Tag Archives: Comics Reviews

Comics Review: XERXES: THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF DARIUS AND THE RISE OF ALEXANDER #1

Frank Miller is back, baby!

Frank Miller is back, baby! What a treat to see our Dark Knight master cartoonist returning to this long-awaited companion to his masterpiece, 300! As I like to point out, there’s nothing quite like having a masterful storyteller in charge of both the writing and the artwork. You have Greeks and Persians battling it out left and right, all following the vision of Miller. And, best of all, you really want to pick up this comic book in print form as it has a deluxe format. And it is colored by Alex Sinclair, the colorist for Miller’s Dark Knight Master Race, third installment of his Dark Knight Returns master trilogy.

XERXES #1

Frank Miller returns to the world of 300 with this sprawling historical epic! Persian King Xerxes sets out to conquer the world to avenge his father Darius’s defeat and create an empire, unlike anything the world has ever seen. That is until the hardy Greeks produce a god king of their own, Alexander the Great.

This is an utterly gorgeous work, right down to the lettering. While he could be using a font, I doubt it. This looks like hand-lettering, and we’re talking very precise and professional–with the added bonus of the artist in full control of where he wants his text boxes to hit in relation to compositions and action. Miller offers up plenty of compelling action sequences, by the way. It is a pleasure to linger over how to arranges his military formations, often alternating between crisp details set off by silhouettes. There is a genuine urgency here, a joy of cartooning that brings to mind such happy warriors as Jack Kirby and Stan Sakai. I love this book and can’t wait for more.

10/10

Back to 300!

XERXES #1 is available as of April 4, 2018. For more details, visit Dark Horse Comics right here.

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Graphic Novel Review: LEGEND OF SUMERIA

Legend of Sumeria

LEGEND OF SUMERIA is a graphic novel set in a future where social media and genetics collide. Among a growing number of graphic novels integrating elements of real science with fiction, this one does best with its offbeat humor. There are plenty of intriguing subplots here but what will get the reader every time is that quirky human touch. Just as we marvel over the fact that there is just a speck of difference between our genomes, so too do we zero in on those storytelling nuances. This is not a perfect work but it is weird and odd enough to keep your interest.

“You smell like my mother used to. And I know she was not evil.”

Our main character is Dr. Bruce Abbot, who works for The SEQ Network. He is not very happy at all with that arrangement. Not when there is such a high level of mutual distrust. And especially not when a corporate lab experiment could trigger the end of human civilization! Add to that a cryptic organization lurking in the shadows and bent on destroying SEQ and you’ve got quite a lot of narrative to juggle. There is definitely a lot of stuff to like here such as the premise of trusting a corporation with your DNA especially so that you can have tailor-made intense and unique experiences.

New York, 2027

I’m not sure everything adds up here but I would advise to take what you want from this and don’t sweat the details. As it is, the story lurches enough with its insertion of sexual content. It is not exactly necessary and just makes the book inappropriate for younger readers. A more alluring vibe could have been achieved if the art was stronger. That said, the art is spot on for the overall offbeat quality to this work. So, I hardly dismiss this book out of hand as it brings up some intriguing ideas about how we humans can be outdone by our own hands.

LEGEND OF SUMERIA

LEGEND OF SUMERIA is co-created and written by Jay Webb and Dr. Biju Parekkadan. Lead artist is Anthony LaGaipa. It debuts on March 20, 2018. For more details, visit the official site right here.

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Filed under Comics, DNA, Sci-Fi, Science, science fiction

Comics Review: ETERNITY GIRL #1

ETERNITY GIRL #1

Caroline Sharp, aka superhero Chrysalis, has been put on administrative leave by Alpha 13. You see, there was this incident, where all sorts of things got blown up. It was no big deal. She just lost her cool, as she tells her therapist. In fact, Caroline has got a lot to say given that she’s been trying to kill herself ever since she was put on leave…and, as a superhero, she’s immortal. ETERNITY GIRL is a miniseries from the Young Animal imprint at DC Comics and it is easily one of the most engaging of new comic books.

