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Virgin Comics Update

Posted 14 Aug 2007

Writer: Saurav Mohopatra, Zeb Wells, Andy Diggle, Mike Carey
Artist: Satish Tayade, Abhishek Singh, Edison George/Siddarth Kotian...
Publisher: Virgin Comics

 4.50 out of 5 Stars

Reviewed by Adam McGovern


India Authentic #1-3 (Ganesha; Kali; Indra)
Writer: Saurav Mohopatra
Artist: Satish Tayade, Abhishek Singh
Colorist: M. Vishwanathan/S. M. Bhaskar/R. C. Prakash; Singh; Tayade
Publisher: Virgin Comics

5 out of 5 stars

Devi #11 & 12
Writer: Saurav Mohopatra
Artist: Edison George/Siddharth Kotian/Saumin Patel
Colorist: R. Gavaskar/Patel/N. Sivakami & M. Vishwanathan
Publisher: Virgin Comics

2.5 out of 5 stars

Snake Woman #0
Writer: Zeb Wells
Artist: Michael Gaydos
Colorist: I. Jeyabalan & A. Selvan
Publisher: Virgin Comics

5 out of 5 stars

Snake Woman: Tale of the Snake Charmer #1
Writer: Zeb Wells
Artist: Vivek Shinde
Colorist: I. Jeyabalan
Publisher: Virgin Comics

4.5 out of 5 stars

Gamekeeper #3
Writer: Andy Diggle
Artist: Mukesh Singh
Colorist: Mukesh Singh
Publisher: Virgin Comics

5 out of 5 stars

Voodoo Child #1
Writer: Mike Carey
Artist: Dean Ruben Hyrapiet
Colorist: S. Sundarakannan
Publisher: Virgin Comics

4.5 out of 5 stars

There’s good news and bad news from the most interesting new publisher in years, as a few fixes are made to what wasn’t broke and several younger series debut with the same freshness and confidence that pushed the mainstream-indie envelope and propelled the earlier books through a remarkable first year.

“Wisely judged in need of no makeover is the Snake Woman series, which has retained its full creative team and is moving into ever more fascinating territory.”

True mythic wonder to surpass any mortal special effects is packed into the one-issue stories of the recently-started India Authentic series. These spotlight one deity per issue in a kind of Secret Origins for the living spirits of Hinduism, aspiring to give readers the straight story of forces and personas that are elaborated on for modern fictional purposes in many of Virgin’s other books. Though this one’s a kind of primer on a religious belief, the lore of India is readymade for the sword-and-sorcery sensibility, and the atmospheric, mystical art well conveys otherworldly figures in dreamlike landscapes. The biggest surprise is the way the tales are personalized, usually through narration by witnesses whose identity or role remains a surprise until the end and puts a poignant human-interest spin on the clashes of titans the books mostly concern. It’s a big pantheon, so India Authentic has as promising a future as it has a rich mythic history to draw on.

The modern goddess epic Devi has strayed a bit from its own legacy of late. New editor Ron Marz, a great writer on his own sci-fi adventure series, seems to have been the wrong choice to second-guess this material. The intriguingly mixed motivations of the characters have been replaced with soap-opera backstories and stock nobility-vs.-vengeance soul-searching, making what had been a dense but never confusing spiritual saga into a somewhat flimsy superhero conflict. This was a book for fans of Promethea or the J. M. DeMatteis Spectre and was not necessarily made to move blockbuster numbers; turning it into Wonder Woman or Witchblade was the wrong move and Virgin should have settled for the prestige.

The supernatural thriller The Sadhu and the adrenalized political allegory Ramayan 3392 A.D. have always been as high-energy as they are high-minded, so they may fare much better under Marz’s direction, though those reboots were not available at press time.

Wisely judged in need of no makeover is the Snake Woman series, which has retained its full creative team and is moving into ever more fascinating territory. The special number-zero series prelude retold (and expanded) the story from the perspective of the reptile-goddess whose spirit moves through the title character. This presence was smartly felt more than shown, in an ambient narration that conjured the creepy, lurking presence of the serpents of Eden and other lore (and of our own reptile brain and literally twisted DNA, connections that were deftly made in this expansively imagined modern fable). The Tale of the Snake Charmer miniseries moves the story in more of its always unpredictable directions, be it a new locale across the globe or lines of unexpected alliance and even redemption in the grim saga of an immortal grudge between goddesses and men. There are a few missteps, like #0’s unconvincing text appendices or the mini’s sometimes rudimentary art, but a compelling storyline keeps everything in the service of solid entertainment.

Both the Snake Woman books and Gamekeeper are about feral protagonists uneasily navigating a world whose technological advancements can confound them but whose barbarity can ironically way surpass them. Gamekeeper, only into its third issue as of this writing, remains another must-read for its groundbreaking painted art and its suspenseful odyssey of a displaced and deadly Chechen refugee uncovering a global plot whose mysteries we only grasp as he does. The imprint’s newest entry, Voodoo Child (a much more clever title than the previously-announced Enigma), joins Gamekeeper and a number of other books Virgin has put out in processing the sins of politics past and present as a kind of recurring nightmare that takes a literal horror-movie form — in this case, a zombie avenger of slavery now loose in the class-war wasteland of post-Katrina New Orleans.

It sounds exploitative, but in the conception of comic-geek megastar Nic Cage and his son Weston and the handling of prestige writer Mike Carey and somber artist Dean Ruben Hyrapiet, the title character is a towering figure of divine retribution casting a long shadow of guilt over the human race’s crimes. Hyrapiet’s murky, ornate style is great for conjuring active shadows and ominous locales, Carey’s ear for the everyday speech and the mystic incantation of three centuries is alert and absorbing, and the device of an extended origin narrative that’s all-too-common in many current comics is employed to build suspense effectively here, with every character but the mysterious star getting more fully introduced in the first issue. This gradual reveal is familiar from horror stories, but in a cast of cynical cops and scummy profiteers the source of all the scariness in this case may turn out to be the most morally justified character among them. This is storytelling that draws you in with ghouls that are involving to watch and gets under your skin with monstrosities that aren’t so easily escaped.

In the case of material as superior as Virgin specializes in, change is not always good — but almost all of the company’s line continues to change the comics medium for the better.



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Cover image used without explicit permission in accordance with the "Fair Use" provision of US copyright law.


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