Friday, June 27, 2014

PREVIEW: Open Tree: Legends and Tall Tales #1 – Freedom Run

Writer: Chris Charlton
Artist: Brian Latimer
Colorist: Vasco Sobral
Review: Art Bee

Everyone loves a great story, and I have the privilege of introducing to you to one of the best I have read. After reading it five times, it is not getting old. Open Tree, Legends and Tall Tales #1 contains a one-shot story called “Freedom Run,” and each future issue will be its own one-shot as well. This supernatural western is full of plot points that will pull your emotions in different directions. Let me give you just a taste of what you find on the first two pages.

“Freedom Run” is a powerful and compelling story set in 1872 Texas. The main character, Jesiah, is a young man who has lost his parents and is having to care for his family farm alone. During a walk he finds what he assumes is a wild horse with its back hoof tangled in a barbed wire fence. After freeing the horse, he is surprised that it does not run off and takes it to his barn to care for it.

Friday, June 20, 2014

REVIEW: Axe Cop: The American Choppers #1 & #2

Story: Malachai Nicolle (age 10)
Pencils, inks, and lettering: Ethan Nicolle (age 33)
Colors: Dirk Eric Schulz (age 31)
Review: Cody "Madman" Miller

Hells yes! The Nicolle duo are back with more Axe Cop insanity. Just take my money.

I still find it amazing that a ten year old could possibly entertain me this much. In truth it’s really the fact that the writer is ten that makes this book so amazing. After reading only the first couple pages it was obvious that a ten year old's imagination is driving the bus, and in this case that’s perfectly fine.

There are parts in these first two issues of this three issue mini-series that seemed really dark to be coming from a ten year old’s brain. There are parts dealing with God, Satan, murder demons etc. Deep stuff for a ten year old.

I know at the end of the day it’s all for laughs but it did make me stop and think about how desensitized humanity is becoming. Like I said, Malachai is on point. By fifteen this guy is gonna have the big two gagged, bound, and bent over the proverbial barrel at least I sure as hell hope so.

In case you’ve never read Axe Cop before, let me fill you in. There is a cop. The cop has an axe. Axe Cop has the world by its balls. Anything goes and it usually does. Case in point . . . Wexter.

Wexter is Axe Cop’s pet bad guy eating T-Rex with machine gun arms who can transform into a dragon with rocket wings. Anything goes.

Demonic lumberjacks are charged by Satan himself to kill Axe Cop. They attempt to do so by creating little evil axe monsters and the like.

Axe Cop, with the help of his super team brothers, Axe Goat (who has diamond teeth and can chew through anything), Axe Dog (super smart, real Reed Richards kinda vibe), Axe Captain, Axe Girl, Super Axe, and don’t forget Wexter, must beat back the legions of hell and whatever else Axe people and animals do.

$3.99 is all you need for a ticket to awesome and back. I really can’t recommend this book enough. It’s cover to cover good times with a side of noodle salad.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Spotlight: Image Comics

Spotlight on:
Image Comics

By: Will Dubbeld

This past week I've been trying to catch up on bagging/boarding 3 or 4 months worth of funnybooks. Were I not a slacker I'd do this weekly instead of quarterly.
I am, however, extremely adept at procrastination and therefore reap the rewards of bagging piles of comics from my pullbox and various Internet purchases.
Because who doesn't want an 11-issue run of Where Monsters Dwell from the '60s? (thanks, eBay...)

Point being, I buy an obscene amount of comics and have noticed an odd trend lately.
Many of these comics are Image books.
I'll impulsively throw books on my pull list based on how well Previews sells them, and the past few years I've been sold on Image.
Don't get me wrong, I'm a Marvel Zombie for life, I don't think I could ever be anything else. It's encoded in my DNA, or subliminal messages contained in Stan's Soapbox brainwashed me, or some other ludicrous theory. The House of Ideas can churn out the weakest of stories bent on retreading old ground, and I'll buy into the mega-event every time.
Because screw you, flatscan, I still love the X-Men.

Despite Fox's hard work to dissuade me . . .

In any case, going through these piles of unbagged books revealed an alarming amount of Image titles.
Leading me to ask a profound question:

When did Image start to not suck?

