Gamekeeper

I was, am, and forever will be, an ardent admirer of Virgin Comics.  The company published a handful of amazing, Indian-inspired stories between 2006 and 2008 before closing its doors and morphing into something now known as Liquid Comics, an imprint published by Dynamite Comics, and primarily used as a creative playground for creators to explore works that may be developed as films or digital comics.

While I loved the Indian-based series – Devi, Sadhu, Ramayan 3392 AD, and India Authentic,  there was also a Director’s Cut line of comics where film directors would create their own series, such as John Woo’s Seven Brothers and, today’s featured book, Guy Ritchie’s Gamekeeper.

The essence of this story is nothing terribly new – a man with a very dark past gets pulled out of his seemingly peaceful life and must risk everything to protect the ones he loves and exact the vengeance he requires.  But the execution of this story is simply stunning.  The story by Andy Diggle is tight, clean, and truly suspenseful, but it’s the art that really nails it.  Mukesh Singh did a lot of art for Virgin Comics (as well as an upcoming film with Grant Morrison called 18 Days that looks phenomenal – check out the companion art book we have at the library), and it’s all amazing, but the choices in this piece are just stunning.  His lines are edgy and unique, and his color washes run from full blue shades, full red, black and white for flashback sequences, and a marvelous green texture to one sequence that still sticks in my head for the vibrancy of the color.  Overall, it’s a great read, an all-too-short run, but one you shouldn’t miss.

Also, if you love this story, there was a second 5-part miniseries published soon after the first, but it was never collected.  Seek out your local comic shop or a good online comic retailer to find some copies.

The empire that could have been

There is nothing to compare with discovering a new author, musician, or actor at the beginning of their career and realizing you can follow along with that artist and watch them grow.  In 1995 I read a book called Relic by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child, loved it, and have now been along for the ride ever since, reveling in over 20 books from their combined and solo efforts.  It doesn’t happen very often, so when something new and different catches my eye, I tend to jump.  In comics, there are always new writers and artists coming up through the ranks, but rarely does an entirely new company emerge.  comics 1DC and Marvel have been the giants of the industry for decades, but every now and then something comes along like Dark Horse, Image, or Dynamite, to name but a few.  One of the most interesting companies to emerge recently was Virgin Comics, so named because it was backed by Sir Richard Branson and his Virgin label, but founded by Indian writers and creators Gotham Chopra, Suresh Seetharaman, Deepak Chopra (yes, that Deepak Chopra), Shekar Kapur, and Sharad Devarajan.  And this was what interested me the most: Virgin Comics was going to focus on Indian myths and stories – stories already replete with fantastic characters and legendary histories – and bring them to a global audience via their perfect medium, comics.  This company received rave critical reviews, but had a hard time in the marketplace and only lasted just over two years, 2006-2008.

 Many people, however, including myself, LOVED Virgin Comics, and the library owns all of the trade paperbacks they released in their far too short lifespan.  Their flagship title was called Devi, and it is a perfect example of Virgin Comics ideals.  comics 2Devi, in this incarnation, is a warrior goddess who has been reborn in the body of a woman named Tara Mehta in Sitapur, India.  In the course of the four collections we have, she must once again fight the evil god Bala – an eternal battle, it would seem – deal with those authorities curious about Tara’s involvement in the odd things that seem to happen to those around her (Tara is the living host of Devi, so what happens to Devi happens to Tara, whether she likes it or not), and once she comes to term with her new powers and responsibilities, becomes a kind of guardian and protector for the people of Sitapur.

The art is amazing, the stories engaging and exciting, and the comic overall is the perfect mix of mythological gods and monsters with a modern sense of action and suspense.  I am still saddened by the loss of Virgin Comics, but we fortunately have all the collections to read over and over again.  I’ll focus on some of their other titles in the future, but just know that anything with the Virgin Comics imprint is another example of something unique and daring that left us far before its time.

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