Happy Release Day! FALLING TO ASH by Karen Mahoney

Karen Mahoney

Cover Copy: You can’t choose your family… living or dead.

Trapped between two very different worlds, newly made vampire Moth is struggling to find her place in either. Not only does she have to answer to her strict Irish-Catholic Dad, but her over-protective maker, Theo, is intent on making her the star attraction in his powerful Boston vampire clan. Moth will have to pull off the double-act of the century to please both of them…

Adding to her problems is the dangerously attractive Jason Murdoch, a trainee vampire hunter who loves to play cat and mouse in his spare time (Jace = cat; Moth = mouse). But when the teenagers of Boston’s wealthiest families start to disappear, it forces Moth and Jace into an uneasy truce. Will they be able to solve the mystery behind the disappearances—before someone winds up undead?

AvailableAmazon UK | Kindle UK | Goodreads

Don’t miss the Moth web comic!

View a new page each week at www.mothtales.com.

Click on image to view at website.

“Take a Chance” ~ Comic Book Premiere

October proved to be an exciting month for the urban fantasy fans that enjoy comic books to fill in the gaps between book installments. As it turned out and spread like forest fire C.E Murphy, one of the more industrious and prolific authors on the urban fantasy scene, has joined forces with Dabel Brothers Publishing to set a new comic book project into motion called “Take a Chance”. I am using December, the actual release month, to remind people to go out and buy their issues as fast as possible.

The creative team behind “Take a Chance” involves artist Ardian Syaf (”The Dresden Files”), colorist Jason Embury (”Hero By Night”, “Shadowhawk”), letterer Melissa S. Kaercher (”Dr. Blink, Superhero Shrink”), cover artist Scott Clark (”X-Men”, “Stormwatch”), and yes of course writer C.E. Murphy (”The Walker Papers”, “The Negotiator Trilogy”). It is also worth mentioning that the series is creator-owned and available for pre-order. The first volume consists from five mini issues.

The premise sounds interesting enough to give it a shot and grow to love it. I couldn’t have formulated it any better in my own words, so I am quoting the press release:

“Five years ago, Frankie Kemp’s four-year old son was shot and killed in the crossfire of gang warfare. Desperate to do something to protect other children, Frankie became “Chance”, a masked vigilante in a world without superheroes.

However, that all changed when a genetically engineered virus escaped North Korean scientists and spread world-wide. Intended to create a super-soldier program, the virus improved on the basic human template–when it didn’t sicken or kill. Now the world is suddenly littered with super-powered beings, and Chance must rediscover her place in the changing world around her.”

For C.E Murphy this has been a five-year road to walk, drive by in a coach pulled by unicorns or to fly on the back on a dragon; depends on how fantastical you want the metaphor to be. She deserves the congratulations for making yet another dream come true. Here is was the happy writer shares with the public.

“Take A Chance has been a years-long pet project, built on the shoulders of my insanely talented artist and colorist, Ardian Syaf and Jason Embury. We’ve been on a long road, but I was convinced that patience would bring me to the right publisher, and working with the Dabel Brothers has proved me right,” says C.E. Murphy. “They’re as excited about the comic as I am, which is saying quite a lot–finally seeing it come to fruition is just amazing.”

And what wonderful fruition this project promises. Apart from the sheer joy of reading a fresh new title set in a new world, the reader will also contribute to the art form that has conquered the modern world. C.E Murphy has solemnly promised that after paying her team she will give out 50% of the proceedings from her first issue to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. If there are people, who don’t know what this Fund does, it preserve the First Amendment rights of comic book shop owners, artists, writers, publishers, and most recently readers from spurious prosecution.

The remaining money will be turned back over into producing further issues of the comic book. When the first five are collected into trade format, 10% of the proceeds on that will also go to the Fund, which means at the end of the day, C.E Murphy rests with not a single dime in her pocket. That is why it is important to be active, when the series debuts. Readers will not only leave with a new world in their hands, but will contribute to the growth and stability of the much beloved comic book industry.

Posted by Harry Markov

Comic Book Week: The Aftermath

Now after the fun time I had compiling the reviews for Comic Book Week I went on to search for information on the Internet on comic books and well as it turns out a lot of people dedicate their time to this particular medium and it’s been an awesome train ride. I even got urban fantasy author CE Murphy bound by her word to descrive how cool it actually is to write her own comic book series and that post will come and smack you up out of nowhere, but before that let me overload your senses with links.

BlackGeekdom has been referred to me by a very good friend and it always feature trailers, posters and news concerning comic book franchise, the only distinction being that the focus falls on the racial minorities portrayed in such works of fiction. A really interesting find, although the comment posting option has been neglected.

