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Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The Kill. Jane Casey. Ebury Press (2014)

Very enjoyable police procedural with am engaging lead character. A police officer is shot in a car in a park  in London and other police officers are attacked. There does not appear to be any connection between the attacks and Detective Constable Maeve Kerrigan and Detective Inspector Josh Derwent have to dig very deep to find the thread that connects everything. The reveals are superbly staged, the investigation is thorough and the dark story emerges in a compelling fashion.
A first person narritive has a considerable burden to manage, the narrator has to emerge clearly and the rest of the cast have to do so as well. There has to be a careful balance between all of the cast so that the full story can be heard by the reader. Maeve Kerrigan is a smart, confident, competent police officer with enough sharp edges to be engaging and without too much baggage to be annoying or distracting. She has the confidence to share the story with her boss, Josh Derwent a man she admires professionally and finds personally annoying. While this is Maeve Kerrigan's story to tell, Josh Derwent emerges as a character in his own right  and an effective and engaging counterweight to Maeve.
Meave Kerrigan is a female lead character in a first person narration story and what is pleasantly striking is is her assured self confidence. The fact that she is female is significant to exactly the right extent, what is more important is that she is competent, forthright and hard working. She has a personal life that is just uncertain enough to provide a dramatic element without it ever undermining her. Josh Derwent appreciates Maeve's professional competence and skills while still being a little uncomfortable at her being female.
Jane Casey fruitfully uses this to create a credible tension and useful friction between the two leads and to use the differences between them to draw in the rest of the cast. One of the significant pleasures of the story is the slow reveal of the cold and clever person at the heart of the trouble, they are substantial enough to provide a real threat and force. First rate crime fiction.

A Dark Redemption. Stav Sherez. Faber and Faber (2012)

A very engaging and enjoyable murder story that builds steadily to a unforgiving conclusion. A student from Uganda is murdered and mutilated in London. Detective Inspector Jack Carrigan and Detective Sergeant Geneva Miller find that their investigation leads them into the world of illegal immigrants in London as well as the history brutal civil war in Uganda. The investigation leads to to professionally and personal treacherous directions and the pressure on Carrigan and Miller steadily increases until the price for the past is finally paid in full.
The plot mechanics are astounding, the various threads are pulled together into a gripping and horrifying way that are credible and bitterly satisfying. Stav Sherez uses the story possibilities raised by the death of a foreign national in London, a student whose field of study is fantastically sensitive for a large number of reasons really well. The implications of the death draw in a number of powerful interested parties who want to ensure that the investigation doers not stray off a preferred course. This mix of politics and police procedural is very effective, it creates a sustained tension within the story as different aims start to create friction and increase the pressure.
Lying underneath this is the personal history of Jack Corrigan and the consequences of an impulsive decision taken years before. Those consequences are still following Corrigan and as they investigation starts to get closer to the the truth, those consequences start to have an increasingly significant impact. This proves to be a very engaging way to satisfy a genre staple of giving the lead character some awkward baggage, Stav Sherez uses it skilfully to draw in Geneva Miller and to entangle her int the consequences as well. This gives him to room to develop both the characters and credibly build close quarters conflict between them that they have to both disguise from each other and manage.
The context, ranging from Uganda in the Days of Blood to the sub-culture of illegal immigrants is tightly woven into the story, it is never just exotic window dressing. The intersection between national and personal interest as well as the frightful legacy of extreme violence are quietly explored without ever being taken lightly. The cast are never submerged by the powerful context, they are entangled in it and never just puppets to the possibilities of the plot. They are all forcefully acting on their own intentions and the mix between the two makes for a powerful story.

Icarus. Deon Meyer (Writer), K.L. Seegers (Translation) Hodder & Stoughton (2015)

A very entertaining South African murder mystery that is very carefully structured and leads to a deeply satisfying conclusion. Ernst Richter 's body is found in the sand dunes outside of Cape Town and the first problem the investigating team is that they have an abundance of possible suspects. Richter ran a website that provided alibi's for people who are having an affair, work that created considerable controversy. At the same time a man starts to talk to a lawyer about his deeply unhappy family history and their wine making business. The two threads run in parallel until the cleverly staged reveals start to draw them together up to the happily unexpected and satisfyingly sharp conclusion.
The plot mechanics are wonderful, the possibilities arising out of Richter's website are carefully followed and alternative possibilities are raised and managed with care and skill. The different timelines covered by the two major story threads are tightly pulled together as the hidden context starts to emerge into light and the whole scope of the story comes into view.
The context for the story is intriguing, South Africa emerges as a jigsaw where the parts have not been successfully put together, they are all close to each other, enough to see the whole picture, they have not been actually put together. The history of South Africa is still present, intruding into every aspect of life and casting a shadow over the cast.
Deon Meyer has created a very extensive cast and it steadily becomes clear that the plot is arising directly from the actions and intentions of the cast as they seek to shape and control their lives. The investigating team are competent, focused and credibly fallible. Benny Griessel is fighting a loosing battle with his alcohol addiction and the weight of it starts to pull him out of the investigation and his own life. Don Meyer sidesteps the genre staple of a dysfunctional detective with a sharp focus on the power of addiction to reemerge after being apparently dormant. The rest of the investigating team are treated with care and each emerge as people doing a job responding personally and professionally to the circumstances and pressure of the case.
The family history is clearly heading for somewhere unpleasant, the reveals control the possibilities until a final reveal that plays with readers expectations.
Don Meyer takes his time to unfurl the full depth of the story and the time is well spent as it set up the cast and the context and gives the reader plenty of room to become deeply involved in both the narratives before being captured by the jaws of a perfectly sprung plot. Smart, considered crime writing, a pleasure.
K.L. Seegers translation form Afrikaans is transparent and still delivers the accent of the original language which is important in feeling the context of the action.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Simple Art of Murder. Marcos Dominguez Garcia (Writer), Horacio Boriotti (Art), Henar Casal (Script). WP Comics (2016)

A engaging and very entertaining noir murder mystery that embraces and utilises the genre staples with energy and confidence. Phillip Conan is a private investigator who acquires a client and a murder and finds that this is only the start of trouble to come.
 There is noting unexpected in  Marcos Dominguez Garcia story, he takes the established elements of the genre and uses them in the same way that lots of others have. The substantial pleasure of this comic is the energy and conviction with which he uses them. The temptation to wink at the audience, to assure the reader that they and the writers are sharing the same joke as the ironic use of cliches is thankfully avoided, the story is treated with the level of serious intent that readers deserve. We know Phillip Conn is going to find his foot caught in a bear trap, what he will do about is is the open question. The set up for this story makes that a very inviting prospect.
Horacio Boriotti black and white art is perfect for the story, there is no ambiguity here it is a story of increasing desperation and the art gives it the edge and definition that it needs. The cast look beaten down before they start, the events are gong to push them further and further. The panel designs increase the tight focus on the cast so that details mount up and until the action explodes with a full page splash that uses red to drive home the point.
The lettering is used with considerable skill to create a nearly audible voice over to the action, it provides a smart commentary for the action, retrospective knowledge that builds and enhances the atmosphere.
The Simple Art of Murder's confident storytelling means the reader can relax into the story possibilities sure that the creators know what they are doing and that the unfolding story will be worth looking out for.
Chief Wizard Note: This is a review copy very kindly sent by Kim Roberts, to purchase a copy of The Simple Art of Murder which you should for the pleasure a really confident noir story brings, you can do so from here,  http://www.wpcomicsltd.com/comics

Tales From Orbit 3. Editor Kim Roberts. WP Comics (2016)

