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Friday, March 31, 2017

The Lost Child. Camilla Lackberg (Writer),Tina Nunnally (Translation). Harper (2013)

A very enjoyable, engaging and somewhat strange Swedish crime story. A man is shot in the entrance hallway to his apartment with no apparent motive. The investigation lead by Detective Patrick Hedstrom finds that Mats Severin was an intensely private man who did not seem to have any enemies who had recently returned to the seaside town of Fjallbacka as the council's financial director. Mats school sweetheart, Nathalie has also returned to Fjallbacka, she had moved to Graskar Island, known locally as Ghost Island. The investigation is thoughtfully managed and starts to focus on the event that preceded Mats return to Fjallbacka and when separate investigation in Stockholm starts to intersect with the one in Fjallbacka the satisfying sour conclusion is arrived at.
The plot mechanics of the main story are impressive, the reveals are carefully set up to hide as much as they show and the story moves in wonderful directions before convincingly coming back to a bitingly credible conclusion. The very large cast are energetic and full of life, Camilla Lackberg has a tremendous gift for concisely introducing and then developing her cast. She does not depend too much on continuity to support the series regular cast, they are given the space and time to make a full impression on any reader who is coming to this book cold. One of the very nice things about the book is the way that a genre staple, the incompetent police chief, is given significantly greater depth and humanity than usual. He may be incompetent, impulsive and largely lacking insifgt or foresight, he is also loving and vibrantly alive.
Critically this is a story about a number of relationships, some of which end with violent death, others of which are savagely damaged by past events and others of which are resilient and positive.
What makes The Lost Child somewhat strange are the ways that these relationships, some of which have a direct link to the major story line, some of which are essentially completely independent, are handled. There is an inescapable of judgement, harsh judgement, in the way some of these relationships are played out. Camilla Lackberg has a sharp and deeply critical eye of character weakness that leads to terrible decisions, the results of those decisions are never managed with forgiveness, grim justice is delivered to punish the weakness that lead to bad actions. It is weakness that is punished rather than deliberate malice, while that does get some measure of punishment. the greater load is carried by the weak.
While egotistical self importance does get a savage comeuppance, it is the more subtle weakness of the heart and mind that get the harshest weighting in the balance and the heaviest punishment. The weakness are not trivial, nor are the results of those weaknesses, still there is a steely lack of compassion in their treatment that is striking. There is a slight element of the supernatural in the story, Ghost Island has earned its name and it is used with care and subtle emphasis that never distracts from the harsh reality of the events.
Tina Nunnally translation is transparent, there is no sense that this story is anything less than entirely Swedish in its context, cast or atmosphere nor is there any sense that it was not in fact written directly in English. The translation allows the cast and the story emerge completely and forcefully.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Diamond Star Issue 1. Troy Vevasis (Writer), Alethea Van Holland (Art), Nikki Sherman (Letters). Tenacious Comics (March, 2017)

Very engaging and enjoyable story about a young woman who completes a dangerous journey and realises that it is really the first step in a greater journey. Irena is asked by her father to deliver the Diamond Star to his dying brother who oversees the skies and if he dies all life will end. Irena takes the Diamond Star and heads off of the journey which is as eventful as it should be.
Troy Vevasis takes a very simple framework and delivers a story with great heart and charm, an engaging lead character who has to make interesting choices and decisions. Troy Vevasis solves the two major story problems with care and thoughtful detail, the first is the the gender of the lead charachter. This is a  tricky choice to make and get right, a young man is an easy choice, there is an enormous tradition of stories and forms to rest against and draw down to build upon. Chosing a female lead is somewhat more complex, it carries the implied idea of being deliberately non traditional, to have a sub text of making a point which can jostle uneasily with such a simple story framework. The utter naturalness of the story means that the lead character is allowed to simply be herself without sense of the reader being directed any way.
The second is the problems that Irena encounters on the way to her uncle, they need to be sufficiently serious to be an actual test of character without being too dense, they are perfectly set up to demonstrate both Irena's care for others and her willingness to be tough and tough minded. She is willing and capable of handling trouble, when adventure entices she will be ready to embrace it.
Alethea Van Holland's art is a pleasure to read, it captures the moving spirit of the story, an adventure quest that tests the hero, with subtle detail and wonderful expressiveness. The cast are energetic and varied, they all move through their context with natural force and eloquent body language. The villains are strongly villainous, they are clearly a serious threat, facing them is not a simple matter. Irena takes the strain with sharp and clear determination. The colours capture and amplify the emotional context of the story with subtle strength, the bright shades express the fantasy element of the story without compromising it.
Nikki Shermn's letters are are quiet, they flow naturally within the panels, delivering information without ever being obvious, a significant achievement.
A straightforward story leaves the creators nowhere to hide, when it is done as nicely as it is here it looks easy, there is tremendous craft hiding in plain sight here, a pleasure.
Chief Wizard Note: This is a review copy very kindly sent by Troy Vevasis, to purchase a copy of The Diamond Star Issue 1, which you should to increase your joy in living, it is available from   Tenacious Comics 

