Thursday Guest Review – Occupy Avengers #1 — Pop Culture Uncovered

Writer: David Walker Artist: Carlos Pacheco, Rafael Fonteriz, and Sonia Oback Cover: Agustin Alessio $3.99 Marvel Comics Occupy Avengers is not at all what I expected. Don’t get me wrong, I expected to really enjoy it as much as I do David Walker’s other work like Power Man & Iron Fist or Shaft, but solicits […]

via Review Brew: Occupy Avengers #1 — Pop Culture Uncovered

Monday Review – Baltimore TPB Vol. 1 – Vol. 4

Good morning,

I recently binge read the first four volumes of this series created by Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden, with art by Ben Stenbeck. Baltimore follows the story of Lord Henry Baltimore and his hunt for the vampire that killed his family in years surrounding World War 1.

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Story

The first four volumes of Baltimore (Vol. 1 The Plague Ships, Vol. 2 The Curse Bells, Vol. 3 A Passing Stranger and Other Stories and Vol. 4 Chapel of Bones), follows the titular characters hunt for the vampire that he met in the trenches during his time in the Great War. The plot is an alternative history story that follows a new plague that causes most soldiers to desert to spend time with their families before people all fall victim to this supernatural illness.

Writing

The writing of Baltimore is very much like Mignola’s other work were there are lots of allusions to Lovecraft and Poe whilst putting a twist on the usual vampire stories we are so prone to seeing in the media nowadays. However unlike his previous works, Baltimore was originally an illustrated novel that was co-written by Golden.

I have also come to quite appreciate Mignola’s oft sparse writing style against Bendis who I have personally come to find reading difficult due to the shear amount of dialogue he places in his panels. With Bendis I often find myself skimming his writing just to get to the important pieces of information. In fact in the first TPB of Baltimore there is six or seven pages were there is no dialogue and the art paints the story which was really nice to ‘read’.

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Art

Stenbeck’s art is beautiful. Not much I can say about it. It feels very much a Mignola story. The interpretations of how the monsters look seem like they have come straight out of Mignola’s subconscious. It clear, the characters are distinctively different allowing me not to have to guess who I am looking at and overall it just works. I can’t fault it.

Colouring

So the colouring is one of the reasons you know your reading a Mignola book. Dave Stewart is on colouring duties as he has been doing for years now with Mignola on the Hellboy universe. And the very stark contrast with one colour backgrounds and use of blacks really makes the story feel dark and scary.

btcb3p4Lettering

I’ve talked about Clem Robins in a previous blog and once again he really makes his mark.

Conclusion

This was a great read and I would recommend you pick up the first four volumes if you fancy reading a horror story set during the Great War.

Regards,

N.S. Paul

Monday Review – Comic Review: These Bombshells are THE Bomb!

This post comes from another blog that I came across when I was recently suggested some female comic writers from a Twitter dialogue I had with author Jim Zub. This blog post covers one of those authors I introduced to and thought I would share. You can check out the original posters blog here.

by Jennifer If you read my article a couple of weeks ago, you might remember that I’m a former comic book girl looking to get back into the genre after a kid-induced hiatus. The prospect of finding new books to read has been daunting since most of what I enjoyed back in the day is […]

via Comic Review: These Bombshells are THE Bomb! —

Monday Review – B.P.R.D. Vol. 14 – The Exorcist

bprd-hell-on-earth-the-exorcist-coverSynopsis

Bassed in the general Hellboy universe, B.P.R.D. Vol. 14 – The Exorcist is a standalone read that collects the aforementioned three issue short as well as issues #140 to #142 of B.P.R.D. – Hell on Earth. Ashley Strode, our protagonist and recent new player to the Helloverse (till I can think of a better name) finds herself over her head as she goes from green recruit to seasoned exorcist pro.

Story

*Minor spoiler ahead*.

