Posts Tagged ‘Joshua Williamson’

Joshua Williamson returns to talk about all things Ghosted! There will be spoilers for the entirety of the book so beware and be warned!

 

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Another week and another batch of comics to recommend for your reading pleasure. Let’s not waste any time and get to the list!

 

Peter Panzerfaust #21 – Image Comics

peter_21_CVR_AWritten by Kurtis Wiebe with Art by Tyler Jenkins and colorist Kelly Fitzpatrick, this is the beginning of the final arc of Peter Panzerfaust and the team behind the book aren’t pulling any punches, figuratively and literally as the issue features two intense fist fights between the twins, Maurice and Claude, and the remaining Lost Boys when Tootles essentially decides that they need to hold a memorial for Peter, Lily, and Julien after which the rest of the group can get right the fuck out. Framed within the elderly Maurice’s recollection, the group, back in Paris, has tried to stay together in the wake of their flight from the Sticks and Peter’s capture, but their own personal vendettas and underlying feelings of guilt, responsibility, and bitterness seem to be driving them farther and farther apart. Tootles tries to keep Wendy, Michael, and John safe, with Wendy still taking on the motherly role. Felix has taken to executing Nazis as he sees fit. And the twins…they’re both dealing with things in their own way. It’s part and parcel of what older Maurice tells John Parsons, their story is no different from the stories of hundreds of other people during the war. Survival was the least difficult part, the hard part was figuring out what to do in the aftermath. The crumbling of the Lost Boys, however, gets a bit of a reprieve with a last minute reveal that still manages to get upstaged by an even bigger reveal.

 

Rat Queens #8 – Image Comics

RatQueens_08-1Also written by Kurtis Wiebe with Art by Roc Upchurch, we get a lot more background on Violet as we get to see almost exactly what led Violet to make the decision to leave her dwarven home, shave her beard, and join the Rat Queens. In the first volume, Sass and Sorcery, we were introduced to Violet’s brother, Barry Blackforge, who, like many of the familial relations to the first ladies of kickassery, didn’t approve of Violet’s decision to go off and become part of a quest-group-for-hire. Now we get to see that, like Dee, Violet’s home was built on the foundations of tradition, ones that still pigeonhole Violet into a model for her father’s new brand of armor instead of a competitor representing her family among the other noble dwarf clans during an annual tournament. It isn’t until she sees the shaven face of Morgan Meldhammer, an older woman fighting in place of another who chooses to buck the system and forge her own path by wearing the symbol she finds empowering, a rat, instead of the symbols of her clan. It’s her example and the supportive and steady hands of her mother with a straight razor that give us the Violet we know and love. And the way this issue ties into the overall narrative is not to be missed at the end.

 

Nailbiter #6 – Image Comics

Nailbiter 6Dear God can the town of Buckaroo, Oregon get any creepier? According to writer Joshua Williamson and artist Mike Henderson, yes, yes it can. Case in point, Alice, one of the town locals, waxes poetic about her home town from an insider’s perspective. The ongoing mystery is whether the myriad serial killers originating from the town, the Buckaroo Butchers, are some fluke of nature or if there’s something about the town itself that turns its citizens into killers. Determined to find her own answers, and by sheer happenstance, Alice becomes entangled in a woman named Mallory’s desire to have her baby born in Buckaroo so he’ll grow up to be a serial killer and she’ll become famous as the mother of said serial killer; doing the talk show circuit and eventually starting a foundation to help others. Basically a form of Münchausen syndrome where fame is the ultimate goal through the attention of the media. It’s a strong issue to start the next arc despite the exclusion of one of the book’s main characters. Finch sits this one out, presumably because he’s arguing with the FBI over his pending murder trial, while Alice and Sheriff Shannon Crane take the center stage for good reason. Both of these women were born in Buckaroo and both have had to grow up with the stigma of living in the town and the possibility that anyone they know is a potential serial killer. In Shannon’s case, the guy she went to prom with ended up becoming the Nailbiter. Alice, however, is still struggling with how to deal with growing up in Buckaroo, thoughts made far more relevant by the issue’s end.

