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What condition do you predict the world to be in 20 years from now? Well, in Titanium Rain the future looks bleak as the continent of Asia has erupted into a civil war, forcing countries to take sides while the United Nations is caught in a quagmire, preventing it from intervening. The Chinese Jade Empire has begun their tyrannic bid for control of the Eastern Hemisphere, but the Sino Union, the land of Free Tibet, and of course, the good ol’United States of America are the only nations who have the stones to stand in their way. The members of the Jade Empire have commenced what they call their ‘Divine Revolt,’ and by outnumbering the Allied Citizens nearly 3 to 1, engage in all out warfare in their bid for supreme domination! Titanium Rain is published by Archaia Studio Press, and is written by Josh Finney (Utopiates, Star Trek: Enterprise) with art by both he and his wife, Kat Rocha (Utopiates).

Sometimes writing for a comic web site has it’s perks, as I was forwarded an advance PDF copy of issue #1 by our friend here at the site, Michael Colbert (who is going to be depicted in the book and is good friends with Josh and Kat). After meeting him in my store I was excited to discover what Titanium Rain was all about, and when he sent me the file, I had no clue what to expect. Well, the post analysis is this; Titanium Rain #1 totally exceeded my expectations, and I’m happy to promote it here at Comic Impact because it’s just that good!

The book reads like a thrilling hybrid of the movie Black Hawk Down, the RPG BattleTech, and a game of Risk. It’s made up of intense action sequences mixed with political intrigue on a global scale. It sets the pace right from the opening panel as we read a peaceful quote from the Buddha positioned above a stone statue of him, which is subsequently blown to bits by automatic gunfire. The year is 2031 and weaponry has advanced to include giant mechs armed with machine guns and rocket launchers, and anti-aircraft mechs that resemble giant spiders. A fierce street battle is played out, and when the opposition becomes too much for the American forces to handle, they radio in for some air support- a group of F-35X Hellcat pilots who call themselves Phoenix Squadron.

The air combat commandos are a group of highly trained individuals and Alec Killian, a.k.a ‘Space Case’ is the leading player of the story. We are introduced to the rest of the crew (Buffalo- the abrasive one, Chess- the cocky leader, Happy- an intelligent British woman, and Peanut- the aviator shades-wearing cool dude) as the exposition is dealt with nicely during a round of poker. The pilots role play as different factions of the global conflict and gamble accordingly, as Chess draws analogies to the game and their current war-time situation.

Suddenly an emergency alarm goes off and the pilots abandon their hands to take to the skies, heading towards the contested mainland in China where the fiercest fighting (and our opening battle scene) is taking place. This is when we learn that there is more to the group of air commandos than initially meets the eye…. Take my word for it- I didn’t see this reveal coming, and it’s an awesome surprise!

Titanium Rain is everything you wish G.I. Joe would be, as it significantly ups the bar for military themed comic books. Archaia Studio Press joins the ranks of indie companies like Asylum Press who, despite being one of the little guys, refuse to shirk quality in favor of quantity. Finney’s writing is intricate and thoroughly researched, while he and Rocha’s pencils are clean and shockingly realistic (their style reminds me a lot of Mike Choi’s work), complete with bright, vibrant colors. Check out these quotes and preview images from the issue:

“To be alive is to be at odds with the world.” – Alec Killian

“There’s only one way to be at peace with nature… and that’s to give up the fight.” – Killian

“You know how the public is… say you wanna improve on God’s design and everyone gets squeamish.” – Mister Bramford

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Titanium Rain #1 (of 6) debuts in August, and for more information check out the official website by clicking this link. Also, please visit Mike Colbert’s website on Cancer Research by clicking here.

Seriously, how bad ass does this book look!

babbit1Upon completing the 5 issue mini-series X-Men: Magneto Testament (the origin story of Magneto and his life living in a concentration camp), I read the afterword in the back of issue #5, and was introduced to a woman named Dina Babbitt. Before completing this mini-series I had never heard of Mrs. Babbitt, but now having been introduced to her and her struggle, I feel the need to spread the word about her battle with a Polish historical museum that refuses to return her art work.

Mrs. Babbitt’s story is that while she was a prisoner in Auschwitz, she painted a mural of Snow White on the children’s barracks as a way to bring a sliver of light into the lives of the kids who were dying there. She knew that painting this simple mural was a risk to her own life, and upon discovery by the Nazi’s, she was surprisingly spared brutal execution because of her talent.

Dr. Josef Mengele (who’s M.O. was to prove to the world that all races were inferior to the ‘Master Race’ by performing sickening experiments and tests on human beings) ordered Babbitt to paint portraits of Gypsy prisoners. Mengele believed that the quality of photographs weren’t good enough to show the racial inferiorities of the Gypsies, so by having an artist depict them instead of a camera lens, he’d get the required detail to prove his theory. Mrs. Babbitt knew that once her portraits were completed, her models would be killed. So, she took as long as possible to complete her paintings as an honorable (yet futile) way to prolong the lives of the people she painted. Dina created an estimated 11 portraits during her time in Auschwitz.