Everybody knows the story, how a bunch of top names from Marvel's Artist Stable wanted some more of the pie, took their collective ball and went off to form their own company. Granted the formation of Image was a coup in the comic world and opened the door for creator owned properties and opportunities, but Image suffered a pretty major Achilles Heel:

These boys were much better artists than they were writers.

Now, super-heroines with giant bewbs and super-dude-adolescent-wish-fulfillment characters appealed to my 12-year old self, but even at that young age I quickly grew disenchanted with Brigades and Youngbloods and Shadowhawks and the like. Not to say that the other companies were churning out Shakespeare, but my god did Image have some horribly unengaging characters.

I mean, seriously, name a character from Wetworks.

So, after buying the first issue or two of most Image books, 12-year old me culled the herd. The Maxx was a great, surreal book. Spawn was okay, for about 10 issues and I always had a soft spot for Gen13, WildC.A.T.S and Stormwatch, of all things.
All said and done, though, nothing was appealing enough to keep buying for any length of time.

So when did Image start putting out good books?

I'd stopped reading comics altogether for a time due to finances and crap like Knightfall and Spider-clones, and when I'd cautiously started buying again, around the start of Grant Morrison's New X-Men run, I ran across back issues of an Image book called Aria.
The book was full of magic and mystique and wonder and where the hell were the shoulder pads and belt pouches?
Did I read that correctly?
It did say 'Image' on the cover, right?
The characters were illustrated in an anatomically correct manner, to boot, and artist Jay Anacleto had a wonderful ethereal quality to his work.
No heaving, cartoonish bosoms. No spine-cracking postures or muscles slapped on top of muscles in clear defiance of anything in Grey's Anatomy.

The medical text . . .

And there were certainly no characters comically named 'Shaft'.

So perhaps Image deserved a second chance.
In the following years, as I went from newsstand browser to tentative pull list customer to full blown "holy crap did you see how much that guy had in his pullbox?", I've been giving Image more and more slack, and they've been giving me more and more reasons to keep buying.
Spawn not being one of them.

In part 2 of this editorial I'll take a quick look at several Image titles and their creative teams.
Savage Dragon not being one of them.

Stay tuned, boys and girls . . .

Monday, June 9, 2014

PREVIEW: Black of Heart #3

Writer: Chris Charlton
Artist: David Hollenbach
Review: Art Bee

The week of June 20th Assailant Comics will be releasing the highly anticipated chapter three to the Black of Heart series. Black of Heart serves us a fantastic crime thriller with an extra scoop of thrill and a side of creepiness. Writer Chris Charlton has done a great job developing a dynamic protagonist in Detective Drake Harper while setting up a very engaging plot. To complete the picture, David Hollenbach’s dark, smoky style is a perfect fit to the tone of this freakish tale.

As a generalized overview of what has occurred thus far in the series, Det. Harper has been on the trail of a serial killer, called “the Vulture” by the media, who is dumping his mutilated victims all over New York City. On top of the pressure from the police department and the press about the case, he has several other dramatic events going on that are keeping him on edge, such as a bad tooth and bad wife. Fortunately, his drinking helps him cope with all of it, and few would think it wrong for Drake to be drinking in light of everything.

Up until Chapter 3: Ghosts of New York City, we follow the detective and the serial killer through their dance of cat and mouse, but at the end of Chapter 2: Eye of the Beholder, we are left with a major cliff hanger and the supposed identity of “the Vulture”.

It is going to prove very difficult to talk about Black of Heart #3 without providing spoilers, but I am committed to the task.

Chapter three opens with Drake overseeing the autopsy of the latest victim, and the most recent clues are recapped. Directly afterward, the police chief pressures Drake and his partner to work harder to apprehend “the Vulture”, and a new plot element is introduced. This element is centered on someone named Lucky Luciano, who is under investigation. From this point we ascend the story's spiral staircase until we reach the rooftop, where we find a huge cliffhanger. I really want to be a jerk about it and just tell you just to appease my excitement. Instead, I will be one with The Force and be patient.