I have a confession, I am avid lover of everything to do with Hellboy and its expanded universe. In fact I say its one of my biggest influences in my own creative writing. This collection is a classic tale from the Helloverse (is it sticking yet?) which see’s Ashley Strode, a minor named character from a previous story, get the limelight. The story itself is enjoyable as a standalone read and you do not need to have read any other material to fully enjoy this book though it will make you want to read more of Mignola’s Helloverse. Written by Mike Mignola, Cameron Stewart and Chris Roberson and illustrated Mike Nortan, The Exorcist is a great volume that everyone should read.

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The story had an excellent sense of pace and I was loath to put it down when I had other house things to do. Ideas like having a spiritual sword, whilst not a new one, fits very nicely into the physical and spiritual conflicts Ashley finds herself in. Or even taking the classic haunted house idea and giving it a new lick of paint works wonders here.

Art

The artwork is very much like the other art that has been seen in B.P.R.D. even though Mike Norton is not the usual B.P.R.D. artist. I do have to praise Nortan for unlike John Arcudi whose art can be difficult to follow sometimes (don’t get me wrong I love it), Nortan has fused the best styles of Mignola and Arcudi and given us a very clear and concise visual storytelling that suits the overall Helloverse.

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Another thing I quite liked about Norton’s style was that the panels all had this, almost corrupted edging which I thought could be interrupted to show the edging of the demonic world onto the material human plane. Of course I could be reading more into it than is actually there.

Colouring

The colouring by veteran B.P.R.D. Dave Stewart was excellent and regardless of the shifting art styles the consistency in the colouring does make it feel like it is a Helloverse comic. Really makes want to try colouring myself as it does really add so much to a comic.

Lettering

The lettering was neatly done by Clem Robins and I was surprised and how large the lettering was. I have become increasingly aware of how little dialogue there is in a comic unless you are Brian Michael Bendis (go ahead, have a look, the blog will still be here). It does make the letterers job much more important as too much dialogue can cloud the art.

I also really liked how Robins uses ineligible writing to suggest alien languages or characters communing with something dark and terraible. Robins, like Stewart, has been a long term contributor to the Helloverse and his specific approach to lettering again gives consistency to the different writers and artists.

 

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Side note, I am really surprised by the lack of followers Robins has on his twitter account. Go now and follow him!

Conclusion

I really enjoyed this next instalment to the B.P.R.D. franchise which is growing quite rapidly. If you are a fan of mystery supernatural stories then pick up this book and whilst your at it, pick up Hellboy Vol. 1!

Join me next Monday for our next comic review.

Regards,

N. S. Paul

Monday Review – Howl by Biffy Clyro

Good morning,

Instead of the usual format of reviewing comics I’ve been rather busy and instead spent most of the week listening to some Biffy Clyro.

There newish song “Howl” was released the 4th of Agust of this year sees Biffy Clyro return to their successful formula of catchy melodies and post punk sensibilities.

Whilst this is one of their more pop influenced songs, Biffy Clyro still make sure they have some odd chord progressions overlaid with odd melodic lines and harmonies.

The lyrics in “Howl” follow a stronger narrative structure than some of their other releases and lyrics suit the music nicely.

Whilst not as catchy as “Biblical”, “Mountians” or “Black Chandelier”, “Howl” is 4 minute song that will be hard pressed to offences most ears.

Regards,

N. S. Paul

Monday Review – Rick and Morty #1 – #12

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Synopsis

Rick and Morty carries on from the popular animated television show of the same name were the deranged scientist grandad Rick takes his oft reluctant grandson Morty, on all sorts of hijinks across spacetime. Written prodomently by Zac Gorman, with pencils again mostly by CJ Cannon and lettering by Crank!, Rick and Morty first foray into the comic world is actually a good read. Published by Oni Press.

Story

If you are like me and are always late to the next big thing of television, film or other media then I can not stress how much you should watch the first two seasons of the show Rick and Morty. Leave this blog and watch them now. This blog will still be here.

The story of a young boy trying to come of age, his alcohol fuelled abusive genius grandfather and the assorted family members that make up the house in which they all live is cleverly written, funny and imaginative.

