REVIEW: The Flutist of Arnhem – A Story of Operation Market Garden (2021)

A graphic novel by Antonio Gil

In honor of Memorial Day, I wanted to read something that honored the many troops that delivered the ultimate sacrifice to ensure our way of life was not trampled over all those years ago. It wasn’t too long ago, that I had the opportunity to read both The Tankies and Teddy by Dead Reckoning. I was VERY pleased to see a comics imprint that does historical comics, seeing that I love comics and am very much into all things historical – it was a publisher that was right up my alley. When given the chance to read The Flutist of Arnhem, I jumped at it.

For me, comics like this are an amazing educational tool – I don’t have trouble reading, but sometimes I don’t want to dive headfirst into a dry history book. having these stories adapted and contextualized by some of the hottest comic writers and artists is nothing short of amazing. I can imagine those that aren’t strong readers can benefit a lot by stuff like this, as well as students. That said, for anyone reading my reviews as of late can attest to, I am somewhat bored of superhero comics, so other genres are things I am definitely digging right now.

Before reading this, I looked up some articles on the actual Operation Market Garden itself, I had heard of it prior to reading this, but was fuzzy on details. While classified as a failed operation in history books, since it didn’t create the desired invasion point through northern Germany, it did succeed in liberating a number of Dutch villages occupied by the Nazi forces. The push also stopped a number of V2 rocket launch pads, which likely saved countless lives. While this book is a fictionized account of this operation, you can tell a great deal of research went into making this as close to the real deal as possible.

“In October 1943, all the Special Operations Executive (SOE) agents in Holland are captured by the Germans . . . except one. John Hewson, a.k.a. “Boekman,” is the most dangerous agent to the German occupiers, with vital information about the German army, Boekman escapes the clutches of the S.S. and stays hidden until the start of the largest airborne operation in World War II: Operation Market Garden. When the SOE learn that Boekman is still alive, and that his estranged son, Harry, is on the ground fighting in Market Garden, Harry is tasked with organizing a small commando unit to rescue Boekman and try to escape through the German siege. The Battle of Arnhem unfolds day by day as father and son search for each other amidst the chaos of war and the dogged pursuits of a cruel Gestapo agent.”

First and foremost, Boekman is an awesome character. You can tell he’s a grizzled master spy that has seen and done all sorts of crazy things against the Nazis in order to become one of their top targets. One scene in particular, towards the beginning of the book shows him sneak attacking a German radio station – he takes guys down with a combat knife, then hides in a Nazi uniform to eventually contact his superiors. He is aided by a mysterious man named Frajle that seems to be everywhere at all times. scenes with them remind me of all sorts of spy movies you’ll see in theaters. Boekman is a bit courageous for his own good and gets wounded at one point, making a rescue mission necessary.

We find out his own son, Harry, who has no idea what or who he is trying to extract at first, ends up being one of the very men trying to get him out of the Netherlands and his secret documents into Allied hands. In a way, this ends up being a reverse finding Nemo of sorts where both Father and Son come to terms with their sadness and demons of the past to forge forward in the name of King and Country. Harry is aided by a great cast of squadmates with my personal favorite being Corporal Kolecki, a polish sabotage expert that goes deep undercover in an SS Uniform (since he speaks German) to mess with the German troops from the inside. The way he goes about his mission with a smirk and an almost suicidal abandon is both humorous and nerve-racking.

One of the many cool things about this book is that there are these little interludes within the story breaks that show background information, such as battle maps, information dumps for contest and even historical references. It reminds me a bit of how popular video games like Call of Duty (The historical ones) and Medal of Honor used to give background info in-between missions. This is a very valuable and interesting addition to the book, as a person unfamiliar with the overall history involved wouldn’t have to do additional research to understand what is happening, nor is this info piped into the characters mouths in an unnatural way like some other comics.

Perhaps my only quibble with this book is that some pages are VERY text heavy, this isn’t a bad thing, but results a bit in dialogue overload at certain points. Truthfully, I’m not sure how they author could have done this any better, so its a minor gripe. Otherwise, the art and lettering are all top notch, Gil lays everything out in a style that I haven’t seen a lot in modern comics, as a result this somewhat is structured like a classic comic. In a way its a cool idea whether the author intended it or not.

I normally end up reviewing eBooks, so it was quite the change to get a physical copy in my hands. As such, I’d like to get that in here. Without getting a tape measure out, I surmise that this is A4 size, full color and filled with thick, glossy pages. You can tell that care was made to produce a book that will stand the test of time.

Dead Reckoning hits it out of the park yet again with The Flutist of Arnhem – A Story of Operation Market Garden. I loved the story between the Hewson family, and the immense amount of information that Gil took care to place within the book. After going into this knowing only the vaguest amount of information on this operation, I feel like I learned a lot. I’d like to read more by this author, here’s hoping they publish more by him or I can figure out what publications he has worked in before. I see listings by a Spanish actor doing some internet searches, but I highly doubt that’s the same person!

Note: I received a paperback copy of this book from Dead Reckoning /Naval Institute Press in order to provide an honest review. That said, the copy I received may have not been a final copy. Thank you to all those involved.

If you would like to purchase your own copy of the book, please check HERE or HERE for Kindle

REVIEW: Omni-Visibilis (2021)

A graphic Novel by Lewis Trondheim – Art by Matthieu Bonhomme

NOTE: I received a free preliminary, and likely unedited copy of this book from Netgalley for the purposes of providing an honest, unbiased review of the material. Thank you to all involved.

Omni-Visibilis is somewhat like a strange mish-mash of Harvey Pekar’s American Splendor and a Twilight Zone episode minus the big moralistic ending that usually accompany those programs. When we are introduced to Hervé, he is a thoroughly unlikable character. He is neurotic, disingenuous and somewhat conniving (he considers cheating on his girlfriend right from the get-go). His friends are only somewhat better, but act like the stoner tag-alongs in a Seth Rogan film most of the time. Rather than get a day-to-day account of man waxing poetic about his OCD symptoms, or the downside of accidentally urinating on one’s shoes, Hervé is soon “blessed” with the power to which every person on earth can see what he sees, hears what he hears, or many other sensations. It’s all Hervé all the time.

“Hervé’s awkward, irritating, and maybe a bit OCD, but in the end, he’s a normal guy. He has a job, his buddies, a girlfriend, and a mother who keeps close tabs on him. One particular day starts out just like any other, but on his way to work, he quickly realizes that things are anything but normal. Every person he crosses paths with not only seems to know him, but sees what he sees, and hears what he hears. And he soon discovers that everyone else on Earth is connected with him too. So begins a day unlike any other, with Hervé cast out of anonymity and into a nightmare of confusion and danger.”

I think one of my issues with this book is that there really isn’t a catalyst for this. Take the film The Parent Trap, wherein a mother and daughter switch bodies because each one feels that the other has it easy, and they come to a mutual understanding that life isn’t always great when it appears to be. Omni-Visibilis doesn’t really do this at all; aside from Hervé having obvious quirks that may impede his social life, there’s no real instance where he says “I wish everyone could see how I live” or something similar. As it is, the switch seems somewhat random, and Hervé doesn’t really come out the other side a better person. Perhaps I am reading too much into this, but usually stories like this have a point – this one just felt random.

That said, the art style in this book is gorgeous. Everything in an old-school monochrome blue/black color scheme with white text boxes. In a world of most comics looking somewhat similar, this one definitely stands out stylistically. The writing, when it comes to dialog, is snappy and full of wit. Everyone’s worldview is very cynical, but the book never really comes off as dark – the whole ordeal has a very humorous tone despite the sheer terror one would be in if a similar situation were to befall literally anyone.

While I feel that the story was a bit lacking, this is all self contained and has a solid ending. The art is awesome, and I can’t really say that I’ve ever seen a premise like this before. I feel that this comic could have been a classic, but did not stick the landing resulting in a merely average story.

If this looks up your alley, please click HERE to get a copy for yourself!

REVIEW: Loonicorns – Book 1 Bleary Eye (2021)

A graphic novel by ced, Gorobei, Waltch

NOTE: I received a free preliminary, and likely unedited copy of this book from Netgalley for the purposes of providing an honest, unbiased review of the material. Thank you to all involved.

At first glance, Loonicorns – Book 1 – Bleary Eye looks like a children’s book, and it is, but its got more of an edge than most children’s books. It’s not vulgar or obscene in any way, but it reminds me of some of the cartoons one might see on Cartoon Network later on in the day – things such as Adventure Time or Regular show. Shows that are kid-friendly but subversive in some way, but also teach a lesson. hidden behind the cutesie characters are a couple of messages that would benefit some children (and some politicians tbh) now: racism, vaccination reluctance, and even strained familial relationships. Loonicorns isn’t preachy, but it does a good job of hiding it’s messages with goofy antics, which is probably the best way to get said messages to children.

“Welcome to the wonderful world of Looniland, filled with loonicorns, cyclopes, dodos, and other fantastical creatures! Life is good in Looniville… if you’re a Pretty. Meanwhile, the Uglies do all the work and get teased and ridiculed. Until, one day, a huge storm blows through, bringing with it a mysterious illness that only seems to affect the Pretties. And in the nearby forest, a strange new creature has landed. Her name is Penelope, and no one has seen anything like her before. Where did she come from? Could she be the cause of this nefarious disease?”

The art in this book is very imaginative, and is a parody of insufferably cute things found in other fantasy stories. by having a class structure of characters that do nothing more than jump around and dance all day, and cynical grumps that do all the work, it’s a post-modern satire on the very fantasy genre itself, but tailored for younger kids. In many ways, the tone is somewhat strange, I was never quite sure if this was meant for an older audience than I figured it was, but then I remembered how much kid’s media, at least in the United States, coddles children and infantilizes them for years and years. Having something like this could benefit a child more than something that talks down to them.

While not necessarily the audience for this book, I feel like it is very well done, and would be a fun read for a kid. the jokes are humorous, full of sight-gags and slapstick, and the tone is full of acerbic with that you don’t see in kids books too often.

If you would like more information, or a way to purchase this title, please look HERE

REVIEW: The Man for the Job (2021)

A graphic novel by Lou Lubie

NOTE: I received a free preliminary, and likely unedited copy of this book from Netgalley for the purposes of providing an honest, unbiased review of the material. Thank you to all involved.

The Man for the Job is hard to review simply because it’s one of those stories that is better served if one has no prior knowledge of the plot. Do yourself a favor and DO NOT read too much about the story before diving in, to hold up my part of this I’ll try to avoid spoiling too much here if I can. What starts out as a heartwarming tale of a man that has fallen on hard times, finding a new purpose in life tutoring kids, takes a few sharp turns as this story moves on. I honestly had no idea where the story was going towards the middle. I was afraid I had gone into some VERY dark territory, and was about to drop the book, but I’m glad I didn’t jump to any conclusions. What unfolds is a very intriguing read, and definitely isn’t what you think it’s going to be.

“Manu always embraced his role as a strong, protective man, until one day his world is turned upside down. In quick succession, his girlfriend walks out on him, and he’s passed over for a position at work in the name of gender parity. In an effort to regain his bearings, he clings to a family of seven troubled children, determined to rescue them from their social misfortunes. Thus begins a long descent into the heart of his fears…”

As I mentioned, there are a few instances where I was worried about where the plot was going. One example, that I will talk about, is that Manu (our protagonist) feels utterly disrespected when he loses out on a job promotion, and blames affirmative action-styled diversity hiring for his misfortune. He goes into a rage, and blames the woman that got the job since everyone sees her as unfit for the job. At this point I was REALLY worried this was going to be a right-wing misogynist story about a man getting trodden on by women, but thankfully that was not the case.

In fact, this insecurity and fear Manu was holding inside him, only briefly appearing as white-hot rage at an inopportune times, is one of the many causes for the drama in the story later on. There are a couple of other blips like racism against Romani, and inappropriate relationships that gave me pause, but they are never pushed, and largely exist as part of overall theme of the second-half.

What ultimately unfolds is a story about what it means to be a man, society forces men to cram their emotions inside of themselves, never to let anything slip out. For some men, this causes issues with accountability. One never looks at themselves when a bad thing happens, perhaps it’s this lady’s fault, or perhaps these people over here. learning to properly deal with emotions is important, and Manu is made that much more strong when he finally realizes this.

I enjoyed this a lot despite my fears of what this book was doing. I feel that, my only major quibble was that the third act flies past at a break-neck speed. Once the entire plot is revealed it’s a race to the finish that I would have loved to see explored more. That said, the book is overall solid, and I definitely recommend it. move past any red flags you get and see the story to the end, its worth it!

REVIEW: Yojimbot – Part 1 (2021)

A graphic Novel by Sylvain Repos

NOTE: I received a free preliminary, and likely unedited copy of this book from Netgalley for the purposes of providing an honest, unbiased review of the material. Thank you to all involved.

