Friday, July 25, 2014

REVIEW: Alien Legion, Uncivil War #1

Alien Legion: Uncivil War #1

Story: Chuck Dixon
Pencils: Larry Stroman
Inks: Carl Potts
Review: Will Dubbeld

Fans of obscure 1980s military science fiction comics rejoice! Alien Legion has returned!

First appearing as part of Marvel Comics Epic line, Alien Legion was described as the French Foreign Legion in space and told the tale of Force Nomad, composed of, “Footsloggers and soldiers of fortune, priests, poets, killers and cads—they fight for a future Galarchy, for cash, for a cause, for the thrill of adventure. Culled from the forgotten and unwanted of three galaxies, they are trained to be the most elite, and expendable, of fighting forces. Sometimes peacekeepers, sometimes shock troops, the Legion is sent into the Galarchy’s most desperate internal and external conflicts. Legionnaires live rough and they die hard, tough as tungsten and loyal to the dirty end.”

If that doesn't get yer blood pumpin' for some sci-fi action, go read Distinguished Competition's far inferior Legion comic . . .

Alien Legion was a staple of my youth, as back issues were plentiful in the quarter bin of my old comic shop. The art was phenomenal, the scripts were visceral and packed a punch, and any character (with a few exceptions) could die at any time. An almost revolving door of cast members attested to their mortality and as a youth I was glued to this book.
Riveted, even.

Hearing the news that Titan Comics was dragging the Legion through the mud again after years of inactivity brought a smile to my face.
Ear to ear, ladies and gentleman.
The fact that series originals and favorites Chuck Dixon, Larry Stroman and Carl Potts were back on board iced that cake. I promptly preordered and eagerly awaited.

Issue 1 arrived.
Page 1 was a full page spread of gunfire.
This was like slipping into your favorite comfy shoes after losing them in the closet for a decade.
Uncivil War's premise revolves around the Legion's age old enemies, the Harkilons, who are currently embroiled in a civil war. Harkilons are a race of reptilian...insect...
I dunno. They're bad guy aliens and the elite leaders can change shape. In any case, these evil aliens are having a civil war because without that deus ex machina we wouldn't have a comic book. Refugees from this civil war are fleeing Harkilon space and the Legion must serve as a border patrol for all intents and purposes.

Uncivil War #1 lays a bit of groundwork for the story, but serves mostly as a shoot 'em up on the ground and in space both. Readers familiar with the series see the returning staple characters; Sarigar, a serpent-tailed stoic warrior who serves as Force Nomads commanding officer, Torie Montroc, a nobles son who volunteered for the Legion, and fan favorite Jugger Grimrod, a cutthroat, hardened criminal.

The action is nearly nonstop, I fear because Uncivil War is a miniseries and that leaves no time for foreplay. Fans familiar with the Alien Legion universe will be able to plug right back in and go but I fear new readers may be at a bit of a loss, bombarded with strange terminology and stranger characters. Dixon and Co. have tempered that a bit, as the issue is bookended with a few pages of character bios and a glossary of Alien Legion lingo.

Larry Stroman and Carl Potts are on point with the art, giving us clean, detailed panels with a very poppy color palette. I've always been a fan of Stroman's art due to its otherworldly style, which has mustered a few complaints from folks I've talked to who've read his more mainstream work (i.e. X-Factor). It's never bothered me in the least, but I could see the point of view. No such issue could be argued in his Alien Legion work as it's composed of bizarre extraterrestrials and technology. His unique vision is applied perfectly, and I couldn't be happier to see him back in familiar territory.

Alien Legion might be a tough sell for new readers but I'd highly recommend the book to fans of science fiction, especially fans of settings not bogged down with hyper-sterilized Utopianism. This isn't a neatly dry-cleaned and pressed Star Trek sci-fi book, this is dirty sci-fi, a used, lived in sci-fi with grit in its teeth like Blade Runner, Alien, or the Warhammer 40,000 universe.

It's difficult to give an unbiased opinion of this book as I've been enamored with the material for nearly 25 years, but I'm not a bit ashamed to unabashedly support Alien Legion and I'd suggest the lot of you ladies and gentlemen do the same. Scour through some longboxes for back issues of the original series while you're at it. You'll be pleased with what you find, just don't get overly attached to some of those early characters . . .
My only complaint about Alien Legion: Uncivil War is the fact that I believe it's only a four-issue miniseries and not an ongoing one.

Perhaps this is the last we'll see of the Alien Legion, perhaps not. In any case, kudos to Titan Comics for bringing the series back and Long Live the Legion!

Friday, July 18, 2014

PREVIEW: Binary Gray #7

Publisher: Assailant Comics
Writer: Chris Charlton
Artist: Rowel Roque
Colors: Anthonie Wilson
Cover: David Hollenbach
Review: Art Bee

This issue of Binary Gray resembles the calmness of the eye of a hurricane. Issue 6 delivered an action packed issue with all of the grand excitement we all love to see from super hero battles. Issue 7, “Take Me Home”, presents us with the fallout of the events up to this point and also sets us up for another big clash with the Agency, the organization that is after Alex Gray. For the entire series, I have had great things to say about each issue, and this one is no exception.

The cover of Binary Gray #7 is another winner from David H. The cover shows the fight between Dash, from the group Virtue, and Optimo, a new villain, fighting high above the city. The image looks like it uses a photo of an aerial view of a city as the background, and the characters are drawn or painted onto the background. The look on Dash’s face is what really sets the image off, and my eyes were just drawn to it.

“Take Me Home” continues the saga of Alex Gray. In the aftermath of the battle with the Agency, Alex Gray is feeling a lot of guilt over the injuries suffered by Chris, the retired Cross. His guilt leads him to leave the Virtue’s headquarters against popular opinion while the rest of the group splits in two other tangents. Meanwhile we get another piece of the puzzle of Alex’s past.