The comic takes place at the end of season 2 of the TV show and finds our hapless duo in the middle of universal stock market manipulation that leads quickly to their trial.

screen-shot-2016-10-09-at-08-18-29This sums up the humour in the book and the dynamic that Rick and Morty have. It is very much a story of family and how people cope with the quirks everyone has. True, those quirks can cause the death of parallel dimensions but still, just quirks.

The first 12 issues have two or three story arcs which is nice to see continuity within the comic rather than an episodic approach to the series. Most of the stories have back up stories at the end which further develop secondary characters or explore absurdity of the world in which these characters inhabit.

Whilst Gorman has not been involved with the series whilst it was on TV, he has really captured the eccentricities, dialogue and pace of the show even down to the belching of Rick and the stuttering of Morty. It even has self referencing, pop cultures idioms and even breaks the forth wall for situational gags.

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The series ends on a rather bleak note and whilst I don’t want to spoil it for the reader, I would encourage you to pick the series up just so you can get to the end and see the cliff hanger yourself.

Art

The art feels like it’s straight out of the TV series and CJ Cannon has done a good job at maintaining the style established. There are times were the art seems to come second to the dialogue but I suppose that’s part of the problem of taking a moving visual medium and translating it into fixed points within panels.

screen-shot-2016-10-09-at-09-20-16 Fair play to Cannon because he does manage to consider the limitations he has with the art and unlike other big name writers like Brian Michael Bendis who can have too many panels (see this post), Gorman has given the story space to breath and this lets the art pop out more to the reader.

Lettering

I’ve never heard of Crank! before I read this series but a quick google search helped me learn more about this talented letter. As mentioned in last weeks Monday Review post, the more I’ve started lettering my own work the more I’m aware of how good, average and bad lettering can effect the story and whilst I am by no means an expert on the topic I know enough to say this.

Crank! had his work cut for him with this project and he ran with it successfully!

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A big feature of Rick and Morty as a TV show was the meandering lunacy that would often comes from Rick’s mouth and the stuttering pleads from Morty’s. With limited space due to art, Crank! often pushes the dialogue right against the panel walls but you would need to in such tight spaces.

A successfully letterer will make it seems like your not even aware of how important their job is and in this respect, Crank! did an amazing job.

Conclusion

I loved this translation to comics and found it a breeze to read all 12 issues in a couple of days. There was time’s were it dragged for me, specially issue #6. I won’t spoil it for you but unless you’ve watched the TV series you’ll feel short changed by that issue.

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Overall it’s a great series and I recommend you pick it up though if you wait till December there is a hardcover edition coming out with a sound chip in it which looks annoying but wonderful at the same time (click here to see what I mean). Though there was a big downside for me with this series in that it has made me really impatient for the follow up volume or a new TV series to be out already!

Join me next Monday for our next comic review.

Regards,

N. S. Paul

Monday Review – Deer Editor

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Synopsis

Deer Editor is a modern whodunit written by Ryan K Lindsay, art by Sami Kivelä and lettering by Nic J. Shaw. Bucky, our fearless anthropomorphic journalist deer, stumbles upon a murder in this noir inspired digital only series.

Story

*Minor spoiler ahead*.

Coming across a John Doe at the local morgue, Bucky a writer at ‘The Truth’ newspaper, discovers a cover up involving upper echelons of City Hall. On his journey to unearth the gritty story for his paper, he’ll come across a bartender with an amoral compass, a sleazy Hugh Hefner type character and several corpses.

Bucky will have to use not only his investigative journalism skills but also his additional animal senses of smell, antlers, thick hide and speed to get to the bottom of this life and death story.

I came across Deer Editor through a recent Deer Hacker campaign that Ryan K Lindsay was running for his third volume of this series on Twitter. I hadn’t read any of the previous work nor had I come across Lindsay’s work in the past so I picked up all three digital volumes at the end of the campaign.

I really enjoyed this first volume and I found the story engaging. It has been some time since I sat down and read a whodunit and I was thoroughly entertained by the twists and turns of this noir inspired story. I was wondering how surreal this story was going to be having a deer as the protagonist but surprisingly, it works quite well. I really enjoyed how Lindsay used the animal side of Bucky in further certain panels within the story to further develop story.