I’ve seen a couple of science fiction re-imaginings of various Kurosawa samurai films over the years – most notably an anime called Samurai 7. With most of them, they end up largely being the same story, albeit with a setting shift and slight alterations to characters. Yojimbot was interesting because it takes the idea behind “Yojimbo” (or The Bodyguard) and applies it to a dystopian hellscape where robots have seemingly taken everything over, and whatever humans are left appear to be a militarized force in a secured base.

In a dystopian not-too-distant future in Japan, Hiro lives with his father on an island populated by androids, where they eke out a meager existence while trying to keep out of sight. But when they run afoul of a troop of high-tech military thugs, Hiro’s dad sacrifices himself to save his son, turning Hiro’s already-bleak world upside-down. He is then rescued by a samurai robot called a “yojimbot,” and together they seek to avenge his father’s death and make contact with a mysterious associate known only as the “rights holder,” before the soldiers and their drones close in…

The artwork is nice and fluid, with mecha designs reminiscent of the works of Neil Blomkamp (Chappie for example). While the artwork is reminiscent of many Japanese comics out there, the artist did their own thing rather than try to copy the overall style of said comics. I think this was a good idea, as most western comics that try to be Manga seem to always fall flat for whatever reason, with few exceptions. As a result of this melding of a European comic art design style, mixed with Japanese storytelling techniques, Yojimbot stands out as something I haven’t really seen in a while, and it gives it it’s own character.

This was an entertaining book, and I’m eager to check out volume two. It seems like the story was just about to pick up when it hit “to be continued” so I’m somewhat sad that I’ll have to wait for the other half, that is assuming this is in two parts. This is well worth the read, especially if you are a samurai or manga fan.

If you would like your own copy, please look HERE

REVIEW: Gray (2021)

by Arvind Ethan David

NOTE: I received a free preliminary, and likely unedited copy of this book from Netgalley for the purposes of providing an honest, unbiased review of the material. Thank you to all involved.

Inspired by the classic 1890 novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Gray by Arvind Ethan David takes queues from many revenge thrillers and brings them into the modern age by touching on many social topics such as #metoo and Black Lives Matter. In many ways, the story (at least with book one) is one part Saw, and one part The Count of Monte Christo in many ways. We don’t know much about Ms. Dorian Gray in the first volume, but we can assume she was sexually assaulted by a group of powerful men that ultimately became powerful men in various government and political positions. She has some sort of network that is collecting these men and getting revenge on them one by one. A couple of detectives are assigned to the case, but ultimately appear to have more in common with Gray than the powerful men they work for.

“A contemporary reimaging of the classic Oscar Wilde novel, “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” Gray is a supernatural revenge thriller about an alluring but violent woman, Dorian Gray, who seeks vengeance on a cabal of powerful men who wronged her years ago; and of the straight-laced African American detective with a past of his own, who is tasked with stopping her.”

While the story, so far, is fairly removed from the original novel the book is inspired by, its an interesting story full of thrills and shocking ends to some very despicable men. I have a feeling that we’ll learn more about Ms. Gray in book two, and what exactly happened to her that caused her to apparently dabble in some sort of magic (as with the original, she hasn’t aged for years) and set her plan in motion. With the introduction of an artist from her school towards the end of the book, I’m assuming the infamous painting itself comes into play at some point.

This book is very well done, and held my attention. Despite being a book about social issues, it’s not as “preachy” as one would assume it would be. Rather than trying to prove to the reader that whatever these men have done was wrong, Gray does away with the subtleties and just gets down to business. As you can surmise from my description above, this book could very well have triggers for people that don’t want to read such an intense story, so be warned.

REVIEW: Forever (2021)

A Graphic Novel by Assia Petricelli and Sergio Riccardi

NOTE: I received a free preliminary, and likely unedited copy of this book from Netgalley for the purposes of providing an honest, unbiased review of the material. Thank you to all involved.

Romance stories aren’t usually my thing. The various executives of the world rarely market them to any demographic other than either teenage girls or people that enjoy watching Hallmark Christmas films. It’s hard to find anything that treats it in any sort of mature and/or realistic way. Don’t even get me started one ones where men are the protagonist. With that said, I really enjoyed this new graphic novel, Forever by Assia Petricelli and Sergio Riccardi simply because it doesn’t do any of the stupid tropes that drive me crazy.

In many ways, by portraying the story of a girl largely alienated from her family and most of her friends grounds the book considerable. She not only finds love in a Greek boy obsessed with working on an old broken-down boat, but also a lasting friendship with a couple of lesbians on what could be their last vacation together. The authors tell a very compelling story full of ups and downs, and what ultimately the meaning of love is. It’s the kind of story you see in independent art films, reminiscent of things like Juno or 500 Days of Summer.

“What is this “love” everyone talks about? Viola doesn’t yet know. But it is a question she is asking herself more and more, because at her age there are some kinds of problems you feel even in the air that you breathe: your self-image and the way you think others see you, the relationship between you and your body and the other gender, couple issues, the freedom to follow your aspirations, and the need to fit in socially accepted categories. On vacation with her parents, during the idle hours of the afternoon while everyone is sleeping, Viola’s encounters and experiences will help her grow as a person and get answers to the hard questions that everyone has to face sooner or later, and she will reshape her identity, in a summer she’ll never forget.”

While this isn’t a sad story (for the most part) it captures those moments of one’s youth that really shape our lives moving forward. A lot of the characters aren’t the same after the events told, some for the better, some for the worse, but you can tell this summer in the mid-1990’s will be a landmark time in these characters lives, especially Viola. The story is somewhat simple, so talking about it too much would spoil more than what I like to do in my reviews, but I’d definitely recommend checking this book out if you get a chance. If anything, the art is stylistically out of the ordinary, and it alone is worth a peek.

If you’d like a copy, an ebook can be obtained HERE.

REVIEW: Love – The Mastiff (2021)

A graphic novel by Frederic Brremaud

NOTE: I received a free preliminary, and likely unedited copy of this book from Netgalley for the purposes of providing an honest, unbiased review of the material. Thank you to all involved.

A few weeks ago, I read another graphic novel by Brremaud called Brindille, that I enjoyed quite a bit. It was a simple but effective fantasy book that had great art and interesting characters, in that review I stated that I wanted to get another Brremaud book under my belt, so here we are with Love: The Mastiff. It appears that the author has produced an entire series of these books on various animals, and if this is like the others, they appear to be heroic stories featuring nature as protagonist, antagonist and everything in between. These are marketed to children, but this one does have a small amount of blood in it, so keep that in mind if you plan to purchase this for a younger child. I’m dating myself here, but this reminds me of Benji, Homeward Bound, or Milo & Otis without the spoken dialogue.

A loyal Australian hunting dog finds himself alone in the outback when his master is bitten by a poisonous snake. He must venture across the dangerous outback to find his way home alone. The fifth volume in the lavishly illustrated, award-winning series of wordless wildlife graphic novels, each depicting a day in the life of different wild animals, told through the dramatic lens of Disney-esque storytelling, like a nature documentary in illustration.

“I’m tired of these Motherf%$#% snakes in this Motherf%$#% outback” – The Mastiff, probably. All kidding aside, this book has no text bubbles in any way whatsoever, the book is presented as a silent nature documentary of a hunting dog faced with the plight of making it back home, alone. There are scenes that, despite the subject matter, really stir emotions in the reader. The mastiff has to battle every bad thing we hear about Australia, including all manner of poisonous snakes. Truthfully, if anything, that is my one takeaway about this – Australia seems insanely full of evil snakes, hellbent on killing anything they come across. There’s a side-story involving a platypus taking care of her young, that immediately made me mad at the author in an unfounded way. “You better not…”, I said, to myself, the moment they started being in peril. Thankfully, The Mastiff is basically an animal superhero here and keeps everything safe at his own expense.

In the back of the book, there is a section on the recent Australian wildfires and global warming that was interesting. It’s cool to see a book like this tell what is ostensibly a survival hero story, then come with a PSA at the end GI Joe style, I thought that was a nice touch.

If you have older kids interested in nature, or comics I would definitely recommend this. Even in a classroom, something like this would have been cool when I was younger. I mentioned blood earlier, and largely its all contained to a few instances where the Mastiff has to defend himself from either snakes or Dingos, and takes justice into his own paws. it’s nothing gratuitous, but that does need to be a consideration. I enjoyed this book quite a bit, and hope to read more of these as he produces them!

REVIEW: Brindille (2021)

A Graphic Novel by Frederic Brremaud

NOTE: I received a free preliminary, and likely unedited copy of this book from Netgalley for the purposes of providing an honest, unbiased review of the material. Thank you to all involved.

I felt like reading a fantasy story today, so by Frederic Brremaud definitely fit the bill. The first thing that hits you when digging through the gorgeous pages is just how warm and inviting the artwork is. While this story has a few rough moments, and is not necessarily for children, the artwork is reminiscent of a children’s picture book in many ways. The pages are full of fantastical creatures, perilous situations, and the sort of epic fantasy tone that reminds me of 80s fantasy films such as Legend or perhaps The Dark Crystal.

“A frail young girl flees a roaring forest fire in the middle of the night desperately taking refuge in a cave where she quickly loses consciousness. She wakes up in a strange, tiny village populated by fairy-like creatures. Her hosts seem intrigued by the sparkles of light that seem to surround her. The village chieftain explains that one of their hunters found her passed out in the forest and brought her back here for treatment. He asks who she is, but she remembers nothing except for a wall and flames.”

Truthfully, I wasn’t completely sure I was onboard with the book at first. The story starts with the amnesiac girl being taken in by some forest creatures (elves, goblins, imps? I’m not sure what they are) with the story revolving around the girl trying to go back to where she was found in order to get some clues about her identity. She is met with resistance, and ultimately has to venture out on her own. It is not until she comes across a cunning wolf companion and we learn of the impending peril that is unraveling throughout the forest that I was hooked.

The story takes some turns, and ultimately ends in a way that I didn’t really see coming, so that’s good. At least it wasn’t predictable like other fantasy comics. Even though I read this as an Ebook for evaluation purposes, I’ve seen pictures of the hardcover that this review is ultimately tied to, and it looks awesome. This would be a great book to have around if you are a fantasy fan, or a great gift for a older kid. I just wouldn’t traumatize a toddler with it! There is also a digital version of this on Amazon that is pretty fairly priced, if you aren’t into having physical books around, look into that instead.

The story is self contained, and I don’t see how there could be more unless they do a prequel, so getting this is not a commitment for getting the start of a series or anything. If you’re like me, sometimes you don’t want to wade into a new series very often.

All-in-all, I enjoyed Brindille, and despite my small quibbles with the pacing at the beginning, it was a thoroughly entertaining read. I will be reading another book by Frederic Brremaud pretty soon, so keep an eye out for that – let’s see if he can keep his winning record with me again!

REVIEW: Van Helsing vs. Dracula’s Daughter (2021) and Van Helsing vs The League of Monsters (2021)

Graphic Novels by Raven Gregory and others

NOTE: I received a free preliminary, and likely unedited copy of this book from Netgalley for the purposes of providing an honest, unbiased review of the material. Thank you to all involved.


Today we have a double dose of monster fighting mayhem as I am reviewing a couple of new collected editions of Van Helsing by Zenescope Comics. Despite it really having nothing much to do with the property, the recent Syfy Channel show Van Helsing was based on this series. They must have gone the I, Zombie route as the vaguest premise and title are the only things similar. If you are a fan of comics like Vampirella, Lady Death, and maybe Witchblade, you will probably like this series as it takes characters from classic monster mythos and reinterprets them as kickass ladies that take no prisoners. The same company makes action-oriented comics based on various fairy tale princesses and other literary characters that I will need to check out at some point.

Despite these books being the eighth and ninth collected volumes in this series, I honestly had no issues understanding what was happening, so it seems like they aren’t bad “jumping on” points in any way. Having a passing knowledge of the classic characters is enough to understand what is happening. The second book has characters that I was unfamiliar with from previous volumes, but with them being a descendant of Robin Hood, A wolfman, and Frankenstein, it wasn’t hard to settle in. I may have to go back and read some past comics to see how we got here exactly.

“Introducing Helsing’s deadliest villain yet! Liesel Van Helsing returns in a brand new series set to turn the inventive huntress’ world on fire. A mysterious being rises from Helsing’s long forgotten past hell bent on revenge. A being whose secrets could very well destroy Helsing…and all she holds dear. Don’t miss this exciting new series written by fan favorite Wonderland writer Raven Gregory and artist extraordinaire Allan Otero!”