Monday, March 27, 2017

Toothville Issue 1. Kim Roberts (Writer), Gabe Ostely (Art), Chris Allen (Colours & Letters). Swamp Line Productions (2017)

Very engaging and enjoyable first issue that develops an unexpected set up with with skill, detail and tremendous energy. There is trouble in Toothville, home of the tooth fairies, thanks to the new toothpaste, Decayless developed by Johnann Dipplurger. Tilda Hillfairy, the most unemployable tooth fairy in Toothville has developed Toothrot which could be the answer, unfortunately Tilda's demonstration is far too successful and she is banished. Determined to rescue Toothville Tilda finds out that Dipplurger is much more than a dentist and sets out to discover what he is really up to.
Kim Roberts has delivered a lot of story that solve the problems of a first issue with great energy and style. Toothville and Tilda are introduced with great energy, Tilda is not someone who fits into the traditional roles in Toothville, she has an exploring mind and the energy and patience to pursue her goals. She is also awkward and impatient, getting into trouble because she is in such a hurry. She has energy, confidence and a crackling charm that captures and engages the reader. A classic outsider who wants to be an insider, Tilda is off to discover much more than just the truth behind Decayless. Johnann Dipplurgerr is a suitable villain, he is determined and competent, his pursuit of secret knowledge was successful because he knew what to do to get what he wanted. Dipplurger and Tilda will make engaging opponents and the story possibilities that have been set up are deeply enticing.
Gabe Ostely art is perfect, it has energy and force, Tilda has the bright eyed approach and forceful presence that she needs. Johnann Dipplurger is a supervillian from his utterly insincere toothy smile to his wonderful swagger and careful preparations. The discipline of the art is very impressive, very tight control of the panel lays out manages the pace of the story with care and attention. The cast and context need to be slightly exaggerated to succeed without ever becoming overly cartoony. Gabe Ostely keeps the cast hugely expressive without ever betraying them, there are real emotions streaming through the cast.
Chris Allen's colours are a pleasure, they are bright and glowing as the fairy tale roots of the story and are a dark when they need to be as a fairy tale should be. They bring out the nuances and details of the story and the art with subtle effectiveness, they illuminate the story. The letters are natural and easy to read, the sound effects provide the emphasis needed to for the action and give the story the loud crunch that it deserves. A great fun comic that holds the promise of much more fun to come.


Monday, March 20, 2017

Red Range. Joe R. Lansdale (Writer), Sam J. Glanzman (Art), Jorge Blanco, Jok (Colours), Douglas Potter (Letters). It's Alive! (2017)

A superbly controlled explosion of a comic, deeply engaging, hugely enjoyable and utterly fearless in execution. A violent Klu Klux Klan attack on a farm is interrupted by The Red Mask, a Black man who drives of the Klansmen and rescues a boy from the well. The Red Mask takes the boy to his hideout and the Klansmen regroup and set out on his trail. After another massively violent confrontation the survivors continue the pursuit and find themselves somewhere completely unexpected. There is just as much trouble and violence in the new location and while the book ends on a "To be continued" note, the story is pretty much complete in itself.
Joe R. Lansdale's writing is extraordinary, rich and astonishingly expressive, the dialogue is virtually a character in its own right. This wonderful language gives the cast a vivid and substantial life, they stride off the page into the reader's imagination with force and vigour. It is never overwrought or ornamental, it is absolutely what the cast should say if they were articulate enough to say it. They are revealed and elevated by the writing and this is vital to the impact and grip of the story.
A plainer story would vanish into the powerful dynamic of racial violence that unfolds in the pages of Red Range, the cast would be struggling to stand out against the terrible forces that they are involved with. Instead they are utterly at home in the context, their actions arising naturally from their lives and extraordinary expensiveness channels the energy of the situation directly into the cast instead of at them. Joe R. Lansdale firmly puts people at the centre of the action, they are entirely responsible for what they do, even when the context for that action changes as completely as it does, the human cast are still the driving force and focus for the story.
Sam J. Glanzman's art is the perfect match for the energy and rhythm of the writing,the cast never are overwhelmed by the writing, they embody it and bring out every subtle nuance and expression that lie within it. The very diverse cast, swapping roles as hunters and prey as the narrative shifts and the actions flows, respond to the changes with expressive body language and faces. The range of the art, from horrifying violence to intimate close ups, is always drawn with stunning details that capture the reader and add consistent depth and physical force to the story.
While the original edition of Red Range was in black and white, the colouring buy Jorge Blanco, Jok is stunning. It adds a vital dimension to the story, bringing out the details of the art and increases the impact of the violent action. Douglas Potter' letters are easy and natural on the page, the sound effects are hugely important and dramatically effective. They sharpen the action to a cutting edge that is exactly what it should have.
Racial hatred that spawns a vicious and intractable cycle of violence and revenge is an always relevant and potent topic which is exactly the problem with trying to create stories about it. The topic is so raw that any creative hesitation will become fatally compromising, equally, those willing go the distance required to honestly engage with the topic runs the risk  of driving uncommitted readers away from the book. There are no rules for talent however as Red Range proves, as uncompromising as the topic and with bleak, laugh out loud humour it is wholly true to itself and takes narrative risks that would sink a less talented team of creators. The abrupt change of context works without a ripple because the essentials of the story continue. The ferocity of the theme is balanced expertly by the ferocity of the humour and that balance creates the space for the story to be told.
This is a brilliant comic, burning hot fiction that never takes itself seriously and takes the reader very seriously indeed.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Reapers Issue 3. JoJo King (Writer), Adrian( (Art, Letters).Insane Comics (2017)