Another deeply satisfying science anthology from Tales from Orbit, the continued high level of diversity and quality is rapidly becoming the signature of this book. Making strongly flavoured diversity into a subtly harmonious whole is a considerable feat which this book make look easy.
With the great cover by Gabe Ostley setting the scene the stories between the covers include the following,
Outpost Pluto. James Johmson (Writer & Artist). Rescue missions are a science fiction staple for really good reasons, they offer multiple story possibilities. In this playful story James Johnson sets up a story and then neatly switches the outcome. The friendly art and colouring pull the reader into the sharp conclusion.
The Lovers. Julio Paz (Writer), Cristian Navarro (Art), Nikki Sherman (Letters). Wonderfully unexpected, thoughtful and unsentimental, this is an alien abduction story that follows a different path to an satisfying conclusion. Cristian Navarro's subtle, telling black and white art is intimate and comsic as required. It captures and amplifies the story ideas and nuances with precise care. Nikki Sherman's letters are natural and unobtrusive, they quietly provide information without ever drawing attention to themselves, a subtle skill.
System Crash. Martin John (Writer), Bryan Randall (Art) Nikki Sherman (Letters), is a thing of beauty, a strong story with mouth watering art and graceful colouring. A space ship suffers impact damage that proves to be considerably more than anticipated.The crew find themselves under attack and need to respond. The extraordinary art and panel design by Bryan Randall capture all the story elements and draw them out to the full. The cast are a mix of human and cyborg, graceful cyborgs it should be said, and the context is detailed and physically strong. The colouring is a delight, it is used to enhance the details and the depth of the art, drawing out the details of the cast and context and giving the story a extra emotional impact.
The Adventures of Galaxy Girl in Outer Space: Refueling Andrew Tayor (Writer), Gabe Ostley (Art) is a compressed space opera that has everything it should have all tilted at a angle to make it sharply funny. Landing her ship to refuel leads to trouble for Norman. The story is blackly, sharply funny, using the genre staples with wicked effectiveness. Gabe Ostley's art and vivid colours combine to give both the bold outlines and action of space opera and makes it all happily off-kilter, both fitting seamlessly together.
Misery Loves Company, Andrew Clark (Writer), Joe Deagnon (Art) is bleak and gripping, a deeply unsettling tale of revenge. A woman who wishes to become someone else does so, the results are not what she had hoped for. A very powerful idea that is superbly realised in a compressed space.  Joe Deagnon's art conceals and reveals the dark heart of the story, the expressive intensity of the cast capture the rage and horror of the story.
Rob and Stew Escape from Slave Camp 9. Jack wallace , Andy Thurman (Writers), Juan Fleites (Art & Letters), Chris Allen (Colours). After the robot up[rising Rob and Stew find themselves enslaved and performing for robot audiences. They seek to escape to a human camp they have heard of and are assisted by a robot Fred Flintstone, who tells them the true history of the park and the uprising. A very sharp an funny story, told with vigor and relish that really makes the most of the story ideas and possibilities. Juan Fleites art gives the human cast and the robots clear expressive personalities, making the action scences powerful and the quiet moments credible. Chris Allens colours are strong and vivid, they give the context the strangeness and slightly cartoony feel it requires .
Tales from Orbit is everything an anthology should be, it is wide ranging and engaging, showcasing the extraordinary diversity of science fiction from hugely talented creators.
Chief Wizard Note: This is a review copy very kinfly sent by Kim Roberts. To purcgaser a copy of Tales from Orbit 3 which would be a really good ideas as excellent science fiction comics are a great way to celebrate the closing of the year, it can be purchase from   http://www.wpcomicsltd.com/comics

Phaeton Proterra. Maria Lantsuta. (Writer and Art) WP Comics (2016)

Very entertaining science fiction story that has an intriguing context that is skilfully used. Humans can travel across the galaxy via the Proterra, a parallel info-world. Such a resource is attractive to those who would loot it and so it is protected by a security force, Mercury. An attack by a a serious criminal, Horus is responded to by a Mercury team and it does not go well. The implications and repercussions of the event ripple nicely through the issue setting up story possibilities.
Any first issue has a number problems to solve in a limited space, set up the context for the story, introduce the cast and give the reader a reason to return for the next issue. Maria Lantsuta manages all three with craft and economy. She wastes no time in establishing the context, the opening page takes care of that with a lovely balance between the text and the art. Then the reader is plunged directly into the action as a information burglary develops in an unexpected fashion. The story mixes the private concerns of the cast with their security duties very credibly, the cast are given the space an opportunity to emerge in their own right.
The art is a pleasure to read, the cast move naturally in their context, the action scenes are very well choreographed, they move fast and have an impact, the quieter moments are expressive and thoughtful. The cast are good looking and , thankfully, well proportioned. They move with grace and confidence, their body language is as clear as their speech.
The colouring is subtle and engaging, it is science fiction colouring that quietly and effectively develops the context and details of the circumstances that support the context. The balance between the art and the colouring allows the cast and the action to come to the fore while firmly anchoring them in a specific time and place.
 Maria Lantsuta has compressed a considerable amount of story detail, action and explanation into a single issue without every making it overcrowded or clumsy, the cast have a heartbeat beneath their armor that engages the reader. This is very high quality, crafty science fiction that makes story promises that I look forward to being delivered in unexpected and intriguing ways.
Chief Wizard Note: This is a review copy very kindly sent by Kim Roberts, to purchase a copy of Phaeton Proterra, which would be very good idea  since smart science fiction comics are clinically proven to enhance living, you can get it from http://www.wpcomicsltd.com/comics

Faith Fallon Issues 1 - 3. Steven Pennella (Writer & Artist). Insane Comics (2016)

A very engaging and entertainment hard boiled story about an aspiring film star Faith Fallon and the dark story that surrounds her. Faith Fallon was once Dorothy an actress who had a part in a play about a child killer. Dorothy made a serious mistake and was punished for it. She leaves New York for Hollywood where embarks on her journey to be Faith Fallon, star.
Steven Pennella's extraordinary art dominates the story and rightfully so.The art is a deeply considered mix of 3-D modelling, drawing and carefully placed and paced panels. Any page has multiple elements which strongly support the story structure.
Steven Pennella has taken a considerable risk with the structure of the story, it is split across the cast and time, shifting as it unfurls to capture the elements of the story. This has considerable potential to be messy at best and simply confusing at worst, the combination of the art and story structure make for a satisfying whole.The art can support the various narrative threads and provide a context for each one so that the reader is never stranded. The multiple narratives in turn provide a framework for the art to rest on and make sense of the  mosaic that the reader is presented with on each page.
It is the story itself that is the key element to the comic and in particular the lead character Faith Fallon herself. She is a wonderful lead character, she has the bottomless drive and will to achieve her aims that captures the reader. She is never a passive recipient of events, to the fullest extent of her power she is shaping and pushing them. What provides the energy in the book is that she is pushing against a cast as fully committed to their own ends as Faith is to hers. Where those interests coincide they cooperate, where they do no they actively work against each other. This makes for a story that is constantly shifting and moving, it is restless and engaging, the reveals are cunningly staged to alter the reading and understanding of what went before or what will come in the future.
Hard boiled is a difficult genre to get right, the utter lack of empathy that the cast have to have to act the way they do can be draining for a reader. Action is vital, like sharks a hard boiled cast have to be constantly in motion to bring the reader along with them. What they lack in sympathy they make up with for in energetic greed and brutal resolve.
Steven Pennella has captured the moving spitit of hard boiled stories with care and precision, his cast are  engagingly rapacious and the stunning art gives him the room to mix up the narrative so that the cast have plenty of room to demand and hold the reader. Faith Fallon is a gripping comic and an intriguing hard boiled mystery story, a wonderful combination.
Chief Wizard Note: These are review copies very kindly sent by Steven Pennella, to purchase Faith Fallon  and you should to have the deep pleasure that only creativity and craft deliveries, they are available from  .
insanecomics.com

Monday, December 5, 2016

Chronicles of Terror No. 4. Kim Roberts (Editor) WP Comics (2016)