We are introduced to Liesel Van Helsing as she is continuing her fight against the many denizens of the night that insist of doing evil and harming mankind. With her steampunk attire, and collection of silver stakes and bullets, she is a formidable foe for many a creature. Somebody steals Dracula’s corpse (who was defeated in a previous volume) and its up to Van Helsing to figure out what’s happening. I enjoyed the simple plot set-up and great action scenes in the book. The author has taken characters that everyone knows (Dr. Jekyll / Mr. Hyde for example) and altered them to a degree that keeps them fresh and different from other books and films like this.

The art is solid and easy to follow, the character designs are interesting and there are some interesting kills for those that like bloody monster demises. The dialogue isn’t spectacular, but I’m keeping in mind that I am jumping in at volume eight of a long-running series, so I’d imagine that the character building from previous volumes is somewhat unnecessary here as we are looking for cool fight scenes, where there are plenty!

“Van Helsing is still reeling from the revelations of recent events after her world came crashing down around her. But she won’t have time to catch her breath as something catastrophic is heading her way. Will she be able to handle some of the deadliest creatures in all existence? Alone any of these would be formidable foes, and Liesel will have the ultimate challenge laid before her, with taking them on all at once. The odds are not in her favor, and it doesn’t look good for the legendary vampire hunter.”

Van Helsing vs The League of Monsters directly follows Dracula’s Daughter and plays out a lot like a big budget blockbuster crossover ala The Avengers or Justice League. All of these monsters are being rounded up into an army with the freshly resurrected Dracula at the helm and his sinister daughter at his side. With Characters like The Wolfman, The Mummy, and even Frankenstein throwing their weight around, it’ll take an equally impressive army to fight back. Good thing Van Helsing has friends of her own.

I think I preferred the previous volume a lot more, but this volume has a lot to offer for fans of classic monsters. When Universal stumbled epically trying to make a shared “Monsterverse” a few years back, I look at something like this done very well and successfully, and wonder what they were smoking? So, if you want to see this concept done right, look no further than these comics from Zenescope.

While these books aren’t literary classics or anything, they are a ton of fun, and at the end of the day, that’s mostly why I read comics. I LOVE these sort of “cheesecake” books with pinup-styled art that harken back to comics from the past, and will support any company that does them.

REVIEW: The Tiger Awakens: The Return of John Chinaman – Book 1 (2021)

A graphic novel by Serge Le Tendre, Olivier TaDuc

NOTE: I received a free preliminary, and likely unedited copy of this book from Netgalley for the purposes of providing an honest, unbiased review of the material. Thank you to all involved.

I’m not going to lie, a book with a racial epithet in the title is somewhat of a cause for alarm to me, but seeing that this takes place during the goldrush, put my mind somewhat at ease. The term “John Chinaman” was basically a product of its time, where many nineteenth century people referred to just about any Asian person as such. It was interesting to see this book handle racial tensions of the time as well as it did – I actually loved seeing that. Apparently this is a volume in a long running series by these authors, but I was assured in the preface that it was stand-alone and that I needed no prior knowledge of the material to enjoy this.

“You’ve followed his adventures through the Gold Rush, the building of the Continental Railroad, and the taming of the frontier. Now Chen Long the Chinaman, the triumphant creation of Olivier TaDuc and Serge Le Tendre, is back for his greatest adventure of all: finding out he’s a father. Twenty years after his violent past drove away his true love Ada, the Civil War, prison camp, and opium have left Chen Long a broken-down shell of his former proud self. Can the tiger rise to save his son? A fitting conclusion to an epic series that explores forgotten pockets of western history.”

This is the second western-themed book by Europe Comics that I’ve absolutely loved, the first being Wild West. I have spoken before on the fact that I absolutely adore western comics for some reason, this is despite the fact that I’ve never really been a big western guy when it comes to TV or film, but for some reason I became hooked on them after DC’s new 52 initiative re-launched All Star Western many moons ago. I think the reason being that I’m not sued to them, and they seem to largely be resurrections of long dormant comics from the Golden and Silver Eras that I’ve never heard of.

Being informed that this book is after a long running series of other books definitely makes me want to go back and read the previous material. I have no idea if any of its available in English, but the way we are introduced to Chen Long, internally fighting decades worth of PTSD in an opium den, makes me NEED to know what happened. They especially draw on whatever experiences he had in the American Civil War, and how it has affected him the most. Perhaps if this does well, Europe comics can go backwards? Here’s hoping!

The writing, and more importantly, the translation is top notch – you can tell work was taken to make sure dialogue was made to be like other depictions of “The Wild West”. You always run the risk of having a depiction of American history from Europe come up feeling weird. I’ve listened to Doctor Who audio dramas that did an abysmal job of making the setting feel real, but these French comics always seem to hit their mark. Hats off to them! With great art, and no punches pulled when it comes to mindsets of the time, this book is every bit as dark as an HBO show, and would be a GREAT basis for a TV series or movie if they ever had an inkling to do as such. If you are in a western mood, I’d definitely recommend this!

REVIEW: The Breaker Omnibus Vol 1 (2021)

A graphic Novel by Jeon Geuk-jin and Kamaro

NOTE: I received a free preliminary, and likely unedited copy of this book from Netgalley for the purposes of providing an honest, unbiased review of the material. Thank you to all involved.

I wasn’t really familiar with The Breaker going into this, I understand it’s fairly popular outside of the US, and has been a hit in Europe. I’ve read a bit of Manhwa (Korean comics), but I will confess that I haven’t read nearly enough. At first glance, I was really afraid that this was a Korean knock-off of Great Teacher Onizuka (GTO) by Tohru Fujisawa, coincidentally one of my favorite Japanese comics. We have a sloppy teacher joining a school as a total fish out of water, he has a shady past, and knows martial arts. He has a lecherous personality and buts heads with a strict Vice Principal that seems to think he shouldn’t be there. Sound familiar?

The only issue, is that Mr. Han is VERY unlikable at first (unlike Onizuka), it worried me that getting through this book would be a chore, as it seemed he lacked any sort of human compassion in any way. We later get hints as to why this is, and he finally shows a brief glimpse of being an actual protagonist when it really matters. Thankfully, this GTO similarity ends pretty quick as The Breaker becomes it’s own at around 1/3 of the way into the book.

“The story of The Breaker follows Shiwoon “Shioon” Yi, a timid high school student who becomes the disciple to Chunwoo Han, a martial artist who is an enemy to the secret martial arts society known as the Murim. However, Shioon is naive and unaware of his master’s shady past and the unseen underbelly of the society. How will Chun Woo manage to teach Shioon and help him survive in the world of Murim?”

Being a martial arts manhwa seeped in seedy underground mafia-styled intrigue, this is definitely not what I was initially expecting out of this; and once that starts to fall into place the book became pretty awesome. It almost seems like the writer was going for more of a comedy book at first, and switched gears for the better. Volume one ends on a pretty big cliffhanger, so I will definitely want to read more as I feel the story was just getting good when it ended. I’m very interested to see where the characters end up, and am hoping the main character, Shioon, finally destroys the school bully that plagues him for about half of the book.

Solid first volume (although I assume this is a merged version of 2 or 3 tankobans), would buy again if I saw this for sale – definitely recommended.

REVIEW: Hard Melody (2021)

A graphic novel by Lu Ming

NOTE: I received a free preliminary, and likely unedited copy of this book from Netgalley for the purposes of providing an honest, unbiased review of the material. Thank you to all involved.

Nearing forty years old myself, its easy to look back at the last twenty years or so, and look at every bit of missed opportunity I had, every bit of wasted potential, and every misstep. It’s important to move forward with one’s life to avoid falling into a trap of a mid-life crisis at best, crippling depression at worst. For the book Hard Melody, we see three guys in exactly the same predicament – having the potential to have been big Chinese Rockstars in the past, their lives have moved on leaving their dreams behind.

Three thirty-year-old friends reunite in Beijing after nearly 10 years apart. They used to be free-wheeling rock-and-rollers without a care in the world, but now, after tasting their own variation of freedom in new China, they are tormented by how unforgiving and unglamorous life had become. Nothing at all like the fame and fortune they dreamed about as kids.

This book is fairly tough due to its subject matter, and there was a bit of Chinese cultural stuff that I was unsure of, but between the mature storyline and the artwork (which is amazing) I was hooked. As a stand alone, this is a great book, and stands as both a societal look at Chinese culture, as well as a way for the reader to think about how they plan to move on with their lives. Many peak far too young, and their later life suffers due to it, hopefully nobody suffers the same tragedy as seen here.

REVIEW – Elle(s) (2021)

A graphic Novel by Kid Toussain & art by Aveline Stokart

NOTE: I received a free preliminary, and likely unedited copy of this book from Netgalley for the purposes of providing an honest, unbiased review of the material. Thank you to all involved.

When I first started this, I wasn’t too sure what to expect – the art style and setting made me worry I was about getting into a twee book for teenagers, but I was definitely wrong. While the premise may sound somewhat similar to the recent Disney movie Inside Out, only a superficial likeness is there – Elle(s) adds the extra layer of being about mental health issues, and what it means to love somebody with mental health issues into the mix, which makes this so much more. The depiction of “split personalities” is on par when accounts I’ve heard on various TV shows and podcasts – i.e. dominant personality controls everything and person sees everything in third person view – so that was interesting. It would interesting to see somewhen in the clinical psychology field review this.

Elle is just another teenage girl… most of the time. Bubbly and good-natured, she wastes no time making friends on her first day at her new school. But Elle has a secret: she hasn’t come alone. She’s brought with her a colorful mix of personalities, which come out when she least expects it… Who is Elle, really? And will her new friends stand by her when they find out the truth?

While volume one leaves this chapter as an unfinished mystery, and could easily turn into something supernatural and weird, I’m hoping it stays as grounded as volume one – as it was a surprise to me how much I enjoyed it.

Europe Comics continues its trend of quality comics that always seem to surprise me. I will definitely need to seek out the next volume upon publication to see where this story ends up going. Don’t let the cover fool you into thinking this is something other than what it is, and give it a try – It’s good stuff.

REVIEW: Elecboy Book 1 (2021)

A graphic novel by Jaouen Salaün

One part Mad Max, and one part Blame!, Elecboy takes some of the better tropes from dystopian/post-apocalyptic fiction and makes it something of its very own. Europe Comics has done a fine job of introducing me to many comics and creators that I have not been familiar with, and this is yet another entry that has caught my attention.

“In a devastated cityscape, a lone man fights off creatures of fearsome power: white, winged, serenely impassive, and capable of terrifying transformations… Decades later, in a desolate American southwest, a meager colony of human survivors ekes out a precarious existence between dwindling water supplies and magnetic shields that screen them from roving bands of aerial attackers. An ancestral upper class presides, while in the lower city, laborers do the hazardous work of keeping everyone alive. But all that may be about to change when the mysterious Joshua comes of age…”

Jaouen Salaün is a French writer and artist that has apparently been trying to bring the pages of Elecboy into life for over 18 years. Good news is, the story is fairly good, and more importantly the art is absolutely GORGEOUS, I want to see more of this guys creature designs more than anything. They remind me a bit of Tsutomu Nihei a tad, it would be interesting to see if that was one of his influences in any way.

This book is part one in a series, and tells a fairly compelling story until a cliffhanger ending made me sad that I don’t have more to read. I’ll have to keep checking back with the publisher to see when more of this is released. To be honest, I have come to the conclusion that I’m fairly confused as to why Europe comics isn’t bigger than what it is. They consistently have better content than other companies that feature a lot of European comics such as Heavy Metal – here’s hoping they take off at some point in the future.

REVIEW: The Vain (2021)

A graphic novel by Eliot Rahal

NOTE: I received a free preliminary, and likely unedited copy of this book from Netgalley for the purposes of providing an honest, unbiased review of the material. Thank you to all involved.

Generic Vampire stories are a dime a dozen these days. If you don’t just have a weird version of Bram Stroker’s Dracula, but this time he’s in SPACE or something, you have the other side of the coin that alters them beyond recognition, perhaps into teenage sparkly pretty boys – and it all sucks for the most part. For me to get into a modern Vampire story, it has to be something different (but keeping with the lore), and this volume by Eliot Rahal fits the bill. Spanning more than 40 years, The Vain tells the story of a group of Vampiric survivors – changing with the times to stay alive at any means necessary. If that includes enlisting in the military to kill Nazis, or starting a vampire drug cult in the 70s, if thats what it takes that’s what they do.

Chicago, 1941. A blood bank is held up in a robbery, but no cash is taken—only blood. It’s the latest in a string of similar robberies and as the United States prepares to enter World War II, FBI Agent Felix Franklin is certain it’s part of a wider plot to weaken the United States by depriving it of its blood supply. But the truth is much more sinister.

I wasn’t sure I was going to like this at first. At times, some of the art in the book was somewhat simplistic, but as the story goes on, it improves drastically. The dialogue is also kind of janky in spots, but overall the script is pretty good, and you honestly can’t beat the setting. Vampires living through the Cold-War is something I’m pretty certain I’ve never seen before. As it went on, I was interested to see how The Vain (their WWII Codename) dealt with the zeitgeist of whatever decade they had made it to. The book didn’t overstay its welcome, and had a logical ending that made sense.