Engaging and very enjoyable issue as the story continues to unfold  and the pressure progessivly mounts on the cast. Mary and Violet have died and met with Victor who has offered them them a post life opportunity that very rapidly became dangerous when Violet returned to her home and was attacked by the man she lived with. Mary rescued her while Victor became the sole survivor of the Reapers when they are attacked.  Victor reveals that the creature that attacked Violet has much larger plans and that both Mary and Violet will be needed to fight. For Mary the ties of the past prove to be powerful and lead to significant trouble, meanwhile in another corner of somewhere a nasty killing  opens a new story thread. Victor remains as impatient and sarcastic as ever, the mix between the three is a potent one.
JoJo King is following a familiar story arc as the cast are being forced to fully accept their new circumstances and realise that the past is out of reach but still capable of harming them. A team is gradually being forged from the thee individuals as they find surviving, let alone winning will require that they work and eventually trust each other. JoJo King continues to give the cast sharp edges and strong personalities that never get lost. There is a suitable tension between the three as they individually respond to the rapidly escalating circumstances. When Mary makes a disastrous and entirely understandable decision the results develop every bit as badly as they should, the pressure of the conflict means that no one is safe. Because the cast are true to themselves the transitions and developments are natural rather then manufactured and the impact of the conflict are serious and have weight and force.
Adrian9's art is inviting and and pulls the reader into the story. The action is fast and brutal, the quieter moments retain a vital tension as the circumstance press on the cast. The panels are used very nicely to control the story, the splash pages are just as loud as they should be. The body language of Mary and Violet is managed with subtle care and detail, Violets increasing confidence and Mary's doubt and confusion are clear to see without ever have to be underscored.
The letters are great, there is a very enjoyable variation depending on the circumstances, the sound effects are great. They  just capture and emphasise the moment perfectly.
Reapers 3 nails the genre requirements with enough violent action and tension to be very enjoyable, the strong cast mean that the reader is engaged and drawn into the story as well. A great balance.
Chief Wizard Note: This is a review copy very kindly sent by JoJo King. To purchase a copy of Reapers £, and you should to enjoy the deep pleasure of a well crafted comic, it is avalible from  The Insane Comics' Store 

Monday, March 6, 2017

Slash In Love. Dan Rafter (Writer), Coty Taboada (Art), Mike Rickaby (Letters), WP Comics (February 2017)

