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#NewReview: Why ‘New Masters’ is the freshest comic book of 2022 so far

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A recommendation from a friend led me to discover a comic book that’s both thought-provoking and great fun while being an intricately-woven yarn. And that’s just what can fit into this intro!

By Abdulkareem Baba Aminu

The story opens with the following lines: ‘1124 Post Adventu, a few miles East of the Kainji Mines, deep into the Eko Exclusion Zone’. And that’s when we meet Ola, a spunky tech-enhanced teen accompanied by a droid called Àṣẹ. She’s slid down a cable to scavenge but instead finds what could be a large deposit of raw Obsidium, a crucial mineral that has all kinds of individuals in hot pursuit. I immediately fell in love with the characters, but it becomes absolute when the droid asks our heroine if she would like it to “Initiate the pick-race protocol”. The Nigerian in me went ‘squee!’ even as I became even more excited for what was to follow. (Note: For non-Nigerians, to ‘pick-race’ means to run away, or to flee a situation or an individual out of one’s league)

Ola soon tries to offload her precious find, and in the process, we meet some of the most colorful characters I’ve come across since the original Star Wars trilogy or Nnedi Okorafor’s spectacular ‘LaGuardia’ graphic novel. A shifty suya seller-cum-black market dealer, a high-powered committee consisting of humans and aliens, or a couple made up of a Yemi Alade-esque fashionista and a lover from literally another world. It has such a varied cast of characters that a traditional comic book reader might feel overwhelmed. To me though, it was a perfectly-built world, populated by the most realistic characters I’ve come across in science fiction in a long time.

What’s a futuristic yarn set in Nigeria without Lagos, the city we all love and hate in equal measure? Not to mention cameos by Hausa words like ‘Tozo’ when Ola barters for a bit of Suya at Yaba Market, or an earlier-mentioned exclamation of ‘Shaege’ (a corruption of ‘bastard’, weirdly also used to denote chronic badassery).

Also, what’s a futuristic yarn set in Nigeria without Lagos, the city we all love and hate in equal measure? Not to mention cameos by Hausa words like ‘Tozo’ when Ola barters for a bit of Suya at Yaba Market, or an earlier-mentioned exclamation of ‘Shaege’ (a corruption of the Hausa word for ‘bastard’, weirdly also used to denote chronic badassery). Then the cherry – or cherries – on this layered cake: Views of Eko City itself, as well as the slums of Makoko, still sinking even in this far-flung future.

This, the first story arc, is called ‘The Eye of Orunmila’ in reference to a massive status quo-changing trove of knowledge that will change the universe. It also appears to be the chief McGuffin of the story, driving the story forward so well that the following chapters almost have no choice but to follow suit. This brings me to the writing by Shobo Coker, one half of the duo of Nigerian brothers who created this masterpiece, deft in its delivery of character beats, and in its layering of fantastical sci-fi backdrops. The dialogue flows in such an organic way that one could easily forget he is reading a comic book. One word: Bravo.

One minute it looks stark and glisteningly computer-generated a la ‘Blade Runner’, the next it’s as organic and unsettling as some of the most masterful watercolour work currently being done in the medium, a la the production design of Denis Villeneuve’s ‘Dune’ film.

The art, by Shof Coker, is the work of an accomplished illustrator. One minute it looks stark and glisteningly computer-generated a la ‘Blade Runner’, the next it’s as organic and unsettling as some of the most masterful watercolor work currently being done in the medium, a la the production design of Denis Villeneuve’s ‘Dune’ film. Even the lettering is kinetically charged and is part of the artistry which graces the pages of this beautiful comic book. There are also locales as many as they are far-flung from each other, and a distinct and deliberately-done combination of the familiar and the futuristic. One word: Bravo, also.

PR material says it is ‘A vision of West Africa under the thumb of alien colonizers’, wherein ‘A motley crew of outcasts finds themselves caught up in a power struggle for control of an ancient artifact with immense power’. The comic book is also described as ‘A ground-breaking blend of science fiction, adventure, drama, and vibrant Afrofuturism’. I totally agree, even if the correct term is ‘Africanfuturism’, but that’s a fight for another day.