I haven’t read much by Oni Press, although I have seen them at Comicon in the past. Once Covid-19 dies down I will have to do a deeper dive on their library if conventions ever come back, I’d love to see if the quality of this book continues on.

REVIEW: Shadowman by Andy Diggle Deluxe Edition (2021)

A Graphic Novel by Andy Diggle (Author), Stephen Segovia (Artist), Shawn Martinbrough (Artist), Doug Braithwaite (Artist), Renato Guedes (Artist)

NOTE: I received a free preliminary, and likely unedited copy of this book from Netgalley for the purposes of providing an honest, unbiased review of the material. Thank you to all involved.

I don’t want to beat a dead horse on here regarding my love for Valiant Comics (but you can read me gushing about it here), but this Comic is yet another series that confirms that. Shadowman, is a long running character that has persisted for nearly 30 years in different forms, The character probably hit its peak in the late 1990s when a cult classic videogame hit the shelves, its a shame a rumored film was never produced during this time, as the property was especially hot then. The current iteration of the character is a much less 90s-riffic version of the original Shadowman, Jack Boniface, and his exploits fighting foes from the underworld using voodoo powers.

The rise of the Shadowman! For years, Jack Boniface believed that he knew the true story of the Shadowman loa – the true story of the curse inside him. He was wrong. Now, the man once known as Shadowman is returning home to sharpen the weapon within… and unleash a reckoning on the evils of our world that will soon send shockwaves through heaven and hell alike… Superstar writer Andy Diggle (Green Arrow: Year One, The Losers) joins high-octane artists Stephen Segovia (Action Comics), Shawn Martinbrough (Thief of Thieves), Doug Braithwaite (Justice), and Renato Guedes(Action Comics) to reveal the full scope and power of the Shadowman mythos in an oversized deluxe edition hardcover of the series Nerdist calls “killer”! Collecting SHADOWMAN (2018) #1-11, and SHADOWMAN/RAE SREMMURD #1, along with more than 20 pages of rarely seen art and extras!

FIRST WATCH: Andy Diggle & Stephen Segovia Descend Into the Deadside with  SHADOWMAN #3, Hitting Stores In May! - Comic Watch

When I last left the character, he was bound in eternal servitude in the underworld, and I wasn’t sure where the comic was going to go afterwards. I think I’ve missed a portion of the story past that, but they allude to everything in the narrative pretty well. This actually could be a decent start for somebody new to the series, it doesn’t get bogged down in past lore, and re-introduces everything slowly. At it’s core, Shadowman is Valiant’s main “magic” comic ala Constantine or Doctor Strange, if we think in terms of rival companies. What definitely sets it apart is the emphasis on Voodoo lore, and the setting itself.

While I had an advanced review copy of this in digital format, I have purchased hardcover deluxe editions from Valiant in the past, and they are really good production-wise and great bang for your buck. Instead of buying 3-4 trades at fifteen a pop each, they usually collect an entire series in one volume and price it to where you get a decent discount. I’m sure this will follow suit.

This is another solid edition in my Valiant Comics library, and I really love the character. I should have quickly reviewed this for Black History Month, as Shadowman is a VERY solid overlooked black superhero that more people should know about. Then again, that’s Valiant’s M.O. most of the time, being inclusive, but in a natural way, unlike some other guys that do it in the fake corporate way. Highly recommended if you have not checked these guys out before.

REVIEW: X-O Manowar Book 1 (2021)

by Dennis Hopeless

NOTE: I received a free preliminary, and likely unedited copy of this book from Netgalley for the purposes of providing an honest, unbiased review of the material. Thank you to all involved.

I’ve been a fan of Valiant Comics for a while now, especially since their relaunch about a decade ago. I think what sets them apart from other companies headed by out of touch movie execs or cartoon mice, is that they have their finger on the pulse with what fans actually want to read, and don’t pump tons of “fluff” into the market and over-saturate and shrink their audience through constant relaunches and special events. They have been amazing to interact with at conventions, and I honestly say say enough good things about them. Today’s topic is a graphic novel of the 2020 X-O Manowar book from Dennis Hopeless, I will admit, I’m about two years behind on keeping up with Valiant due to work keeping me VERY busy as of late, but I definitely wanted to read this as everyone’s favorite Visigoth Warrior is always one of my favorite titles.

“Save the day, destroy the world… Torn from the past and bonded with a living alien armor, will X-O Manowar become the hero the world needs now? As a futuristic force arises to destroy the planet, only this ancient warrior king has the courage to stand against impossible odds! Harvey Award winning writer Dennis “Hopeless” Hallum (All-New X-Men) and breakout star Emilio Laisio (Marvel’s Spider-Man: Velocity) unleash Valiant’s most powerful protector! Collecting X-O MANOWAR (2020) #1-4.”

This most recent storyline adds some grounding the the character that I really enjoyed. Prince Aric, in the past, has been somewhat distant from much of humanity considering his personality and origin of being a warrior from over a thousand years ago. This sticks him into a domestic situation, as he attempts to live amongst the people he tries to protect – all to a variable amount of success. One can’t help draw comparisons to either Spawn or Thor, which both had similar grounding to those characters that made them have a bit of humanity. Also, the “fish out of water antics” are perfect for a bit of humor. We are also introduced to a advisor-type character that is not unlike Elon Musk in real world terms, in Troy Whitaker. I’m not convinced he isn’t a villain as of yet, but he does help X-O with his image problem.

This is a solid read, and a perfect starting point if you’ve never read anything from Valiant before. If you are jaded with comics, or are tired of the nonsense “the big two” are always up to – give this a try! It’s honestly bee hard to go back after I started reading comics that are fun again.

REVIEW: Hercules Intergalactic Agent: Book 2 The Intruder (2021)

A graphic novel by Zabus & art by Antonello Dalena

Apparently, Hercules Intergalactic Agent: Book 2 The Intruder is the second book in a series that I was unaware of, I only realized after I started reading and saw the tiny “book 2” that was sighed an audible “oops.” Thankfully it’s honestly pretty easy to grasp what was happening despite missing the “first episode” as it were. It tells the story of a couple of underdogs, bottom of their class, students at an intergalactic agent school.

“Hercules and Marlon are in their second year of intergalactic agent school and they still have a lot to learn! But when their teacher is bitten by a strange alien creature, they’ll need to put down the books and leap into action because the sickness affecting Teach seems to be spreading throughout the school…”

While this isn’t really meant for kids, as it alludes to cursing a few times, the messages in the book would be good for a kid’s book – never judging a book by its cover, and having compassion for all living things. It has a pretty strong allegory to the recent string of migrant and asylum seeker crises that have arisen as of late, which makes it a pretty forward thinking book. The allusions could be a tad heavy-handed, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. The art is fun, and it reminds me of something from the 80’s Heavy Metal movie.

REVIEW: Brontë (2021)

by Manuela Santoni

NOTE: I received a free preliminary, and likely unedited copy of this book from Netgalley for the purposes of providing an honest, unbiased review of the material. Thank you to all involved.

“Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Brontë—faced with an ailing father and an alcoholic brother—pursue independence through art in this graphic vision of the lives of three legendary writers.”

Going into this, I sadly did not know much of the Brontë sisters aside from a passing knowledge of how the initially wrote under pseudonyms, ad their untimely deaths due to tuberculosis at relatively the same time. This book did an amazing job filling in the gaps for the most formative time period of their lives – the moment that they decided to start publishing their writings to help save their family. With an ailing father, and a deadbeat brother addicted to both alcohol and opium, the sisters set aside their fears of judgement and finally publish their works to much critical acclaim. It was not until death met their mighty blow, that much of the world found out the true nature of the three writers that took nineteenth century England by storm, and defined that time period for many people in the modern era.

Manuela Santoni has a simple pen drawn art style that was interesting to see. At a few moments, some actions are hard to understand due to this stylistic limitation, but the script is there to cover for it. all-in-all this was a very well-done book and very informative.

REVIEW: The Two Lives of Penelope (2021)

A Graphic Novel by Judith Vanistendael

NOTE: I received a free preliminary, and likely unedited copy of this book from Netgalley for the purposes of providing an honest, unbiased review of the material. Thank you to all involved.

Before today, Judith Vanistendael was completely off of my radar as a comic creator, which is a complete shame as she has put together easily the best book I’ve read this month. Rendered in gorgeous watercolor paintings and poetic text, The Two Lives of Penelope is not your typical comic book and is a VERY emotional roller coaster ride for the short time that one is reading it. Dealing with a heavy topic such as the mental health issues that arise when one spends too much time in a war zone doing humanitarian work, This book was both not easy to read and not easy to put down at the same time. Nothing particularly heinous happens in the comic, I just feel bad for the entire family, that despite their troubles, are hanging in there.

“Penelope is a Belgian physician who works with Doctors Without Borders in war-torn Syria. She returns to Belgium when she can in order to see her husband and daughter, but the transition is hard. Her latest trip home for the holidays proves even tougher than usual, as the coexistence of the two excruciatingly different worlds she inhabits becomes increasingly fraught.”

Taking place in the middle of the still raging Syrian Civil War, this book tells the tale of a humanitarian surgeon attempting to spend some time with her family before she travels back into the war zone. In many ways, this should be a time to relax, but sadly her life is now that of a war doctor, and her home life is increasingly hard to cope with. Penelope has PTSD (or something similar), and cannot connect to the needs of her family anymore – when one deals with war atrocities on a day-to-day basis things like a style of preferred winter coat, or a daughter worried about her nose size are no longer of great significance. She is haunted, both literally and figuratively, by her job – and can’t seperate from it anymore – it is her now. Everyone deals with this the best they can, and sadly we do not get any resolution – one can assume Penelope is still in Syria to this day.

Every once in a while, you come across a comic that surpasses the medium and is an instant classic – for me The Two Lives of Penelope is up there with comics such as Persepolis and even Maus, as a comic tackling a VERY tough subject matter in such a way that it becomes something that should be required reading. I will definitely check into other works by the author, and keep an eye on this, as I really hope this book gets the attention it deserves.

REVIEW: Babylon (2021)

A book by Laurent Galandon, Frank Giroud & art by Philippe Nicloux

NOTE: I received a free preliminary, and likely unedited copy of this book from Netgalley for the purposes of providing an honest, unbiased review of the material. Thank you to all involved.

Another day, another book by one of my new “companies to look out for”, Europe Comics. Babylon is another French comic, translated into English. I’ve recently come across a handful of their comics, and have really enjoyed them. Comics from western Europe have an entirely different feel to them than either the United States or Japan, focusing more on mature stories vs superheroes and the like, and for that I love them.

“If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find him, Max Ferlane is your man: a good man with skills a bad past has left him. Now he’s trying to leave that bad life behind, put those skills to good use. He’s in the Congo rescuing a young girl from an arranged marriage when an old employer turns up: the Babylon Agency, specializing in high-profile political exfiltrations. Max is forced into a different, far more dangerous mission that will take him deep into warring jungles and his own past mistakes. For Max’s PTSD hallucinations are only getting worse…”

At first glance, and in the initial few pages, I figured this was going to be a bog-standard run-of-the-mill mercenary for hire story, but was surprisingly wrong when things took a weird turn. There are times in the book, where you are led to believe that things have suddenly gone VERY science fiction VERY fast, but its not what you think. Having the book take place somewhere in Eastern Africa, was also interesting, and gave the setting a bit of a political edge that I really enjoy in European Comics. That said, In many ways, Max Ferlane is somewhat of a cliché character in comics, one part Snake Pliskin, another Max Payne (if anyone else remembers that game), but this doesn’t detract from the story in any way.

This is the first part of a multi-part story, and I will eagerly be waiting for the next chapter. With my quibbles aside regarding some clichés, The setting, plot, and characters are cool enough to keep me reading. Yeah, it’s basically “Escape from Congo”, but that’s honestly better than most of the actual sequels to that franchise.

REVIEW: Wild West (2021)

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A graphic novel by Thierry Gloris & Lamontagne Jacques

NOTE: I received a free preliminary, and likely unedited copy of this book from Netgalley for the purposes of providing an honest, unbiased review of the material. Thank you to all involved.

I’m a big fan of European comics (which is coincidentally the name of this books publisher, but I mean the geographical area), usually because they don’t worry about keeping everything for children at all times, and treat the material far more seriously than in either Japan or America. That isn’t to say its all gore-filled pornography either, its just like the difference between an HBO show and a Disney+ show in terms of sensibility, if that makes sense. I’ve been on a big Metal Hurlant and Heavy Metal kick as of late, so I was intrigued to see a French language comic (translated, of course) about Calamity Jane, and how a European publisher would handle the “origin story” of the famous frontierswoman.