Chronicles of Terror commitment to providing diverse, smart and deeply engaging comics continues unabated, which is just wonderful. The big tent approach to horror stories and the extraordinary array of talent gathered here is a vivid testament to editorial imagination and commitment. The suitably seasonal cover by Haraldo sets the scene for a clutch of great stories, stunning pin-ups that celebrate the long dark nights of Christmas with  black humour and buckets of gore. Christmas time is a target rich environment for horror stories, the unexpected perspectives and angles that the stories here use is a deep pleasure. Included among the excellent set of stories are the following:
The Never. Eric Gahagan (Writer), Pietro Vaughan (Art), Nikki Sherman (Letters). When Christmas come so does darkness and a visit from the anti-santa. A gripping and creepy story that packs a big punch in a small space as something very nasty comes down the chimney. Pietro Vaughan's black and white art captures the contrast betwen what is going on in the house and finishes with a stunning panel that reeks of excited malice. Nikki Sherman's letters are quiet and natural in the panels, they reveal the story with clearly different voices being heard.
Reindeer. Paul Bradford (Writer), Allen Byrns (Art), is an astonishing mix of traditional Christmastime ideas and a horribly clever and perfectly paced savagery. Allen Byrns' muted colours and sketched art capture the low key drama that the reader very uncomfortably completes for themselves. The lettering is superb, it is used as a significant aspect to the whole story design, in particular the landmine of the final narration box.
A Christmas Carol, Gabe Ostley (Writer) , Chris Allen (Colours) is a gloriously perverse version of Christmas haunting, Hell and mayhem. Gabe Ostley goes full tilt and beyond and the story benefits for the momentum and hell-for-leather approach. Chris Allen's colours are a match for the energy of the writing and art, they bring out every manic element and turbo charge the story up to its fantastic conclusion.
The Ancestors. Hunter Eden (Writer), MC Carper (Art), Chris Allen (Colours & Letters), is a gem of a story and an astounding comic. The ancestors gave way when the priests came, gave way but did not go away. They come in the depth of winter looking for good children and bad children. What happens to both is brutal, a folk tale that has claws, teeth and a taste for blood. MC Carper's art captures the folk tale core and is completely contemporary in the controlled used of panels to manage the tempo of the story. The ancestors are a subtle balance of human and wolfish, while being neither but wholly themselves. Chris Allens's colours are pitch perfect, they capture tone of fairy tales and the grim events they can so lightly present.
Unwanted Gifts. James Johnson (Writer & Art). James Johnson's distinctive art and willingness to take creative risks with his writing contribute to makes a very twisted Christmas story.
Christmas Eve. JoJo King (Writer), Alister Lee (Art) , Nikki Sherman (Letters) manages to mix cute and horrifying with excellent results. JoJo King risks making a cute childish misunderstanding joke that is black as pitch and actually works. Alister Lee balances all the aspect of the story with  with care and detail so that child's perceptions of events and the actual events fit together rather than uncomfortably jostle each other. Nikki Sherman's lettering never draws attention to itself, it sits so easily as part of the art and story.
Chief Wizard Note: This is a review copy very kindly sent by Kim Roberts, to purchase a copy of Chronicles of Terror No. 4. which in the season of goodwill would be a generous act for yourself to get great comics to warm you, it can be bought here  http://www.wpcomicsltd.com/comics.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Snowvenge. Kim Roberts (Writer), Haraldo (Art), WP Comics (2016)

A short and very entertaining story that proves, with lashings of blood and rage, that revenge is best served freezing cold. A successful bank robbery  has a treacherous aftermath. A snowman and a dying wish lead to a great deal of trouble and sharp and satisfying conclusion. The astounding cover is not a flase promise, the contents deserve this cover.
Kim Roberts has packed a geat deal of story into a short space and the compression works really well. Starting in the middle of the action, the reveals are really well staged, a simple idea is given huge force and strength as there is more than one motive at work. Kim Roberts takes the time to establish the cast and then gives classic confrontation that is more than just nasty, there is a desperate need to finish all the unfinished business of the day before time runs out.
Haraldo's art is a deep pleasure to read, it is packed with details that draw in the reader and emphasise the action when it gets serious, The transformation at the heart of the story is brilliant, the creature is bursting with murderous vitality and rage. The idea is funny, the execution is stunningly horrifying and captures all the aspects of the situation with flair and wit.
The colouring is clear and precise, the details of the cast and context are given depth and detail, the expressiveness of the human and non human cast is amplified greatly. The choice for the eyes for the creature of revenge is clever, they are just what boiling rage would look like. The lettering is quiet and unobtrusive, there are much fewer sound effects thatn could have been expected, the strenght of the art creates its own soundtrack in the mind of the reader.
Kim Roberts and Haraldo have managed to deliver the cause and effect that really good horror uses to draw in and capture the reader, the cast are more than monsters and victims, in a short space they are given the chance to be failing humans and that gives the story is tremendous force and impact.
Chief Wizard Note: This is a review copy very kindly sent by Kim Roberts, to purchase Snowvenge, which you should to get the present of a superb comic and all its attendant seasonal joys, you can get it here    http://www.wpcomicsltd.com/comics

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Urban Legends No. 1. JoJo King (Writer), Maxim Mel (Artist/Creator), Steve Benton (Colours). Headshrinker Press (2016)

A gripping and very engaging horror comic that updates a classic horror story format and presentation with tremendous skill and confidence. The stunning cover is a true indication of the wonderful quality of thwe work on the inside. Babies are being found roasted alive in ovens while their parents are out and baby sitters are taking care of the children. There is no visible connection between any of the incidents. When a young woman heads out to her baby sitting job she assures her mother that she will be fine. It goes every bit (and more) as wrong as expected, it goes wrong in happily unexpected ways. The story twists and turns before its utterly satisfactory conclusion.
What is striking about this story is the wonderful confidence of the creative team, they set themselves a significant creative problem and have solved it with flair and very strong attention to detail. The story structure works very well, the framing element sets the context for the story and sets up the reader for the rest of the story. The whole context for the story is firmly established and used with considerable force and effect by JoJo King in the story and after the story.
Maxin Mel's art is a joy to read, the way the panels are used to control the flow of the story is masterful. Moving into close ups and pulling out to wide angle scene they confidently guide the reader into the details and back to the dramatic reveals as is required. The cast are varied and full of personality. The time is taken to give the leads space to establish themselves as somebodies before the trouble erupts. The physical context of the house and the town are solid and and seedy, they ground the story as it takes flight and gives the physical action real impact. The detective in particular seems to have a life beyond the confines of the story, he has a weight of living and hard experience written on his bones and brings it to bear when it is needed.
Steve Benton's colours are simply stunning, they capture, articulate and amplify the nuances inherent in the art and writing so naturally that the atmosphere is nearly palpable. Darkness, internal and external, is captures with care, the action is always clear, the lighting subtle and dramatic.
Choosing an old fashioned style is always an artistic risk, styles are always part of their own context and they rarely translate well, they can be a distraction rather than an addition. In Urban Legends what the creators have done is to use the style as a springboard for their own  vision and it works because there is a genuine spirit behind it. The old fashioned style is the overall suggestion, the comic is contemporary in every way, it uses the style because that is the correct one to deliver the story they want to tell.
Chief Wizard Note: This is a review copy very kindly sent by JoJo King, to get a copy of Urban Legend 1, which you should because really good comics from seriously talented creators are sovereign remedy for all of life's annoyances (major or minor) you can purchase it here, http://www.storenvy.com/products/18060146-urban-legends

Monday, November 28, 2016

Modern Testament Vol 3. Anthology of the Ethereal. Insane Comics (2016)