As I stated at the beginning, David Hollenbach’s artistic style fits this story like a glove. Hollenbach’s artwork is not a pencil, ink, and color style as is found in most comics, instead he uses a unique technique that gives a shadowy, smoky look to the images. This effect truly enhances the story of Black of Heart by casting a gloom over the story. The only drawback to his style is low detail, which can make a few images hard to discern. Overall, the images are fantastic and powerful.
It is hard to find comics out that are void of clichés, pointless dialogue, and bad narration. So many mainstream writers seem to have a good idea for a dialogue or scene and look to squeeze it into their story. This is almost always a mistake. Even a great dialogue or scene needs to fit or it will lose its greatness. Fortunately, Charlton does not fall into these traps and is a true literary craftsman.

Black of Heart #3 has been long awaited by fans, and once read, the wait will resume. It is just as Tom Petty said, “waiting is the hardest part.” With the release of issue three the series is half over, so it is a good time to get on this bandwagon. If you are not reading Black of Heart, you should give it a try, especially since Assailant Comics will provide the first issue for free. I will freely admit I only started reading Black of Heart about a month ago, and it has my full attention.

Friday, June 6, 2014

REVIEW: The Darkness: Close Your Eyes (one-shot)

Writer: Ales Kot
Artist: Marek Oleksicki
Colors: Sloane Leong
Review: Art Bee

***WARNING: I am going against my normal policy of staying spoiler free. This is only to possibly save you the time and tears of even worrying about opening this comic. ***

I have been a huge fan of The Darkness since Marc Silvestri created the series in 1996. Granted, the series has been stopped and started twice since its debut with several one-shots and mini-series, but the concept of the Darkness is still as powerful as ever. That statement is truly difficult to say with many writers and artists trying to mutilate a great concept. It almost seems as if the concept of the Darkness left its neighborhood of good writers and artists and ended up on the wrong side of town where it is laying in the fetal position while its face, kidneys, and arms are getting the shit kicked out of them.

With that said let me get to my mangled opinion of this one-shot comic from Top Cow.

Currently in The Darkness, Jackie Estacado is the bearer of the Darkness which he inherited from his father, who promptly expired at the instant of Jackie’s conception. The Darkness is a power that is handed down through the Estacado family typically from father to son and stays dormant in the new host for 21 years after birth.

“Close Your Eyes” deals with Jackie’s ancestor, Adelmo Estacado, in California, 1912. Adelmo works on an oil field, owned by Martin Cayce, to support his mother and bastard of a step-father. His mother was raped by his birth father, who brutally carved his name into her chest while raping her. To Adelmo’s mother’s justice, the man died right after raping her, having conceived Adelmo.

The story opens three days before Adelmo’s 21st birthday. He is in love with Emma Cayce, the boss’ daughter, and they have regular secret rendezvous to see each other and to plan their marriage. As the story goes, a dumbass smoking around natural gas ends Adelmo’s job. Adelmo beats his step father to death after finding his home ablaze with his mother inside. He and Emma have sex. Adelmo dies, and nine months later, Emma dies while giving birth to their son. The end. Nothing more to be said.

Many comic fans would agree with me when I say that the majority of Ales Kot’s work is fantastic. His writing for Suicide Squad was the key to the success of the series after DC’s New 52 reboot. While his writing for The Darkness: Close Your Eyes is good, there is a major problem with the story as a whole. There is no fucking point to this issue's existence! Now if this was going to be the first issue of a whole new volume about the Estacado family line, then I could understand and go along with it. This comic adds no value to any part of the story line as a one-shot.

At quick glance several of the pages just look messy, at least that was my first impression while flipping through the book. The artwork and colors of this issue are really astounding once you get to looking at them. The detail Marek Oleksicki puts into just the faces of the characters is truly phenominal. Throughout the book, blood is mostly colored black. This effect did not settle well with me until my second read (which I do while writing a review), and then it really seemed to fit. The color scheme is mostly dark, as everything happens at night (though it does not) and the coloration of the blood is just a reflection of this.

To all my fellow The Darkness fans, leave this one on the shelf. If you are an Ales Kot fan, pick it up, read it, and bag it. If you are both, flip a coin if you don’t know what to do. As with the other previous pointless one-shot of The Darkness, I will add it to the long box containing my other The Darkness comics and kick myself for being so devoted. It is just terrible to see good work go into pointless endeavors.