“The westward drive of Americans after the Civil War was unstoppable. For some, the vast territory meant new wealth and new opportunities. The ever-progressing railroads made many rich. Whereas others found their fortune selling the flesh of the less fortunate. In a brothel in Omaha, all manner of destinies intersect in a violent collision that many won’t survive. This is the incredible story of Martha Cannary, a young woman who shrugged off what destiny had in store for her and made herself into a legend.”

Wild West comic book sample Calamity Jane

Wild West is a quick read at only 66 pages, but it tells its story well, and doesn’t linger too long. Honestly, I hope they produce more of this, as this is basically the story of her beginnings and her first encounter with Wild Bill Hickock and up to her enlistment into the US Army under the pretense that she’s a boy rather than a woman. The thing about Calamity jane, and whether this book is historical, is that most of her backstory was created as a booklet to market her “character” at a series of tours that she participated in. I assume a lot of this was embellished, and sadly we’ll never know for sure. Not much is said about her time working as a prostitute (which is the focal point of this story), so I imagine there is a lot of artistic liberty here, with something that already had some to begin with.

All-in-all, this was a great comic with exquisite, detailed artwork. for fans of history, western comics, European comics, or just adult comics in general, this would be a great addition to your collection. I’m not certain that the book is available physically in the US, but a digital copy (like the one I have) is very affordable. This is a publisher that is now on my radar, if their quality is this good on everything, I’ll have to do some more research.

REVIEW: Freiheit! (2021)

A graphic novel by Andrea Grosso Ciponte

NOTE: I received a free preliminary, and likely unedited copy of this book from Netgalley for the purposes of providing an honest, unbiased review of the material. Thank you to all involved.

There’s a tendency, in World War II scholarship, to almost entirely concentrate on Hitler and the battles of the war, keeping some of the more human aspects of the war in the background. Even the Holocaust is usually spoken about in vague terms if its not explicit something like a diary or journal of one the victims. Something I knew almost nothing about, prior to this book, were internal German resistance groups. I knew they absolutely had to be a thing, but seeing as they did not overthrow Hitler on their own, it’s usually relegated to a footnote in many books. The White Rose was one such group, and this graphic novel tells their tragic story.

With an entire nation blindly following an evil leader, where did a handful of students find the courage to resist? The university students who formed the White Rose, an undercover resistance movement in Nazi Germany, knew that doing so could cost them their lives. But some things are worth dying for. The White Rose printed and distributed leaflets to expose Nazi atrocities and wake up their fellow citizens. The Gestapo caught and executed them. Sophie Scholl was twenty-one; her brother Hans, twenty-four; Christoph Probst, twenty-three; Alexander Schmorell and Willi Graf, twenty-five. But the White Rose was not silenced. Their heroism continues to inspire new generations of resisters. Now, for the first time, this story that has been celebrated in print and film can be experienced as a graphic novel. Italian artist Andrea Grosso Ciponte’s haunting imagery will resonate with today’s students and activists. The challenges they face may vary, but the need for young people to stand up against evil, whatever the cost, will remain.

Description

The story in Freiheit! is told largely from the point of view of Sophie Scholl, who has become disillusioned with the government of Germany due to their strong-arm policies and mistreatment of Jews. Prior to the events of the book, her brothers were arrested by the Gestapo, setting in motion their membership into an underground resistance movement of intellectuals that produced subversive pamphlets calling the Nazi leadership into question. One nice touch, is that translations of these documents are included in the book.

The art style and overall composition by Andrea Grosso Ciponte was very moving and vibrant despite the book’s muted color palette. Each panel, even the most subdued, is treated like a scene in a film – interesting transitions, camera angles, and blocking are all well-done. It gives this book a VERY cinematic feel.

I enjoyed this a lot, and plan to look at some other books by the same publisher pretty soon. The book has served it’s purpose of making me interested in The White Rose, and I may also look into a book about the Scholl siblings at some point. Having historical documents in the back of the book was a great touch, and immediately elevates this to the status of being a teaching tool. I once took a class in college about The Holocaust, and I honestly really wish this was out at that time. This would have been a great story to share with my class. Solid book, definitely recommended.

REVIEW: Haru’s Curse (2021)

A Manga by Asuka Konishi

Cover

NOTE: I received a free preliminary, and likely unedited copy of this book from Netgalley for the purposes of providing an honest, unbiased review of the material. Thank you to all involved.

Natsumi’s little sister Haru was her whole world—and now she’s gone. After the funeral, Natsumi reluctantly agrees to date her sister’s fiancé Togo. But as their relationship develops with the passing seasons, Haru’s memory lingers over them like a curse. Asuka Konishi’s English-language debut is a nuanced and affecting portrait of the conflict between romantic and familial love, and of the hard choices that face us all in making our lives our own.

Description

I usually stay clear of romance manga because its generally childish, basically pornography for men, or entirely comprised of slapstick comedy, usually taking place in high school, and is so far distanced from my life that its like me watching Disney Channel sitcoms meant for children. I gravitated towards reading Haru’s Curse for two reasons: I love atypical art styles in anime/manga, and the description sounded mature and somewhat thrilling for a romance manga.

The art style thing comes from my distaste of how most anime has looked for the last decade or so, I’ll likely upset people here, but I feel most of the Moe Manga boom from 2008 onwards looks the same and tells the same stories, and this style has infiltrated just about every non-shonen property. The tall, angular art style in Haru’s Curse reminds me of CLAMP or its derivatives upwards of 20 years ago. I love it when manga artists are willing to move away from the stylistic norm, even if it’s a throw-back of sorts. Usually, to me, its a sign of quality. and it definitely was.

Internal page

Storyline-wise, the way Asuka Konishi writes is refreshing. Most romance manga follow the tried-and-true cliched plot of 1) girl lusts over dreamy and brooding guy 2)he has mysterious past 3) they go headlong into love 4) some obstruction gets in the way 4) they work through it and are together, or in some cases the main characters die etc. It gets tiresome and seems too formulaic. This story is somewhat flipped on its head as it jumps point of view a few times, even telling the story from the male protagonist’s POV a few times. The couple in question only start “dating” as some sort of mourning for Natsumi’s younger sister Haru, who has died of cancer. Once they meet a requirement of her proposal, that Togo takes her to all the places that he enjoyed with Haru, their relationship abruptly ends. Or at least, that’s what they think. I don’t plan to spoil everything, don’t worry!

All of the main characters are written as real people, none are “Mary-Sue” perfect people, and each has flaws. Seeing the story from all points of view was great, and gave depth to everyone. This comic deals with issues like arranged marriages, familiar pressure, and even Japanese societal norms that really leaves you on the edge of your seat like any good drama would. I don’t normally say this about this genre, but I think this has been my favorite manga of the year so far, and I will try to find a way to read the author’s previous work, Raise wa Tanin ga Ii (something like: I’d Prefer It If We’re Strangers in Our Next Life).

Cells at Work! Baby 1 (2021)

A graphic novel by Yasuhiro Fukuda

Cells at work! is one of those little surprises I found last year when I was still subscribed to Kindle Unlimited. While seemingly every new manga coming out is some sort of isekai story – the plot of Cells At Work! was rather refreshing despite its simplicity. The main series told the story of the relationship between a lowly red-blood cell and her budding relationship with a heroic white blood cell while they go about their lives trying to keep their home healthy. The way biological functions were realized on an anthropomorphized scale was cool, and vaguely educational. I later found some of the spin-off works such as Code Black (which was gender swapped and dealt with a destructive person heavily drinking and such), and enjoyed them as well. This is the first time I’ve heard of this detour from the main story- and I’m pretty excited as we now have cells living inside a baby:

BEING A BABY IS HARD WORK! Join these cute baby cells as they work hard within their tiny body! A mini-Red Blood Cell picks up oxygen from the helpful ladies at the Placenta, and meets a White Blood Cell for the first time, in this adorable spinoff of Cells at Work! But when tremors begin to shake their world, they’ll need to consult the Gene Library to find out what’s going on! Could this be…a contraction? And might their body soon have to…fend for itself?!

Official description

This book still tells the story of a Red Blood Cell, however rather than seeing her task of delivering oxygen throughout the body as some sort of delivery job ala the Post Office, this book starts out in a pre-school setting sort sorts with all of the Red Blood Cells first learning how to deliver it then transitions to the setting we’re all used to. The story takes us from forty weeks into the pregnancy, to the birth, and finally into some situations a baby might have in their small life such as removal of the umbilical cord, eating for the first time, and the lungs being filled with fluid etc. This all leads up to a viral attack, and the introduction of fan favorites – The White Blood Cells, this time in chibi form. We see this through the relationship between Red Blood Cell and her big brother that watches over her, and keeps her out of trouble (or at least he tries).

Interior art

I will give this book props for not just being a total rehash of previous books with chibi characters, or a book with wall-to-wall jokes. I’m thinking of the Attack On Titan spinoff set in a school, and how awful it was. This stands on its own, and honestly is paced largely the same as the other books, it just has a different setting an somewhat different characters.

I enjoyed this book a lot, and it is a great volume in the ever-growing Cells at Work! saga. Honestly, I think the only thing left for them to do would be a animal version of it, or something about viruses (they did bacteria already I suppose). We’ll see where it goes I guess. If you like Cells at Work! you will enjoy this, if are not familiar with what this is all about, it stands on its own for the most part and could be read without prior knowledge of the other books. Definitely, a recommendation.

REVIEW: Manga Classics – Romeo and Juliet (2018, 2020)

An adaptation of the 1597 Classic by Stacy King, Crystal S. Chan, and Julien Choy

Romeo and Juliet: Manga Classics

NOTE: I received a free preliminary, and likely unedited copy of this book from Netgalley for the purposes of providing an honest, unbiased review of the material. Thank you to all involved.

This is the second book by Manga Classics that the gracious folks over at that company were nice enough to let me peruse, with the first Being The Count of Monte Cristo. I won’t bore everyone re-treading the same pre-amble as with that review, but I will summarize that I very much enjoyed that edition, and love the idea behind the whole initiative – an attempt to get kids and younger adults to get into classic literature without throwing huge 800 page tomes their way. I felt the respect for the source material was, perhaps, one of the best things about that book – as it avoided the many pitfalls others have fallen into making “manga versions” of things when they were not, in fact, a part of the Japanese manga (comic book) scene.

Romeo and Juliet is the classic tragedy of western literature. Created by William Shakespeare, it is tale of two very young lovers from Verona, Italy who defy the wishes of their feuding families, get married then, and tragically, end their own lives in the name of love. It is their deaths that ultimately help the rival families of the Capulet’s and Montague’s find reconciliation. Manga
Classics brings an incredible new reading experience with this adaptation of Shakespeare’s most popular and frequently performed plays: Romeo and Juliet.

Manga Classics product page
Romeo and Juliet | Ch01 Pg04

Going into this book, I was somewhat worried, as the Count of Monte Cristo is largely available in Modern English readily, whereas any adaptation of a Shakespeare play has a choice – keep the archaic, yet poetic language of the original play, or adapt it into modern language and perhaps lose some of the wordplay and witty dialogue. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the dialogue was largely left intact from the source material, albeit cleaned up a tad. While this could make it hard to read for some folks, this would make it a great source to help one’s understanding of the language in the actual book – I recall occasionally using a supplementary Cliff notes book in high school whenever doing a Shakespearean assignment (I was big on British Lit back then) – honestly this would have been way better.

The art style is clean, well done, and consistent with many shoujo comics of the near past without losing itself to modern clichés. I personally love the manga style from the middle to late 90’s, so I especially liked this one. I will say that, of the two, I preferred the Count of Monte Cristo a bit more, but that could be that I’ve read Romeo and Juliet so many times that it does not hold the same “oomph” as it once dead, whereas I’ve never fully read The Count. All-in-all, still a solid read and a great addition to anyone’s manga or classical literature library. As I said in my previous review – Schools and libraries should really look into getting a ton of these, you’d probably be surprised how popular they’d be.

REVIEW: Tankies (2021)

A graphic novel by Garth Ennis, Carlos Ezquerra, Hector Ezquerra, Tony Avina and Simon Bowland.

NOTE: I received a free preliminary, and likely unedited copy of this book from Netgalley for the purposes of providing an honest, unbiased review of the material. Thank you to all involved.

I’ve been a fan of Garth Ennis for a while, and while I definitely enjoy his classics such as Preacher or The Boys, I have grown very fond of his lesser-known military-themed books ever since I did a promotion a while back and inquired a whole slew of Battlefields books. When I saw that this volume was available, I jumped at the chance to check it out. I think the one thing I appreciate the most about these books is that, while definitely casting The Allies as heroes in most books, he doesn’t pull punches. Bad things happen in war, and its important to show that – for far too long we’ve been fed a steady stream of overly-patriotic Captain America vs Hitler stories, completely undermining the fact that war is horror-incarnate. Ennis excels at showing the human side of war, and the toll it takes.