Now I have read many comic books where an issue has left me with a huge cliffhanger, and usually the next issue resolves it. Charlton has done something totally surprising with this technique; he has extended it with issue 7. In essence, he left us standing on a cliff then handed us beer goggles. It’s great. Binary Gray #8 is going to be huge by my prediction, and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for our hero.

I have become a fan of Chris Charlton’s writing over the last year. His writing and editing is remarkable, but there is a problem with Binary Gray #7. If this is the first issue of the series someone reads, they are going to have a problem with knowing the names of two of the major characters. The Moth is not identified at all and has several panels of dialog. The Cross is only identified with his real first name, Ken. This does not affect the story at all but could leave a new reader wondering.

From the start of the series, the artwork of Binary Gray has been really good. Rowel Roque and Antonie Wilson have been a great combination. In this issue, they seem to be out of sync. My first read of the issue left me completely feeling that Roque was losing his touch. After my second read I compared issue 7 to the last two issues and found that the coloring was not as intricate. The shading and shadowing quality has faltered in this issue. My hope is this is just a fluke.

Binary Gray has been one of my favorite comics for the last year, and I feel very fortunate to be allowed the opportunities to preview the issues. Binary Gray #7 is due for release on July 30th. The issues will be available for $3.99 (hard copy) and $0.99 (digital) at Assailant Comics’ website. Some great news is the release of issue 8 is just around the corner. I have said this before and I am saying it again, if you enjoy reading super hero comics, you should give this series a try. It is a great read and an original idea. You can get FREE digital copies of issues 1 and 2 directly from Assailant Comics right here. Everyone loves free stuff, so go get yours.

Monday, July 7, 2014


Written and Lettered by - James Mulholland
Art and Colors by - Caitlin Soliman
Review by - William R Davis Jr.

Read “Proud” here.

Rising costs will eventually make print comics as a business largely unviable. That being said, most Fanboys will agree that actually holding a print comic, the trip to your LCS, the ritual itself, is something that keeps diehard comic fans consistently putting skin in the game. However, most if not all will agree that webcomics are the future. The tablet has made reading digital comics a thoroughly enjoyable experience. They're cheaper, and by this point we’re all aware that the collectability of modern print comics is largely a myth. Try to sell your collection and you’ll quickly discover that they have little to no resale value.

Sometimes it’s nice to take a break from a huge and expensive six issue arc and check out a vignette webcomic, especially one with a soul, well written, and beautifully drawn like Proud by Irish writer James Mulholland and artist Caitlin Soliman.

When delving into Proud, I initially thought that I was being swindled into reading a cliché, hackneyed superhero comic for children. Thankfully within four pages I was proven wrong. Caitlin Soliman’s vibrantly colored art draws a sharp but necessary contrast, complimenting the story well.

The writing uses an almost overly ample amount of foreshadowing. After multiple reads this is the aspect of Proud that I have thought about the most, but ultimately I find myself a bit conflicted here. Maybe thirty percent of readers are going to realize what’s coming next. Admittedly I was in the seventy percent; and these numbers are wildly speculative. No polling data was collected.

The final panel is extraordinarily well executed, heartfelt, and richly illustrated. Proud is easily James Mullholland’s strongest effort to date and Soliman’s art works perfectly. Keep an eye out for the release of Mulholland’s debut graphic novel Jorund. The teaser pages online have me sold on the book already, well ahead of the release date.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

REVIEW: Wizzywig

Story and Art: Ed Piskor
Publisher: Top Shelf Productions
Review: Art Bee

While I was at Appleseed Comic Convention in Fort Wayne, Indiana, earlier this year, I had the pleasure of meeting Ed Piskor, and he thought I would really appreciate his graphic novel, Wizzywig. He was not wrong. I have loved every page of this fantastic story. This graphic novel is a captivating portrayal of the life of a hacker and is packed with interesting bits of knowledge from their world.

Wizzywig tells the story of Kevin “Boingthump” Phenicle, from his days as a child learning ways to get free bus rides to scamming the phone company and much more. This novel is fascinating for a couple of reasons. First, this story is not driven by suspense, drama, or any other mode I am used to finding in comics or novels. Instead Ed Piskor uses pure curiosity to pull the reader through the pages of the book. The second is there is no way to provide spoilers to this book. From the very beginning of the story we are told that Kevin is a hacker and gets incarcerated.

Piskor uses a few useful tools to drive the story. One of the key tools is “Off the Rocker” radio show that is hosted by Winston Smith, Boingthump’s best friend. This radio show is used to educate the public on the status of Kevin’s incarceration and to rally support for him. This show appears in each chapter and keeps the end of the story in focus. The second tool Piskor uses is the periodic public panel groups that provide insight on how different people view Kevin. These opinions are funny, entertaining, and really sculpt the rest of the story. The third method Piskor uses to keep the reader into the story is providing hacker tricks and cons that work. The rest of the book is a series of adventures that build the story of Kevin Phenicle’s life.

Ed Piskor’s art is excellent, utilizing colorless ink drawings that are truly effective. Each panel builds with the story and communicates the scene well. Piskor’s talent for creating such clear expressions on the characters faces is fantastic. There is not a lot of action scenes in this book, but the action that is depicted is very clear and concise.

If you are looking to read something different, go get a copy of Wizzywig. This graphic novel is entertaining, educational, and captivating. Though Kevin “Boingthump” Phenicle is a fictional character, his personality has been developed so well by the writer that it feels as if he is real. This novel is available from Top Shelf Productions for $19.95 for the hard back book, and digital copies are available for $7.99.