The comic book is also described as ‘A ground-breaking blend of science fiction, adventure, drama, and vibrant Afrofuturism’. I totally agree, even if the correct term is ‘Africanfuturism’, but that’s a fight for another day.

While I’ll be first in line for the inevitable trade paperback edition, something tells me that by the time my mini reading marathon is done, I will have learned more about the world’s present problems in this futuristic tale than anything else. Right now, I’m going to read (and re-read) the second, third and fourth issues, and savor their freshness. This is definitely the most energetic debut of this year so far, and by far.

Rating: 9/10

‘New Masters’ issues 1-4, published by Image Comics, are on sale now. 

COMICS

Lagos Comic Convention 2022: Date announced, new logo unveiled

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The founder of the Lagos Comic Convention took to Facebook to share a brand-new logo for the yearly pop culture event, revealing the date as well.

By Justina Terhember

Ayodele Elegba, founder and director of the Lagos Comic Convention, wrote on Facebook that when he began the event in 2012, all he had was a dream that one day, comic artists in Nigeria would be able to break into the international market, working for major players and giants like Marvel and DC. “My dream has since come true, and the [attendance of the] event has grown from just 300 to 7,000 in 2021. This year, we are going even bigger,” he wrote.

Elegba also added: “Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the official 2022 logo for Lagos Comic Convention 2022,” as an image of the new logo accompanied the post.

“My dream has since come true, and the [attendance of the] event has grown from just 300 to 7,000 in 2021. This year, we are going even bigger.”

A subsequent post also revealed the date to be the 17th of September, 2022. It also teased 200 guest speakers, facilitators, and exhibitors. The post added: “Comics, Animation, Film, Books and Games all coming together at the Landmark Centre in Oniru, Victoria Island, Lagos.”

You can snag tickets HERE, with lower prices offered for early bird purchases and registration. GeekAfrique will be there and will dish out detailed reports, photos, and videos.

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Why I left Marvel Comics, by ex-boss Joe Quesada

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Joe Quesada, Marvel’s former chief creative officer, recently announced his departure from the publishing company and has teased new independent projects. On his Twitter handle, he posted: “When I first jumped into the world of comics, my goal was to create my own characters, stories, and universes. Then, one day Marvel made me an offer that changed the trajectory of my life. But lately, I’ve found myself thinking more and more of my favorite stanza from T.S. Eliot’s Little Gidding, ‘We shall not cease from exploration/And the end of all our exploring / Will be to arrive where we started/And know the place for the first time’.

The post continued: “That’s why it’s both exciting and bittersweet that after discussions with both my family and my family at Marvel, after two plus decades (has it really been that long?), the time has come for me to move on. As you can imagine, my love for the company, its characters, and all my co-workers runs deep, but I have an exciting new chapter that’s about to begin, so the time feels right.”

”My love for [Marvel], its characters, and all my co-workers runs deep, but I have an exciting new chapter that’s about to begin, so the time feels right.”

Quesada became an editor of Marvel Comics’ Marvel Knights line in 1998 before being promoted to editor-in-chief in 2000. “Marvel entrusted me with the keys to the Universe, and has been my biggest supporter ever since,” he said.

Quesada added that he has had the great fortune to stand on the shoulders of giants, and he ensured fans that while he’s stepping away from Marvel, he’s not leaving the comics industry any time soon. “I won’t ever be too far away, cheering my Marvel family on and contributing from time to time, including something I’m thrilled about for later this year. I also have several insanely cool projects of my own that you’ll be hearing about in the coming months, including a short indie film I’m writing and directing. Stay tuned!”

Quesada also expressed pride at what he called Marvel’s ‘rags-to-riches story’, and satisfaction that he accomplished the job he was hired to do twenty-two years ago. He was named chief creative officer of Marvel Entertainment in 2010, a role that had him ensure all portrayals of Marvel characters were accurate and in line with Marvel lore. His position shifted to executive vice president and creative director for Marvel Entertainment in 2019 when Marvel named Kevin Feige as chief creative officer of Marvel.