After D-Day the largely untried Allied armies meet their seasoned German counterparts on the killing grounds ofBocage country. As Panzers and SS units turn the French hedgerows into a slaughterhouse, a lone British tank crew struggles to rejoin their squadron. Their only hope lies in their commander, Corporal Stiles—but does even this wily old trooper stand a chance against the infamous Tiger? Newly promoted but just as angry, Sergeant Stiles enters the battle for Germany in command of a Sherman Firefly—capable of taking out any tank thus far encountered. Unfortunately, the enemy have a new tank of their own, the mighty “King Tiger,” with twice the firepower of the original. As Stiles and his men join the Allied advance into the Nazi homeland, they find worse horrors than Tigers lurking in the German twilight.

Book description

This volume is comprised of nine comics, grouped into three separate story-arcs in the life of Sergeant Stiles, a tough as nails tank commander from Newcastle that has seen it all in the world of mechanized combat and is one of the few who has lived to tell the tale. Usually lamenting on the poor state of British tank engineering in the face of ever increasing mechanical brutality from Germany, Stiles is well respected despite his Geordie accent being a focal point of mocking. One little tidbit I enjoyed was that we learn Stiles is Pagan when they were forced to shell a German church, makes me like him even more.

The third section takes place during the Korean War, which I am glad to see. My Grandfather served in that war, and I always think it gets largely ignored by just about everyone, so seeing it here was awesome. It was crazy to see the shift in battlefield tactics. German tank commanders in parts one and two almost seem aristocratic and machine-like vs the relentless hordes of Chinese soldiers they come across in Korea. Men climbing on the tanks, trying to drop bombs in the engines, doing suicidal attacks. Sheer insanity I can imagine.

Carlos Ezquerra (1947–2018) was the artist for this series, and I have seen him do the pencils for much of Ennis’s war books – he’s great at the technical side of historical aircrafts, tanks, guns etc, as well as depicting humans and the actions of war. When I saw that the book was dedicated to him, I was sad as he was always a n artist I looked forward to seeing in this genre. Best known as one of the original creators of Judge Dredd, Ezquerra will be VERY missed.

This was a great book, and any fan of war comics, history, or honestly anyone into comics at all should check out. Stiles is a great character, and I’d love to see him pop up again, although I’d imagine this will be all as it ends in a decent spot. I loved the afterward, which is a lengthy essay detailing where some of the ideas for the book came from, you can tell Ennis is interested in teaching history here, and as a history buff, I loved it.

REVIEW: Teddy (2021)

A Graphic Novel by Laurence Luckinbill; Adapted by Eryck Tait

NOTE: I received a free preliminary, and likely unedited copy of this book from Netgalley for the purposes of providing an honest, unbiased review of the material. Thank you to all involved.

July 1918. Preparing to speak to an eager audience, 61-year-old Teddy Roosevelt receives the telegram that all parents of children who serve in war fear most: His son Quentin’s plane has been shot down in a dogfight over France. His fate is unknown. Despite rising fear for his youngest son, Teddy takes the stage to speak to his beloved fellow citizens. It is, he says, “my simple duty.” But the speech evolves from politics and the war, into an examination of his life, the choices he’s made, and the costs of his “Warrior Philosophy.”

Official description

Teddy Roosevelt is one of those Presidents that comes to mind when one thinks about the great orators that we have had in the past in that very office. I won’t get too political here, but recent events in the political world make me look back at old speeches and feel some weird sense of nostalgia for a time that is WAYYYY before my time – a time when The President was remarkable and gave intellectual lectures as speeches rather than ridiculous messes designed for sound-bites. This graphic novel, about Theodore Roosevelt, encapsulates this very well as it showcases a oration by Roosevelt that is intertwined with biographical information.

Despite being a history major, I am not 100% certain that this was an actual speech or if its pieced together from various speeches and ideas that Roosevelt espoused. Either way, the storytelling here is remarkable. The speech is right after Teddy has learned that his son is missing fighting Germans during WWI – he was told that giving a speech in his state of mind was likely a bad call, but he does it anyway. He talks about his rough upbringing as he was very sickly as a child. It was only through sheer perseverance and respect for his father that he was able to largely overcome most of his ailments or at least learn to keep them at bay.

Interior page

Giving the speech as a former President, Roosevelt lashes out at President Woodrow Wilson, the man that unseated his chosen successor William Howard Taft, and himself when he attempted to run for a third term. Wilson is accused of causing deaths of many (including Teddy’s soon, not confirmed dead at this point) and paving the way for German domination of the world. The speech is fairly “hawkish” and really shows the mindset America was in at the time. The speech is peppered with an overview of Teddy’s life, and what it means to be a real patriot as well as other themes.

I absolutely loved the story here, and despite being skeptical of the format initially, it works very well. The art style, minimalist with blacks and blues, is great and not something you see too often. I’d love to see more of these made from other well-known speeches in the future. This is honestly a great book, as one could toss this into a school library or assign it as a class project, and I think kids would really gain a bit of extra understanding that merely just reading a speech or textbook does not allow. Definitely recommended!

REVIEW: Black Star (2021)

A graphic novel by Eric E. Glover (Author), Arielle Jovellanos (Illustrator)

Black Star by [Eric E. Glover, Arielle Jovellanos]
Cover via Amazon

NOTE: I received a free preliminary, and likely unedited copy of this book from Netgalley for the purposes of providing an honest, unbiased review of the material. Thank you to all involved.

I wasn’t sure what I was getting into when I was awarded a review copy of Black Star. The plot was intriguing, but I was unfamiliar with the creative team, so I had no idea what to expect. What Black Star is, is a solid debut for Eric Glover, one would never guess that this was his first foray into comic writing (granted, this was originally a screenplay) by what we have here.

[…] In order to retrieve samples of an alien flower that may hold the key to saving countless lives, Harper North and her crew of scientists must journey to Eleos, a dangerous planet in deep space. But as they approach Eleos, their ship is caught in an asteroid storm and as it hurtles towards the surface, its reserve shuttle detaches, landing over 100 kilometers away. When the rest of the crew perishes in the burning wreckage of the ship, North races towards the rescue shuttle built for one, hoping to fulfill their mission and survive.  But North isn’t alone: The team’s wilderness expert is still alive and hell-bent on hunting North down and claiming the shuttle for herself.

Press synopsis excerpt

It’s hard to talk about this without giving away tons of spoilers, so I will attempt avoid that. This is an unconventional disaster story of sorts – a survival story akin to Lord of the Flies, in that the protagonists are not necessarily “good guys”. Perhaps the strongest thing about Black Star is its emphasis on moral ambiguity. This is the story of people doing things they need to do in order to survive. Sometimes that means making tough decisions and hurting others, selflessness is not always an option if you believe your own survival is the key to saving the world. That also comes with a burden, can one live with their choices if bad things are done?

There is a point in the book where one of the characters actions was pretty upsetting, I realized that they had basically “turned heel” entirely – their actions are rough to witness and really make you question if, in the same shoes, a sane person could go through with such an act.

All-in-all, Black Star has really put Eric E. Glover and Arielle Jovellanos on my radar. If this doesn’t get picked up as a film, I’m hoping this is successful and they continue in the comics industry. Not only is the story interesting, but it avoids cliches in a lot of comics. The story structure almost reminds me of European comics, such as ones found in Metal Hurlant and Humanoids to name a few. The storytelling has a darker edge, and doesn’t feel the need to have “a happy ending” for the sake of it. I would definitely recommend this book.

REVIEW: Don Vega (2020)

A graphic Novel by Alary Pierre

Don Vega by [Alary Pierre]
Cover, via Amazon

NOTE: I received a free preliminary, and likely unedited copy of this book from Netgalley for the purposes of providing an honest, unbiased review of the material. Thank you to all involved.

I am Zorro!

I have recently become a fan of the Pulp character Zorro, with much thanks to the line of comics from Dynamite Comics. Eventually, I plan to read the original serialized novel, but I have read a few things inspired by it already and I’ve loved every minute. For me, Western Comics have become a surprise hit for me, considering its not really a genre I consume too much in any other medium. And of these, Zorro has easily become my favorite. Yes, you could say its more of a swashbuckling adventure, but a lot of it deals with cattle ranching and horse rearing, so I’m sticking to my guns lol.

Pierre Alary has set out to create what I assume is a new generation of Zorro if I recall the original chronology at all. Alta California has fallen, and a new wave of exploitation and evil has befallen the land. Memories of the man once called Zorro, “The fox” , is a distant legend that folks often cling to in order to have hope in a hopeless time. There are a group of farmers that occasionally don the trademark mask, to usually disastrous results. That is, until the “real Zorro” finally returns and begins to make life hard for gold-grubbing career criminals. This is presumably the son of the original Zorro, but it’s left vague enough that I would have to do more research to make 100 percent certain. Considering the time jump, it could even be the third Zorro…

An interior page towards the beginning, one of the “fake” Zorros

In this story, Zorro has been shifted from a Robin hood sort of character to a depiction of chaos and revenge. This Zorro borrows a lot from characters such as V from V for Vendetta, or even Spartacus. He exists as more of an idea, a thing that many people see as the only way to get people to rise up against oppression. As a result, there isn’t just one Zorro, there is a band of Zorros that ultimately help the “real one” in the end. I hope there ends up being a second volume of this, as this idea is the most intriguing part of the story, and I’d love to see how this pans out. Like, who is the leader of these fake Zorros before Don Vega came back? When did it start? who adopted the logo that children are seen painting on walls etc. Many questions that I’d love to see answered.

Due to this being seemingly “part one” of a longer story, it somewhat rushes to the climax at the end, and you really don’t get much characterization for Don Vega. Had there been a longer page-count I could see that this would have been different, but under the circumstance, this was good, and there weren’t any plot holes for the most part. If the author has anything else in English (I presume he is French) I’d love to read it, I see on Amazon, that he has written some Conan stuff, so I’m definitely interested.

All-in-all good entry into the Zorro franchise. Perhaps not perfect, as some ideas were not fully realized, but I enjoyed it a lot and will be patiently hoping for more. If you are a fan of Zorro, or swashbuckling or western comics, I’d definitely recommend this story. it’s an interesting take on the Pulp legend, and keeps you wanting more.

Joey Ryan: Big in Japan (2017)

Another Day, another foray into my stack of wrestling comics I’ve obtained in the past few years but woefully neglected to read for some reason. In the past, and especially in the days when I was a really heavy comic reader, I never really got into wrestling comics simply because they would usually take things far too seriously or end up like the infamous Ultimate Warrior comic book where he ….emmm….does something to Santa Claus. Nowadays, it seems like wrestling comics are thankfully way more fun, much like today’s topic.

Today, we’ll be looking at a comic that came from one of my boxes from Pro Wrestling crate, although I think it was originally produced by Chido comics as a follow up to their successful line of Lucha Underground comics via Kickstarter. You might remember Chido comics was also the company behind the Rey Mysterio comic I’ve done on here in the past.

For those completely unfamiliar with the rise of Joey Ryan’s unique brand of comedy wrestling, I’ll try my best to fill you in a bit. Ryan has had something of a sleazy 70’s pornstar gimmick for a while – he comes to the ring rubbing oil allover his hairy chest while sucking on a lollipop in a suggestive way showing that in his mind at least – he’s a sexy guy that all of the women in the crowd all going to swoon over. But since he’s actually presented like the anti-Rick Rude, it’s mostly people cringing at how creepy he can be.

A few years back, a short clip surfaced online of Ryan using his penis (not really, wrestling’s silly) to flip someone over after they attempted to harm his downstairs neighbor. This, of course, went incredibly viral due to the silliness and absurdity of the “move” and basically changed Ryan’s entire career. Now, he’s managed to even land a sponsorship from a popular online porn company.

Here’s the move in action:

In this post-Kayfabe world of pro wrestling, where despite heckling by diehard MMA guys (You know it’s fake right brah!) – everyone knows exactly what wrestling is, and a gimmick such as this can flourish. In fact, lately it seems like wrestling things that go viral are almost always something intentionally ridiculous, and make somebody what I assume is a pretty good living. they might even get popular enough to appear on National TV wrestling brands such as Impact Wrestling and Lucha Underground, or even get their own comic book!

“Joey Ryan was pro wrestling’s king of sleaze – until five years ago, when a match gone wrong left his tag team partner crippled and one of his opponents dead. Now he spends his days looking for answers at the bottom of bottles in Tokyo bars. But when he hears that his old nemesis is back in town, he decides it’s time to get back in the ring.”

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This comic is basically a Dark Knight Returns sort of alternate future affair for Mr. Ryan as it’s not a tale of him at his prime vanquishing evil-doers, but a story of a washed up and grizzled Ryan who has abandoned the business due to a horrible tragedy and how he gets back into the ring. It seems that five years prior to this comic, Joey Ryan and his tag partner Candice LeRae (who is not named) were involved in some sort of match where a wrestler was killed and LeRae was horribly injured, Ryan obviously blames himself and has turned into a miserable drunk.