 

Grayson #3 – DC Comics

grayson-3-coverWritten by Tom King and Tim Seeley with Art by Mikel Janin. Coming off of the phenomenal Future’s End tie-in that could have easily derailed the momentum of the new book, Grayson wastes no time getting us back into the story proper as Dick and Helena are tasked with taking down The Old Gun, a man who literally sees through the barrels of his guns, after he kills a man and steals his enhanced eyes in a desperate attempt to return his vision to normal. Dick and Helena are backed up by Agents 1 and 8 and it’s through Agent 8 that we get the inevitable conflict between the world of espionage and the world of superheroes. Dick was raised by a man who fell victim to the power of a gun, a man who spent his life attempting to bring an end to crime in Gotham without resorting to the easy route of using the very weapon that ruined his life. Dick isn’t unfamiliar with guns, but as he says to Agent 8, it’s not how he fights. For all of Agent 8’s proselytizing about how quick and easy relying on a gun can be as opposed to the credo of most superheroes and their “no kill” philosophy, Dick sees it as too simplistic of an answer when the missions they’re involved with are much more complicated. The objective may be to get the eyes, but the Old Gun brings a greater emotional weight to the situation once Dick learns the truth. It’s also an intriguing issue that delves into Dick’s own form of identity crisis. For all intents and purposes, Dick Grayson/Nightwing is dead in the eyes of the world, but within the confines of Spyral, the former superhero is now a spy, Agent 37, which comes with its own set of rules and regulations. Agent 8’s repeated botching of the Nightwing moniker as a means of getting under Dick’s skin, and reinforcing the fact that he’s a spy, not a hero, serve only to push Dick’s resolve in holding true to the teachings of his mentor and staying true to himself.

 

Spotlight On: Gotham Academy #1 – DC Comics

Goth-Acad-1Yes, I know everyone’s been hyping this book as the greatest thing to come out of DC in a long time, but it’s for good reason. Writers Becky Cloonan and Brenden Fletcher and Artist Karl Kerschl bring about a new side of Gotham City through the students and faculty of one of its most prestigious schools. There’s definitely a DC Comics meets Harry Potter vibe, in a good way, as we’re introduced to second-year student Olive Silverlock and first-year student Maps Mizoguchi. Told from Olive’s point-of-view, we know that she’s technically in a relationship with Maps’ older brother Kyle, but there may already be drama involving another student. Olive has become distant and moody as a result of some unknown event that took place during the summer; something so significant that even a visiting Bruce Wayne is aware of her even if she’s not aware of him. But really what the book boils down to is an intriguing, engaging, colorful, and, most importantly, fun, start to the next wave of Bat-books. Olive and Maps, both women of color, are delightful characters to watch. For all her moping, Olive’s problems are that of the typical teenager. She doesn’t quite fit in with her classmates, but much of that is largely tied to her attitude as evidenced through her interactions with her roommate Lucy and Maps. Of course, there’s always a bully and Olive’s Draco Malfoy equivalent is Pomeline Fritch. Seriously, the names alone are a mashup between comic books and Harry Potter naming conventions. But when push comes to shove, Olive is there for the people who need her and that says more about her character than the majority of her teen angst. Maps, however, is joy on legs, which makes her the most entertaining character of the bunch. I was definitely on board when she had the one-sided conversation with Olive about the school’s Headmaster, but later when the girls are climbing the bell tower to see the supposed ghost haunting the North Hall and Maps rambles on and on about her Dungeons and Dragons/LARPing escapades as if they parallel the situation, that’s when I think I fully fell in love with the book. I’m definitely looking forward to solving the mysteries of Gotham Academy and attending classes with such new and fantastically realized characters.

So those are my picks for the week. What about you? What did you read this week and what would you recommend?

Sam is joined by her friend Miguel for a rousing conversation with Joshua Williamson, writer of Ghosted, Captain Midnight, and Nailbiter.

It’s the end of Nailbiter‘s first arc, but the story is anything but over as Crane and Finch discover there’s more to Buckaroo, and the people who live there, than they ever imagined.Nailbiter_05-1

Sounds vague, right? But that’s kind of the point. Books in the horror and mystery genres, especially those that intend to be ongoing narratives, have a couple of options when it comes to the impact of their ending-but-not-an-ending. They can either go out with a bang, which usually includes a huge revelation or a disturbing splash page guaranteed to sear itself into the darker recesses of your mind. Or, they can go for the more subdued, contemplative ending that’s more about speculation on the whole rather than the sum. Joshua Williamson and Mike Henderson opt to go for an alternative way of ending Nailbiter that has a little bit of Columns A and B.