An very enjoyable and engaging deconstruction and celebration of slasher films that mixes very black comedy, self awareness and gore very nicely together.
At Camp Crimson Waters a would be slasher fails to follow through while  being envious of the bodies left behind by another killer who should not have been there. Slash's bad night continues at the doughnut shop and simply goes to pieces when he finally gets home to his, much more successful slasher, room mate. In the meantime, Slash's "First Last Girl" Shelly, a girl he has failed to kill has been having an interesting day as well as she explores the cliches of slasher female victim hood to the fullest possible extent with her suitably cliche friends.
Dan Rafter has accomplished a difficult task, the balance between mockery and gore is carefully maintained, the jokes never overwhelm the action and the gore is creatively delivered. The central idea, that being a slasher is a career choice is a smart way to hold the whole process together, it creates the room in the story for the balance and allows the self awareness needed for the parody to work.Slash and Shelly are deliberately set up as genre cliches and then artfully allowed to develop into engaging and intriguing characters in their own right. Their depth allows the rest of the story to wander off in expected and unexpected directions without ever loosing focus.
Coty Taboada's art is a friendly pleasure to read, the level of gore is stupendous , as it should be, it is presented with just the right humour to not break the atmosphere of the story. The art is flexible enough to encompass the significant story and tone shifts in the comic without ever loosing continuity or engagement. The cat are nicely varied, the slashers and the females are well within genre requirements, they have more force and presence than many of their screen counterparts. Coty Taboada controls the pace and impact of the story with very smart panel layouts, the variety is used with great care and skill to drive the story and provide the room for nasty moments when required.
The colouring is super , it catches it gives the cast and context definition and physical heft, very important, the bright colours mean that the copious use of red is never overdone, it slides in among the rest of the colour scheme in a hugely satisfactory way.
Mike Rickaby's letters are easy and natural, the sound effects are stunning. As on the screen the soundtrack is a vital component and it is done with tremendous energy and great delivery. They provide the right level of emphasis at key moments.
Self awareness is a tricky matter to pull off in the slasher genre where victim stupidity is a key component, Slash in Love shows how to do it with deft humour that never betrays the genre.
Chief Wizard Note: This is a review copy very kindly sent by Kim Roberts, to purchase a copy of Slash in Love, first rate gore soaked delights should be savoured, it can be purchased from   http://www.wpcomicsltd.com/comics

Friday, March 3, 2017

Tales from Orbit 4. Kim Roberts (Editor). WP Comics (2017)

Engaging and hugely enjoyable anthology of wonderfully diverse science fiction that include the following selection.
Alex Rogers, Fashion Designer of the Future. Dan Rafter (Writer), Vanessa Cardinali (Art), Mike Rickaby (Letters). The designer of the universal jump suit worn by the global population has to update it every year and has a chance to make a major change. A really smart idea that set up the reader before very happily going somewhere unexpected. Vanessa Cardinali's angular art is a pleasure to read,the cat are vivid and expressive, the story changes are captures beautifully. Her colouring is subtle and deeply effective, amplifying the nuances of the story with great craft and detail.Mike Rickaby's letters are quiet and unobtrusive, they guide the reader without any apparent effort, very strong work.
David & Goliath. Marcus E.T (Writer), Alejandero Lara (Art), P.A.Nolte (Letters).  The context is neatly updated to a decisive one on one battle between the champions of two armies with opposing visions about robotics. The astounding black and white line art by Alejandero Lara is so compelling in its beauty and detail that it simply swallows up the reader. P.A.Nolte quiet letters do not distract from the art while being easy and natural to read, the sound effects are a pleasure.
Disaster. An Anecdote of Abander. Tue Sorenson (Writer), Kristoffer Kjaer (Art) is a short and wonderful space opera that has managed to combine scope, scale and compression with skill and telling detail. A mistake on an orbiting space station creates a emergency, a medical technician acts fast. The action is played out against the huge backdrop of space and is wonderfully realised by Kristoffer Kjaer, a hugely engaging and enjoyable slice of romantic science fiction.
The Adventures of Galaxy Girl in Outer Space: The Pilot. Andew Taylor (Writer, Colours, Letters), Catia Fantini (Art), takes classic science fiction and gives it exuberant energy and joy to blast off for adventures in the unknown reaches of the galaxy. Norman meets his new neighbor and the creatures pursuing her at the same time and the story goes exactly where it should at warp speed. When Galaxy Girl reveals herself things simply get better and more fun. Cliches become cliches because they work, in the hands of talent they reveal themselves, Andrew Taylor reveals why the dream of running away for space adventures is just so desirable. Catia Fantini's art is perfect for the story, everything is powered with energy and drama, Galaxy Girl is the forceful hero in a tight fitting space suit, Norman is wide eyed and ready for infinity, glorious.
The Universe Wants to Love You. Abraham Martinez (Writer), Alex Sarahia (Art), Guillermo Regalado (Colours), a journey through space that takes a superbly realised unanticipated turn. Milda is a robot on a ship travelling through space, programmed to be a companion and medical office, keeping the crew sane and satisfied, an event allows her satisfy their deepest desires. The writing moves smartly, setting up the reader and following a powerful logic to unexpected ends. Alex Sarahia's art is beautiful, the physical context and the cast are delivered with care and detail. Milda is given a expressiveness that develops exactly as it should, the story transitions are delivered with force and very strong internal plausibility. Guillermo Regalado's colours are vital to the success of the story, they are the bright vivid colours of the science fiction future and then they are the bright colours of another future.
The Woman in the Moon. Jack Wallace (Writer), Nick Hadley (Art), Chris Allen (Colours and Letters), is a warm and engaging love story that takes an enormous risk and it pays off hugely. A lonely astronomer makes a discovery that may be rooted in the disintegration of his mind or in the possibilities of space, the story balances both carefully until coming to a joyous conclusion. Nick Hadley's friendly art allows the story possibilities to emerge carefully, the emotional context of the strory, friendship and the possibility of love, are expressed quietly and strongly. Chril Allen's colours give the weight and depth needed to allow the story to breathe and emerge, his letters are natural, fitting into the panels with understated skill and craft. Romantic science fiction for romantics everywhere.
Tales from Orbit 4 is a superb anthology, it showcases talent creators showing the extraordinary possibilities and range of science fiction comics.
Chief Wizard Note: This is a review copy, very kindly sent by Kim Roberts, to purchase a copy of Tales from Orbit 4, which you should do to sink into the delights that await you within, it can be purchased here,   http://www.wpcomicsltd.com/comics