Very engaging and enjoyable collection of stories that are substantial, thoughtful and unexpected. Frank Martin uses unusual source material and rises to the implicit challenge, taking big story risks that pay off handsomely.The dynamic cover is by Jonathan Rector.
Shoulder Djinn. Frank Martin (Writer), Lucas Urruita (Art), Ezequiel Dominguez (Colours), Kel Nuttall (Letters). A young man has plans for the day in front of him, so do the two competing djinns who are giving him advice. Two voices giving contrary advice about what to do. It appears that one is stronger than the other, one strong one weak. A internal struggle is made external and very physical, then the real issue is neatly pulled up to the fore, giving the story a different slant.
Lucas Urruita's art is a pleasure to read, the cast are vivid and expressive, the action is tremendously forceful. Indecision and doubt are hard to successfully express, it can just look bemused, Tommy moves through the various stages to his final decision with clarity. The shifting perspectives of the story are delivered with care and attention to detail. Ezequiel Dominguez's colours are crucial to the story, they guide the reader through the different perspectives with ease, they give the djinns strong physical presence and weight, which is vitally important as the action develops.
The Abandoned. Frank Martin (Writer), Francesco Conte (Art) , Macerena Cortes (Colours), Kel Nuttall (Letters). An argument between a son and his mother gains heat and volume as the absent father is included in the mix. What is really impressive about this story is the way the argument feels old, it has been had many times before, it is also fresh each time, the emotions are never less than raw. The development of the argument strongly suggests one conclusion before a wonderfully convincing one is given instead. It is sign of the strength of the writing that the weight of the story can be so convincingly turned in a tiny space without cheating the reader or unraveling the story.  Francesco Conte has a considerable task to accomplish with the art, the context is very confined and there are just two members in the cast, the action is emotional rather than physical. The tension is developed fully as the cast respond to the changing dynamics of the argument and the balance of forces shift. The impact of rage is caught with subtlety and force as is the abrupt shift as the fight alters its tone. Macerena Cortes' colours give definition and depth to the context and the cast, they capture the shifting intensity of the emotions as they spill and roar. They are slightly muted which allows the real force of the words to come out loud and clear.
Down with the Sickness. Frank Martin (Writer), Joaquin Gr,(Art) Matej Stasko (Colours), Kel Nuttall (Letters). A dying man uses his pharmaceutical company as his personal resources when he becomes terminally ill. When he meets the source of his illness his problems become more clearly defined. Embodying an idea is always a tricky proposition, how to balance the requirements of both aspects. Frank Martin makes it look easy as Pestilence jumps from the comic with vivid, baleful life and sharp personality. A nasty sense of humour and a brutally frank approx to his  work, make him fascinating. Joaquin Gr, manages the equally difficult task of making Pestilence human enough to be easily read and foreign enough to be powerful and threatening. Looking like a green almost corpse possessed of enormous energy is a brilliant way to solve the problem. the details of the context give the story a very strong physical anchor that allows the ideas to operate successfully. Matej Stasko's colours capture the two elements of the story, the mundane story of a rich man's fear of death and the resources he uses to fight it and the triumphant march of his unstoppable enemy. The colours give lift and strength to both aspect of the story.
Kel Nuttals letters are consistently subtle, easy to read and change to support the story with care and focus. The sound effects are a joy, they give the emphasis just where it is needed. The ideas never push out the stories and the stories never overwhelm the ideas, a extraordinary balance of precision and force by very talented creators who have delivered a great comic.
Chief Wizard Note: This is a review copy very kindly sent by Frank Martin, If you want to purchase a copy of Modern Testament Vol 3., and you should as really good comics will endow you with cosmic powers of joy in living, it will be available mid-December from  insanecomics.com .



Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Chronicles of Terror No.3. Kim Roberts (Editor). WP Comics (2016)

A generous, engaging and very enjoyable horror anthology that is going from strength to strength, the range and quality of the stories is very impressive. The wonderful cover by Haraldo does justice to the juicy horror that lies behind it.
The Tale of Baron Urberstein Troy Vevasis (Writer), Saul Haber (Art) is very short and to the point, Baron Urberstein meets the previous owner of his castle, it does not end well. A wonderful gothic fragment  Troy Vevasis uses compression to great effect. Saul Haber's black and white art is a pleasure, the story jumps into life and the action is close up and savage.
Nightclaw, Marta Tanrikulu (Writer), Ferran Sellars (Art), Juri H. Chinchilla (Colours), E.T. Dollman (Letters) is a sharp edged police procedural. A killer is attacking elderly women on the night when a full moon is out. A classic set up that leads to a very unexpected and smartly unexpected reveal. Marta Tanrikulu plays expertly with reader's expectations pulling something nasty out of the bag. Ferran Sellars' art uses panel sizes and locations and shifting perspectives to expertly guide the reader along the story, the muted colours by Juri H. Chinchilla are lovely and bring out the dark tones of the story. E.T. Doolman's lettering is nicely unobtrusive, the sound effects are blaring and lift the action right off the page.
Dracustein. Kim Roberts (Writer),  Marthino Abreyu (Art), Chris Allen (Colours & Letters) is a great mashup of two classic horror icons. Being immortal is lonely, Dracula's answer is to build himself a mate. The story succeeds because the simple emotional core rings true, wanting a companion does not make a companion want you. Marthino Abreyu is a treat, the elements from Dracula and Frankenstein are nicely used as well as a whole range of classic horror film elements. The bold choice regarding the look of the companion Dracula creates captures all the themes of the story in the flesh of the character. Chris Allen's colours are striking, they give the story a great atmosphere and depth.
Attack of the Zombie Penguins. Austin Allen Hamlin (Writer), Kurt Belcher (Art), Mindy Lodkin (Letters) is brilliant, a stunning idea and flawless execution. Rampaging penguins are devouring humanity and when a lone survivor has his back against the wall he takes action. Kurt Belcher's astounding art manages to capture the dark humour and the brutal savagery needed to make this story work. The panel of the penguins coming out of the water to attack the survivor balances cute and murderous perfectly, each element amplify the other. The in your face colouring pushes the volume of the story right up to where it should be. Mindy Lodkin's sound effects just the soundtrack this splatter fest should have.
Georgie Porgie , James Johnson (Writer and Art) is a creepy, sticky classic that constantly goes in unexpected directions until it comes to its disturbing conclusion. The horribly vivid realisation of some very dark psychology is masterfully accomplished.  Horror is a big tent, you do not need blood to create deep chills and shivers.
Almost Midnight. John Osbourn (Writer), Pietro Vaughan (Art), Nikki Sherman (Letters). Making a deal with the devil has a clear drawback, you get what you want, so does the Devil and when he comes to collect the price becomes horribly clear. In the final packed minutes before midnight and the time for payment a woman tries to evade the inevitable. John Osburn slices the time very carefully stretching the minutes and at the same time letting them rush by. Pietro Vaughan glorious black and white art is so heavy and physical that the situation develops the dreadful weight it should have. The art traps the reader along with the cast and the final demand is stunning.Nikki Sherman's lettering is quiet and natural, it fits in with story and subtly provides emphasis at key points.
Demons. JoJo King (Writer), M.C. Carper (Art), Nikki Sherman (Letters), a fever dream of a story, a desperate last minute justification for horrifying actions by a demented killer. JoJo King gives us the sweaty justifications of a killer about to take another victim even as he is aware that his time to act has run out. M.C. Carpers art and colours amplify the intense focus of the writing, amplifying the themes of the story with force and considerable subtlety as the internal and external struggles collide.Nikki Sherman's sound effects are loud and vivid, they sharpen the edge of the action very nicely.
Chief Wizard Note: This is a review copy very kindly sent by Kim Roberts, to purchase a copy of Chronicles of Terror No.3, you should to sink your teeth into a hugely enjoyable selection of superb comics, you can get it here,   http://www.wpcomicsltd.com/comics

Monday, November 21, 2016

Wolf Country No. 6: Dust to Scripture. Jim Alexander (Writer), Will Pickering (Art), Jim Campbell (Letters), Liz Howarth (Editor). Planet Jimbot (2016)