Joey runs into an old friend that has news of his arch nemesis, a huge guy called Butch Satan, and that he has issued an open challenge – Ryan initially refuses to even contemplate wrestling again since the last time, his penis killed a man, but is swayed by promising to do a serious match with no silly gimmicks. Ryan tries to fight a clean fight, but soon realizes that he must use Dong Style one more time to win…

joey ryan big in japan comic 4

This comic is pretty silly, it both takes itself almost too seriously at times, and veers into absurdity at others. it’s because of this that the comic actually reminds me a LOT of a Deadpool book, especially some of the more serious ones before folks thought his catchphrase was “Chimichanga!” which it isn’t you guys. I mean when you have a guy getting advice from a sentient Gummy Bear, which is something that happens in this book, you know it’s a crazy comic. Jamie Jones provides a solid art style and coloring for the book, and you can follow the action very easily.

My only quibble is that it’s a bit too short, if this only exists as a one shot it’s a shame as I’d love to see more comics like this. Thankfully Chido Comics will be masking a series of Lucha Libre comics soon, but they are all looking like one-shots as well – fingers crossed that changes.

La Mano del Destino #2 (2011)

la mano del destino 2 cover

La Mano del Destino is a six-issue story which tells the tale of a once-champion Luchadore – who, after being betrayed, agrees to a Faustian bargain in order to exact revenge upon his betrayers. Mesoamerican myth and high-flying, Lucha Libre action converge to tell this story of vengeance and destiny.

In issue 2 of the La Mano del Destino six-issue story, we learn the harrowing history of the man who became La Mano del Destino – a familiar tale of sibling rivalry, but with a tragic twist. We see what drove our hero to become champion and why the loss of his title and mask were an unbearable indignity.

After reviewing the Rey Mysterio comic book a few weeks ago, I remembered that I’ve actually received a few more wrestling comics in various boxes I’ve ended up with. Forgive me for not remembering which one, but one of the very first Lucha Loot packages I got contained a random issue of a comic called La Mano del Destino by J. Gonzo. For some reason, I tossed this book into my swag box and forgot about it until I went in looking for a Joey Ryan comic I also plan to review. Published by a small independent publisher called Castle and Key Publication, La Mano del Destino is planned  to be a six issue series of which I believe five have been released. My main question is – can you jump into this at issue 2, or would it be a bad idea? we’ll see!

la mano del destino 2 page 1

Luckily, this issue is entirely a flashback issue and has little of what came before. It’s basically a stand-alone tale of a pair of brothers trying to survive after the death of their father in the early 1940’s in Mexico. The boys are sent to live with a military general that basically only agreed to bring them in because he respected their mother. One brother, nicknamed “Monchi” is seen a s a strong boy, so he is to work in the fields with the other laborers, he basically lives outside and sleeps in a barn – a rough life for a young man.

This is all while “Petey” becomes a house-servant of some sort – living a life of relative luxury when compared to his brother. Monchi apparently has a gift for leadership and agitation and leads a servant revolt right up to The General’s doorsstep – Petey tries to stop tragedy from happening, but ends up accidentally accidentally shooting his brother in the hand before the General basically fires all of the servants and they both get tossed in prison. More tragedy leads to Petey deciding to become a luchador once he gets out, to atone for his past.

la mano del destino 2 page 2

The art in this comic is definitely something unique, it’s somewhat exaggerated and angular while being vaguely reminiscent of classic “Silver Age” books from artists such as Jack Kirby especially in the coloring. This gives the book an odd vibe where it looks modern, like some sort of street art, but also VERY retro – looking like a screen-toned book from the past. This brash coloring scheme can lead to some things I did not like, such as a lot of expeditionary test bubbles being a bright pink color that are harder to read than most comics.

Despite a few typos here and there, this is a solid comic, but it flies by wayyyy to fast in order to meet the 25 page max limit. I wish we could have seen more of Monchi’s path into becoming a rebel leader of sorts, or more with them interacting with The General in any way, but what’s there serves its purpose and flows well. I might have to try to get more of this, or perhaps I will see if a trade eventually comes out.

To read more about this comic series, check this out.

la mano del destino 2 page 3

Lady Death: Extinction Express (2016)

 

A while back I started reviewing some of the recent Lady Death comics, and here is part two! So if you want to read a bit about her origin or how these comics came to be check that link out as going into this review I’m going to assume we’re on the same page. I hope to keep doing these until I’m all caught up, which could be a while at the almost glacial pace I’ve been moving at. While you’re at it, make sure to head over to Kickstarter to see the newest volume that will be coming out soon, I might do an un-boxing time article for all the swag I get from the campaign if that’s something somebody would want to see.

Check HERE for my review of part one.

The Hellbourne Elders dispatch Atrocitas, an insane angel/demon hybrid assassin to destroy Lady Death for once and for all. But their epic confrontation proves tragic for a beloved character and sets in motion events that will change Lady Death’s undead life forever! Is this the road to extinction? Featuring the diabolical return of Hellwitch and the first appearance of Chaotica, a major new character in the Lady Death Universe.

Lady Death Extinction Express jacob

This book basically starts off right where the last one left off, and introduces a few new characters mentioned in that blurb. Atrocitas serves as the major villain for this book and seems to have been created by desperate Hellbourne leadership as a creature that should be able to stand toe-to-toe with Lady Death. He’s not nearly as formidable as one would imagine when it comes to actually fighting Lady Death, but has this nasty ability to do heinous things and come back from the dead quite often after being dispatched which is pretty damn annoying. Perhaps his biggest jerk move is maiming The Lady’s noble steed Vassago, forcing her to take a step back and desperately head towards a known warlock to see if he can heal the horse.

We also see the return of Hellwitch, a character that originally seemed like a stand-in for Purgatori somewhat, but is starting to get her own characterization so as to truly separate the characters. Apparently, Hellwitch is salty because she is a Hellbourne nationalist of sorts – when Satanus took Hell over and placed his Demonkind in charge of ruling it’s fiery pits – it didn’t sit well with many Hellbourne people. Then a deal was made with heaven to punish Earthbourne sinners within the confines of Hell (you know BIblical-style) which further set off Hellwitch and her like-minded followers. Moving this character away from the simple “you killed my Dad!” revenge archetype is great and her motivations really help both with world-building and fleshing her out.

Lady Death Extinction Express eye candy

I would mention Chaotica here, but she is barely in the comic and I assume she’ll be a bigger part in the next issue.

In my last review, I mentioned that the writing in part one was superior to that of part 2, and that the art in part 2 was better than part 1 – neither of which were deal-breakers, but just how it was. This time, I felt the story, and especially the dialogue, were improved a lot as well as jiving very well with the art. This is by far the strongest of the three books in just about every way, and has enough tension, action, and cool spots to keep any fans attention.

Lady Death Extinction Express hellwitch

This is also one of the more unapologetic issues of the series when it comes to the gratuitous imagery including a silly scene where Lady Death jumps into the mouth of a huge, monstrous dragon-like beast fully clothed and comes out with a new bikini fashioned from her tattered clothing in such a way that she now has a bikini on. I’m not complaining, but it was pretty laugh-worthy.

All-in-all this book was really good and makes me pretty excited to read Oblivion Kiss – I now can’t wait to see Hellwitch and Lady Death go at it again and see how Chaotica fits into everything.

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The Masked Republic Luchaverse: Rey Mysterio #1

“The current in a family line of Mysterios that dates back centuries, each one trained to be a champion of the people and to take on a great evil that has been prophecised to return and plunge the world into darkness. Rey Mysterio is on a quest, aided by the military clandestine group known as “The Ambassadors”. The mission is clear: retrieve the one thing Rey will need to take on this returning evil…..THE MASK OF THE FIRST MYSTERIO!”

To be honest, when it comes to comics related to wrestling, I never really picked up too many, not even back in my heaviest comic reading days. So aside from the Joey Ryan comic I got a while back (which I should review on here) I haven’t really read too many. Luckily Masked Republic had my back recently by tucking one of these bad boys into my recent Lucha Loot Treasure Chest (Review here) via Chido Comics.

This comic reminds me a lot of the old-school luchador films from the 60’s starring El Santo and Blue Demon in that it exists as a way to create a rich mythology behind a wrestler that can’t easily be conveyed in the medium of wrestling as it would come off as VERY silly and far too over the top (well maybe not in Lucha Underground). In this comic, for instance, we find out that Rey was in fact trained in an old Mexican monastery by an old man that would not be out of place in a stereotypical Kung Fu film (I’m sure that this is 100% factual :P). he is prophecised to be a sort of messianic figure – a man that will eventually save the world from impending doom.

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This comic features a handful of references to other well-known Luchadors such as Konnan (who seems to be Rey’s boss or something) and Tinieblas (who apparently took an off-page trip to the Himalayas specifically to get a map to the location of the foretold ancient mask for Rey). The mask itself is a reference to none other than Rey Mysterio Sr. While actual cameos would have been cool, I really like that this is building what I hope to be a full-on comic universe featuring luchadors. I assume that;s something that has existed in Mexico, but over here not so much.

Perhaps my only gripe was that the members of The Ambassadors serve very little purpose in the story (so far) aside from standing there and looking scared or wise-cracking while Rey beats the crap out of Zombie mountain lions using his super-powers. I would have almost preferred for the team to me made-up of actual wrestlers, but we’ll see if these guys pop up again.

The final page is an advertisement for a second one-shot featuring The Lucha Brothers (Fenix and Pentagon Jr.) Since these two are basically my favorite wrestlers at the moment I’m pretty excited to see where this goes and get my next Lucha Loot assuming that will be in there. This was a fun read for what it was and a must buy for any Lucha Fan that’s been wanting something like this for a while. Chido Comics is something that could be on the cusp of something cool, I’ll definitely keep an eye on them!

Lady Death: Chaos Rules / Lady Death: Damnnation Game (2015)

One of my guilty pleasures in the world of comics are “cheesecake comics” an outdated term for a comic with sexy women in it (beefcake is more used today for the opposite). One thing I will never do is get on a soapbox and try to pretend that the only reason I read comics like this are for some metatextual ironic reason, or that I believe books like this are in some way feminist in nature. Honestly, some books like this are pretty trashy, although I try to avoid the stuff that veers into total smut as the storytelling is usually the caliber of a late night Cinemax movie.

What I will say is that I enjoy the art and I like the carefree attitude most of them have, and that’s why I read them. Most of these comics are not really erotic in any way nor do they depict lurid acts for the most part, but everyone in it usually dresses like they live in a Frank Miller movie, so there’s that. If you recall I have posted reviews in the past for Vampirella comics, which despite the silly costuming and gratuitous poses, is actually a good read and a fairly compelling comic for somebody that loves gothic horror. I also enjoy things like Conan and Red Sonja which are both barbarian adventure comics, and cheesecake depending on the story. So why am I rambling about this? Today we’re talking about what I consider to be the “best of both worlds” in terms of gratuitous imagery and a barbarian tone – Brian Pulido’s Lady Death.

Much like Dawn and Vampirella, I remember being introduced to comics like this when I was a teenager in the 90’s and an avid reader of Wizard Magazine. They would usually have posters or articles about these comics, and they looked really cool, but the comics were usually kept in the forbidden “behind the counter” zone that young impressionable teens had no access to at the local comic shop. Had I seen a stray side-boob at that age, you never know what sort of miscreant I would be today!

Coffin Comics, the new company helmed by Lady Death creator Brian Pulido, has an interesting way of making comics in this modern climate of digital distribution and Amazon running everything out of business. Instead of a model where comics are sent out to stores, he funds each issue with a Kickstarter campaign resulting in a landslide victory each time in funding and a ton of swag to the contributors. I have been able to participate in the last few campaigns and have been rewarded with all manner of posters, bumper stickers, cards, guitar picks, and even challenge coins. While some creators use the funding to pad their wallets or to fund other things than what the fans are contributing to, Coffin Comics leaves me happy each time even though I will never be able to use all of the silly swag I get. But where did this business model come from?

Coffin Comics was started in 2007 by Pulido, who is the previously mentioned creator of pretty much all of the properties formerly under the roof of a company called Chaos! Comics. These titles included Lady Death, Evil Ernie, Purgatori, Chastity, Jade, Bad Kitty, and Lady Demon. At one point, Lady Death was big enough to have her own trading card sets and other merch that usually was only reserved for big Marvel and DC properties. When Chaos ceased publishing, the license to Lady Death moved to another company called CrossGen publishing that went out of business about a decade ago.

