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Avril Brown Presents:









How’s this for a radical new idea: A comic book publishing company which consistently produces entertaining stories and beautiful artwork while not skimping on the general quality of the book and over charging poor, beleaguered consumers for each issue.

Generally speaking, if something sounds too good to be true, it usually is, yet in this case Radical Comics comes through with flying colors. Radical Comics was recently created as a subdivision of Radical Publishing and was just awarded the distinction of being voted the best new publisher by retailers. I have reviewed several of their books over the past year and have yet to find anything lacking in their creative department. When in San Diego this past July for the Con, I attended a roundtable interview with several writers, artists and editors involved with Radical, all of whom were filled with praise for this unique and driven company. “Radical understands to tell a story you have to go certain places,” one writer said. “They give us the freedom to do the thing we set out to do.”

Here is a publisher willing to put forth the extra effort needed to consistently create interesting, fun and attractive books, to give new ideas a chance to grow and evolve, to produce quality work over rushed, half-assed books filled with pomp and very little circumstance. They have also kept the reasonable cover price of three dollars for a thirty-page book, which in this day and age is as good as it’s gonna get.

Their ideas are fresh and innovative, and the creative teams behind each series seem to truly care about the characters and the story and do their best to do them justice. “I’d rather have a small group of people that really care about a project rather than a large group of people who feel ok about it,” one Radical team member stated. ‘Shrapnel: Aristeia Rising’ is a series I reviewed, and adored. A classic tale of an emotionally devastated solider on the run from her past yet forced to return to the role of fighter to save her friends and family is given new life and a science fiction twist in this beautifully drawn book. Futuristic aerial battles are a challenge for any artist but Bagus Hutomo succeeded and continued to improve throughout the series.

‘Hercules’ is in the midst of an enjoyable second series, both written by Steve Moore, and while not quite as laugh-out-loud funny as the first series (Tydeus the psychotic brain-eater is missing from ‘Knives of Kush’ and he had the best lines in ‘The Thracian Wars’), the intrigue and stellar artwork certainly have carried over. Chock filled with famous Greek fighters, gods bearing grudges, mystery, sex, and plenty of blood, guts and gore, these books are well-rounded forms of entertainment.

‘Hotwire,’ another smashing sci-fi series, boasts a color scheme which makes your eyeballs feel like they’ve been dipped in a psilocybin soup. ‘City of Dust’ is so amazingly illustrated each page looks like a painting. ‘The Federal Vampire and Zombie Agency’ is based on a webpage of the same title, and though at first glance it may appear this book is Radical’s way of jumping on the ‘Vampires are hot’ bandwagon, these vamps are no teen heartthrobs.

There are strong female leads to be found in Radical’s books as well; flawed, believable and inspirational women who are not constantly falling out of their uniforms. Sam, the star in ‘Shrapnel,’ not only is a kick-ass soldier, but she faces her demons and takes up the mantle of leader, successfully spearheading a nigh-impossible military campaign. Alice Hotwire is a smart-mouthed, hot-headed detective who offers no apologies for her arrogance but is more than willing to jump into a dangerous fray to get the job done. Atalanta in the ‘Hercules’ series can go blade to blade with the best of them while simultaneously fending off unwelcome advances from her doe-eyed male companion so she can keep her eyes on more feminine forms.

There is quality and diversity to be found in Radical’s books, which provides a welcome change from standard superhero stories. Now I heart my X-Men, which means I enjoy a good Wolverine blood bath as much as the next mutant lover, but occasionally some writers seem to forget that an action story without a story is just pretty pictures and little else. Mark Millar recently scripted a Wolverine story arc entitled ‘Old Man Logan,’ which is set fifty years in the future where the bad guys won and carved up the United States into individual territories. Something terribly dark happened to the man formerly known as Wolverine which caused him to permanently hang up his tights and swear off violence, until an old friend comes calling and drags the mutant farmer back into the world of heroes and villains. The story itself I found to be entertaining, but the final ‘giant-sized’ conclusion issue was a colossal let down. At twice the price I expect twice the story, yet instead the book contained only ten extra pages, the entire issue was nearly void of dialogue and the final confrontation was quite predictable. I have enjoyed Millar’s work in the past (‘Ultimate X-Men’ was a fantastically dark and captivating series when he was writing the scripts), but honestly I was somewhat pissed when I finished his latest issue.

Radical Comics may not possess the creative rights to famous and lucrative characters like Wolverine or Superman, but they are on the fast track to building an impressive street cred of their own. They stand behind their artists and writers and do not compromise on quality simply to make money. They are committed to the comics, not the selling numbers or profit margin, which is wonderfully exciting and encouraging. As writer Steve Pugh put it: “No other company would take the risk.” If Radical can survive this eclectic economy without going belly up, and if they can hang onto their morals and remember their credo of creating quality comics, I feel confident this is a company which will continue to blow the minds of fans and critics alike for a long time to come.

Avril Brown 

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