The high tension of Nailbiter has been present since the first pages where we saw the capture of Edward Charles Warren, aka The Nailbiter, by police with bodies strewn about the room in various stages of death and decay while Warren chomped down on some fresh fingers. The amped up energy continued with the introduction of Nicholas Finch ready to put a bullet through his head before he’s stopped by a call from his friend Elliot Carroll to hightail it to Buckaroo, Oregon, birthplace of no less than sixteen serial killers, including the recently released Nailbiter. Upon arriving in Buckaroo, Carroll appears to be missing so Finch aligns with Sheriff Shannon Crane to find Carroll just as a series of murders occur and a new Buckaroo Butcher is revealed.

Like any good mystery, a few things get wrapped up in order to satisfy the reader. Carroll’s disappearance and obsession with the Buckaroo Butchers was the impetus for getting Finch to the town, so thankfully Nailbiter has no plans of turning into Season Two of The Walking Dead and the endless, unsatisfying search for Sophia. I say thankful in the sense that Carroll is found, though I’m sure the character would think otherwise given the state he was discovered by Finch and Crane in the previous issue. It’s through Carroll, however, that we get some more insight into Warren and the overarching mystery of the book. Why are so many serial killers originating from Buckaroo? Is it coincidence? Were all of these killers born this way? Or is there something more sinister going on? In fantastically paced flashback, Warren and Carroll square off over the hows and whys of Warren’s transformation into The Nailbiter. There’s no rhyme or reason to Warren’s sudden need to kill, he was, for all intents and purposes, a good kid until he disappeared after prom night. And yet there’s something about the way Warren talks about his killer calling card, his description of image__Image_Comics_Nailbiter_5_preview_01how a person knows the taste of their own blood out of instinct and his own desire to know if other people’s blood tasted different, that keeps the plausibility of Warren just being your run-of-the-mill serial killer alive. He’s clearly disturbed, but as is later revealed pretty much everyone in Buckaroo has some issues.

Like I said, Nailbiter wraps up the smaller mysteries – Carroll’s disappearance, Warren’s possible involvement in the recent murders – in order to clear up space for what’s yet to come. The first arc was all about setting the mood and tone, giving the reader a sense of the environment. It’s a creepy little town in the Pacific Northwest, there’s a cemetery devoted to just the Buckaroo Butchers, a Murder Store cashes in on the spectacle of the macabre, and even the ordinary citizens look like they’re ready to snap at any time. Granted, there was plenty of action and the creep factor was always high, but this arc needed to ground the reality of Buckaroo and the characters. A lot of this was accomplished through Warren, the most unlikely of characters. And yet it makes a lot of sense. We had to believe in Warren’s unsettling nature but we also had to buy him as a person and his connection to the town so his turnaround didn’t come completely out of nowhere. He’s still creepy, don’t get me wrong, but Williamson and Henderson have done a brilliant job of making him a well-rounded character. There’s more to him than we thought and there’s definitely more to Buckaroo as well.

Final Thoughts: Whoever’s pulling the strings in Buckaroo, hopefully Crane, Finch, and maybe Alice, can figure it out.

Ghosted begins its latest arc by bringing back the past. Not only does Oliver King, the skeptic turned believer of the first arc return, but we also get the notorious white room last seen in the Trask Mansion, plus a new character with an unexpected connection to Jackson’s deceased friend. While this set-up seems all well and good for Ghosted, Jackson is the wildcard for ghosted_12the first time. His involvement in previous heists were either through coercion or…nope, pretty much everything after the Spirit Casino debacle has been about coercion. This time though, Jackson is all out of fucks to give as the government tries to recruit him for a new mission that further expands the supernatural world of Ghosted.

Starting almost immediately after the events with the Brotherhood of the Closed Book and the appearance of King with the FBI, Jackson and Nina Bloodcrow are released from prison so King can introduce them to Agent Creed. Jackson is of particular interest to Creed. He seems to know everything about him (including what happened in New Orleans, which I’m sure we’ll find out about in the future) and he wants to “offer him a job” going after the proliferation of ghosts and spirits that have come out of the woodwork for reasons that appear to be unexplained. Jackson, however, is having none of it. He could care less about what’s happening outside of his personal bubble of anger and guilt and the alternative options of prison or death sound better than helping the feds. It isn’t until Creed reveals the man who may be involved in the recent uptick in spiritual activity is the late Trick’s son and introduces Jackson to his “fan” that the con man is finally interested in what Creed has to say.

