’Angelo handles Chapter One, an action-heavy 10 pages that unfortunately suffers from a lack of clarity. It’s very heavy on thick, black lines and opaque shadows, but as attractively inky as it looks in establishing rooms and buildings, it comes off as simply muddy and indistinct when characters are moving and throwing punches, their clouded outlines often difficult to distinguish from one another without reading the page over very slowly.

More successful is Moon’s Chapter Two (he also does the book's cover), an 8-page sequence of Kelsie walking through town, music constantly playing via symbol-stuffed word balloons tied to all sorts of radios and speakers located around the landscape. It’s an attractive design choice, and the background-heavy work is a lot brighter and cleaner than Moon’s Smoke and Guns work, as befits the mood of the chapter. Bá takes over for Chapter Three, in which we get to the rocking and the monster bits - it’s interesting to compare the twins’ work when separated, as their styles are similar yet immediately distinct. Bá works in a rougher style here, his lines scratchier and his environments more simplified than his brother’s, though his chapter plainly has a different intent than the prior one. He also launches into some attractive Mike Mignola homage for the big creature scenes, though the chapter’s (and thus the book’s) ending is surprisingly abrupt - it seems the point was to have a lot of summoning poses and monstrous postures and flashes of lightning and things, but I can’t help but feel the resolution of it all is abridged in effect - and that’s even considering the speed that radiates from the project in general.

Still, as a fast read and a visual display, it’s a nice enough package. All it really serves to do is get one interested in what sort of future (and more substantial) projects the creators involved might have, but that was probably the point anyway. As to whether such an experience is worth $3.50, it probably depends on what sort of expectation the reader brings to the table.