After a few false starts, everyone’s favorite anti-hero is back home with Pulido in this new company since 2015. When asked about this new strategy utilizing Kickstarter, Pulido has remarked that he’s not really interested in the mass market that much (although he does sell through Diamond like most comics) but has a comic collector in mind with every decision. That’s why all of the comics are marked #1 and there are TONS of alternate covers for each issue – some with print-runs as low as 12 copies! While that seems silly, the fans of his don’t seem to mind, it’s just a quirk of getting comics from them.

To date: the following titles have been released:

  • Lady Death: Chaos Rules
  • Lady Death: Damnation Game
  • Lady Death: Extinction Express
  • Lady Death: Oblivion Kiss
  • Lady Death: Merciless Onslaught
  • Lady Death: Unholy Ruin
  • Lady Death: Apocalyptic Abyss

So getting into the first of our double feature – Chaos Rules #1, the comic assumes you know who Lady Death is right from the get-go and wastes no time in making sure you know anything. Granted, there’s nothing keeping a new reader from understanding the plot, but a vague knowledge of the basic plot could be a plus. I would recommend perhaps watching the 2004 film created by the Now defunct anime studio AD Vision and written by Carl Macek. It’s not completely true to the source material, but it helps sum up the backstory. Here it is conveniently found on YouTube:

If you don’t want to watch that, the gist of her origin is that she was once  a young girl in medieval Sweden named Hope. Her father was a local nobleman named Matthias (Marius in one of the reboots) who was forcibly conscripting peasants into military service as feudal levies. Unknown to his innocent daughter, Matthias had a dark secret.

Although congratulated by the Church for his work against the pagans, he was despised by the common folk as a cruel tyrant. Matthias was outwardly pious, but secretly dabbled in black magic and demonology. He was actually a descendant of the fallen angels who had led the rebellion against God. A couple of the series change what happens next a bit, but Hope’s father summons a demon and Hope is captured in his place to be tried as a witch – she uses the same incantation her father was using and summons another demon that gives her a choice: Die or live as a soldier in Hell. She takes the latter and becomes a bad-ass warlord to face her father or to take over Hell depending on the version.

“In Chaos Rules #1, Lady Death is awakened from a 20-year, spell-induced slumber, she finds herself in the fiery pits of Hell. Two decades of her life, gone –– nothing more than nightmares. Who among her depraved enemies is responsible? How long until she exacts bloody vengeance? Not long!!! This is the first new Lady Death comic I’ve personally published in 12 years. This story –– chock full of sex, violence, and very bad behavior –– is Lady Death, fully realized.”

The above is a quote from Brian Pulido from the Kickstarter page and it sets the tone of the comic. This is definitely a re-introduction the the character that I assume many have not kept up with for a number of years, if not decades. While no Citizen Kane in terms of writing, the story is well conveyed and well-written for this type of comic. Perhaps the only thing holding this back from being “great” was the fact that some of the art is a bit cold or static, making it hard to tell what exactly is going on.

This is a minor gripe though, as fans of the original book and fans of this genre will enjoy it immensely. It was good to see the story scaled back after the almost Dragonball Z styled power boost given to the characters in later incarnations – a trend that seems to ruin most comics like this. It happened in Spawn, Punisher, and even Dragonball Z! It’s nice to see the Lady return to her roots.

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“Lady Death rescues an innocent boy dragged to Hell, inciting an ultra-violent quest into the depths of Damnation, a depraved city hosting ‘The Hades Engine,” a contraption that can return the boy to earth. But Lady Death’s actions bring her into direct conflict with the nefarious Hellwitch. Who will live? Who will die? With her return to Hell, Lady Death is public enemy number one, and you know what? She wouldn’t have it any other way. Let the mayhem begin!”

Coffin’s second outing is another solid read, but is held back by the exact opposite issue I had with the first issue. While the art in this is better than in the first, my opinion at least, the writing isn’t as well-done. some bits of dialog are very stilted, perhaps cliché and seem forced. On the flip-side, there are moments of great foreshadowing that Dheeraj Verma and Sabine Rich employed that conveyed a plot twist coming up better with their use of panels than the dialog could do. I loved the artwork.

This book is also the introduction of a new nemesis for Lady Death in a character named Hell Witch. You see Lady Death may have offed her Daddy in the last issue, so Hell Witch is out for vengeance. Since I’m assuming old Chaos! characters like Purgatori are off the table, Hell Witch seems like a fine replacement without being a direct clone or simple stand-in of the other. Although, to be honest, part of me would love to see these older characters eventually make their ways back home as well.

All-in all you really can’t go wrong with either book – stay tuned for more as I have all of the issues so far and will try to do more reviews! I will also do a kickstarter un-boxing whenever my La Muerta: Retribution stuff arrives.

Queen Emeraldas Volume 1

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I am so glad to finally read this! I’m a big fan of Leiji Matsumoto, so I was pretty disappointed with a now defunct anime company called ADV only releasing half of the OVA animated series that was loosely based on this original 1978 manga. That was like a decade ago, and there wasn’t really a good way to get the rest of the story legally. Flash forward to 2016 and not only can you buy things like a legit copy of Captain Harlock on DVD, but one can also buy this original manga in a beautiful hardcover edition!

If you like space operas, I’d definitely recommend checking out some of Leiji Matsumoto’s works if you are unfamiliar. He is, perhaps, most well-known (by a casual audience) for inspiring the fabulous animated music videos for the French House music duo Daft Punk during their Discovery era. These videos were later collected into a film called Interstella 5555. Older fans may, no doubt, recognize his other works such as Star Blazers (Yamato) or Captain Harlock – it’s all the same guy.

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Matsumoto has woven a fine tapestry of interconnected stories with stoic characters that anyone can love; unfortunately, most younger anime fans ignore classics and he has somewhat fallen out of the mainstream as of late. I was assuming that some of his older comics would never come out here, until I read a recent news article from Publisher’s Weekly, touting VERY strong sales of older comic titles at Anime Expo such as pre-orders for this very book!

“At the Kodansha Comics panel on Saturday, Ben Applegate, director of publishing for Kodansha Comics, cheered the ongoing rebound in manga print sales. “You’re probably seeing all the industry people here smiling, so you know that the manga industry is doing really well,” he said. “This resurgence of manga is allowing us to take chances on different series we wouldn’t usually in the past.” […] An example of a title that, in the past, Kodansha might have thought was too risky to publish in English is Leiji Matsumoto’s Queen Emeraldas, which the publisher is releasing in August. An older, classic SF adventure, the advance hardcovers of the book were sold out by weekend’s end.”

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As for the book itself, the story surrounds a boy named Hiroshi Umino, who strives to be a powerful star captain so that he can live by his own rules and sail the “sea of stars” like his heroes. His run in with Emeraldas changes his life forever, as she slowly becomes his mentor (of sorts). Emeraldas is basically like Xena in this book, a total badass that kicks booty and takes names. You often see supposedly feminist comic characters that end up being some sort of fetishistic dominatrix-style sexual wish-fulfilment trope, but that’s not how Emeraldas rolls. I wouldn’t name my very own cat after a character with skeevy undertones like that! We see Hiroshi and Emeraldas sharing eerily parallel origin stories until they meet again later on.

If you are also a huge fan of Matsumoto’s works, or are familiar with stories like the aforementioned Captain Harlock, Galaxy Express 999, Galaxy Railways, Arcadia of my youth or Maetel legend, you will absolutely love this. This story adds more substance to a somewhat overlooked character that constantly shows up in various shows as a background character. Otherwise, this book stands on it’s own well, and acts as an introduction to a character that thankfully appears in a ton of material. If you become a fan you will want to branch out and see more. And hopefully, if this book ends up selling well Kodansha will release more Matsumoto manga!


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The Multiversity

The Multiversity

I’m torn between thinking this was good, and thinking this was somewhat pretentious. I like Grant Morrison, but he has a tendency to let his ideas get away from himself and we end up with something like Multiversity. This is a fine collection of one-shots that show obscure versions of DC characters in a lot of different circumstances all vaguely related to a possible apocalyptic event in all 52 universes of the DC “Multiverse”. The problem lies in that the “cement” that holds this book together, the story of a cursed comic book created by an evil organization to destroy reality, is easily the weakest part of the series.

This book comes across as far too ambitious for Morrison, who perhaps was trying to create a Watchmen-esque satire of DC’s obsession with these large cross-over events, and ended up making something that barely makes any sense. There is also an attempt to make the reader part of the story – ala The Neverending Story, that feels forced and unneeded.

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Some of the one shots were good – really good. I’m a sucker for Captain Marvel, so anything starring that character is always right up my alley, as was S.O.S, and The Uncle Sam vs Nazi Superman story. A few others were sort of bland. There was one in particular about a world of entitled DC teen superhero reality TV stars that overstayed it’s welcome to me pretty quick.

Perhaps the Most ambitious story here was Pax Americana, Morrison’s send-off of Alan Moore’s The Watchmen. The Watchmen was based on old Charlton Comics characters that ultimately were modernized to better work with the material. Here Morrison goes back to the original characters and weaves a story that is more of an art piece than an actual comic. The story is told backwards, that is each page turn reveals more about what happened before, and the reader is made to read in a bizarre figure-8 pattern that is a meme in the story. I kind of wish it would be it’s own book, but it was a bit over-the-top and considering Morrison’s hatred of Moore (and vice versa), could have been a jab at his nemesis in some way.

All in all, this is worth reading, but as a whole “Graphic novel”, it fails to seem like anything other than a stack of one-shots. It’s a shame because something like this could have been huge.


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Vampirella Volume 1: Our Lady of Shadows

Vampirella Volume 1: Our Lady of Shadows

I’ve stated in a few other reviews on here that I *usually* don’t like modern vampire fiction. This is largely because writers try too hard to make it hip and trendy to cater to the teenage audience. So, while everyone was obsessed with sparkly shirtless vampires, I basically stopped reading anything in the genre. I have, however, found that I actually do like this stuff, I’m just an old “stick in the mud” traditionalist when it comes to it. Even some of the more of-the-wall vampire stuff I enjoy (like Vampire Hunter D) is firmly based on stuff like Christopher Lee films from Hammer Horror.

When reading Vampirella Volume 1: Our Lady of Shadows, I was having a lot of fun. Despite the covers, the story doesn’t really get too outlandish and exploitative, and everything is fairly well written. This is basically my introduction to the character since I always assumed this book was nothing more than softcore porn – now I know it’s more of a “pulp” series, and I feel bad for ignoring it so long.

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The story follows Vampirella as she is sent by The Vatican to stop a long dead nemesis, a cult leader and warlock, that may have resurfaced. She ends up on a quest (aided by a Nosferatu no less) to consume energy from various “vampires” from other cultures to make herself able to stop him and his plan to start the apocalypse.

Honestly, my only real quibble here is that it ended in such a way that it really should have had at least one more issue. Everything seems rushed at the end, thus making the whole story-arc unbalanced. There was even a point where the “monster of the issue” feel is thrown out in order to speed things up (what previously took a full issue was resolved in two pages), making Vampi’s quest seem pointless. It was good that a “prequel” issue was included, but I wanted a better ending. I will have to look at more Vampirella titles from Dynamite and possibly read more as I am starting to really enjoy these retro “pulpy” titles they are doing.


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Star Trek: Harlan Ellison’s The City on the Edge of Forever: The Original Teleplay

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I have seen the Star Trek episode The City on the Edge of Forever many times, and it’s definitely a great episode, but I had no idea what I was in for when I picked this up. I knew that Gene Roddenberry was notorious for altering many scripts that came across his desk – sometimes for the better sometimes for the worse (There is even a film called Chaos on the Bridge about this). What I had no idea about was the bad blood between Harlan Ellison and Roddenberry over the script for this story. It was deemed un-filmable, large portions were changed and entire characters were removed – all to make it more “Star Trek”. Granted, the episode went on to win a Hugo award, but I wonder what it could have been in its original form? Luckily thanks to IDW we have a graphic novel which adapts the second draft by Ellison, and in his own words “moved him to tears”.

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One of the main differences between the two versions of the story is the inclusion of an antagonist that is somewhat replaced by a drug addled Doctor McCoy (accidental of course) in the actual aired episode. Enter: Lieutenant Richard Beckwith, a drug dealer selling the illegal “Jewels of Sound”, kills Lieutenant LeBeque after he threatens to expose Beckwith’s activities to Kirk (selling drugs to people on away-missions). He storms the transporter array and goes to the planet where he later alters time. This one change already drastically changes the tone of the episode to a much darker story-line. I’m pretty sure censors would not have let that fly in 1966, but one never knows.

Another few shocking moments are racist overtones Spock has to deal with (everyone thinks he is Chinese) and a moment when Spock almost commits murder in desperation to “make things right”. Honestly this book contains enough new material for a full second part of this episode including a disturbing fate for our villain.

All in all, this is the superior version of this story and an amazing book for sci-fi fans and Star Trek fans alike.