A dense and deeply engaging issue that slows the action slightly to allow some room to look at the idea that is at the heart of the conflict and the series. At the settlement the vampires watch and wait as the victims of the last assault finally turn to dust and blow away into the depths of Wolf Country. In the city Halfpenny  consoles himself with scripture and rage against the ambiguity of the city. In the settlement, the soldiers leave to track down Luke, the vampire who now lives with wolves and Halfpenny finds  a conflict that suits him.
Jim Alexander has taken a severely thorny and contentious topic and handled it within the story context with assured confidence and deft writing skill. Matters of faith are explosive because they lie absolutely beyond argument, they is only acceptance or rejection. At the settlement the faith of the soldiers is a direct challenge to the faith of the settlers. They can  manage an uneasy truce because their ultimate aims are the same, the differences between them create room for savage actions. Mrs Halfpenny sacrifices to get the soldiers out of the settlement, they are a greater threat than the wolves. The wolves are clear external enemy, the soldiers are a subtle, unsettling internal enemy that can undermine the solidarity that the settlement requires to survive.
The same problem is facing Halfpenny in the city as he refreshes his faith in the true way in the face of the multiple ambiguities of the city. The stark conflict of the settlement sits well with his rigid faith, in the city there are unexpected challenges. Jim Alexander has written an issue that is dense with ideas which arise directly from the cast in the circumstances in which they find themselves. The action has slowed down, the story has not.
Will Pickering has a considerable task to deliver a mostly talking issue and make it engaging to read, he makes it look so easy that it is nearly possible to miss just how substantial an achievement this is. The cast are all well established so the depth of expression that they bring to their conversations has as much weight as the bursts of action that break out in the story. There is a 'debriefing' session that is just Halfpenny and a security officer, the flow of the conversation rests as much on their eloquent expressions and body language as it does on their words. When the tension is unsprung it is utterly satisfactory, the rage has been clearly building and finally has a target.
Jim Campbell's letters change as required without ever drawing attention, they are so easy to read that they blend into the context of the panels.
Wolf Country is continuing to develop in fascinating ways as detail and depth are added to the context and the cast are given more and more room to be themselves.
Chief Wizard Note:This is a review copy kindly sent by Jim Alexander, to purchase a copy of Wolf Country 6, which you should do for the life affirming pleasure that comes from reading great comics, you can get it here https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/490317579/wolf-country6

Saturday, November 12, 2016

SEMIAUTOMAGIC Collection. Alex De Campi (Writer, Letters), Jerry Ordway (Art), Marissa Louise (Colours), Lara Margarida (Art). Dark Horse Books/Illicit Press (2016)

A very entertaining and engaging supernatural horror collection.  Semiautomagic (Dark Horse), Professor Alice Creed is frequently called away from her classes to solve serious supernatural problems, in this case it involves someone she knows. A young man's spirit has been stolen by a computer game and Alice Creed realises that the problem is a widespread one. She locates the point of origin and heads for it, surviving the worst plane journey ever to find that the trouble is much greater than she had anticipated. Alice Creed makes a dreadful decision and has to manage the consequences. The set up is established with skill and economy and the downward spiral of the story is consistently inventive and unexpected, the conclusion is smart and satisfactorily sour.
Alex De Campi manages to deftly avoid two serious problems inherent in horror and superhero (Alice Creed is sufficiently powerful to qualify as a non costumed superhero) , how to get the problem started and how to test the hero sufficiently to be interesting. Frequently in a horror story someone has to act very stupidly to create the initial situation, they then start to act much more rationally after the trouble has started which undermines tension and credibility from the start. Alex De Campi simply steps over and start and presents the reader with a context where the trouble is already well established. Now everyone can get on with dealing with the problems, which they do. Alice Creed is a powerful, competent and deeply experienced supernatural warrior, creating a credible threat is difficult, Alex De Campi neatly uses a sequence where a solution to one problem is the source of an increasingly bigger one. By painting Alice Creed into a corner of her own making, Alex De Campi develops tension and sufficient uncertainty about the possible outcomes to propel the story very strongly. Alice Creed is narrating the story directly to the reader, there is another repeated narrative element which does not sit comfortably with this style. It is not by any means a problem, it is just a slightly jarring note in the flow of the story.
Jerry Ordway's art is simply luscious, it is such a detailed pleasure to read, it captures all the mad contradictions of the story and makes them completely normal and utterly insane. The relationship of the cast to their context is always credible, they move through a recognisable and distorted world with physical grace and presence, their actions have depth and heft. Alice Creed looks like a normal female human, dressed in entirely sensible cloths for fighting monsters, she is treated seriously which allows the fantastic to be serious as well. The cast, human and otherwise are expressive, their body language is as clear as their speech. From straight conversation to extreme, supernatural violent action the art is utterly engaging and the beautiful details are a treat to read. 
Marissa Louise's colours are stunning, they amplify, refine and concentrate the emotional sub text of the story and the art with breathtaking precision.
Alex De Campi's lettering is quiet, changing when needed by the cast or context, always unobtrusive and easy to read.
Semiautomagic: Childhood's End (Illicit Press) , is a series of collection of three stories each which follow slightly different paths.
Childhood's End, Alex De Campi (Writer, Letters), Jerry Ordway (Art), Marissa Louise (Colours), takes some of the most famous ideas in comics history and uses them in a darkly imaginative way. Alice Creed follows a trail of missing pets to an old house and finds something very nasty. The story is written in a Dr Seuss style rhyme which works because of the strength and unerring confidence of the writing. Jerry Ordway's art captures the required Dr Seuss echos and distorts them as required so that the various layers of the story are woven tightly together. All of which just goes to show that there are no rules for talent, the mash up sounds uncomfortable instead it is suitably unettling. Marissa Louise's colours highlight the various elements of the story and creates an unifying space for them all, making it look easy to be cute and creepy at the same time.
A Town Called Malice, Alex De Campi (Writer, Letters), Lara Margarida (Art), Marissa Louise (Colours) features a friend of Alice, Harriet, who opened the wrong door. When romance fades and life diminishes a woman takes a step to mark the moment and makes a wish at the same time. Happy consequences soon reveal their darker side and Harriet tries to help the woman where she cannot help herself. The story is the fullest exploration of one of the major ideas in the collection, magic has consequences, and it thoughtful and very engaging. Lara Margarida is a strong contrast to Jerry Ordway and the art stands on its own terms with confidence and force. The quieter story benefits from the slightly lower key of the art, the action is less dramatic without ever being less intense.  Marissa Louise's colours alter to match, capture and express the different requirements of the art while remaining as stunning as ever.
The Hollow Man Alex De Campi (Writer, Letters), Jerry Ordway (Art), Marissa Louise (Colours), Rob Jones (Layout assistance)  returns to Alice Creed this time as a debt collector, someone who comes to present the bill for the easy decisions that were made years before. Jerry Ordway, Rob Jones, Marissa Louise all combine seamlessly to deliver an nasty story.
The Semiautomagic Collection is a super set of richly realised horror with a great cast, a pleasure to read and relish the talents that are so confidently displayed.
Chief Wizard Note:  Semiautomagic, is available via Dark Horse Books and in comic stores, while
Semiautomagic: Childhood's End is not available as a printed book, the whole collection (recommended) is avalible on Comixology:  https://www.comixology.com/Semiautomagic-The-Bomb-that-Will-Bring-Us-Together-Childhoods-End-Collectors-Edition/digital-comic/425089 

Saturday, November 5, 2016

The Crocodile. Maurizio De Giovanni (Writer), Anthony Shugaar (Translator) Abacus (2014)

An intense tense and gripping crime story that builds to a bitter conclusion. Someone is murdering teenagers in Naples, the victims appear to be wildly unrelated and the killer quickly gets the nickname of the Crocodile. Disgraced Detective Inspector Giuseppe Lojacono has a suspicion about the case which is utterly at odds with the accepted explanation and he is drawn into the investigation over the strong objections of his superior officers. The story unravels steadily, the reveals are staged with great skill and the investigation slowly finds the real reasons for the killing.
The narrative is artfully split among various members of the cast and each is given the space and time to develop into someone real and substantial before they become embroiled into the tentacles of the plot. Giuseppe Lojacono, trapped by a scandal he did not create is an exile in Naples, brutally separated from his home in Sicily and his family. He is rotting away in an office, too toxic to be utilised , too innocent to be fired, the case pulls him in as his skills start to assert themselves. The killer is also an exile, come to Naples to bring death to those he hunts. From the astonishing opening chapter which reads like melodrama, he is slowly revealed to be what he really is, the truly terrifying Crocodile, a man with a mission. A third exile from Sardinia, Piras, the Assistant Public Prosecutor who is managing the investigation is another person with a shattered personal history. It is the understanding of grief that give Lojacono and Prias the edge to understand the line that the killer is following.
The Crocodile opens as a conventional crime story with a disgraced police officer and a relentless killer then it slowly moves to be something considerably darker and more intense. The narrative control that Maurizio De Giovanni has as the various threads slowly come together then the rush of time is cunningly splintered so that the final conclusion is arrived at with aching dread and ferocious tension.
Anthony Shugaar's translation is invisible, the story reads as entirely Italian written in English.
Like the title character, this story appears to be quiet and seeking to be unnoticed, as it reveals itself it establish a grip on the reader every bit as fierce and powerful as that of a crocodile as the power of grief and the horror that can spring from it becomes clear. A brilliant crime story, not to be missed.