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COMICS

#SeunSays: Why Bane’s role In Knightfall saga may be overstated

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Is Bane truly the mastermind behind Knightfall he is hailed as, or was he just an opportunist? A super-fan and columnist extraordinaire weighs in on the now-classic storyline.

By Seun Odukoya

The Knightfall saga is revered as one of the most iconic Batman storylines. It featured Batman as he is rarely seen; run ragged to his last breath, exhausted and broken – figuratively and literally – by the end of the run. It was a smash with readers worldwide for several reasons, one of which has been mentioned. A couple other reasons are; it was the reintroduction of a substance Batman had struggled with earlier in his career; venom, and it introduced the much-regarded Bane.

And while Knightfall was good storytelling, how great is its main antagonist, Bane?

Knightfall is the story of how Bane broke the ‘invincible’ Batman. Bane became interested in Batman when one of his prison mates in Pena Duro told him about his hometown Gotham and its indefatigable protector. As the legend of this Dark Knight was confirmed all over the prison, Bane decided that to be indeed feared by all men, he must take this Batman down.

And so it began…

Several issues later, Bane comes to Gotham and starts to monitor a Batman rapidly losing his edge and unable to focus. And he realizes…he is not strong enough to go against this man…this ubermensch. He realizes; The Batman is truly worth every word of his legend.

So what does he do? He breaks out every criminal from Arkham Asylum and watches as a sick, physically drained, and mentally exhausted Batman goes after them and takes them down one after the other. And even though, with every re-apprehended criminal, Batman draws nearer to his breaking point, he pushes through and apprehends every one of the criminals.

He nearly lost his mind twice – beating Victor ZsasZ nearly to death and then giving The Joker the same treatment. He repeatedly refused help from Tim Drake, keeping him on the sidelines on an observe-and-report mission. All of this, combined with his failing health, loss of focus, assumed mourning of his friend Superman, made him easy pickings for an unnaturally enhanced Bane.

So, what exactly is the ‘superhuman feat’ Bane executed that made him one of Batman’s better-revered foes? The only impressive thing (which is really not-so-impressive considering) is Bane figuring out that Bruce Wayne is the mask and Batman is the man’s real face. Everything else has been exaggerated, mostly because of the imposing sight on the last page of Batman #497 – Batman slammed across Bane’s knee – and the sound effects of his spine snapping like so much kindling.

Truth is, Batman lost that fight long before Bane showed up at the Wayne Mansion’s door that night. Another oft-ignored truth is that, despite Batman’s severely weakened state, Bane still had to dose up on Venom to beat Batman the way he did. How many times has he been able to take on Batman, in hand-to-hand combat since then? The only time he seems to have a clear upper hand – at least at the beginning – is when is he operating from the shadows and manipulating Batman, as can also be seen in the Rebirth storyline, I Am Bane.

Also, considering that Batman has been pushed to his physical and mental limits several times before, and by more spectacular opponents also begs the question – exactly what is it about Bane that makes him spoken about the way he is spoken about?

There is a story that happened several years earlier – a miniseries that took a closer look at what would happen if a criminal managed to break through the walls Batman guards his psyche with.

There is a story that happened several years earlier – a miniseries that took a closer look at what would happen if a criminal managed to break through the walls Batman guards his psyche with. Titled Batman: The Cult, the series introduced a villain known as Deacon Blackfire who has allegedly lived for centuries. This skilled and charismatic conman was able to build an army of the homeless in Gotham and hide them away in the sewers, with his ultimate goal being to take over the city.

Blackfire captured Batman who was investigating a series of grisly murders, brainwashed and drugged the Dark Knight, and recruited him to his cause. He even made Batman break his no-killing rule, a move that further haunted the Dark Knight and made him incapable of pursuing him – even after breaking his conditioning. Even the torture and drugging Batman went through at the hands of The Court of Owls in the Snyder/Capullo New 52 Batman run is more organic and creative than Bane simply seizing an opportunity at a convenient time.

There may be other moments, other triumphs in store for Bane, and he may have been a steroid-enhanced giant with genius intellect, an incredible threshold of pain, and amazing fighting skills. The distinction he is yet to truly earn, however, is the title of ‘the man who broke the bat’. There are definitely others more deserving of that title. Blackfire, for one.

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