What continues to impress me about Ghosted are the many ways in which the supernatural is treated and interpreted. It’s like a check list of horror cliches only Joshua Williamson manages to make them feel fresh within the context of the world he’s created. Haunted mansion? Check. Cults and possession? Got it! Rednecks dealing in candles made of virgin blood? Ch – okay, that’s not on the list, but it oughta be! The success of these scenarios, however, is how they’re filtered through Jackson and his involvement. He’s the connecting thread but with the beginning of this new arc, we’re seeing him begin to unravel. Thematically, Ghosted has its roots in the idea of the past haunting us in ways we can’t expect. The bookends of this issue illustrate that perfectly. A woman’s stalker kills himself and while the woman is happy to move on with her life, the ghost of R2nDrEx-ghosted_12_3the stalker lingers, hovering around her and letting her know that she’s not as free of him as she thought. Jackson has a similar predicament, but his demons are less visible to the naked eye. Instead, he literally bears the scars of his haunted past, one that everyone wants to exploit to get him to do their dirty work. The loss of Trick, however, has affected Jackson tremendously. If he had even a tenuous hold on staying alive, Trick’s death has finally pushed Jackson to the breaking point. His previous attempts at goading people into killing him seem trivial compared to the anger-induced provocation of Creed when the man has a gun pointed at him. The only person keeping him somewhat anchored is Nina.

Once again, Davide Gianfelice’s art works so well within the world of Ghosted. The sketch-like quality of his art instills movement in scenes that could easily look static. Like the previous arc, Gianfelice handles the horror with a deft hand, making spirits and possessed people look grotesque yet intriguing at the same time. The ghost of the stalker is especially chilling due to the minimal dialogue as the young woman goes about her nightly routine all while the deceased hovers nearby, his blank expression made all the creepier by the gaping would in his skull. The colors from Miroslav Mrva present an interesting contrast between the living world and the dead. For most of the issue, the colors are brighter, even in the prison facility where Jackson and Nina are being held, but when a ghost is featured in a scene they’re marked by a noticeable color shift that draws the eye immediately. It’s a fantastic way of highlighting the combined efforts of writer, artist, and colorist.

Final Thoughts: New story + new characters = a very excited Sam!

ghosted-06This article was originally posted at Word of the Nerd on January 15th.

Just when Jackson Winters thinks he’s out of the game, living the good life, the life that he left behind pulls him back into the fold. Yes, Ghosted is back and the sins of Jackson’s past are creeping up on him once again, both figuratively and literally.

Enjoying the fruits of his labors after delivering the ghosts of the Trask Mansion to Markus Schrecken, Jackson is unfortunately discovered by an informant for the people who own the casino his original crew tried to rob. Seeing his brief stint at normalcy blown straight to hell, with a few extra bullet holes in the chest for good measure, Jackson and Trick – the entertainingly knowledgeable black market fencer and magician – find themselves roped into another job on behalf of the casino owner, Wenona Blood Crow. In order to wipe the slate clean once and for all, Jackson has to rescue Wenona’s granddaughter, Nina, from kidnappers who’ve taken the girl across the border to Mexico. And while it’s possible that Wenona could have easily hired someone else to rescue Nina and have Jackson killed by her family’s personal hitman, Skinner, it seems the kidnappers took Nina for a reason and it happens to be in Jackson’s particular area of expertise.

In the return of Ghosted, Joshua Williamson doesn’t hold back, putting Jackson right in the middle of the action, but not before giving us a rather disturbing opening involving an elderly performing a ritual involving dolls dressed as Jackson hanging from nooses and pictures of Jackson decorating the walls splashed with bat’s blood. It’s a fantastic reminder of the curse Jackson carries; seemingly blessed to live in the face of supernatural circumstances where others often perish. It doesn’t mean the man isn’t marked for the rest of the afterlife. Jackson’s no saint and his experiences with the otherworldly may have done more to stack the deck against him if his dream sequence later on is any indication of what his eternal resting place will look like. I will admit, though, Jackson’s reaction to his hallucinatory revisiting of the last arc was pretty great. Good to know the man’s sense of humor always remains intact. Skinner and Wenona are great additions to Ghosted‘s cast of characters. Whereas Ghosted6_col_page_02-03Markus Schrecken was an employer who needed Jackson solely for his skills, the history between Jackson and the two adds another level of tension to the story. Skinner proves he’s not afraid to solve his problems by riddling them with bullets, so it’ll be interesting to see if he tags along with Jackson and Trick on their trip to Mexico. Feels like his presence would make for great motivation.