Variety here is a bit of a mystery since it offers a distinct amount of materials on music, movies, books and comic books and to me it slightly looks like a review and multimedia amazon. It has volumes of information and could be useful. Check it out.

The Comic Treadmill is solely devoted to comic books, excessive information about them and has been doing so without a break for five years. It’s a whole new universe out there and if you plan to submerge in this world fully, this is the pond you have to jump in with stones strapped to you.

Now Mike Sterling’s Progressive Ruin is a quite the bizzare find and I can only squee, because it hosts posts with the crazy 50’s and 60’s comic book art, which look more like the cartoons on the Sunday newspaper entertainment page. Funky and so retro.

These are mostly blogs. On a whole new level are the sites dedicated to promoting, reviewing and overloading your senses with comic books. These are to be called the titans in what they do and without explaining what they do here are the links:
1) IGN Comics
2) Newsarama
3) Comic Book Resources
4) CC2K [which is a bse site for much more outside the medium, all pop culture though]

And to conclude here is the list of the free online comics I follow almost regularly!
1) Ctrl+Alt+Del [when people who game come with too bright of ideas, fun and obnoxious slaughter ensues in a demented mind]
2) Earthsong [a very original fantasy with the cast of different races that makes sense and builds to an interesting situation]
3) Least I Could Do [when an average woman’s man has the resources and the bright ideas of an eight year old, hilarity and obscene scenrios ensue]
4) Errant Story [a blast to read, literally]
5) Nuklear Power: 8 bit Theatre [for all the people who like stabbing and killing huge numbers of people and make jokes about it, oh it’s a D&D parody too, so definitely read it]
6) One Liners [offensive, but enjoyably twisted]
7) One of Those Days [when a girl has to deal with an unpredictable curse]
8) VG Cats [major laugh and mildly twisted, but you probably got that already]

Comic Book Week: “Runaways”

For the last post in the Comic Book Week I have prepared a review on an ongoing series by Marvel called “The Runaways”, which have been launched since 2003, amount to 30 issues until the end of volume two and have won multiple awards. Volume three has launched since August 27th 2008.

Due to the spanning story arcs in these thirty issues, I will keep the content to bare minimum, bringing only the essence of the story and why it deserves all excess attention. As genre, “The Runaways” is teen drama with superpowers. A group of six teens find out on a meeting of their families that their parents are villains called the Pride, who wish to bring down the apocalypse upon Earth and rebuilt it with the power of ancient Biblical giants. Volume one deals with the teens forming a group called the Runaways and fight their parents, ultimately leading to the deaths of the Pride and their leader Alex Wilder, who in the end has betrayed his team.

What grabs from volume one is the diversity between the six members of the Runaways and the six families in the Pride. Niko Minoru is the daughter of dark wizards and possesses the Staff of One, which can cast spells with a trigger command. Molly Hayes is a twelve year old mutant with super strength and invulnerability and is daughter to telepaths. Gertrude York has a telepathic link to a dinosaur brought from the future by her time traveling parents. Chase Stein is the son of evil scientists inventors and operates their gadgets and is the team’s getaway guy, while Alex Wilder leads the team and has no superpowers. The last member Karolina Dean is a solar power alien being, who can create force blasts and fields, can float and is glowing like a kaleidoscope.

The series overall is humor laced, the call of the Runaways being “Don’t Die” and puns and funny references popping every page, while all the characters learn to work together and get likewise in funny and dramatic situations. Every super team that travels with a leaping mechanical frog, reside in a fallen underground manor is one people must read about. Immediately after the Pride has been killed and exposed, Captain America has the team split and spread to social services, foster homes and camps for mutant children. Volume two marks the reunion of the team as the fight with the new villains of L.A of plunging the city in chaos, the one thing the Pride did well. Along the way new team members join the group like Victor Mancha, the son of Ultron, Xavin, a super skrull in training, and Klara Prast a chlorokinetic like Poison Ivy from 1907. Usually the acquirement of new members comes at the death of another to keep the number, which has grown drastically by the end of volume two.

Untypical of most super hero teams, the Runaways break most of the clichés connected with the myth. First of all there is no spandex and hidden identities involved, although volume one featured the group adopting alias, which they later dropped. The ratio between males in females is also switched the majority of the hitting force being female, something untypical in most popular superhero teams. The story lines are toned down and don’t all involve saving the world on regular basis, but more like taking one villain at a time and resolving the issues between team members. The characters themselves bicker, fight argue and resemble nothing to the well trained fighting machines out there.

