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Friday, June 8, 2018

Wretches No. 1. James E. Roche (Writer), Salomon Farias (Art), Chunlin Zao (Colours), Jamie Me (Letters). JAMESEROCHE.COM (2016)

A very engaging and enjoyable full tilt science fiction comic. The story open by plunging right into the action, a chase that nicely play with reader expectations before smoothly moving into a wide open space opera. Shea and Sean, brother and sister, are humans and they clearly have a on going fight with robots, the robots are as happy to bring the fight back to Shea and Sean in turn.
James Roche has created a great set up and provided enough action and splinters of context to have the reader really want to know how it will continue. The cast are dramatically introduced and the plot mechanics are fully engaged. Space opera is by its nature a huge canvas for a story and James Roche has taken the genre requirements to heart and delivered them with confident bravado. Interplanetary travel, multiple species, a upfront conflict that is clearly part of a much bigger wide spread issue, all nicely fitting together without knocking out the balance of the story.
From the opening splash panel Salomon Farias's demonstrates a astonishing mastery of space opera art, a crowd scene that instantly places the read into the context and makes it clear that they can instantly relax into the story, they are in safe hands. The cast are physical and dynamic, the action is fast and has weight and impact. They are expressive and engaging, the walk on parts are given the same attention so that the all important context is consistently solid and convincing. There is an abundance of detail in the art that never seems crowed or fussy, it just anchors the reader and allows them enjoy the full depth of the story.
Chunlin Zao's colours are wonderful, they are the colours of a space opera action story, they give depth and definition to the details and the cast, they capture the emotional tones and nuances of the story with subtle care.
The letters by Jamie Me are quiet and unobtrusive, they  fit into the art and are easy to read. The sound effects on the other hand are exactly as loud, obtrusive and dominating as they should be, they give the scenes the extra dimension they need to really pop out.
Comics are a natural home for epic science fiction, that does not make it easy to execute, the creative team here embrace the possibilities and give reader a deep thrill and a powerful reason to come back for more.

Monday, June 4, 2018

A Nightmare On Egg Street. Chris Allen (Writer, Colours, Letters), Juan Fleites (Art) Swampline Comics (2018)

A poultry based parody of A Nightmare On Elm Street that hits the sweet spot with force and accuracy. Teenagers on Egg Street are beginning to be afraid of falling asleep as Freggy Kruger is coming to kill them in their dreams. The story unfolds as it should, following the outline of the film while neatly and cleverly undercutting it. No familiarity with the film is required, the jokes work very effectively on their own, in particular the Johnny Depp jokes which are as sharp as Freggy's razor claws.
Chris Allen has delivered a story which captures the gruesome thrill of the film and successfully makes fun of it at the same time without ever undermining either. The slasher moments work effectively and give an extra lift to the jokes. The humour points up the horror by lowering the tension before it whips back at the reader.
 Juan Fleites' art is friendly and absurd, the chickens are smartly humanoid without while retaining enough chicken aspects to get the jokes and the context to work. The cast are wonderfully expressive and this pulls the reader deep into the story on its own terms. The absurd tension which is critical for the parody to work is achieved with confident skill and consistently telling detail. There is a genuine emotional context that gives the threat weight, the cast are absurd and wisecracking, they also have a vulnerability that makes Freggy the right element of nasty.
The colours bring out the details of the art and control the emotional tone of the story  really well, they give suitable prominence to the parody aspect without ever drowning out the shadows.
Parody is fantastically difficult to get right, the balance is a very delicate one that recognises the essential elements of the original while skillfully paying with them. A Nightmare On Egg Street delivers on all counts, a powerful display of creative imagination, confidence and skill. Great bloody fun.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

House of Fear: Attack of the Killer Snowmen. Jethro Morales (Writer and Art), Josh Jensen (Colours), Matt Krotzer (Letters). TEN31 Publishing (2017)