Superhero Therapy!

Here is a comic that knows how to strike just the right balance with crisp writing that juggles serious issues and complex characters. And the main character just happens to be a superhero. We’ve gone down this road before but it’s always worthy of recognition when it’s done right. The script by Magdalene Visaggio (Kim and Kim) is so good that it all feels quite refreshing. And the art by Sonny Liew (The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye) jumps off the page, with a lively spirit reminiscent of Curt Swan.

No Big Deal!

So, what do you do when you can live forever but you’d rather be dead? Quite a conundrum. And get a load of the featured villain: Madame Atom and The Night Terrors! Alright then! Turns out that Madam Atom may have a solution as to how Caroline/Chrysalis can kill herself. But who ever took advice from a villain? Sounds like pretty self-serving advice to me. We’ll just have to stay tuned to find out.

A perfect score: 10/10

ETERNITY GIRL #1 is available as of March 14, 2018. For more details, visit DC Comics right here.

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Comics Review: TWISTED DARK by Neil Gibson

TWISTED DARK, Cover art by Caspar Wijngaard

TWISTED DARK, published by TPub Comics, has the face of a battered woman as its brand and permanent logo. The story of a woman who wants to be beaten by a man is the flagship story to its TWISTED DARK universe. What to say on this? Where to begin? This logo has been around for many years now. I suspect that a lot of people who have actually bought the comic have not actually read the comic. That would partly explain how this has remained under the radar.

How about #NoAbuseToWomenInComics as a response? I know, some comics fans would cry foul and bring up the old Comics Code Authority. I am not advocating censorship. Hey, I am willing to see what this series attempted to accomplish. The least that I can do is to bring it up here to your attention. The least that TPub Comics can do, moving forward, is place a sticker on such books that states, FOR MATURE READERS. Now, let’s see, I’d say that CREEPY magazine is pretty much the closest work I can compare this to in attempts at offbeat horror–but CREEPY never beat up on women. If you like gritty and grim, that is the audience that Neil Gibson, the creator, writer, and publisher, seeks to attract.

I’m getting quite a late start with this series, which recently ended with Volume 6. I can clearly see from the first volume that this is a collection of depictions of misery. This is not, by any stretch of the imagination, similar to The Twilight Zone or Black Mirror, as Mr. Gibson would hope for. That’s unfortunate. I can imagine how he would like to be associated with that but his work falls considerably short. Before I was even aware of the battered woman cover (as it is an extreme close-up) I went into reading this as I would any comic. As I progressed from one story to the next, I kept giving the book the benefit of the doubt. By the end, I found this to be not only dark and twisted–but misguided. Overall, I would say it is very misconceived. It may have been a case of persistence getting the better of good writing and judgement. I don’t enjoy saying this but that’s what I get from this. The solution is to phase out the false start and do a rebrand. There is potential there if corrections are made.

“A Lighter Note” Art by Heru Prasetyo Djalal

Here, you can see for yourself what is in this first volume. Each story involves a tale of dread and despair. There’s the story of a man who regularly asks his dead son for forgiveness for the way he abused him. Not exactly cheery, right? And it goes on from there getting more and more disturbing. There’s one story that begins with the compelling fact that we presently have more people living in slavery around the world than in any other time. I applaud bringing out that fact. The actual story is intriguing, if not depressing. It follows a man in utter poverty who rises to become an Islamic terrorist.

“The Pushman” Art by Jan Wijngaard

Another story about a failed life depicts a young Japanese man with crushed dreams of becoming an architect. Instead, he is a subway “pushman.” His job is to literally push crowds into subway cars to insure efficiency. However, this man, due to his troubled and frustrated existence, abuses the passengers by pushing and punching whoever he can.