Fresh angles involve the lesbian tendencies of Karolina, who ultimately involves with Xavin, her betrothed fiancé, who changes his gender to her liking. Homosexualism hasn’t been dealt with in many comic books before and definitely serves to make the characters more complex. Another interesting moment to note is that most function of the characters are unfitting of their personality. Niko is the most emotionally involved and needy of everyone, but still manages to lead the team usually alive out of a mission, while a twelve year old girl is the brawn of the group. I can go on and on about what makes the series, so great, but you have to read all the stories of writers Brian Vaughn for most of the series, Joss Whedon from issue 24 to 30 and now Terry Moor for volume three and artists Adrian Alphona, Michael Ryan and Humberto Ramos, for volume three.

Comic Book Week: “X-Men: Phoenix Warsong”

“X-Men: Warsong” is a five issue limited series released 2006 to follow the ever successful Phoenix saga. Chronologically it follows the Endong miniseries, where the Phoenix force resurrects Jean Grey again and hunts down Cyclops led by Grey’s feelings. However this time Jean Grey is not the target, Emma Frost has to face a painful truth and more about the Weapon X program is revealed. Due to the complexity of the storyline this review will definitely have major spoiler moments.

The series begins with fragments of the Phoenix force making contact with the Stepford Cuckoos, which have been reduced from quintuplets to triplets. At first they develop the power to levitate, which was viewed as a normal secondary mutation, but when the girls burst out in flames and speak of being life and death itself, things go downhill. The mystery over the girls suddenly increases as the two deceased sisters Sophie and Esme raise from the dead. Emma discovers that her ovary has been used by Doctor Sublime to create a thousand clones of herself, all identical, five of which were the Cuckoos. On the other hand it is revealed the Cuckoos have metal in their bones and communicate with some sort of a binary code, thus processing heavy loads of information.

A team of X-men is dispatched at Sublime’s secret laboratory after tracking the sisters with Cerebra. In the meantime Celeste becomes the dominant mind and thus the host of the whole Phoenix fragment, while her sisters have been trapped into machine that wires them to all of their sisters, thus activating them. Doctor Sublime informs the X-Men that the Cuckoos were designed as the perfect weapons to erase all mutants from the earth and an army of Cuckoos called the Thousand-in-One. But Celeste still maintaining her individuality works with the X-men to short circuit all of the girls. The crisis overcome, the Phoenix is split between the three original sisters and encased in their hearts, now made of diamonds.

To tell the truth, I was torn between “Endsong”, featuring the resurrection story of Jean Grey, and “Warsong” series, since Jean Grey is one of my personal favorite characters, but considering the fresh angle of the latter and the sheer volume encompassed in just five issues I knew this was the winner. The Phoenix saga has spanned for quite awhile now Jean Grey being the white phoenix, the good phoenix, the dark phoenix, dying and coming back. In the end Marvel decided to freshen up the story line by adding new elements to the mix. After Emma Frost experiences the host relationship with the Phoenix, we see new hosts. The Cuckoo sisters are relatively new characters and people haven’t seen much of them and this is so to say their first apocalyptic major story line.

This series has five major strengths. 1) Tyler Kirkham’s (Also Here)artwork is one of the most exceptional and detailed example of why I love comic books and how I usually visualize stories, either from novels or for writing. 2) The new hosts have been very unlikely, but a very pleasant choice for the readers can experience the hivemind communication and relatiosn between the three sisters. Having such power and switching it before settling for a dominant mind has been interesting. 3) The Cuckoos’ origins as Weapon XIV. Honestly as far as the Weapon X program goes its highest achievements have been Wolverine and Sabertooth and X-23, although she is meant as a clone of Wolverine. 4) Having Emma Frost as their DNA mother, which leads to the finale where they develop the same secondary mutation to change into a diamond shape and encasing the Phoenix force. 5) The awesome reference to the Stepford Wives by Ira Levin and the fight for individuality, which is being lost. Although the sisters have always wanted to be understood and escape their visage as ice queens, in the ultimate end, when they turn their hearts to diamonds they became hollow and soulless, obedient and emotionless, the perfect humans in any way, the perfect machines as well. Obedient and detached. Thank you writer Greg Pack.

Comic Book Week: “Fray” {Buffy in the Future}

Comic books run on ideas from a lot of mediums from computer games such as the Lara Croft series and World of Warcraft, from books like the Dresden Files is and the new trend in acquiring ideas is to use TV shows. The earliest example to really pick up is “Fray” by Dark Horse. This eight issue limited series published 2002 is based on the Buffy verse. Creative team of Joss Whedon, Andy Owens and Karl Moline spin some mojo on what the Slayer might be in the far future.