Highly enjoyable and engaging supernatural story. Three young friends, Tristan, Wyatt and Andi are playing with the snow, while another boy is making snowmen. He wants to be a wizard and appears to have a book of spells. When animated and distinctly dangerous snowmen appear Tristan, Wyatt and Andi have a sizeable fight on their hands.
Jethro Morales has written an all ages comic that respects its readers of all ages enough to support the key requirements of an supernatural adventure. The threat has to be severe enough to actually present a problem, the solution should arise from smart thinking not just brute force. The story delivers on both, the snowmen are the right side of nasty and they are the prelude to a distinctly more menacing problem. The three children are brave and resourceful, they work together and the way the solve the problem is smart and entirely credible in terms of the story.
The cast are swiftly and economically introduced and are never generic suburban children, they have strong expressive personalities, no one dominates, all have a substantial part to play. Adults exist but are not around to rescue anyone, the children have to solve and save themselves. The art is friendly and very engaging, the context moves from being safe to with deft confidence. The snowmen are great, the first wave are malicious snowmen, the next version is clearly a different order. The action is fast, has weight and impact and is never gory. The story does not need gore, just enough fear, courage, bravado and smart thinking to pull the reader in.
The colouring is great, it gives edge and weight to the details of the art and highlights the strangly burning glow in the snowmen to excellent effect.
The lettering quietly and subtly amplifies the nuances of the writing, the tonal shifts are indicated without being forced, the sound effects are nicely loud and crunchy.
It takes very considerable skill to get the balance right in a story like this, Jerome Morales makes it look easy and natural. A great fun read.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Pistil Zero -"STIGMA" Jessica Star Maison (Writer), Loni Elizabeth Watson (Art), Mark Anthony Macta (Inks, Colours, Letters). Wicked Trwee Press.

A burning, outraged story about sexual violence and retribution. I hate stories that use sexual violence as the point of transformation for a charterer into guise of the powerful lead character. It is repugnant and morally false. Sexual slavery is a blight on humanity and this story is rooted in the violence of sexual slavery and the way it transforms someone from victim to vigilante. It makes a fierce argument about brutal actions that is never a cynical exploitation , it is also a very engaging story that uses the possibilities of being a comic with confident skill and subtle detail.
Lita Soledad escaped from two years of sexual slavery to the USA, haunted by the spirits of her ancestors Las Adelitas, spirits who burn for vengeance. Lita hides the demands of her past and her ancestors untill news from a small town forces her to act in the shape of Pistil. A young girl was assulted and killed herself, now another girl falling into the orbit of the predator.
The story unfolds in an unexpected way, circumstances are not straightforward. The predator is unconstrained appetite, the girl is uncertain, unhappy and desperately seeking something. The story takes the time to give her the depth and scope that victims loose after the assault and they become solely victims. What is very interesting are the cast members that surround the predator, knowing and complicit without ever being actively involved, Jessica Star Maison has a strong opinion about them.
Loni Elizabeth Watson's art is a pleasure, very clearly the work of an creative individual, it manages the time shifts of the story with ease and delivers action and conversation with lovely detail.
The cast are not drawn with naturalistic detail, they are vividly expressive and the use of panels to develop the ideas of the story is masterful. When action is required it is harsh and forceful.
Mark Anthony Macta's inks and colours bring out the details of the art and powerfully deliver the emotional tone of the story. The page where Lita becomes Pistil is superbly done, all the elements of the story combine to great effect.
Pistil is a full tilt story. the creators have made a choice and expressed it with skill, detail and determination, hey have also delivered a story that engages the reader and made a super comic. Fantastic.

