“The Art of War” Merges History with Science Fiction

Image Courtesy of Kelly Roman

Roman’s “The Art of War” is set in a near future where the Chinese dominate the American economy, as well as that of most of the rest of the world. This title is built on political and economic intrigue. However, even if you are not the economic/political intrigue type, there should be plenty of action and gore to keep you interested. The title is illustrated by Michael DeWeese in black and white with red highlights, to give the classic violent black and white comic look to great effect. True to its namesake, this graphic novel is laced with Sun Tzu’s sayings throughout (For those of you who skipped that day in school, Sun Tzu was a warlord in medieval China. He was widely regarded as a tactical genius and compiled his knowledge in a book of sayings titled “The Art of War.” There, now you are caught up.) The protagonist of “The Art of War,” also named Kelly Roman, is seeking to avenge his brother, who was killed in mysterious circumstances while working for a Chinese corporation.

It is not the setting itself is not that makes “The Art of War” unique, but the fictional events that lead up to the creation of that distopia. In the novel, China takes over the United States through economics, not military invasion. This has the result of devastating the country side and killing civilians through starvation and lack of medical care rather than bullets and bombs. Only major economic centers (such as New York) are spared the devastation due to their usefulness to the invading Chinese corporations. Through malicious investing through corporate proxies, the Chinese government is able to seize control of American food supplies, health care, military forces, and other key assets.

Additionally, as a result of the Chinese economic invasion of the United States, corporations remain the only functioning institutions in society. They conduct their own semi-religious services, bury their employees in private grave yards, and dole out marital discipline on employees and violent attacks on competitors without fear of legal repercussion.

Great science fiction presents either a utopian or distopian vision of the future; this is as equally true in comics as it is in film or prose. In tying a medieval Chinese warlord with a corporate CEO, the author is making a clear statement regarding the ruthless nature of corporations. In addition to criticizing corporations for being heartless entities being concerned with nothing else but profit, (Which has been done by other authors.) Roman makes a powerful statement about the future of war. In the author’s vision, the future of war will be at least partially economic. While there are political disagreements over the issue, the possibilities of Chinese economic or militarydomination sometime this century are certainly being discussed. In closing, what makes “The Art of War” most intriguing is the plausibility of its scenario.


“Pathfinder” Comic is OK, Except for Terrible Writing

“Pathfinder: Dark Waters” is an adaptation of the Pathfinder role-playing game (which is a form of Dungeons and Dragons). Typically, Dynamite does an excellent job adapting story lines from other media forms into really enjoyable comics. However, with “Pathfinder: Dark Waters” they fell short.

The title is not without merit. The art is quite good, and the pages are action packed. The second half of each issue provides everything needed to play the story from the first half as a D&D adventure; this includes dungeon maps and character sheets for each character featured in the story. While this format is an innovative way to present a role-playing setting, such an approach  does not lend itself to good writing.

For those of you unfamiliar with Dungeons and Dragons, the players typically follow a preset plot and interact with various characters in that plot. This typically does not lend itself to incredibly well polished story telling, but that is made up for in the game-play experience. “Pathfinder: Dark Waters” is written like the transcripts from a D&D game and leaves very little for non-role playing readers. The dialog consists of a cascading stream of exposition focusing on introducing characters or explaining the character’s actions. Such writing would not be a problem if the comics were exclusively marketed to D&D players or were given out free with merchandise. However, if Dynamite expects readers to continue to buy this comic, they must improve the quality of writing.


3 Ways to Share your Comic Appreciation  

There are many ways to share your appreciation of comics. Many people do this on a regular basis, by going to conventions. Others go more all out, but less frequently. No matter what your level of appreciation for comics, you will find that there are great ways to show the world.
Dress Up
Most people enjoy dressing up for special occasions. One of the most common times to dress up is for Halloween. If you are trying to show the world your favorite comic book hero, this is the perfect time and way to do it. Another great option for dressing up is to not only dress yourself up, but also your pets. For example, you could get a batman dog costume, and then take your four-legged friend out for some fun. There are many options today for things like hoodies or shirts that represent different comic book characters.
There are conventions all over the country, and even the world, that celebrate comics of all sorts. In fact, at some of these conventions you may end up coming across new, great comics that you had never heard of before. There tend to be classic comics represented, but also new favorites. To find the perfect convention for you, you can easily do a search for your favorite comic, followed by the word convention, and the city or state that you are looking in. Sometimes you can find very specified conventions for one particular type of comic, while other times, they may be more broad.
Talk to Others
If you have a love of comics, whether in book form or online, you may find yourself wanting to share this love with the world. There are many ways you can do this. For example, you can talk to friends and family about the comics that are your favorites, and why. You may even find that some of these people have interests in the same comics as you. Another option to talk about your comics as much as you want is to make a blog. This allows you to write about comics as much as you want, whenever you want. A third option for talking about comics is to join a forum. This allows you access to many others who are interested in comics as well.
No matter which way you choose to go when showing your appreciation for comics, know that not everyone will agree with you. You may find some people who like different comics, and aren’t fans of the ones you like. You may also find people that think that comics in general aren’t for them. Either way, though you may have to deal with these people, you do not have to give in to them. You know what you like, and you don’t have to change that for any reason. When considering your favorite ways to show your favorite comics, what are the best ways that come to mind for you?


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