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The story had a good sense of pace and I quickly read all three chapters of the first volume in a about ten minutes because it constantly engaged me to swipe to the next page. The fact that it ends on a cliff hanger only make you want to pick up the second volume and start reading.

The decision for the story to only be released digitally and to be specially designed for tablet devices worked in the stories favour. It’s the first digital comic I’ve read in this format and it was nice not to have to zoom in on certain panels on my iPad.

The writing was tight and the use of Bucky being the narrator helps to drag you as a reader into this noir story. This is reminiscent of similar style stories in different mediums such as the film Double Indemnity.

Art

The black and white art works very well with this story. One of the concerns I have with B&W art generally is that sometimes you can’t discern features, mood or times of day if the artist does not communicate this correctly. Thankfully this was not the case with Deer Editor. Sami Kivelä really delivers with the art here and again compliments the noir style writing by using great examples of silhouettes and shadows.

When you humanise animals there is always a trade off of how much of the animal you keep against the human superimposition. With style, Kivelä adds a very believable human deer to the unknown corrupt city where the story takes place.

deer-editor-vol-3-exampleI also appreciated the use of panels in delivering pace to bring into focus certain objects in the scene that the reader should be focusing on.

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Lettering

As I’m trying to become a letterer myself I thought I would spend some time with this oft look part of the comic creation. Nic J. Shaw created a rather reserved approach to the sound effects of this issue. In fact, in most major cape comics you would expect to see SFX when for example a door is kicked open. Shaw goes the other way and leaves a lot of SFX for the readers imagination which in this story is actually a benefit and lets Kivelä’s art shine.

I also enjoyed the deer head silhouette that would signal the start of a Bucky’s narration. Whilst this was most likely a created by the artist, the placement of it I would assume was the Shaw.

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The placement of the dialogue is sound sand doesn’t distract from the art and story. So basically does exactly what a good letterer is supposed to.

Conclusion

I really enjoyed this story and I can’t wait to finish this review and read the next two instalments. You can still get your own grubby mits on them if you visit the Deer Editor website. The fact the stories can be picked up for a dollar also means your not breaking the bank to read a new piece of work that is really engaging. If you wish to follow Lindsay, Kivelä or Shaw you can find them on Twitter.

Join me next Monday for our next comic review.

Regards,

N. S. Paul

Monday Review – Ultimatum

ultimatumI know, lets kill off the entire Ultimate Marvel universe. Let’s actually let the bad guys win. Let see real consequences to real villainous actions. That basically sums up Ultimatum right there with veteran Marvel scribe Jeph Loeb on writing duties and David Finch on illustration.

Synopsis

In a grief infused state at the death of his children, the Scarlett Witch and Quicksilver, X-Men Big Bad Magento has finally carried out his plan of mutant domination over homo sapiens by reversing the Earth’s magnetic poles causing world wide catastrophe. Spanning 5 issues and being a massive feature in the Ultimate Universe sister issues (Ultimate X-Men V. 1 #98 – #100, Ultimate Spider-Man #129 – #133, Ultimate Origins, Ultimates V.3 and Ultimate Fantastic Four #58 – #60), Ultimatum finally lets the bad guy win.

Story

I’ve been working my way through the Ultimate Universe prior to picking up Ultimatum so this story arc was pretty far out there and I loved it. The premise, the execution and the deaths! Oh my, do not get me started on the deaths. Loeb’s writing is slick and conveys the characters across the Ultimate Marvel universe showing much appreciation to the writing that had come before.

However there were a couple of annoyances. The amount of tie ins you need to read to fully embrace the storyline is draft. The whole story spans mere days in comic time but we’re talking months and months of real time. Thankfully reading this as a collected edition makes the wait non-existent but I could not imagine waiting every month for this storyline to run it’s course.

Second, I just don’t believe that Magneto would quote The Byrds 1965 hit, “Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is a Season)” whilst his masterplan comes to fruition. I’m sorry, I’m not buying that. One could argue a biblical reference but it doesn’t read like it.