Dicken's England. An A - Z Tour of the Real and Imagined Locations. Tony Lynch (Batsford. 2012)

A brilliant idea wonderfully executed. Charles Dickens wrote about places with the same immortal  genius that he wrote about the people in those locations. They are inextricably linked as the cast, the action and the context combine with each other to entice and entrance the reader. Tony Lynch has organised an alphabetical tour of the locations that Dickens's wrote about and that were significant in his life and delivered a deeply engaging book. Each entry has just enough information about it, if it is an actual location it has the historical and current information. Where it is featured in any of Dickens's writings a carefully chosen quotation is provided. The book requires a familiarity with Dickens's works, sufficient biographical details are provided, the cast from the writing are named as familiar friends rather than signposts to literary learning.
The alphabetical organisation solves a significant problem, it allows the biographical and the fictional to be treated equally and allows for multiple views of locations to be set up as they emerge under different guises.
The writing is informative and engaging, there is a considerable depth of research worn lightly as the locations are identified if still existing and given context if they have vanished. The biographical details are used to explain the relevance of a location, the quotes from the writing are used to spotlight the importance of context for Dickens. The balance in the book is confidently maintained, frequently a character is mentioned without a quote, the action is identified only. Sometimes extensive details are provided or longer quotes that given a strong reminder that Dickens wrote to be read.
Tony Lynch has taken an unexpected route to explore Charles Dickens and it is a joy and a pleasure to go along this tour, to revisit the stories in an unusual light and angle and be reminded of the astounding torrent of humanity that roam the locations of Dickens imagination.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Resurrection Men 1. N.S. Paul (Writer), R. Donald (Art) (2017)

 A hugely enjoyable and engagingly fresh take on zombies. a smart idea that is executed with confident skill and detail. A widower has his son involved in a fatal accident and somehow restores him. This attracts the attention of some very unpleasant people who are very interested in this talent. Leveraging grief and fear for his son they draw the father into their plans.
N.S. Paul has taken a different route into a zombie story and it creates a different atmosphere and set of story possibilities that are very enticing. A man who has lost his wife to death and may or may not have lost his son is already out of his depth in his own life, when he becomes entangled with someone who has plans for those who have been resurrected the depth increase as does the surrounding darkness and malice. The story sets up everything with deft economy and wonderful confidence. The reader can relax into the story as it unwinds in unexpected and engaging ways.
  R. Donald's art is a pleasure to read and brings the story forward on every level. The use of panels to control the story is superb, the pacing and flow of the story is carefully managed and the emotional tones are brought to the fore with subtle force. The cast are expressive with out ever overacting, the body language and their faces reveal them naturally and with impact. The colours are suitably subdued and used with stunning effect to create the compositions and give depth and detail to the art.
This is a great comic, all the elements work with each other to deliver the story and bring the reader into it, a great comic and a great story. The possibilities have been set up and I greatly look forward to seeing how they are embraced by the creative team.

Deluge 1-3. J.D.Oliva (Writer), Richard P. Clark (Art & Letters). (

A hugely enjoyable and entertaining cat and mouse crime story set in the flooded  New Orleans in 2005.Following the flooding caused by Hurricane Katrina, a group of New Orleans police officers are patrolling using a rowing boat.Their reaction to a man stranded on a rooftop indicates that it may not be a search and rescue mission.S flashback introduces a undercover FBI agent who is working in New Orleans and is presently trapped by the flooding. Who is the cast and who is the mouse shifts nicely as the story unfolds and it nicely sidesteps reader expectations.
For a cat and mouse story to be effective there has to be a compelling context that effectively traps the cat and the mouse and can shelter or expose one or the other at any point. J.D.Olivia uses the  flooded New Orleans to great effect in this role. The flood limits everyone's room for maneuver and severely increases the pressure on all the cast as matters spiral out of control. The cast are engaging and economically introduced via action to the reader, they are as shifty and dangerous as the flood waters and everyone is struggling to maintain control.
Richard P. Clark's art is friendly and engaging, capturing the action and reaction as the cast respond to each other. The context is wonderfully evoked, the rooftops that are the small island in the the flood make you fiercely exposed as well as dry, the flood interiors can be a sanctuary or a trap. The cast are individual and expressive, the action has physical force and impact, the conversations ripple with tension. The colouring  brings definition and weight to the context and cast.
This is a bare bones story that stands or falls on the way that the action and cast are managed, the creators wring every drop of tension and engagement from the story, giving the reader a great deal of pleasure in the process.