“Munchausen’s Little Poxy” Art by Jan Wijngaard

The book rounds out with its final big story, “Munchausen’s Little Poxy.” All stories are written by Neil Gibson. Many of the stories, including this one, are illustrated by Jan Wijngaard. This is the story of Ulara, a troubled young woman facing issues of self-abuse. Ulara comes from a very wealthy family. It would stand to reason that Ulara would have, at some point, gotten the help she needed–with or without vast sums of money. Gibson paints a picture of a poor little rich girl who gets what’s coming to her since all her troubles are schemes to get attention. Her cutting is just a scheme. Her eating disorder is just a scheme. And so on down to her getting beat up by men. No one should feel sorry for Ulara since she deserves her pain. End of story. This is most assuredly not something that Rod Serling would ever have written. But it is a point of pride for Neil Gibson.

Neil Gibson’s overall motivation with his stories, to be generous, is to push limits. But simply pushing limits does not guarantee sound storytelling. His stories lack the perspective required for good horror. I think he has skill and I hope he learns from his mistakes. One of the challenging things about comics is that they take a considerably long time to create, especially at the scrappy indie level. So, it is possible for a misfit concept to power through to completion simply because too much effort has been put into it to abandon it. That certainly happens with the big publishers too but they can afford to cover one misstep after another, year after year. Indie publishers, all publishers, need to think twice about any project they undertake.

TPub Comics describes Twisted Dark as “a series of interconnected psychological thrillers, perfect for fans of twist endings and comics that reveal more on the second reading. Each story stands alone, but the more you read, the more connections you see between the characters.” I’m not here to burst anyone’s bubble. But, fair is fair, a closer look does not favor this work. Some high profile reviewers, and even a celebrity or two, have supported this series–but I seriously doubt they gave it a close reading, if any. Clearly, TPub Comics is persistent and maintains a presence at comic book conventions. If you view the video below, you see Richard Johnston mostly praising TPub and TWISTED DARK for its tenacity. “They challenge you to ignore them!” How about this: Now is the time to look inward. Mr. Gibson, please place stickers on your remaining stock that read FOR MATURE READERS.

So, maybe you should visit TPub Comics and let them know what you think.

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Filed under Comics, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, Horror, Neil Gibson, TPub Comics

ECCC 2018 Interview and Review: Terry Mayo and THE WICKED RIGHTEOUS

Terry Mayo is at the TPub booth, #1606.

Emerald City Comic Con provides so many opportunities to meet exciting talent. Case in point is Terry Mayo. He is currently on tour in support of his comic book, THE WICKED RIGHTEOUS with Alterna Comics; and his upcoming comic book, DISPOSABLE LEGENDS, with TPub Comics. If you’re going to ECCC, find Terry Mayo at the TPub booth, #1606. The TPub booth features all sorts of goodies, like the ongoing series TWISTED DARK.

THE WICKED RIGHTEOUS #1 is a post-apocalyptic 6-issue comic book series from Alterna Comics. The creator and writer, Terry Mayo, describes it as “Mad Max meets Stranger Things.” We are midway through the series at this point so I’m catching up here. I can report that the first issue definitely sets the tone and proves to be a most enjoyable read.

When the Apocalypse hits, it comes down to survival of the fittest. Mayo plays with that concept with fine results. Think of this as having a bit of a Walking Dead vibe to with the focus being on one family clan in an alternate San Diego set in the future. You’ve got sophisticated government drones constantly hovering around and monitoring citizen activity. You’ve got a population that has been devastated by a mysterious plague. And you’ve got a civilization that is a mix of high tech and a throwback to another time more in tune with primal animal instincts.

THE WICKED RIGHTEOUS

What’s so great about going to cons is stumbling upon little gems like this comic. I am always on the lookout for something that has just the right quirky offbeat factor. If something is just a historical saga, for instance, it becomes a much harder sell for me to be convinced I should take the time and effort to say anything about it. In the first place, where is my motivation? If a creator is a bit of a prima donna, again, I need a reason to overlook that. The list goes on. My time is valuable and so is yours. With that said, I like what Terry Mayo is doing here.

I will start to wrap this up by just emphasizing how essential it is to have some sort of hook in a work of comics. I don’t know how some readers are attracted to some of the stuff that for me, and for more careful readers, looks like it has been stripped of any shred of humanity. My hunch is that most readers are sometimes willing to take something for what it is and then just move on. What I think a comics publisher like Alterna Comics does best is to keep to a core of authenticity. I kid you not, people sniff that out.