Art

Finch’s art was beautifully rendered and it really dragged me in. The devastation of the Ultimatum event is beautifully drawn and the classic Marvel characters look beautiful and jaded. To be honest, I’m not an artist so I don’t feel as qualified to comment on art generally but what I can say is that I really enjoyed the imagery used and it suited the writing perfectly.

Conclusion

Whilst this story arc got panned by critics I never saw the reason why. I really enjoyed the story but my main complaint is the amount of tie ins this story requires you to read to get the full story which is disappointing for the casual reader.

Join me next Monday for our next comic review.

Regards,

N. S. Paul

Wednesday Support – Lettering resources, anthologies, Kickstarter and new work

Now that I am back in full swing at my day job it is harder to do as many updates as I would like but I have managed to come across some excellent resources in my limited downtime.

Resources

The first comes from letterer Jim Campbell (@CampbellLetters & clickflicklettering) who has worked with publishing companies such as 2000AD, BOOM! Studios, Image Comics, Titan Comics, Heavy Metal and Dark Horse to name a few. I came across his guides on the 2000AD forums and I have massive respect for his teaching ethic. Since I found his resources, Jim has been kind enough to point me in the direction to more resources for lettering on his blog through Twitter. I’ve always had a massive amount of respect and gratitude to working professionals who are willing to spend a little time helping amateurs develop their skills to join the industry. So Jim Campbell, thank you! (FYI – you should check out his blog already).

Anthologies

There’s a been several new anthologies and submissions that I’ve come across in the last few weeks. Hopefully you can get to submitting to these soon!

Kickstarters

So let’s talk new comics! I’ve been scouring Kickstarter for new potential material to read and some have caught my eye that I thought I would share. I am no way affiliated with these comic creators. I actually came across their work because of Twitter and I ended following a couple of additional Kickstarters through their social media.

The first is “Ness #2” written by Chris Welsh and art by Robert Carey. I wish I could tell you more about it but I was totally sold on H. P. Lovecraft, Hellboy and Scottish mix. I’m now just waiting for Issue 1 and Issue 2 to be delivered when the Kickstarter finishes. FYI, this Kickstarter has already succeeded but you can still get involved and support the creators.

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The second Kickstarter is Deer Editor: Hack.

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Written by Ryan K Lindsay and art by Sami Kivelä Again if I’m honest, I’m supporting this Kickstarter mostly because of the artwork and the title of the work. And considering the entry point of supporting this comic and the fact that it had already met it’s financial target I had nothing to loose supporting it. Again I am not affiliated with the two Kickstarters above but they just look so damn cool, so check them out and pledge!

New material

Your still here? Fantastic! I’ve recently put my most recent drafts of original scripts on the website. You can check them out at the comics page. I’d recommend “Home” and “My Hero” for short starting points. Please keep in mind these are working drafts and will be updated.

In the interim, have a good Friday.

N. S. Paul

Monday Review – Glitterbomb #1

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Glitterbomb, written by Jim Zub (@JimZub) and art by Djibril Morissette-Phan (@DjibrilMP) is a tale of Hollywoods treatment of washed up celebrity and a nightmarish vision of how you should treat others as you wish to be treated.

Synopsis.

Farrah is a washed up actress when after one terrible audition she visits the sea were a monstrous creature possesses her body. She quickly eats her way through a couple of minor characters and comes home to look after her son.

The first issue read well and I was engaged with the artwork and storytelling. This was my first time reading Zub’s work and whilst it was engaging I’m not fully converted yet. In one respect, Zub has grabbed my attention with an interesting premise and I am looking forward to picking up the second issue to get a bit more back story about Farrah and her dysfunctional life but I felt there were times were the story dragged.

In a world full of immediacy maybe I’m just not happy having to wait a full month to see how this story progresses. Maybe it’s my own bias to read graphic novels than one off issues that lets me down.

The variant cover art (pictured above) had me hooked and looks slick but apart from that, it was a standard story.

Side note, Jim Zub has got some excellent advice for aspiring writers and artists on his website which I would recommend.

Till next time,

N. S. Paul