Slash and Burn. Colin Cotterill. Soho Crime (2011)

A wonderfully engaging and enjoyable crime story set in Laos in the late 1970's. Dr. Siri is the national coroner in Laos, a position he never wanted and hopes to finally retire from when he becomes involved in a search for a American helicopter pilot who was MIA in the Vietnam war. Evidence had surface that he was alive and a delegation from the US government was arriving to investigate.  Dr Siri and his friends are included on the Lao team that travels with the Americans as they go to the reported crash site. When they arrive events spiral out of control as the hidden agendas start to emerge and the danger to everyone starts to become much clearer. The reveals are staged with great skill and sharp wit, as the body count rises the true scope of the problem is revealed. The secret at the heart of the story is substantial and brilliantly credible and unexpected, the conclusion is very satisfying.
Colin Cotterill hides the superb plot mechanics behind the wholly engaging cast and the astonishing context. Dr Siri is a misfit in the communist republic if post war Laos, a chronic disbeliever in any ideology he is constantly leaning against the boundaries of possible behavior to see what what margin of freedom he can find. He is an astute investigator as he is willing to see what is in front of him and think about why it happened. The rest of the cast are given the room to come forward and engage the reader as they cope with the circumstances that embroil them.
A major character in its own right is Laos itself in its ramshackle absurdity as the mix of communist political leadership tries to deal with the stubborn history of the country. Living in this context is to be an actor in a very absurd black comedy where proclamations are intended to change reality by denying it. Everyone is caught is the gaps between the actual state of living and the propaganda that floats above it like a dust cloud .
Colon Cotterall takes a very lighthearted approach to this context, mining the absurdity for generous humour and sharp barbs about the problems it creates. What makes it work is that he also takes it very seriously as the impact on his cast is the structure of their daily lives. They have to manage and they choose to relish where possible the absurdity and keep the dangers to a minimum. This gives the book a great weight that allows the plot to be gripping and sharp.
This is a great crime story with a  substantial story that is carefully constructed and a cast that inhabit their extraordinary context with vitality and force. 

Monday, October 24, 2016

Tales from Orbit Vol 2. Kim Roberts (Editor) WP Comics (2016)

A very engaging and enjoyable science fiction anthology, very diverse stories that sit harmoniously together as a  deeply satisfying collection.
The Switch, Alexander Altman (Writer), Cheuk Po (Art), Kane Gallagher (Colours), Christian Docolomansky (Letters). This is a great fun story that proves no matter how far in the future you go, stupidity will still trip you up. Alexander Altman has written a very nice crime/science fiction mash up, it catches the requirements of both genres without hesitation. Cheuk Po's art manages the same balance with great details that support both story aspects. Kane Gallagher clearly knows what the colours of the science fiction future are and uses then with care to give the story a strong sense of place and depth. Christian Docolomansky letters are easy and natural, the spare sound effects are used very effectively.
Good Son, Victor Franzo (Writer), Patrick Caetano (Art) is a short, direct shot to the heart. A man comes home to die. The set up is as bare and simple as possible and has the room for a multitude of emotions and thoughts. Patrick Caetano's stylised art is pitch perfect for the detail and spirit of the story. Getting something this delicate and short right is an amazing achievement.
Victorious Haze: One for the Road. Michael Gordon (Writer), Estanislao Marugo, Frenando Maiaru (Art and Letters), is a superb western science fiction mash up. A stranger comes into a dusty town and stirs things up. The stranger is a lot stranger than he appears, not half as strange as who he is chasing. A classic western set up is finished off with a lovely science fiction twist.  Estanislao Marugo and  Frenando Maiaru art and colours capture the spirit and detail of Michael Gordon's smart story.
Contact. Julio Paz y Vadala (Writer), Cesar Eduardo (Art), Chris Allen (Colours). Julio Paz y Vadala has the skill and confidence to pull of this story, he uses the inevitability really nicely. The art by Cesar Eduardo matches and contrasts the narrative split very well, it catches the focus on the countdown to the conclusion. Chris Allen uses the clours to sharply and subtly differentiate so thaty both parts match and collide exactly as they should.
Lost Boys. Mateo Garcia (Writer), Jeferson Sanzinski (Art) is full bore hard science fiction that compresses a lot of story into s short space. Beginning with a genre classic of a final message from a stranded space craft, the story twists and turns before arriving at a genuinely unexpected and very satisfying conclusion. Mateo Garcia mixes up a great deal in the story and has the disipline to make it all work and deliver a very strong pay off. Jeferson Sanzinski's black and white art is a match for the story, the panels are used to control the pace and flow, the action is brutal and has real weight and impact. The sound efects are used with skill to support the tension and underline the action. Smart, sharp science fiction.
Across the Void. Marta Tanrikulu (Writer), Kevin Enhart (Illustrator), Delfine Siobhan Kanashii (Colours), E.T. Dollman (Letters), is thoughtful, gripping and happily unexpected. An unexpected end to a huge journey creates questions that can only have hard answers. Matching the sweep of space opera with closely confined drama Marta Tanrikulu has followed a different and very engaging path.Kevin Enhart manages the difficult task of making the context reald and detailed and giving the cast the life and expression they have to have. Delfine Siobhan Kanashii,s restrained and slightly subdued colours frame the emotional framework of the story carefully and bring out the nuances of the story and the art. The lettering by  E.T. Dollman is easy and natural, fitting in with deep  unobtrusive  skill.
Tales from Orbit 2 is a substantial serving of first rate, imaginative  and thoughtful science fiction, just a pleasure to read and linger over.
Chief Wizard Note: This is a review copy very kindly sent by Kim Roberts, if you wish to purchase a copy of Tales from Orbit 2, you should what more could you want to increase you joy in living than great science fiction comics?, you can get it it from here  http://www.wpcomicsltd.com/comics

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The World Hates Jimmy. D.C. Johnson (Writer & Penciller), Chris Allen (Inks,Colours & Letters), Dustin Evans (Special Feature Panels). WP Comics (2016)

An explosion of visual inventiveness and storytelling confidence that delivers charm, absurdity and humour without any apparent effort, hugely engaging and enjoyable. Jimmy, a very happy young boy becomes the object of romantic interest from two girls which leads to a fanatically absurd and horrible day for Jimmy and a extraordinary comic.
Absurdity is very difficult to do successfully, there is a subtle limit that has to be found that allows the ridiculous ideas to flourish and D.C. Johnson has established that limit with wonderful, assured confidence. The storytelling framework is taken from animation with abrupt cuts and jumps, the time compression that panels provide is exploited to the full to give the story a coherence that it needs. Jimmy's adventurous day is told at a full tilt, the narrative moves at amazing speed with the unexpected always waiting to be sprung on the reader and Jimmy. Jimmy solid happy nature is the anchor of the story, he rolls with the punches and changes and gets on with it. This allows the rest of the action to spiral off in whatever direction D.C. Johnson wants, backed by the steely discipline used to ensure that every idea serves a direct dramatic purpose.
The art is perfect for the story, it is cartoony and animated, in both senses, the cast are busting with life and energy. The cast are astoundingly expressive, so full of personality and determination that the pages struggle to contain them. They are matched by the context which shifts and changes as required to follow the rush of ideas and changing circumstances.
Chris Allen's dazzling colours are exactly what is needed, no subtlety is wanted , it would get in the way, the action and the cast want to be amplified to the greatest possible extent to express the ferocious energy and creative force of the writing and the art. The lettering is the quietest part of the comic, it never draws attention away from the action, the sound effects are as dramatic as they should be.
Dustin Evans special panels are fantastic, they give the story a extra dimension that is very welcome.
The World Hates Jimmy is as close to having an animated short between covers as it is likely to get, a brilliant use of the possibilities of comics, absurdly funny and charming.
Chief Wizard Note: This is a review copy very kindly sent by Kim Roberts. To purchase a copy, good comics are a proven method to extend your life by increasing your happiness, you can get it here  http://www.wpcomicsltd.com/comics