The art for Ghosted #6 changes as Davide Gianfelice takes over and it couldn’t be a better fit. The illustrative quality is gorgeous and the look of the characters and environments has an air of the mod style Jackson is so fond of emulating. Something about the lining on the cheekbones and chin that reminds me of Darwyn Cooke’s style, which matches up with Jackson and his world perfectly. Whereas the previous arc with Goran Suduka had a grittier and slightly gothic sensibility befitting of the setting and premise, Gianfelice’s art is more cinematic, making the next chapter reminiscent of a movie sequel. Like Sudzuka before him, Gianfelice knocks it out of the park when it comes to the grotesque. If the opening isn’t enough to give you the heebie jeebies, then I’m pretty sure the last page will.

Rating – 10/10

Final Thoughts: Woo hoo! Trip to Mexico, guys! Can’t wait!

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This was previously posted at Word of the Nerd on November 6th.

Heist stories are difficult to pull off effectively. We’re essentially rooting for the bad guys, even if the narrative frames them as the good guys. They just happen to be the lesser of two evils. It’s also not enough to have a goal and a team, there have to be enough twists and turns in the story for the payoff at the end. If everything goes according to plan, then what’s the point, but if nothing works out, then it’s a ticking clock until everybody either dies or gets arrested. We want the team to succeed, but we also need them to earn their reward. In order to do that, plans need to go awry, betrayals need to happen, and actions have to be taken so the audience can feel how high the stakes are for these people should they fail. In Ghosted #5 Joshua Williamson manages to get everything right about the climax of a heist story while upping the ante with the ultimate payoff.

With the Ghost Hunter/Adventure red shirts dead and the rest of the currently-living members of the team trapped in the Trask Mansion, Jackson confronts Anderson about her loyalty to their mutual employer, Markus, whom Anderson is intent on delivering the still possessed Trick to because Markus, long ago, saved her from the Eastern European slave trade. Why? Because she reminded him of his sister, though Jackson knows for a fact Anderson hardly resembles her. Desperate to get out, Anderson figures she can offer a new ghost to the house in exchange for Trick, stabbing Jackson in the back – the least subtle place one can stab another person. With Jackson bleeding out on the floor, King suggests Rusnak make contact with the spirits since it may be their only way out. Donning the spiritually amplified mask, Rusnak finally makes contact and reveals the true secret of the house. As it turns out, Markus is the sole living member of the Trask family, sacrificing his sister’s life so he could live forever on the condition that the mansion remain haunted. Capturing the ghost was the only way Markus’ curse could remain intact. While this hardly fazes Anderson, Jackson plays his trump card when Rusnak, the psychic, switches sides and helps Jackson implement his plan. To go any further is venturing into way too many spoilers, but it’s a good plan, one that would make Danny Ocean proud. Ya know, if he was involved in a heist involving haunted mansion, ghosts, and immortal murderers.

Turning the TablesWilliamson’s story really shines when it’s delving into Jackson’s methodology and psyche. He’s always the man with the plan, the guy capable of seeing the bigger picture, bringing the right group of people together to accomplish the task at hand. Being a good planner, however, doesn’t mean he remotely cares about the actual people he involves in his endeavors. The death of his team prior to the events of Ghosted, the botched job that left him the sole survivor of a horrific ordeal and got him sent to prison, forever changed his perspective, making him a man forever haunted by his own actions. In the aftermath, he now cares if the people on his team live or die, even Anderson, which is why he goes to great lengths to convince her to betray Markus. In a way, he was trying to give her an out even if he knew she probably wouldn’t budge. You could say his actions were noble, but I’ sure even Jackson would say he just needed to be sure where she stood before committing to his plan. I do love the very subtle way Williamson and Goran Sudzuka visually shift the power play between Jackson and Anderson. When Anderson stabs Jackson, his hair gets mussed up to reflect the scattered state of his plan and their situation. However, when Jackson turns the tables on Anderson, the panel shows him slicking his hair back, returning it to the sleek, debonaire style indicative of his Sinatra-like persona. It’s well done and perfectly captures the moment in any heist movie where the whole plan is revealed. The book may lack the space to backtrack, but the explanation given and the events that follow pack the right punch narratively and tonally. It helps that Sudzuka’s ghosts are creepy as all get out.

Final Thoughts: If the next arc is what I think it is, Jackson will never be able to rest in peace.

The trade paperback for Ghosted Vol. 1, collecting issues #1-5, is available for pre-order and will be released in December.