Towards the end of the war when Soviet troops were approaching the concentration camp, the Germans fled and forced their Jewish prisoners to take a death march from the camp. She and her mother survived and were ultimately liberated. Dina settled in Prague where she met and married Arthur Babbitt, who ironically was the lead animator of the character ‘Dopey’. Dina moved to Hollywood, and from then on worked as an assistant animator for Jay Ward Productions, Warner Brothers, and MGM. She has illustrated such characters as Daffy Duck, Wile E. Coyote, Speedy Gonzalez, and Cap’N Crunch.

However, in 1963 the Auschwitz State Museum (a Polish-funded museum located on the site of the former death camp) purchased 6 of Dina’s paintings from a local resident, and later the museum acquired a 7th. In 1973 museum officials identified Babbitt as the painter of the works (as they were all signed by her)  and contacted the artist. Dina immediately flew to Poland expecting to take her paintings home with her.

That didn’t turn out to be the case.

The museum officials told Dina she could not take them, so she tried again in 1997 to obtain possession of her property. This time she was accompanied by Katie Couric and a camera crew from NBC-TV’s Today Show. However, the museum denied her once more. Says Dina of the paintings, “It’s like a part of my heart is still in Auschwitz.”

“Over the years the Auschwitz Museum has offered several explanations for it’s refusal to return the paintings to Dina. The museum has claimed that the educational value of displaying the paintings outweighs Dina’s right to them. Dina has pointed out that the same educational goal would be achieved by displaying high quality reproductions. In fact, during her visit in 1997, Dina found that some of her Gypsy portraits on display were reproductions, NOT originals. The museum rotates the originals with reproductions.

The museum has asserted that returning Dina’s paintings might encourage other Holocaust survivors to seek the return of their property from museums, thus depriving museums of some artifacts. But it has not explained why a museum’s right to display a particular item should necessarily trump an individuals right to his or her property.

Officials of the Auschwitz Museum have been quoted as claiming that Dr. Mengele is the legal owner of the paintings. In response, 50 prominent attorneys sent a letter to the museum, calling that claim “preposterous and offensive.” Their letter noted: “A war criminal does not deserve to enjoy the fruits of his crimes. Mrs. Babbitt was coerced, on pain of death, to paint these portraits. She did not voluntarily enter into a business relationship with Mengele. He cannot be regarded as a patron who commissioned the art work.”

In 2001, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed a resolution, sponsored by Rep. Shelly Berkley of Nevada, recognizing “the moral right of Dina Babbitt to obtain the artwork she created” and urging the President and the Secretary of State “to make all efforts necessary to retrieve” the paintings. The resolution also instructed the State Department to undertake “immediate diplomatic efforts” to secure the return of the artwork.

But the Polish government and the Auschwitz Museum have ignored the Congressional resolution and the State Department has not applied the pressure necessary to resolve the problem.

Meanwhile, the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, a research and education institute in Washington, D.C., mobilized 450 cartoonists and comic book creators from around the world to sign a petition to the museum, urging a return of the paintings.

As Dina’s struggle has become known, many people have written to the museum (muzeum@auschwitz.org.pl) in support of her cause. But despite the growing tide of public sympathy for Dina, the Auschwitz Museum has refused to yield.

And so Dina, now 84, continues to wait and hope that one day, the museum will realize the wrong it has committed and will finally give back her paintings.

How long will this outrage continue? How long will the international community accept this injustice? How much more suffering must Dinah Babbitt endure?”

This quote is taken from the 6 page comic that tells Dina’s story in the back of X-Men: Magneto Testament #5. It was written by Rafael Medoff, penciled by Neal Adams, and inked by Neal and Joe Kubert. Stan Lee wrote the afterword.

Please take a moment to e-mail the Auschwitz Museum in support of Dina.

I picked up Army @ Love from my local comic shop on a whim, knowing nothing about the title. The pages revealed a dark wartime comedy with a complex plot highlighted by a variety of eccentric, zany characters.

Sound interesting? It is.

A brief synopsis:

Present day. Gonlocomo Bay (not a typo), Cuba. Writer Rick Veitch is being tortured by the U.S. Government for creating a comic book that focused on “motivation and morale” of U.S. troops in a wartime situation. This did not please the American black-ties, as they accuse Rick of terrorist activity. Rick’s googling of top secret weapons systems and other suspicious items has forced the government to assume he is a threat to national security. Even so, Rick did mention something intriguing in his comic book; the concept of Temporal Signaling, which allows a mysterious entity to send messages back in time to people who are running a war. Not surprisingly, this information interests the government and they want to know more …

Some characters we meet in this first issue include a couple with an open marriage, an old man who is an experiment for stem cell research, a very horny soldier, and an abominable snow-woman.