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Scavenger No. 2. Kim Roberts (Writer), Megan Huang (Art). Markosia Comics (2016)

An excellent second issue in the science fiction comic where plot lines start to emerge and the cast are given a greater depth and complexity.
Aidan find the massacre at Tin City and decides to go to to the Willow Temple to seek for answers. Caleb returns to the Floating City to a heated reception from his father and sisters. Aidan gets information at the temple and Caleb gets unwelcome news. The story moves  forward with grace and force as both the leads are pulled further into the unfolding events.
Kim Roberts has managed a very difficult balance, the plot has been set in motion and the story possibilities have been opened. This has been done at the same time that the leads are given increased depth and development, they are allowed to be more in action and interaction which gives the story considerably more grip and depth. Caleb is boiling in frustration, his mother is asleep and he cannot access the magic that his siblings use, Aidan goes on a search and is massively gullible. The shades of gray are slipping very satisfactorily into the story and the expected confrontation is considerably more consequential because of them.
Megan Huang's art is a perfect complement to the storytelling, it bring out the nuances with the body language and expressions of the cast. There is a joyous lightness to the art that never softens the impact of anger or violence, it places it firmly in its context.  The new members of the cast are individual and so well established it feels as if they have come into the comic with a history already. The colouring is awesome, it is clearly science fiction colours that give an alien context and cast, the soft palette means that the fairy tale underpinning is always subtly acknowledged. In particular the way the colours are used to enhance the expressiveness of the cast and give solidity to the context is a pleasure. The lettering is quiet, understated and so natural that it reads without effort or notice, the sound effects on the other hand are loud and when needed LOUD.
This comic is a serious pleasure to read, two very talented creators working so harmoniously together is one of the opportunities that comics offer readers.
Chief Wizard Note: This is review copy,very kindly sent by Kim Roberts. 

Monday, October 17, 2016

The Chronicles of Terror Vol 2. Edited by Kim Roberts. WP Comics (2006)

A very enjoyable horror anthology that has a very wide range of stories with a slightly subdued  Halloween theme. An anthology is always a challenge in comics, variety is critical and having very different styles work together can be difficult to manage. In The Chronicles of Terror both are made to look easy, there is a great variety and harmony at the same time.
Peppermint, Jackie Justice (Writer), Mohamed Foaud Awad (Art) is very strong version of a classic story idea. At Halloween a couple find unexpected trouble instead of harmless fun. The story is set up very well, within a very short space there is considerable action and the cast are more than just victims in waiting. Mohamed Foaud Awad's black and white art is detailed enough to give a strong context for the action, the cast are expressive and credible, the panels are used very well to control the pace of the story.
The Deep, Jeff Mcclland (Writer), Jason Seabaugh (Penciller) , Rusy Giligan (Inker), Adnan Virk (Letters) Chris Allen, (Colors) is a great story with a wonderfully unexpected and clever story turn. Two skeletons playing card in a sunken submarine is a great set up, what follows plays with the idea with great skill. The colours are a pleasure, they are bright and slightly subdued at the same time, they capture and express the story intent and nuance beautifully. The art is inviting, the skeletons have body language that makes them  come to life for the reader. They have personality if not flesh.
11:27 Josh John St James (Writer), Chunlin Zhao (Art) Nikku Sherman (Letters) is tense and gripping, night horrors have rarely been so nasty. The story have a very strong and tight focus on the struggle that unfolds, there is nothing extra or unnecessary. The art is splendid, it creates the uneasy atmosphere that steadily escalates, fear is contagious and the terror of the child pulls the reader in. The sound effects are spot on, they provide the sound track for the action, and underscore and amplify the situation with precision.
Dead Stream. Haraldo (Writer and Art) appears to have wandered in from a different collection before it brutally shows exactly why it is so at home in this anthology. A man is rescued from a river and in the spirit of no good deed going unpunished, this proves to be a very bad move. The art is compelling, the use of panels to control the pace the story is amazing, the cast are vivid and full of energy, the colours draw out the details of the context perfectly.
Under the Bed. Bryan Hoover (Writer), Ron Joseph (Pencils) , Jake Inseberg (Inker), E.T. Dollman (Letters) is extraordinary. More a punchline than a story the very smart set up and beautiful art lift it up and make it shine.
Well to Hell. Tom Worth (Writer), J.C.Grande (Art), Nikki Sherman (Letters), provides a very entertaining reminder that if you make a deal with Hell the Devil is very much in the detail. The story set up very well, the pay of is spot on. J.C. Grande manages the human and the infernal cast with great confidence,Nikki Sherman uses lettering to great effect to emphasise the differences in the cast.
This is a great anthology, the quality of the stories is uniformly high, all the stories deliver on their Halloween promise.
Chief Wizard Note: This is a review copy very kindly sent by Kim Roberts. To purchase a copy of The Chronicles of Terror Vol 2.,excellent comics are scientifically proven to be good for you, you can get it from   http://www.wpcomicsltd.com/comics

Radiation Burn. James Johnson (Writer and Artist). WP Comics (2016)

An entertaining and engaging collection of science fiction stories that capture the devil-may-care tone and atmosphere of the underground comix decades ago. Without ever being old fashioned or unduly nostalgic James Johnson has captured the moving spirit of the comix and created an engaging and sharply funny set of stories.
Dead Tree introduces Jeddediah and Miclantecuhltu a skeleton shaped, luchador battle robot who are wandering a irradiated wasteland when they are attacked by a mutant, whom they kill. They take the mutant's severed head into the town of Dead Trees to claim the bounty and this do not go well. This is a smart version of a classic western storyline, where a stranger comes into town and upsets the status quo with unpredictable results. The story is full of sly humour and nice set ups, the climax is true to the anarchic spirit of the comix as well as the western stories.
The art is friendly and a pleasure to read, it has a rough quality which fits the story and tone. The cast are all lively and strongly expressive, in particular Jeddediah who is rarely as in control of circumstances as he would like to pretend.
Lil'Mutants is a suitably altered version of a troublesome children comic strip, two young mutants make trouble for neighbors and get into trouble themselves. In all the cases the trouble is entirely in line with the prevailing spirit of the comic. The joke does not quite come off, without the core of whimsy that supported the original stories the framework is not strong enough to support the weight that is put on it here. The framework is slightly at an angle to the content which muffles the impact slightly.
Son of A Demon is the longest and most successful story in the collection, it brings all of the elements together and adds something extra that gives it a strong force. Jeddediah,  Miclantecuhltu and Annabelle, a girl whom they met in Dead Trees, are captured by a predatory insect in the desert when they are rescued by a group who are interested in Miclantecuhltu. Jeddediah leaves group's base and encounters a stranger on a motorbike. Naturally things go downhill from there, they do so in unexpected and engaging ways. The final panel is a sharp break with the lighter tone of the rest of the story and adds considerable force and weight to the story.
The colours bring the story to life, they make the details of the context stand out much more strongly and give the cast an extra depth and vitality.
Fairwell is a nice one page joke that works very well.
Radiation Burn follows its own path very successfully, it has a sharp edge and a tremendous storytelling momentum that work together very well. James Johnson has a strong creative voice and that it is very welcome.
Chief Wizard Note: This is a review copy very kindly sent by Kim Roberts. To purchase a copy of Radiation Burn, which you should to get the pleasure of a sharply original talent, you can get it from http://www.wpcomicsltd.com/comics

