The world of comics has taken on damn near every topic under the sun. This includes the seemingly endless supply of superheroes (some of whom have been part of weird narratives) to the niche markets that depend on, well, whatever’s on the author’s mind. But within all of that, there’s been a surprisingly limited number of work based on gambling. Sure, there have been comics wherein the protagonists get into some kind of trouble within the walls of a casino or gambling hall, but that’s not what I’m talking about there.
What makes that lack of content even stranger is how nearly all forms of gambling have either become or remained popular forms of gaming-related recreation. That’s especially true with the advent of online casinos that have blown up across the globe. Poker in particular has maintained its status as one of the biggest games, partially because of the anyone-can-win aspect of the web-based play. Just looking at the currently playing numbers listed on the
Betfair poker homepage, there has been anywhere from 15,000 to 17,000 people sitting at the virtual tables as of my writing this. I don’t have to tell you how crazy that amount is, particularly when you factor in all of the other features on that site such as the arcade section.
In spite of all this, the comic book industry has been slowly catching up. There’s the LOST VEGAS series, for example, in addition to the recently Kickstarter-funded TALES FROM LAST VEGAS that’s on the way. But one comic that looks most promising is FINAL 9, a new series by author Anish Patel and illustrator Calvin Innes. The latter is an award-winning artist who has worked with huge companies like Nestle and scribbled some impressive pieces of Lara Croft (Tomb Raider) and the zombie apocalypse.
Together, Patel and Innes have crafted a narrative that centers on the high-stakes, sometimes-seedy realm of tournament poker. According to reports, Patel got the idea back in 2008 after watching a series of actual tournaments on television. He found the aspects of the game gripping, of course, but there was more to it than that. It was the background information that came with each player that made everything more intriguing, though, because it made it more difficult for him to pick a favorite player. That’s when the groundwork for FINAL 9 was laid.
Essentially, Patel’s vision is one that combines aspects of THE WATCHMEN and the film Twelve Angry Men—with poker. Although he didn’t choose to write about actual poker players, he wanted it to remain realistic in terms of what the lifestyle is all about. As a result, he portrayed familiar players in a fittingly more animated fashion, meaning they’re exaggerated versions of their real-life counterparts. Also, the storyline covers the highly competitive matches themselves in addition to everything else from run-ins with mobsters, illegal underground games, and more.
Even though it was set to be released in late 2013, the first issue of FINAL 9 is coming Feb. 1 of this year, according to the comic’s Twitter page.
This is my weekly “news” piece, but I’m starting with an editorial. This year was the first year of my life where I read less Marvel/DC books than those produced by other companies. I’ve started pulling together my “best of the year” list, and more than half the candidates so far are books from Image Comics, Dark Horse, Boom!, and even a few self-published or small press titles. I’ve always been a “superhero” guy, and I’m a big fan of the mythical characters in comics: Spider-Man, Captain America, Batman.
The ones who get reinvented and reimagined every few years but stay true to a core set of principles. So it’s a shock to me that as I look over the year there are so many non-super books on my list. It’s like it happened without my even realizing it.
Are Marvel and DC out of ideas? Sure, that’s partly the case—especially with DC. DC’s big move was to reboot its universe, but within months the titles had already become bogged down in muddled continuity, and the few things that weren’t broken before the New 52 quickly … Broke. On the Marvel side, the Marvel Now! initiative was really (only) about renumbering. Brian Bendis’ work on the X-titles has book solid, but unlike what he did for The Avengers franchise, it hasn’t been groundbreaking. Even the main conceit: Bringing the original X-Men into the current timeline, was watered down by all the other “broken” time stories around the Marvel Universe. Time travel is no longer special: It’s literally everywhere. Age Of Ultron. Hulk: Agent of T.I.M.E. The return of Spider-Man 2099. Similarly, the bleed between the Ultimate and 616 Marvelverses diluted the uniqueness of the former—turning it into just another alternate reality, like the one where the Squadron Supreme came from. It’s not so much that they’re out of ideas, it’s more that Marvel and DC can’t let go of their old ones so new ones can come in.