Overall, I look forward to seeing the collected trade to THE WICKED RIGHTEOUS. I think the whole creative team here should be proud of themselves. The artwork by Lucas Romero definitely has got a real deal human touch and goes a long way into getting the reader involved. Colors by Christopher Hall are spot on with the moody atmospherics. Lettering by Brandon DeStefano fits in exceptionally well into compositions and enhances the genuine and organic feel to this comic.

Rating of 10/10

DISPOSABLE LEGENDS

THE WICKED RIGHTEOUS is available at comiXology right here. For more details, visit Alterna Comics right here.

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Comics Review: MATA HARI #1 (of 5)

MATA HARI #1

Any close study of history will reveal a vast array of ironies and contradictions. Both individuals and whole nations have checkered pasts. Which leads us to Mata Hari, charged with treason and espionage and executed by a French firing squad in 1917. France had been rocked by the Dreyfus affair only a few years earlier, another case of someone being wrongly accused and being used as a scapegoat. In a new limited series from Dark Horse Comics, we get a fresh look at the enigmatic and exotic Mata Hari.

There is more prose involved with comics than some would think. Prose, lots and lots of prose, is the bedrock to any comics project. Then it is a matter of matching up, balancing out, just the right fit of text and image. MATA HARI is an excellent example of this process as writer Emma Beeby (Judge Dredd) began with reading, of all things, a book! Yes, she read “Femme Fatale: Love, Lies and the Unknown Life of Mata Hari” by Professor Pat Shipman.

Mata Hari as Salome

And then one thing led to another. Artist Ariela Kristantina (Insexts) came on board and did her thing. Then, like a mini-orchestra taking form, colorist Pat Masioni added her special skills. And, finally, we have the mastereo, the conductor herself, editor Karen Berger, who has conducted quite a lot of masterworks in her tine at Vertigo. You know, I have to say this: (and I’ll say more at a later date) it is a very misguided myth that the best comics are being created by the misfit in a garret. True, amazing work comes from there but we need to always come around to what quality gems are put out my professionals. Europe, for instance, has understood that for a very long time.

The quality, especially of offbeat and daring content, that Karen Berger is bringing to Berger Books is right in step with what readers in other parts of the world have appreciated for generations. DC Comics added that extra layer of quirk with Berger at Vertigo. And now Dark Horse Comics gives us Berger at Berger Books! What more could you ask for, right? So, you see a comic book like MATA HARI and you snatch it up, that’s what you do, my dear discerning reader. This is a five-issue limited run. The first issue sets the tone quite nicely. We get a sense of the woman who came to be known to the world as Mata Hari. We get a look at her as a little girl, growing up, and discovering early on that her interests and passions would make for a challenging, but quite stimulating, life.

Rating of 10/10

MATA HARI is available now. For more details, visit Dark Horse Comics and Berger Books right here.

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Comics Review: PRISM STALKER #1

PRISM STALKER by Sloane Leong

Sloane Leong is one of those special cartoonists who immerse themselves deep into a world of their own. This sort of artist-warrior is without exception, both writer and artist. Leong, following this highly individual tradition, has worked up her skills (never complaining since it never seemed like work) and come out the other side with comics of a caliber that has led her today to launching PRISM STALKER, her new title with Image Comics.

For a comics critic who also both writes and draws comics, I am confident in sharing with you what sets Leong apart. Among the many independent cartoonists out there, just like any other artists, a number of them will take one detour or another. Some will feel most comfortable remaining within self-published cliques. Others may need to keep a project under wraps and work on it on their own terms. But, if the stars are in alignment, and the cartoonist is particularly driven, the transition can be made from bohemian poet to career path. In the ideal case, the work retains that same idiosyncratic vibe. The work retains its integrity. The artist retains their integrity.