Monday, October 10, 2016

Thirteen Shadows. Devin Theobold (Writer), Joseba Morales (Art) WP Comics (2016)

A very engaging and enjoyable superhero story that solves the problems of story set up and super-heroics with flair and very smart story telling. The impact that superhero Chelsea Shadows has on the city is dramatic and credible. The fallout from that impact is much less predictable and is superbly presented by Devin Theobold. There is a sequence where Chelsea Shadows is introduced via an action sequence that is thoughtful and very sharp and the villain makes his first public move.
Any first issue has a difficult task to accomplish, introduce the cast and the story with sufficient information and momentum to capture the reader for the ongoing story. A superhero story has an additional difficulty as the superhero has to be introduced, they demonstrate what makes them super and most critically they are given a genuine problem to solve that will test them and their powers.
Thirteen Shadows delivers on all counts  in a genuinely surprising way that also manages to resolve one of the perennial problems of superhero comics, how to balance a credible human context with a superhero. From the opening panel Devin Theobold shows how to do it with masterful ease, the story flows strongly from the opening and gains depth and force as it goes. Chelsea Shadows is given an opportunity to demonstrate her powers and prove that she is serious and smart. More importantly the villain is given a believable motive, enough brains and angry willpower to actually be a problem to Chelsea Shadows.
Joseba Morales's art is as low key and slightly dark as the story, it brings out the nuances and atmosphere of the story naturally and effectively.  The panels are used to control the flow of the story really well and to frame the action. The cast are individual and expressive, the action is powerful and to the point. The colour are as dark as they need to be, this is very from the sunny uplands of super heroics while never becoming needlessly grim and gritty. The story context is used brilliantly and the art captures the developing consequences for the cast.
The lettering is subtle and natural, it never distracts fron the art or the story, the sound effects are used to emphasise the action, they never distract from it.
This is a seriously good superhero comic, a very smart direction that opens great story possibilities.
Chief Wizard Note: This is a review copy very kindly sent by Kim Roberts, to purchase a copy of Thirteen Shadows, you should to see just how good superhero stories can be, you can get it here  http://www.wpcomicsltd.com/comics

Friday, October 7, 2016

Cluck. Dustin Schmidt (Writer), Gabe Ostley (Art). WP Comics (2016

Very entertaining short comic with smart set up and astounding art. Detective Cluckowski is a police office for whom the rules are an optional extra, partnered with a inexperience officer who is replacing Cluckowski's deceased partner, they have a dramatic start to their partnership.
For anyone with a passing knowledge of television police dramas this is the basic story set up and Dustin Schmidt uses it without any twists or upgrades. This is a really smart approach, the short ongoing comic has to establish everything very fast and taking a familiar framework is an effective way to do so. The story has been set up, everyone introduced and the possible backstory hinted at, where it goes from here is wide open. The set up allows Dustin Schmidt total freedom to move in any direction he chooses. The more significant reason this is such a smart choice is that the art is so dominant that any writing that demands attention would be elbowed out anyway. Far better to write in a way that supports the art and allows it shine as brightly as it needs.
Gabe Ostley's art is an explosion of colour, form and energy that takes a short story and fills it so much the comic feels like a much longer read. Detective Cluckowski has a chicken head on a human body and a rampaging bad attitude that just steams off the page. He is every rouge police office cliche turned to 11 and still utterly and uniquely himself. The rest of the cast are still in his giant shadow, they have not got the chance to make an impression yet.
The fantastic colouring is so loud and dramatic that it could easily drown out the story,instead it amplifies the energy of the art and gives the story huge momentum.
The lettering is smart, Cluck has different speech bubbles to the rest of the cast, everything is pushing him as different, the whole story and cast just treat him as normal. This gives the story a great lift and opens possibilities that I look forward to seeing.
Cluck takes a standard story idea and gives it an unexpected makeover, the balance between the writing and the dominant art is pitched perfectly. This is a great set up, there are really strong and intriguing possibilities ahead.
Chief Wizard Note: This is a review copy very kindly sent by Kim Roberts. If you would like to purchase a copy of Cluck, you should give yourself the pleasure that a really smart comic brings, you can do so from  http://www.wpcomicsltd.com/comics

Temple of The White Ape God. James Johnson (Writer & Art) WP Comics (2016)

A great, short sword and sorcery story that delivers all the genre requirement with energy and wit. A warrior and a warlock come to the Temple of the White Ape God to get an artifact and more importantly the payment for doing so. A quick battle with some apes sets the scene nicely before they move into the temple. The events in the temple are both everything they should be and nicely surprising. There is also a perfectly set up joke that joyously plays with genre tropes.
Writing sword & sorcery well is a very difficult task, like any genre it appears to be easy as it follows a widely understood set of rules and is so inherently absurd and theatrical that it should be simple to do. It is simple to do it badly, there is a very delicate balance within the genre that has to be handled with the care that James Johnson lavishes on this story. James Johnson may be gently mocking the genre, he is doing so from the inside out, the story is strong enough in its own right to carry the extra baggage without any strain.
The art is very friendly, James Johnson has not used a realistic style to create a convincing context for incredible actions, everything is slightly cartoony. This plays well with the light tone of the story, the action is fast but never brutal. It is easy to imagine the comic as an animated cartoon. The cast are well defined, the warlock has a bald head and a chin beard, the warrior is broad shouldered with an animal skin kilt. A beautiful and half naked female prisoner and a female winged monkey complete the cast and hit all the right notes.
The colours are as bright and vivid as required, this is a story that does not need subtlety, it needs amplification and that is delivered with care and detail by the colouring.
The sound effects are loud and support the action.
This is a smart, short comic that delivers the story with force and thoughtful force.
Chief Wizard Note: This is a review copy very kindly sent by Kim Roberts. to purchase a copy of Temple of The White Ape God, good comics are a leading indicator of improved happiness and joy in living, it is available from  http://www.wpcomicsltd.com/comics

Candleman. Don Smith (writer), Kurt Belcher (Art), Chris Allen (Colours & Letters). WP Comics (2016)

Very engaging and gripping short horror comic. A man stranded in a deserted motel finds that local legend has more presence than he imagined.
Horror can benefit strongly from the compression that comes with a short form comic, the set up and pay off have to be established quickly and effectively, which is a considerable challenge for a writer. Don Smith makes it look easy with this story, the pacing is perfect, the situation is established with precise economy and the the follow through is grippingly nasty.
Kurt Belchers art is a pleasure to read, the Candleman himself is very striking and the develops strongly as the action proceeds. The impact of the action on the Candleman is captured vividly and used very thoughtfully. He moves from being a simple bogeyman to becoming something much more terrifying and the art carries the burden of showing the transition without missing a beat. The panel layouts control the pace of the story very well, they create the room for the story to have the length it needs to e effective within a short comic format.
Colouring is a key aspect to any horror comic, the colours are a subtle emotional key for the reader, they bring out the aspects that the writer and artist way to emphasise. Chris Allen's colours drive the story vividly, they use light and shadow to great effect, in particular they give depth and weight to the art and words. The Candleman is a suitable grotesque figure, the colours add to his credibility and in one panel that is concerned with eyes, the colours make every horrible detail stand out.
The letters are quiet and natural, they flow with the story and never distract from it. The different speech patterns are clear. The sound effects are loud, horrible and exactly what the story needs to leap off the page at the reader.
A very satisfying short comic from talented creators who make the best use of the format.
Chief Wizard Note: This is a review copy very kindly sent by Kim Roberts. To purchase a copy of Candleman, you should to treat yourself to a really well crafted comic, you can purchase it  from http://www.wpcomicsltd.com/comics