The Shadow

Currently working on The Shadow: Leviathan for Dynamite Entertainment, being brought in to co-write with the phenomenal Si Spurrier, with art by Daniel HDR. I’m coming into the fold with issue 2, and just look at these covers:

We have been absolutely spoilt rotten.

The first issue drops next month in August, and my first issue (#2) in September. Because, you know, that’s how monthly comics tend to go.

You can check out some preview art from issue 1 over on CBR.

WOLFENSTEIN

WolfensteinAs revealed at E3 last week, I’m currently writing a new Wolfenstein comic for Titan Comics, tying into Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, coming soon from Bethesda/Machine Games.

The book will use a split-narrative, drawn by Ronilson Friere (The Mummy, Green Hornet) and Piotr Kowalski (Sex, Hulk, Age of Ultron) respectively, and the art I’ve seen from both thus far has been astounding.

I can’t stress how much Bethesda/Machine Games have encouraged me to run wild with the narrative of this book. Expect tellurian nightmares, screeching metal, occult-infused genetic experiments, and a whole pile of dead Nazis by the time we’re finished.

More news(ish) over here: http://comicbook.com/gaming/2017/06/21/bethesda-working-with-titan-comics-on-dishonored-wolfenstein-com/

WHITE NOISE

I’ve admittedly been absent from this space for a long (far too long) time, but I’m pleased to say that it’s not been out of idleness.

I’ve been working on some really exciting projects, some recently announced, some soon to be announced. I’ve also joined forces with writers Ram V, Ryan O’Sullivan and my Assassin’s Creed partner in crime Alex Paknadel to create WHITE NOISE, a writer collective dedicated to pushing our work as far as we can.

We’re documenting our potentially hubris-laden rise and fall in a bi-monthly newsletter, to which you can sign up here, if you’re so inclined: 

I’m going to try and post more on here when I’ve got a little more schedule wriggle room, but White Noise is probably going to be the best place to keep up with what I’ve got coming out, and the works of the others, who are all astounding writers who are on the cusp of Really Big Things.

The second edition went out today, but I’ll be taking editorial duty on #3. So that’ll be fun. Now where’s the bloody “Publish” button on this thing again?

Bright Star Flicker

 

The room in which John Keats died is a claustrophobic box. The small bedroom takes up a first floor corner of what is now the Keats-Shelley House Museum in Rome. The museum would be easy to walk past as it is inconspicuous in itself, and also as it overlooks the Scalinata di Trinità dei Monti, or Spanish Steps, a particularly monumental and notable landmark in a city full of monumental and  notable landmarks. Keats moved there in 1820, having been advised by his doctor to move to a warmer climate due to the sickness that had taken hold of his lungs. Medically trained himself, Keats most likely knew that he would never be returning homjohn-keats-deathbed-rome-by-enrica-vinciguerrae to Fanny Brawne, the woman he loved. He put the finishing touches to Bright Star, the  love sonnet he dedicated to her, on the voyage from England.  The Roman villa that is now the museum was shared by Keats and his friend Joseph Severn, and backs directly onto the steps. One can only imagine that it would have been prime real-estate in any period. And yet the room in which John Keats died is a claustrophobic box.

It’d be hardly big enough to swing a cat in, even if one did have much motivation for the art of cat-swinging while dying of tuberculosis. It is easy to imagine how tight those four walls closed in on the poet as he lay there, coughing up his life’s blood, becoming a prisoner of his own body, his lungs a pair of increasingly violent prison sentries.

The image we generally call to mind when thinking of Keats the Romantic, dying in a far off land, is one of much swooning, of the fragile, boyish writer merely wasting away, vanishing like the white foam of surf as a wave crashes  on the shore. This image was perhaps carefully cultivated by the Victorians as they repurposed the poet into a safer, near mythical figure of doomed genius. We can also probably assume it was somewhat exacerbated by Shelley’s Adonais, his beautiful but certainly idealized elegy for Keats.

Standing in Keats’ room, however, it is easy to imagine how his coughing must have reverberated off the walls, how each hack must have amplified into a tinny slap. One may imagine that Severn, sleeping nearby in the next room, would have found it hard to not resent the sound in his own lower moments, to resent Keats himself for creating it, no matter how dedicated he was to the young writer. Severn would oft pull a rented piano into his own room, which doubled as the apartment’s living room, and play. Keats said that music was one of the few things that eased his pain as he waited to die; as he languished in the twilight that he referred to as his own “posthumous existence”. Fanny Brawne continued to send him letters, but he would no longer open them. He was no longer there.

In Bright Star, Keats wrote of his desire to be “steadfast” and ever-watching like a star in the night’s sky.  Here at the end of his life, however, he already seemed to have become something of a ghost. After he died, the Italian authorities burned everything in his bedroom for “the purposes of public safety”. The furniture, bed and even wall scrapings went up in smoke. Keats didn’t leave a trace… or the trace that he did leave was a spectral one. The room today has been made up to look much as it may have during Keats’ final days, with the obvious addition of the standard museum trappings. A replica of his bed is pushed up against the wall where his used to be, replete with a small, postcard-like sign requesting that visitors do not touch it; this despite the fact that it is not Keats’ bed. Though it may look like it, he was never there.

