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Corinne "Been" Simpson and Andrew Foley of Happy Harbor Comics are here to review and discuss cool comics!

BEYONDERS #1, by Paul Jenkins and Wesley St. Claire
-- arriving August 29th from Aftershock Comics

  ANDREW: My only issue with Paul Jenkins and Wesley St. Claire's BEYONDERS' opening installment is that it only had two instead of 20 pages of weird facts that may be connected in some mysterious way. Then again, if the creators had done that, we wouldn't have gotten to meet Shadwell the highly intelligent corgi, and I'm apparently now of an age and disposition that all it takes to get me behind a comic is a cute doggo. Well, maybe it takes more than that. But that opening sequence pulled me right in. Actually, pretty much everything about this issue pulled me in. It's a very strong start.

  BEEN: It's a helluva strong start. Besides the one-eyed super-smart corgi (which, honestly, may be enough since apparently I am also of that age and disposition), this first issue has everything! Weird facts, unexplained happenings, internet dating, a plethora of sandwiches, suspicious relatives, intrigue, Mount Everest lore… what more does one WANT from a comic? I mean I suppose if it also came with a real corgi and/or a real sandwich that would be something. But right now I'm hooked as is. The art works really well with the weirdness of the story, for me. It's extremely well done in that it evokes Jake's overall demeanor and the underlying unsettled quality of the narrative in color choice alone at times.

  ANDREW: It's a fun comic, but not a goofy one, you know? Jenkins wrote my all-time favourite Hellblazer run, a career highlight he's never matched, in my book. BEYONDERS is poised to give that a run for its money. I'm trying to think of useful comparisons here and am coming up blank. There's definitely "nothing is what it seems" and grand conspiracy elements reminiscent of The Prisoner or The X-Files, but it's much, muuuuch more light-hearted than those (a feeling compounded by St. Claire's loose, cartoonish art style). And the protagonist is just graduating from high school. And he's got a one-eyed corgi (did we mention the corgi yet?).

  BEEN: Okay, we don't want to spoil it in any way but trust us, it's fun and pretty unique and utterly captivating. Take a chance on a comic about strange historical mysteries, intrigue, cryptography, and did we mention the dog? Written by Paul Jenkins (ALTERS, Wolverine: Origin, Sentry) with Art and Coloring by Wesley St. Claire (FU JITSU, Teen Titans), BEYONDERS arrives from Aftershock Comics on August 29th. Email us to pre-order your copy today! (You won't be disappointed. I mean we told you about the corgi, right?)

THE RELAY #1, by Zac Thompson and Andy Clarke

  ANDREW: The thing that really grabbed me about this first issue was the density, not just with the writing, which deals with some pretty heady issues, but also the art, which is a major selling point for this book. I can't think of an Aftershock book that had anything less than solid art, but the work here, by Andy Clarke, really stood out. There's a bit of Steve Pugh in the faces, with the detail of an Erik Burnham. It's a good combination--so good I'm a little surprised to see him working for a smaller publisher like Aftershock rather than one of the bigger companies. Aftershock EiC Mike Marts must be doing something right.

  BEEN: I agree about the art. Artist Andy Clarke and colorist Dan Brown have done an outstanding job. There's a true sense of movement, of emotion, and yes definitely of density. Visually this story is packed full of kind of a stunning amount of information and imagery yet I wasn't overwhelmed. It worked. The art pulled me in and I felt it was a good match to the density of the writing. Which we should talk about because this story is not, by any stretch, a light-hearted throwaway romp far. It has depth and, I'm guessing/hoping, legs.

  ANDREW: The comic touches on some pretty heavy stuff, featuring as it does an omnivorous uber-culture that arrives at other worlds and either assimilates or destroys them. It also deals with a semi-underground faith (if not a faith, it certainly has religious aspect) focused on a guy named Donaldson, whose world followers of "The Edict" are commanded to find. The Edict is transmitted from the Relay, the monolithic building that brings the uber-culture to other worlds, which you'd think would count for something. In spite of that, the faith of one of our protagonists, Security Officer Jad, who seems to be a legitimate believer in Donaldson and the First World, does not seem well-regarded by his colleagues, who see the Donaldson myth as a population control mechanism more than anything else.

Then again, it's possible Jad, despite his action-packed introduction, isn't intended to play the part of a hero. One of the issue's most disturbing sequences is Jad arguing in favour of absorbing/dominating other cultures in order to create a single reality. There's an interesting philosophical point in there, but it's being used in defence of obliterating worlds that don't toe the Relay's line. His unquestioning devotion to forced cultural assimilation doesn't exactly make him a heroic figure in my book.

  BEEN: I would agree with your assessment of Jad here. It's difficult to tell if he's being set up as the hero figure or not given that this first issue lays so much groundwork for so many directions to be taken in the future. But I have a hard time considering devotion to any subsuming Borg-like overlord culture to be heroic. Then again, this story could go anywhere. If Donaldson is in fact real, how does that positively or negatively impact the 'faith' the Relay transmits and is set up to control? There are more questions than answers which, in my opinion, makes for a compelling start to the series. I have no true sense of where things are going in Relay but wherever it goes I want to read it. I'm intrigued.

LAZARUS, by Greg Rucka and Michael Lark

  BEEN: What is Lazarus about in broad strokes?

  ANDREW: In the future, America is ruled by a small collection of incredibly wealthy families sparring with each other to expand their territory. Each clan has their own superhuman enforcer, called a Lazarus; the Carlyle family's Lazarus is named Forever. When fixing her all-too-human siblings' problems start putting her in awkward moral corners, she begins questioning her role in maintaining the status quo. Think Game of Thrones meets that Elysium movie with Matt Damon from a few years back.

  BEEN: So from what I understand the non-wealthy live in sort of wastelands and wait to be “lifted up” or raised to a non-disposable sort of status? Is that correct?

  ANDREW: Technically, there's two classes of non-wealthy, Serfs and Waste. Serfs have some function for the families, Waste are just trying to survive--I don't get the impression there's much hope for social advancement among the Waste.

  BEEN: And the Lazarus would protect the family’s interests from other wealthy elites and any over-ambitious non-wealthy?

  ANDREW: Exactly. Most of those threats come from the other wealthy families--Lazari are very hard to kill and highly trained, so anyone that doesn't have one working for them isn't a great concern.

ANIMOSITY, by Marguerite Bennett and Rafael de Latorre

  BEEN: I know Animosity is more or less about animals. Sentient ones, I believe.

  ANDREW: Jesse's beloved dog, Sandor, just developed speech and self-awareness, along with every other animal in the world. Unlike many of his animal brethren, Sandor knows his purpose almost immediately. He adopts the previously sheltered Jesse as his own, doing what he must to protect the girl from the apocalyptic results of The Wake.

  BEEN: So, then, it involves all animals developing speech and self-awareness but most of them are decidedly unhappy about humanity?

  ANDREW: Off the top of my head, I can't recall if it extends to, say, insects and I don't know if "most" are unhappy about humanity or just a big enough of a chunk to trigger what amounts to the apocalypse. You've got to think there's a few really unimpressed cows out there looking for payback.