Wednesday, June 27, 2018

In Stores Now, KILL OR BE KILLED 20 Featuring The JUNKIES Teaser!

For fans of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, it's the biggest week in quite some time.  The conclusion to their twisted vigilante comic, Kill Or Be Killed #20, arrives in retailers today, including in a virgin variant cover.

Image Comics features the issue in one of its front-page banner images, shown below, and the publisher has just posted a three-page preview -- the same preview we found in last week's CBR interview, with a few profanities blacked out.

Brubaker and Phillips tend to announce and promote their major projects with a short teaser comic, evoking the cinematic feel of a movie trailer, and their next project is no exception.

My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies is an original hardcover graphic due in October, and we previously reported on Phillips' tweet that the KOBK finale would include that teaser, a hint of which we see in the embedded image.
Phillips has since posted the full teaser to Twitter, and Image has done the same with a press release.

We'll be sure to discuss the teaser at length in The Undertow Podcast, but for now we'll simply point out the striking combination of the familiar and the new:  there's the three-row layout that has been a staple since the first Criminal arc in 2006 and the first-person narration that's an even older hallmark, but the mixed-case lettering, the more minimal lines that verge to cartooning, and ESPECIALLY the muted pastel colors evoke an indie romance comic.

But, as the teaser begins with a robber and ends with the threat of violence, all drawn to evoke empathy more than outrage, there's no mistaking the story for anything but a noir comic from the best team in the business.

We're sure we're not the only ones eager to get KOBK #20 in our hands today, for the main story and to see that teaser in print -- and we can hardly wait for the book's October release.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2018


We've just released the latest episode of The Undertow Podcast:  we're approaching our 25th episode as Kill Or Be Killed is hurtling toward its grand finale.

In episode 24, we review KOBK's penultimate issue #19, an action-packed chapter with the series' most shocking cliffhanger ending.

We also cover the latest news from the world of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips' crime comics.  An interviewer asks about that ending, and we talk about the upcoming graphic novella, My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys.

And we end the issue with my strong and unequivocal recommendation for another graphic-novel crime comic, John K. Snyder III's hardcover adaptation of Eight Million Ways to Die, published by IDW.  The 1982 novel by Lawrence Block is the fifth in his detective series starring the alcoholic ex-cop Matthew Scudder, but this adaptation stands very well on its own, perfectly capturing the story's melancholy mood and the seedy setting of New York City in the early Eighties.

The book was released just last week, and late last month, CBR posted a very unusual preview, featuring work in-progress with fascinating commentary from the artist. 

In the crime writer's own newsletter, Lawrence Block writes, "I flat-out love what JKS3 has done," something he hasn't been able to say for most of his work's big-screen adaptations.  And, he links to a comics review by J.C. Vaughn saying that the book "may well be Snyder’s magnum opus, and it is unquestionably the best work of his career."

In their main characters and art styles, the two adaptations are very different indeed, but we find ourselves shocked to say that we think the book is as astounding as Darwyn Cooke's four books adapting Richard Stark's master thief Parker.

As always, you can find the podcast on iTunes and at Podbean:  we greatly appreciate listeners' feedback, and if you like our work, tell someone else who you think should give it a listen.

We'll be back very soon indeed to review the final issue of Kill Or Be Killed:  issue 20 reaches stores tomorrow, with two different covers.

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Saturday, June 23, 2018

Bullets: a Virgin Variant, an Eisner Nod, and The Next Project Announced!

It's been one very busy week, not even counting a news item that we previously overlooked.

Virgin Variant for KILLED OR BE KILLED 20.  Looking at ComicList's advance forecast for Image Comics, we saw an intriguing second entry for the upcoming final issue to Kill Or Be Killed, for "Cover B Sean Phillips Virgin Variant", linking to a TFAW product page with the second image shown below.

We reached out to the artist himself, and Sean Phillips confirms the listing:  the final issue of Kill Or Be Killed reaches stores with a second, "virgin variant" cover with all the trade dress removed, allowing readers to enjoy the homage to Romita's Spider-Man in all its undiluted glory.

Phillips has since posted a pic of what appears to be his comp copies of both versions, telling readers that the issue "includes a teaser for our new book," which we'll cover further down.

Both versions of the issue -- standard cover and virgin variant, both shown above -- are due next week, on June 27th.

• Brubaker & Phillips Interview for KOBK Finale.  As we were investigating the variant cover this past week, CBR was doing its own work of journalism, posting an extensive interview with the primary creators of Kill Or Be Killed as the vigilante series wraps up.  We think this is the first interview with Phillips since January, and we can't remember the last time Brubaker talked with the press.