Some thoughts on the issue:

-Writer Rick Veitch has created an odd, interesting world for his characters. His writing is entertaining, surprising, and witty, but he introduces too many characters in this first issue. I never thought I’d say this, but the exposition is delivered almost too quickly. Within half a page we meet over ten characters. As a result, it is easy to lose track of who is who in the initial read. On the flip side, with so many characters, Veitch has set up many different plot lines, all of which should be entertaining to watch pan out. Also, props to him for naming a character after himself.

-Inker Gary Erskine produces definite lines and does a great job shading for dramatic effect on the faces of the main players, and colorer Brian Miller only compliments his work.

-As no penciler is credited I am assuming either Veitch or Erskine drew the issue. Whomever penciled, their art is fantastic and what you would expect from a Vertigo publication. The characters facial structures look reminiscent of Steve Dillon’s work on The Preacher, and fits nicely in the style of the book.

-While using misspellings of global locales (Mongrolia, Afbaghistan, for instance) are silly, the book also presents the reader with social issues of the day and satirizes them; the American obsession for ringtones, the porn industry, and even stem cell research, to name a few. These issues play key roles in the subplots mentioned above.

-On a ridiculous note, this issue presents a character who inadvertently makes the argument that bestiality may be justifiable in some cases…

-Some one liners:

“What does it matter anyway? The book didn’t sell well. People aren’t ready to deal with the war yet anyway.” – Rick Veitch

“But Mr. Happy is really happy!” – Loman

“I’m a guy who would give his frontal lobes to play groin hockey with Sylvia Stein!” – Royden

“It may be small, but the new dingus certainly responds to visual stimulus.” – Stelaphane

-As peviously mentioned, the introduction of every prominent character did lead to confusion. I had to constantly flip back to the exposition page in order to follow along with the story. A second read through proved to be beneficial. While I understand the need to expedite the story telling in a six issue mini series, I would have preferred slower pacing with character introduction.

The final word:

While I’m not completely blown away by this premier issue, I’m definitely intrigued. With so many plot lines on the table so soon in the story, Army @ Love has been added to my pull list. After all, I want to know how much love gets made once the bullets start flying!

3/5 stars

Army @ Love #1

When I read the preview for this series in Comic Shop News a few months back I thought what an awesome idea! A ‘What If?’ story dealing with one of the most significant events in American History, World War II, and it poses the question; what if the United States invaded Japan instead of dropping the A-Bomb? Storming Paradise explores that thought, and delivers the neccessary exposition decently in its premier issue.

A brief synopsis:

The American test of the A-Bomb has failed as it has literally blown up in the faces of its test crew. This plunges the reader into the thick of the Americans planning for an invasion of the Japanese homeland, as well as the Japanese preparing for an imminent assault by the Americans.

We are introduced to many characters: A Japanese superior officer, the American brass, two American soldiers who seem to have the potential for being our main characters, an American man who has run from his calling to be a soldier, an American missionary stationed in Japan, some Germans, two recon pilots, and yes, General Patton.

While this issue didn’t necessarily rope me in for the long haul, being short on action and long on exposition, it definitely did not turn me away either.

Some thoughts on the issue:

-Chuck Dixon did a good job with the script. He delivered the expo while giving a good sense of the period. I appreciate how he wasn’t afraid to use the lingo of the time. While it is far from politically correct, it is historically correct and that does not go unappreciated. Ballsy move Mr. Dixon.

-Butch Guice’s pencils were pretty good, but I would have preferred the cover art to reflect more on the interior art. Still, he delivers and his rough edges nearly give the illusion of an old World War II documentary, which is fitting. As with any military comic, it isn’t easy to tell characters apart. It’s simpler for G.I. Joe as they can play to the archetype of their character in the costume (Wild Bill is dressed as a cowboy practically 24/7, so it’s pretty simple to identify him), but for a ‘realistic’ comic like this, only small details differentiate the characters. It was easy enough to track the characters in this premier issue, but only time will tell if this stays the same once the troops start storming the beaches in full battle regalia.

-Carrie Strachan delivered with the coloring, and since there is no inker credited, I’m assuming she inked as well. If that’s the case, she must have had a good time inking because this issue is very heavy on shading and shadows. I think it worked because it set a dark mood for the issue, but as previously stated, it was slightly hindering when attempting to figure out who is who.

-This issue had some great one liners:

“There is no honor in death delivered by machines.”- Japanese General

“We’re looking at over a hundred thousand dead before this bloody mess is over. And those poor damned Japs? A million or more of them will be rejoining Buddha.” -American General

“The only thing I’m worried about- is hosing those little yellow bastards out of the treads of my tank.” – General Patton

-The paper feels really nice. It isn’t the glossy pages we have been accustomed to with recent books, rather it’s more of a papery texture. Which I like.

The final word:

While I’m not completely attached to the characters yet, Storming Paradise is staying on my pull list. If you’re a history/military buff, this book is for you and is a must read. If not, it’s still entertaining enough to stick with. Things are only going to get better since paradise has yet to be stormed. . .

3/5 stars

Storming Paradise #1