What you see on the comics page, the merging of words and images, takes on an added significance when created by a cartoonist in the traditional role of artist-writer. You end up with a window into the subconscious mind. I would argue that you can feel a disconnect, perhaps subtle or maybe distracting, in a collaborative work. That is why you hear so much said on the importance of chemistry between writer and artist. But you don’t have that concern when you’re running the whole show. In the case of Leong, she has taken on the added roles of lettering and coloring. All of that adds up to a more personal perspective. And, by the way, it is no surprise that cartoonists at this level are attracted to and invest a lot of energy upon depicting dreams.

And then you add a passionate vision and you have the whole package. A look at Leong’s website shows us a person with a heart-felt desire to tell the stories of those who have been pushed to the margins. That is exactly what we see here: Vep, our main character is toiling away as a slave on a hive colony run by giant insects. Who doing what where? you may ask. It is a very dream-like sci-fi tale about very serious problems.

This is a story that casts a very wide net and succeeds by balancing all the details. Vep is a strong and compelling character who the reader is immediately drawn to. The setting is pretty outrageous and highly ambiguous and becomes a character in its own right. You could say this is a comic that is both character and atmosphere driven. It becomes a true meld of visual and literary delight. You feel that unique push-pull connection. You recognize trippy originality when you see it right down to that wildly eccentric title, PRISM STALKER!

Rating of 10/10

PRISM STALKER #1 is available as of March 7, 2018. For more details, visit Image Comics right here.

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Comics Review: SHAKE THE LAKE

Trouble in Paradise

“Shake The Lake” is such an audacious work of comics with such an uninhibited and unflinching depiction of frenzied youth–it is truly a hell of a lot of fun and mesmerizing. These are a bunch of out-of-control kids, the sort you’ve seen in numerous teenploitation horror and summer movies. They all, at first, seem to lack any redeeming character but you get hooked into their little nefarious activities and you just can’t look away. But who ever heard of a graphic novel devoted to wakeboarding (think skateboarding on water)? Am I supposed to know about wakeboarding? That level of specificity is part of the subversive fun. You need to check out this wonderfully oddball badass series right here.

Cal in his element. It’s an endless summer, dude!

Of course, wakeboarding is important–especially for those in the wakeboarding scene, which all of these kids are totally into. And some people are fully aware of wakeboarding but to the other extreme like Zeke and Dalton, these two highly obnoxious park rangers hot on the trail of all fun-loving youth. Leave it to them and they will spoil everyone’s fun, particularly anything remotely hedonistic. Hey, it’s the summer and a bunch of young rebels are determined to make their mark. Cal is the lead instigator. He’s already 23, but it is still a life of beautiful teen summers for him and his fellow dreamers. If they could just stir things up at the ole marina, put on a wakeboarding festival to be remembered in their collective old age, then all this arrested development will have been worth it!

Party!

Brothers Zach and Machi Block’s script rings true. The Block brothers invest in their ragtag characters a level of integrity that lures you into wanting to know more about this subculture. The artwork by brother and sister team Diego and Andrea Lopez Mata are true to the Block vision bringing out all the crude and raw beauty of this motley crew of wakeboarding fanatics. If you go in not knowing a thing about wakeboarding, after reading this work, you’ll be glad to leave it to the experts and just enjoy the ride. Visit the “Shake The Lake” site right here.

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Comics Review: BABYTEETH #8

BABYTEETH #8

Donny Cates is a master storyteller. It was a pleasure to interview him last year at Emerald City Comicon. I have been keeping up with BABYTEETH, his co-creation with artist Garry Brown. Issue 8 finds much of the action coming to a head. In the last couple of issues, our main characters have been coping with having been lured into a secret underground hamlet. This secret hamlet was created especially for 16-year-old Sadie’s immaculately conceived baby, Clark, aka the Final Son, the Antichrist. You know, his destiny is to open the gate between the Realm and the Other. Boy howdy, that’s pretty wild and wooly but that’s how Mr. Cates rolls.

