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Friday, March 06, 2020

Comic Cuts - 6 March 2020

I've reached the proofing stage on Rocket: The First Space-Age Weekly and I'm pleased to show off the cover (above), which mirrors an issue of the comic itself, with some tweaking. It's a tradition of these books where the covers followed a pattern. I did the same thing nine years ago with the very first index published by Bear Alley.

That first book Hurricane and Champion is getting a slight make-over. The subsequent indexes included specials and annuals in the index, but I didn't have the full details back in 2011 when I was working on the book. I now have information on the full runs of both sets of annuals, so I'm going to incorporate them into the book. If you've already bought a copy, don't worry – I published the information here on Bear Alley years ago. This is simply an update, not a wholesale revision.

I'm also thinking of bringing together Eagles Over the Western Front as a single volume. It worked well as three smaller volumes, as there was less initial outlay and that was spread across three titles. This was when I was testing the market and I wasn't sure it would withstand a book for which I was going to have to charge eighteen quid or thereabouts. I'm more confident now and sales of the individual volumes have slowed to almost zero.

I'm not sure what will be next, I might put together some of the stuff I've written about the Trigan Empire series. I wrote something like 55,000 words for the limited edition that came out in Holland in 2004-09 but I'd like to make that work available to a wider audience, especially now that Rebellion are putting out the Don Lawrence episodes again.

I also desperately need an artist who fancies doing four covers for a batch of reprints of some 1930s crime novels. I've tried doing something myself but I'm really unhappy with the results. What I really need is someone to produce some Eric R. Parker / Sexton Blake Library cover art. Drop me a line if you're interested.

There are a few projects in the planning stage, but I don't have a clue which one will surface first.I need to figure out what I can finance.

My impressions of Altered Carbon season two. There are spoilers, so skip to the end of the column if you don't like that kind of thing.

I watched the first season of this almost exactly two years ago and thought it was fantastic, with a twisted plot and special effects worthy of the novel. Joel Kinnaman was a solid lead character as the book's hero, Takeshi Kovacs, although within the world of Altered Carbon, he had been re-sleeved, his personality and memories downloaded into the body of a former cop named Elias Ryker. We were introduced to the original Kovacs, played by Will Yun Lee, who reprises the role for parts of season two, giving the show a useful throughline. The new season also sees the return of Quellcrist Falconer (Renee Elise Goldsberry), who trained him as an elite Envoy, and artificial intelligence Poe (Chris Conner), who, following events in season one, is glitching, which leads it to underperform.

The new Kovacs is sleeved in an enhanced military Envoy body (Anthony Mackie, Falcon in the MCU). In the opening episode, he is being sought out at a bar on Magda Prime by a bounty hunter, Trepp (Simone Missick, Luke Cage's Misty Knight). She is acting on behalf of Horace Axley, a Meth (the nick-name for the ultra-rich who can afford to extend their lives by regular re-sleeving) who wants protection. In return he will reveal Quell's location.

Kovacs wakes up on Harlan's World with everyone around him dead, including Axley. Kovacs risks being killed to get to Tanaseda Hideki, a Yakuza boss whom he knew hundreds of years earlier. Meanwhile, Colonel Carrera (Torben Liebrecht) murders the crime scene investigators at the Axley murder site to protect the rule of Danica Harlan (Lela Loren), who has brought peace to the planet after a civil war against the Quellists.

So far, so confusing, but we're only at the beginning of the second episode and it will take that long for your brain to get you up to speed after being additionally derailed by discovering that Quell is responsible for Axley's murder, leaving Kovacs to take the fall.

If you're to keep track of the plot, I'd suggest you watch the show over as few days as you can (I watched the eight episodes between Friday and Tuesday), just to keep the plot and characters straight in your mind. It doesn't help that, thanks to re-sleeving, you can't be absolutely sure that when you see a character do something, it's really them. (Kovacs' former partner Ortega (Martha Higareda) is re-introduced, for instance,  but is a wholly different person.)

The bottom line is: Is it any good? I'd say yes, once things start to settle down around episode three. There's some bloody futuristic torture and lots of brutal fight scenes; Kovacs is an unstoppable machine but we get to learn more about his past and the past of his sister, Rei (Dichen Lachman), although the heavyweight emotional elements of the story involve Trepp and her family and, surprisingly, Poe and another AI, Dig 301 (Dina Shihabi). There's a little too much digging around in caves and back alleys, rather than the expansive city-scapes of the first season, but it continues to be a dark, uncompromising future noir that will hopefully see another season at least.

We at least have Altered Carbon: Resleeved to look forward to in a fortnight – an anime movie co-written by Dai Sato & Tsukasa Kondo and directed by Jō Nakajima is due for release on 19 March. The film is not based on any of the Kovacs stories by Richard Morgan, although he did a continuation to the original trilogy as a comic book – Altered Carbon: Download Blues – last year. While I'm talking Morgan, I've updated my Richard Morgan cover gallery, although I have to say his UK paperback covers don't make for a particularly exciting gallery.

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