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Chronicles of Terror Issue 6. Kim Roberts (Editor) WP Comics (2017)

This excellent horror anthology continues to delivery wonderfully diverse and engaging horror stories, these are some of the stories to be found  behind the enticing cover by Gabe Ostley.
The Revenge of John Jones. Victor Cardogi (Writer), Adam Markicwicz (Art), Marc Lewis (Colours), Brant W. Fowler (Letters), is a  clever revenge story that is darkly, sharply humorous. Adam Markicwicz's catchts the transitions in the story with deft skill and detail, Marc Lewis' colours amplify the shifting moods with subtle strength. Brant W. Fowlers lettering is a joy, it takes the rhyming scheme of the words and makes them dance with graceful precision.
The Bra of Doom, Gabe Ostley (Writer, Pencils), Walter Ostlie (Inks, Colours) is as light as a feather, delivered with such care and skill that it work a treat. The ferocious art give the set up a tremendous force which the pay really needs. Gabe Ostley proves that there are no rules for talent, a fragment that should fall flat, soars instead. The washed out colours Walter Ostlie sell the idea completely to the reader.
I Dig Your Grave. Eric Palicki (Writer), J. Christopher Greulich (Art), Kyle Parker (Colours), a man in a graveyard digs up a grave and meets a ghost with happily unexpected results. A clever story that has a smart idea and a new look at a very old idea. J. Christopher Greulich's art is strongly expressive, the members of the cast are full of personality. The tension is nicely created with very strong use of panels to control the pace and impact of the story. Kyle Parker's quietly glowing colours make the night time setting  a strong backdrop and bring out the details of the art.
Rebellious Shadow. Alessio Caruso (Writer), Lucilla Grimoldi (Art), Chris Allen (Letters), is a gem, a tense, dense story of closed in fear and terror as a man in an apartment is hunted by his shadow. The story pacing is perfect and the disintegration of the lead character is gripping and horrifying. Lucilla Grimoldi's grey, black and white art is a visual feat and delight, it wrings every nuance out of the story and amplifies the atmosphere to the maximum Chris Allen's letters quietly capture the internal struggle and make it clear.
The Replacements. JoJo King (Writer) Rahil Mohsin (Art), Nikki Sherman (Letters) takes paranoia and dials it up to 11 as a man fears that his wife and son have been replaced and he has had to kill them. Rahil Mohsin's three colour , black, white and red, audacious art gives the strong writing a sledgehammer impact. Highly stylised and full of controlled energy it simply amazing. Nikki Sherman has made a difficult task look easy, there is a lot of text that never feels intrusive or slows down the story.
The Other Side of Me.  Bryan Hoover (Writer), David Faught (Art), Kim Roberts (Colours), Nikki Sherman (Letters), quietly unfurls in increasing horror and finds a clever way to bring it to a biting finish. A woman in a suburban house at Halloween finds herself engaged in a horrifying treasure hunt that is leading somewhere unexpected. David Faught's art balances the context with the action perfectly so that the increasing pressure of the story is always carefully contained and delivered. Kim Roberts colours are suitably suburban and domestic, they create the sharp context for the very nasty action. Nikki Sherman's letters are natural and easy, the sound effects ares just the soundtrack the story deserves.
Chronicles of Terror's diversity and imaginative story selection make this anthology a celebration of comics and a source of delicious shivers.
Chief Wizard Note: This is a review copy very kindly sent by Kim Roberts, to purchase a copy of Chronicles of Terror 6 which you should do to revel in astounding talent and superb comics, it is available from   http://www.wpcomicsltd.com/comics