That’s not to say there haven’t been some shining stars: Superior Spider-Man rejiggered the character just enough to make it an unpredictable, joyous romp without losing the mythology. Hawkeye and Young Avengers pushed the envelope of conventional comic book storytelling. Daredevil embraced all that’s good, and avoided all that’s bad, about episodic corporate super-stories. And DC’s non-canon digital line proved there’s still stories to tell with their comics. They also brought a character from the past into the present, Jonah Hex, and did it much, much better than Marvel did.
So, I’ll start with a few indie news stories in this week’s comic book news post…
ACTION PRESIDENTS. The latest “action” title by Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey is out on digital stands everywhere. Their previous works, including a comprehensive history of comic books and wonderful (and educational!) “Action Philosophers” have been terrific. So I’m pretty sure I can recommend this book sight unseen.
THE BUNKER COLLECTED. The Oni Press web comic by Joshua Hale Fialkov and Joe Infurnari will be published February 2014. The collection will be a 48-page comic priced at four bucks, including the first five digital issues with added and enhanced content. It’s a good book—worth a buy.
NEVER ENDING. Dark Horse is best known for horro and supernatural books, neither of which are my cup of tea. But this year they’ve done some good stuff, like Dream Thief and my perennial favorite Mind MGT. Now they’ve announced a superhero miniseries, Never Ending, about an immortal super guy who defeats all kinds of villains but can’t stop time from killing his loved ones: So he goes to war against time itself. Sounds like an interesting take on the “heroes as Gods” trope. I’ll give it a try.
FREE MANGA! You can find a crapload of free Manga here.
COMICS ARE A GOOD INVESTMENT. A copy of The Brave and the Bold #28 (first appearance of the Justice League) sold for $120k, which is double what the book sold for in 2004. You know else doubled in value in under 10 years? Me, neither.
PREACHER COMING TO AMC. I can’t imagine how the extremely profane Vertigo comic by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon could possibly be turned into a TV show, but I certainly trust AMC. On the other hand, there’s rumors of involvement by Seth Rogen, who I pretty much hate in everything he’s ever been in except for 50/50. Of course, this isn’t the first time we’ve heard rumored TV adaptations, so we’ll see what actually happens.
BATWOMAN. Marc Andreyko is taking over. I will definitely give it a try. I’m a big fan of his work on Manhunter and several of his other projects. Plus, it’s nice they have a gay writer writing about a lesbian character. Not that it’s necessary to do that, but it does make sense.
THE STRAIN TV SHOW. FX has enough confidence to place a 13-episode order of a live-action adaptatoion of Guillermo del Toro’s Dark Horse comic.
CLASSICS ILLUSTRATED. Remember those old comic book adaptations of great works of literature? They were the only way I read Two Years Before the Mast and The Last of the Mohicans. ComiXology just made a deal for the entire inventory.
PANTHEON GOES TO TV. The IDW miniseries about Greek Gods on Earth, cowritten by Michael “The Shield” Chiklis, is being developed for TV. By “developed,” we mean shopped to networks—so it’s a long, long way away from actually being made.
VENOM NEWS. First off, Dan Slott will be introducing “Superior Venom” in the pages of Superior Spider-Man #24. I’m sure it’ll be good—that comic is one of the best on the stands right now—but in my view, they already introduced a Venom that was superior to the old one. I loved Rick Remender’s Venom. But it looks like that character will be joining the Guardians of the Galaxy—at least as of Free Comic Book Day 2014 (in May).
Vic Mensa has a good flow and great friends. This mixtape has verses by the likes of Ab-Soul, Chance the Rapper, Rockie Fresh and others. Tweakin, with Chance, chops and screws Cypress Hill…Listen to that cut. If you don’t like it, you won’t like this mixtape.
And you probably don’t like hip hop.
As for the music: Amazing hooks and production by the likes of J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, DJ Dahi, Peter Cottontale, and Mensa himself.
Get it here or below.