Friday, October 18, 2013

What Lurks in the Longbox? #44 - Omega Paradox, A Fool's Errand

Omega Paradox Volume 1: A Fool's Errand
Apropos of Nothing Publishing
$15.00, Color, 132 pgs.
Writer, Letterer: Ian Ng
Artist: Mark Sparacio 
Colorist, Letterer: Abe Melendez

It's been a long time in coming.  After years of tirelessly attending conventions, using social media to endlessly promote his creator-owned series, and struggling with the unique challenges of distribution, Mark Sparacio has released the official trade paperback collecting the four part Omega Paradox saga!

Featuring completely remastered colors by digital painter Abe Melendez, this series represents some of Sparacio's best work yet, which is saying a lot, considering his past work for publishers like Marvel, DC, Moonstone, and Heroic, along with countless cover illustrations for publications like Comics Buyer's Guide magazine and The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide

Back when I interviewed the creative team in November of 2011, Series Writer Ian Ng revealed how the idea for Omega Paradox came into existence back in 2009:  "Mark [Sparacio] started the whole process with a painting and a name. Over the course of four hours at the San Diego con in 2009, we basically went back and forth at his booth. He was painting, and I took notes. When the dust settled, we had our core five-man team, Valerius, and the Eye of Ancev."

Mark Sparacio and his creative team of Ian Ng and Abraham Melendez Rivera have created a fascinating universe of colorful, interesting characters that, while dedicated to their ongoing mission, also question the agenda of the enigmatic leader that has set them on their task.  While on a dangerous quest to protect the mystical "Eye of Ancev" from the evil forces that would use the artifact for their own selfish ends, the team must do their best to get along with each other, as best as any family in the far reaches of space can do.  Just to complicate things further, one of these characters may actually hold the key to keeping the entire universe in one piece.  That's a big responsibility for any alien family, especially a family that can't seem to stop fighting long enough to make progress with their mission.

Besides a wraparound cover featuring all new artwork, this collection also includes the special "zero" preview issue along with all four issues of the original series.  Additional extras include biographies of all the team members and supporting cast, and a "behind the scenes" step-by-step tour of the creative process: from the thumbnails to the photoshoots to the painted cover.

Whether you have read the entire series, or are new to the Omega Paradox universe, this upgraded trade edition will prove that Sparacio, Ng and Rivera have unleashed one of the sharpest creator-owned science fiction series in years.  With an illustrator that studied for several years under Will Eisner himself, the quality of this series speaks for itself.   

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

What Lurks in the Longbox? #43 - The Comicverse #3 !

The Comicverse #3
Awakening Comics
$4.00, B&W, 33 pgs.
Writer, Co-Plotter: Bianca Alu-Marr
Artist, Co-Plotter: Steve Peters

Steve Peters sketches and promotes The Comicverse on Free Comic Book Day!

I was very pleased to arrive home and find a package containing a review copy of the latest issue of The Comicverse.  For those who have not read my previous reviews of this fun series, it explores the adventures (and misadventures) of a group of characters working and socializing in a comic book store that is located on a space station.  The story is also told through installments on the creators' website and Facebook page, which are eventually compiled into issues of the series itself. 

Reiko Starr is the owner of The Comicverse, a comic shop located on the Tianhtar Space Station, a prime location for visits from many different types of alien species.  Just like the comic shop owners here on Earth, Reiko and his employee Ying (a friendly, if somewhat mischievousness dragon) have to contend with obsessive fans, unruly customers, and even the occasional flirtation with a female customer.  This is where Aki comes into the picture.  Aki is a beautiful but tough space pilot and courier that has a lot of history of her own (which begins to be revealed in this issue).  There is also an artificial intelligence unit called "Smart Rack" that may not always be likable, but is also one of the most important aspects of the comic shop of the future.  Smart Rack has the ability to print comics using "smart paper" that allows ink to settle permanently on the molecules of the comic, once the customer decides which comic book they wish to purchase.  Needless to say, this device would probably eliminate the phrase "We're sold out" at comic shops here on Earth. 

Issue #3 contains a lot of bang for the reader's buck, starting with the extended number of pages in this issue.  Reiko and Aki go on their first date, and readers will get to find out more about how the space station itself operates and provides for its denizens.  Ying is also placed in charge of the store while Reiko is gone, which leads to a startling revelation, when he meets another dragon for the first time, and discovers he is not alone as previously believed.  This mysterious second dragon teaches Ying a valuable lesson, when he finds out that Reiko has not been entirely truthful about the reason for allowing Ying to manage the store by himself.  In between all these events, life at the comic shop rolls on, just like it does here on Earth, and there are hints as to when the storyline takes place in Earth history. 

Besides the extended main story, this issue also has a humorous bonus story, and a special appearance by the one and only Fred Hembeck!

One of the great aspects of this series is that the characters are continuing to grow.  What could have been a one-note gag about people working in a comic shop in space has gone far beyond the original concept, by exploring the growth of each character in more depth than what readers will often find in a comic from the Big Two. 

The art by Steve Peters on this title is a huge part of the fun.  The Comicverse is one of those series that rewards readers who pay attention to the small details.  With a "smart rack" that can create any comic the customer desires comes unlimited possibilities for the store's customers.  The cover for this issue is just one example, as you can see titles as diverse as Rom: Spaceknight and The Walking Dead displayed on the same comic rack.

I have been reviewing this series since the beginning of its run, and each issue has truly been better than the previous one.  What does the future hold for these characters?  Without giving out any spoilers, let's just say things are about to get a lot more serious for the cast, as the world of pop culture starts to collide with real world events. 

Following up on the success of the first three issues, Creators Bianca Alu-Marr and Steve Peters are introducing their first spinoff series: the Kickstarter funded Comicverse: Behind The Counter!  Stay tuned for a review of this series soon!

The Kickstarter event for Comicverse: Behind The Counter was a success!