In a nutshell, “Fray” poses the question “What if Buffy was meant to awaken several hundred years in the future?” The Slayer in this case is Melaka Fray a 19-year old chosen as the new slayer, centuries after Buffy had done her job and all of the magic and demons have disappeared. However she hasn’t had the physical link with her ancestors and to push her education and fight the new rise of the vampires, a trainer is called, but this time not from the Watchers, but from the demons. Urkonn looks like a Diablo in miniature. I doubted that eight issues were enough to cover the whole ordeal, which was season one of the show aka Fray getting into the mechanics of her new destiny, train, face her first fears, overcome them and then stop the world from going on a trip to hell. Mister Whedon did it snappy and although it made sense, I would have wished the final battle not to be as easily fought and with a heavier outcome.

Of course every hard core Buffy fan knows that not so much plot is the strength as the mythology and mainly the action scenes. I think “Fray” offered Whedon a totally new frontier to explore his own universe. First off, the world as a setting is every bit dystopian and futuristic as one can expect with radiation having hit humanity hard. Looks do not fear people anymore since most have many deformities anyways. Vampires are reduced to lurks, thought by society as defected blood junkies, and people with extraordinary strength are a fact due to steroids. On this background Fray’s heightened strength, dexterity, healing factor and speed are nothing to be admired and don’t cause much of a ruckus. There’s no magic and pretty much any known information about the past is unknown for the lower circles, to which Fray belongs.

Another very interesting moment is the fact that the slayer has a twin. Now this may be a great spoiler alert for anyone to enjoy the evil scheming and the plot, so I will be very vague about it. In her essence a slayer is the strength of thousand bodies, at least my definition, and the strength of the experience of all the rest before her. One without the other doesn’t do well on their own, so what Whedon does is cut the link and give a piece to each of the twins. For me it was an interesting and gratifying experience to see this theme integrated, so I will refrain from spoiling it too.

I couldn’t find much on the artists, which is a shame really, but as far as my opinion goes “Fray” exudes a vibrant and electric feel of colors to present this cyberpunk story. This is a Buffy spin-off and as far as the show goes it’s more like a funny fantasy show with horror elements and the comic book carries the spirit. As a conclusion this is interesting to read, not bad and certainly a different side from the slayer universe.

Comic Book Week: “Hack/Slash”

To continue with the morbid presence of horror in the comic book industry I have chosen a Devil Due Publishing title for this post. “Hack/Slash” is an ongoing series, which started out with tie-ins with other titles in the publishers and one shot test drives until the fans demanded more and from May 2007 “Hack/Slash” has become a series with 15 issues so far. I personally have had the opportunity to read up until issue 12.

As the title suggest violence is not far away and if you don’t mind movies like the Saw series, then this is just up your alley. The heroine is Cassandra “Cassie” Hack and she is a slasher of slashers. If you wonder what a slasher is, here is my definition: impulsive, insane and therefore totally twisted serial killers, who are into the pain of their victims. Having been raised by the Lunch Lady, a slasher with an affinity into butchering people that annoy her to meat products, it’s safe to say that Cassie is not on the bright and sunny side of the world. Armed with a club, a loud mouth and an attitude she takes on to kill all the other psychos out there. On her mission, assistance comes in the face of Vlad, the Meat Man, who is a deformed hulk wearing a gas mask and two former slasher victims saved by Cassie.

The series are too early to string the clues from every issue into a bigger plot, although questions about Cassandra’s missing father pop up and how he is connected with the government. Along the way though we get a lot of blood and some pretty original ideas incorporated into Cassie’s missions. True to the horror genre to involve the paranormal Cassandra Hack faces demonic rockers, who have sold their souls for fandom and offer virgin sacrifices to the old ones to fornicate. Attempt at tentacle porn ensues as well as Elvis and a talking demon dog trying to finish Cassie off. In further issues we have a zombie Ms. America involved in a hot tub club with lesbian college girls imitating Elizabeth Bathory, who bathed in blood.

The creative mesh of such popular elements is definitely refreshing, as the popular comic book crossovers have shown the formula as profitable. Literature, TV and comic books have shown the necessity of a very strong woman, because men like hot women with weapons to do martial arts and be violent. Ms. Hack is the wrestler version of that ideal and simply watching her handle men, women, alien Cthulhu gods and even children with a baseball bat is a treat like no other. Cassandra puts pretty much every other power house heroine to shame and even Buffy, yes even her. High tolerance for pain, having a mother as serial killer, possibly asexual or a lesbian and she has homicidal dreams about armed dairy products.

Tim Seely is the man behind the gruesome idea of the whole twisted Beauty and the Beast killing duo series and to think this man started as a children books’ illustrator. His hobby does involve watching slasher movies and compiling his ideas for the story. The artists totally evade me, but as it would seem every issue has a new face. Some of the names are Emily Stone, Stefano Caselli and Fernando Pinto, but although the crew shifts, the grungy kill-them-all-in-explicit detail remains, which is the heart of the story. Be sure to check it out.