I must say, even after getting this deep into the series, I still don’t do so well with any images of little Clark chugging down a bottle of blood. That’s what every growing Antichrist needs if he’s going to bring about the End Times. Formula sure as heck (hell!) just won’t cut it. The little guy goes ballistic when he’s served anything other than Type O Negative, straight from mama. If you even try to pass off, say, Type A Positive, he will shriek so loudly that he could bring down a jetliner.

Clark’s grandmother explains it all to you.

Now, you may be wondering if this comic is more character-driven or more demon-driven. And, rest assured, it is split down the middle. Plenty of demons here including a weird little raccoon-like critter who strayed out of the Red Realm. And there are others like Dancy, a reject in the Antichrist tryouts. But, overall, readers have a lot to invest in with Sadie, her heroic dad, her badass sis, and her estranged mom, who happens to run The Way program overseeing End Times operations. Then there’s this crusty ole rogue agent who blasted his way out of his assignment to work for the Silhouette syndicate. That plot point could prove to be a MacGuffin but it sure is a colorful and action-packed one.

As for this current issue, I am satisfied as the whole shooting match is moved forward with solid new revelations (as in Book of Revelation?) on Sadie’s family history and some new teasing out of End Times machinations. The whole pulpy/classic B-movie horror feel to this comics is addictive. The pacing is pitch perfect. You buckle in for a roller coaster ride and you get it.

I not only look forward to future issues but I know I’ll enjoy taking in the collected trades. This comic earns a rating of 10/10.

Overall, BABYTEETH is a whole lot of fun. You can compare this a bit to the Netflix smash hit, “Stranger Things,” inasmuch as it is a compelling mashup of family themes and some very loopy supernatural elements. You can binge read (and subscribe to) the series at comiXology right here.

BABYTEETH #8 is published by AfterShock Comics and available as of February 14, 2018. I really like what I see coming out of AfterShock. For instance, since we’re on the subject of blood, a new title, BETROTHED, follows a romance between a teenage zombie and a teenage human. Looks quite intriguing. That one kicks off on March 14, 2018–just one month away. For more details, visit AfterShock Comics right here.

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Filed under AfterShock Comics, Comics, Donny Cates, Horror

Comics Review: GARDEN SALAD by Tristan Wright

“Garden Salad” by Tristan Wright

“Garden Salad” is a mini-comic that exceeds expectations and enters the realm of a model of excellence: the story is engaging; the art has a dazzling and quite intoxicating quality; the whole work is delightfully original. Tristan Wright is new to me but I’m so glad that I stumbled upon his work! Honestly, the solid craftsmanship and originality immediately won me over.

Creating something with a real spark and kick to it is never easy. What Wright accomplishes with this work involves a lot of groundwork and revisions. I suspect that he enjoys every bit of it as there is an effortless and joyful vibe throughout these pages.

Nice day for some sveedle!

Our story is a deceptively simple one: an old man is gathering items from his garden for his mid-day feast. Like many stories that have the reader see things from an unconventional vantage point, events focus more on what the old man is foraging: vegetables, for sure, but not good ole veggies exclusively. How about a veggie goblin? In our tale, we see quite a bit of this little critter and then we come to find out that the old man is all too aware of this bewildering force of nature. He even has a name for them. These critters are known as “sveedle.” Sounds like something out of a Stephen King novel! Yum, sveedle, them’s good eatin’ goblins!

Running after the garden goblin!

Yessir, these here goblins are pretty hideous and intense little beings. With a wedge of leaves upon their heads and bulbous jiggly bodies, they resemble what they eat: veggies, but also worms and other creepy crawlies. The big hint here is that these ghastly little monsters are violent–and potentially dangerous to humans. But the old man seems to be up to the challenge. In fact, the old man is relatively hideous and dangerous in his own right, surely a formidable match for any veggie goblin.

Wright’s intricate and detailed drawing style keep the reader glued to each page. This is a masterfully crafted tale with a philosophical bent; a wonderfully ambiguous tale of veggies and goblins. Let’s go ahead and bring out a nice shiny star and give this one a 10/10.

“Garden Salad” is a 32-page black and white comic book written and drawn by Tristan Wright. For more details, and how to purchase, go right here.

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