Next to the head of the bed, where we may expect to find a bedside table (and what would have been kept on Keats’ bedside table, we may wonder. One of Fanny’s unopened letters? A well-thumbed book of aphorisms? Or simply a bottle of the sickly sweet-yet-keatsdeath-mask-196x300bitter laudanum that he so fiercely demanded from his doctor, who refused to allow him enough to suicide on) there instead hangs a death-mask of his face. A bumpy nose and thin lips, closed perhaps a little too tight, compressed by the weight of the plaster on the corpse’s face. Here is perhaps the most accurate representation of the man we will ever see, and it is rendered in a deathly pallor, with  eyes that we can still somehow tell are empty despite the fact that they are forever closed. The dead man’s face hangs, ever-watching, unseeing, over the dead man’s room. Keats is not there.

So if Keats is not within the room where he died, then where is he? Leave the museum through the gift shop, hop on the city’s Metro and in twenty five hot and crowded minutes we may arrive at the poet’s grave. Buried in the Non-Catholic Graveyard, Keats’ bones reside in the shade of the Piramide di Caio Cestio, a genuine 2000 year old pyramid that sits somewhat bizarrely on the corner of a busy main road and has been carefully built into the Aurelian Walls of the city, slightly giving it the air of something that has grown rather than been built by human hands, like an extremely grandiose dandelion or a tree root that has snuck under and up through a garden patio. The graveyard is carefully maintained and is home to dozens of stray cats, who are equally well maintained by volunteers who feed and water them regularly and affectionately. (It is a pleasing thought that Keats, who once composed a sonnet To Mrs Reynolds’ Cat would have been rather tickled by this idea.) Much as he did in the villa by the Scalinata, Keats lies in a corner of the cemetery, and much as in the villa by the Scalinata, Severn lies next door. The two men share a plot; and yet to know this requires some (very slight) deduction on our behalf. For the inscription on Keats’ gravestone reads:

“This Grave contains all that was mortal, of a Young English Poet, who on his Death Bed, in the Bitterness of his heart, at the Malicious Power of his enemies, desired these words to be Engraven on his Tomb Stone:
Here lies One Whose Name was writ in Water.”

“John Keats” by name, is not there. And yet on Severn’s grave, visible from the same bench on which poetry pilgrims can often be found sitting, we may read:

“To the memory of Joseph Severn Devoted friend and death-bed companion

of

John Keats

whom he lived to see numbered among the Immortal Poets of England”

The devotion to another figure that would be required to have them dominate one’s very own tombstone is a simply staggering thought. And yet Keats is not here either, for this is of course another man’s grave. Perhaps then, as our eyes move back and forth, flickering between the two headstones, between the Young English Poet and the Devoted friend, it is here that we find him. In the delicious irony, in the unintentional wit created by the two inscriptions, intended to be poignant and sombre. Keats, more than any of us, lived in the flicker.

“Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,

Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,

And so live ever—or else swoon to death.”

                                                                                                Bright Star, John Keats

keats_grave

 

 

 

 

Nothing is true, everything is permitted.

Last week, while I was away wondering around Rome it was announced that Alex Paknadel and I would be taking over writing duties for the main Assassin’s Creed series at Titan Comics. The book is being drawn by Jose Holder, whose work is simply astounding, and a perfect fit for the direction that Alex and I will be dragging the book (potentially kicking and screaming). I mean, look at this:ctxazafwcaaqhh_

Alex is likely to throttle me for saying this, but he is one of the most exciting voices in comics right now, and a terrifyingly smart writer. Both of his books for BOOM!, Arcadia and Turncoat, are excellent slabs of sci-fi with the kind of complex, explorative themes that are frustratingly missing from comics so often of late. If you haven’t, read them.  I so very much despise dissolving into mushy cliche, but I think a fantastic team has been put together for this book, and Alex and I have some really exciting things we want to explore in this universe.

Fans of the games will want to pick up the book as we’ll be culminating the Phoenix Project arc that has been building over the last three games, and delving deep into the true nature of the Instruments of the First Will. For new readers, I hope we will also be delivering an accessible, violent sci-fi thriller.

Look for it in next months Previews.

 

 

Link The Fire

Once more I have been conspicuously absent from this sitebut alas, my dissertation is handed in, my MA is complete 14356033_10157417917810481_1142373510_nand I am no longer able to rinse that excuse for the general sporadicity of my updates. Fortunately, I have been busy though. Dark Souls: Legends of the Flame from Titan Comics drops in comic stores and on Comixology  today. It is an anthology based on Bandai Namco’s video game series, and my story “The Labyrinth” is buried within its depths (and by “depths” I mean 22 pages). It has been beautifully drawn by Nick Percival, and I’m rather happy with the story, which revolves around the horror of the dissolution of Self faced by the undead of the franchise. The Dark Souls mythos is famously opaque, and writing into this intrinsically cryptic world is a fascinating experience, one that I’d be keen to repeat as often as they’d have me- issue 2 drops next month, featuring my story “The Devoted” and sporting an absolutely gorgeous cover by the one and only Ben Templesmith. A certain partner in crime of mine may also be rearing his head, and I really can’t wait for everyone to see that one.

14274387_10157417917395481_870789239_oIn other news, there are PROJECTS. Ones I can’t talk about yet, but am exceedingly excited for. One bigger project should be announced later this month with some astoundingly good collaborators that is going to be a hell of a lot of fun and is for a rather big franchise. It will be far less ethereal than Dark Souls, but most likely just as stabby.

Will update further when I’m allowed.