Ed Brubaker doesn't want to spoil the final issue -- or even confirm Dylan's fate and "reveal whether he actually did die" -- but he describes it as "the weirdest comic I’ve ever written, probably."  Still being wary of spoiling the issue, he also says it deals "in some ways" with the question of whether the antagonistic Demon is real.

Sean Phillips, meanwhile, describes his characters' evolution, his use of Fairburn's popular reference book series from the 1970's, and Bettie Breitweiser's contributions in adding color to New York through all four seasons.

As coy as the pair is about how the series wraps, the interview includes pages from the upcoming issue, presumably from the opening act, constituting a three-page preview that we're including below.

Brubaker mentioned that he's learned, "never say never," regarding a return to any fictional world, and he's "keeping his fingers crossed" on the film adaptation involving members of the creative team behind John Wick: "I’m helping to produce the movie, but not on a day-to-day level like I am with my current TV show at Amazon [Too Old to Die Young]."

Sean Phillips, meanwhile, is working on covers for home video, film soundtracks, and a Glasgow band, and his eight-page WWI comic with Ian Rankin is still due in October.

And what about the pair's next collaboration?  It's evidently a pair of projects, first an original, hardcover graphic novel, due in October, and then another serialized book which we believe to be the anticipated return to the world of The Fade Out.

Phillips is returning to drawing on paper for the former -- this graphic novella -- and Brubaker said that this project "will be announced soon."

He wasn't kidding.

• Due In October, MY HEROES HAVE ALWAYS BEEN JUNKIES. The CBR interview was posted on Monday, June 18th.  The very same day, Image Comics released its September solicitations, which included an advance solicit for the pair's upcoming graphic novella.

OCTOBER 10 / 72 PAGES / FC / M / $16.99 
The first original graphic novel from the bestselling creators of CRIMINAL, KILL OR BE KILLED, THE FADE OUT and FATALE. Teenage Ellie has always had romantic ideas about drug addicts, those tragic artistic souls drawn to needles and pills have been an obsession since the death of her junkie mother ten years ago. But when Ellie lands in an upscale rehab clinic where nothing is what it appears to be... she’ll find another more dangerous romance, and find out how easily drugs and murder go hand-in-hand. MY HEROES HAVE ALWAYS BEEN JUNKIES is a seductive coming-of-age story, a pop and drug culture-fueled tale of a young girl seeking darkness... and what she finds there. A gorgeous must-have hardback from the award-winning team of ED BRUBAKER and SEAN PHILLIPS, with acclaimed color artist ELIZABETH BREITWEISER.
The title may be a riff on the melancholic country song popularized by Willie Nelson. I wonder how often I'll conflate the titles here and on the podcast -- or combine them and reference the Cowboy Junkies.

The next day, Image posted a press release for the book, which Sean Phillips reposted at his blog.

In the release, Brubaker describes the book as their version of a romance comic, confirming that it's also a crime story: "But it's one that allows me to mine some of my own pop culture obsessions and delve back into my teen years and the kind of trouble you can only get into when you're young."
This is evidently the "romance comic" that Phillips reference in an earlier interview, and we do wonder if this started out as that Criminal novella.

On Twitter, Phillips adds that, along with returning to paper for this project, he'll be providing the colors along with his son Jacob Phillips.  I believe this will be only the second time Sean Phillips has been a colorist, the first being the pair's contribution to The Spirit Newspaper.

• Eisner Nod for The Spirit Anthology.  On the subject, we had earlier overlooked the late-April announcement -- covered by the LA Times among others -- of the 2018 Eisner Award nominations.

We found the following among the nominees for Best Anthology:
  • The Spirit Anthology, edited by Sean Phillips (Lakes International Comic Art Festival)
By our reckoning, this is the first year since 2014 that a Brubaker and Phillips collaboration hasn't been explicitly nominated for any Eisners, but they did have a one-page contribution to The Spirit newspaper-sized comic.

The Eisner Awards will be announced Friday night, July 20th, at Comic-Con International in San Diego. Between the Spirit comic's subject matter and rationale (the centenary of its creator Eisner's birth) and the murderer's row of creators, we're expecting good things.

On Twitter, Sean Phillips has a pinned tweet to remind readers that this anthology he edited is exclusively available through worldwide mail order from Page 45 Comics -- and here is the direct link.

• New Prints for Upcoming Works from Brubaker & Phillips.  Finally, Sean Phillips very recently announced new prints at his Big Cartel store, for artwork from this fall's big releases:  the cover for the single-volume trade collection for The Fade Out and the cover for the new novella, My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies.  In the case of the latter, two options are available, with and without the creators listed.

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