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

Wednesday Support – Catch up!

Good evening,

I thought I would just do a quick we post on all the different topic I’ve covered so far.

Wednesday Support – Lettering

Wednesday Support – Lettering and colouring resources

Wednesday Support – Anthologies

Wednesday Support – Comic Balloons and clarity

More updates will be coming but please do check the above links out and develop your own craft.

All the best,

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 – 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

Independent Comics Pt. 1

Good afternoon all,

I’ve just spent the better half of this week checking out creator owned and usually self published works. Since committing myself to finally getting one of my ideas to paper and getting it produced I have actively tried to get involved in the creator owned online comic community and by golly there is a lot of good stuff out there. So I thought I would share with you some of the comics I’ve come across this week that are creator owned and published.

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Grimwood Crossing

Conner Bartel – Writer & Letterer

Atagun Ilhan – Illustrator

James Liswed – Cover

So I was really quite lucky to pick up a copy of this comic prerelease through reddit/comicwriting and I really thoroughly enjoyed it. So much so that I have remained in contact with the writer and cover artist ever since I came across their work. I have to be upfront and also point out  that they have been kind enough to critique my own work which has really been helpful developing as a writer.

Grimwood Crossing takes the popular theme of the supernatural (zombies, vampires etc) and transports it the Wild West and it does it well, very well in fact. The story is engaging and without giving away to many spoilers, follows the adventures of The Sheriff and his apprentice supernatural bounty hunter Bobby as they deal with the consequences of The Sheriff’s sordid past.

For an independent publisher and creator owned comic this was a great first entry into the world of comics from Bartel. The fact that this story ends on a tight cliffhanger that engages the reader to continue reading the next issue shows the strength of the writing.

Alas, we will have to wait for issue two and the remaining four issues after that to find out how it all ends but until that time you can buy Grimwood Crossing #1 at Amazon here.

Join me next week for Independent Comics Pt. 2.

N. S. Paul