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Tim from Last Week Reviews: Criminal Macabre – A Cal McDonald Mystery #1!

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , on August 4, 2016 by Tim from Last Week

Story: Steve NilesCriminal Macabre #1 cover
Art: Ben Templesmith
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Released: 4/20/2001 (collected 8/2011)

Steve Niles is well-known for his horror comic writing, as well as work outside of comics. He has written Spawn, Spawn: Dark Ages, and Hellspawn for Image Comics; 30 Days of Night (et. al.) for IDW Publishing; Batman: Gotham County Line and The Creeper for DC Comics; as well as writing the script for Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment’s F.E.A.R.3 video game.

Ben Templesmith has created the art for some of comics’ creepiest titles, including Hellspawn, Hatter M, Fell, and Ten Grand for Image Comics; 30 Days of Night (et. al.) and Silent Hill for IDW Publishing; Gotham By Midnight for DC Comics; as well as art for Steve Jackson Games, Wizards of the Coast, and White Wolf Game Studios.

The cover of this book starts us off right. If this is your first exposure to Ben Templesmith’s art, get used to it: he creates some creepy art. Here, we see Cal McDonald, our “hero,” with a shotgun in his hand, blood on his chest, and a creepy dude (vampire?/demon?/something?) over his shoulder. The city is dark and gritty behind them, so I’m thinking things are bad.

It seems it’s been bad for Cal since childhood, when he found a headless body, and it’s only gotten worse from there. Cal headed west, to L.A., to try to stop monsters. Regular old, nasty, monsters. Cal works with some undead folks to battle the demons, werewolves, vampires, whatever.

The book opens with Cal telling some cops “what went done”, and they don’t believe his tales. Turns out Cal has some addictions, and some history, and the cops don’t really like him. As Cal tells his tale, we see it. Seems he was working a vampire case (cops couldn’t figure out why some college students were dead and missing their blood…). He gets some info, grabs his gear, and heads on out. As it turns out, there are beasties everywhere. Some are just trying to get through life, like us. Cal knows them all, but he’s most comfortable with the ones who lurk around the shadows. They don’t really make trouble, and they don’t tend to be noticed. Cal tracks his vampire, but his rules dictate he can’t just kill the baddie in front of the world. After lifting his wallet, he hopes to track the vamp home (to kill him), but notices another address while checking the I.D. When he gets to the address, he fights his own urges to bolt and get high, even though the gig doesn’t feel right. Cal’s vampire and some friends are talking inside, but he’s surprised to see different types of monsters, together. Instead of running scared, Cal pumps some adrenaline, and ends up interrupting the bad guys. Some monsters escape, some end up bloody, and Cal ends up with little information.

Time passes, and some beasties break into a lab (with the security codes…), to steal a chemical. They efficiently dispose of the records of their passing, but don’t kill the guard. When the police arrive, they find out that a rare strain of black plague was stolen. Records show it never killed anyone, but legend says it wiped out a town in the 1300s. Evidence indicates werewolves, but the crime doesn’t fit the wolves’ m.o.: hunting and killing. Cal stumbles home, hoping to dull the pain with his various vices, but ends up finding his ghoul friend, Mo’lock, in his place. Mo’lock informs Cal that the city’s ghouls want Cal’s help to solve a mysterious attack, so Cal and Mo’lock go deep into the sewers to talk to a gathering of ghouls.

So, I like Cal McDonald. He’s not a great guy, so far, but he is doing what he can do to keep the worst of the worst from damaging the normal way of life. Not that he gets to live that life, and not that he’s necessarily doing it out of love for people; just an obligation, a job. But, he’s also not just a random monster hunter, who kills just to kill. Bad guys may need to go down, but if you’re not a bad monster, it looks like he’ll leave you alone. Seems like a solid plan. This is not my first exposure to Steve Niles. I read all of his old Spawn work when it came out. And, frankly, this was not as scary as his older stuff, but I like the fun nature of this work, much better. The Spawn books were trying to show how evil evil can be, and I think Criminal Macabre is trying to show that there is another side to what we traditionally think of as monsters. I like that treatment much better (Hell, that’s how I view people!).

So, Ben Templesmith is great at creating mood. A lot of it comes through in his color choices, but even regular people can feel creepy under his hand. During the police interrogation, you can tell everything you need to know about the cops just by how their faces appear. I love this stuff. Cal goes through minor transformations from scene to scene, sometimes looking tough, sometimes beat down, sometimes even a little wimpy, and that’s all about Ben’s work. And, of course, we get to see a bunch of different creatures, and his art sort of re-interprets some of the old looks that we generally associate with these monsters. However, through all of the color palette changes and all of the different looks for the characters, there is never a moment where you can think it’s not a dark and gloomy book. We are shown the underbelly of the city, and the only place to go is down.

I really enjoyed this comic, and I plan to read through the rest of the stories. This is the first part of a 5-issue mini-series, but there have been a bunch of mini-series published (mostly) by Dark Horse Comics, who also published the omnibus edition that I used for this review. Criminal Macabre Omnibus volume 1 contains 2 complete series, plus a one-shot story (Love Me Tenderloin), plus another complete series (Supernatural Freak Machine), totalling 392 pages, all for $24.99. There are 2 more Criminal Macabre Omnibuses available, containing 368 pages per volume, also $24.99 each.

Criminal Macabre, and other great comics, can be found at Johnny Destructo’s Hero Complex located at 4456 Main Street, Manayunk, PA 19127. Visit him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/jdsherocomplex/

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Tim from Last Week Reviews: Nailbiter #1

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 8, 2016 by Tim from Last Week

Story: Joshua WilliamsonNailbiter_01-1
Art: Mike Henderson
Colors: Adam Guzowski
Publisher: Image Comics
Released: 5/7/2014 (collected 10/2014)

Joshua Williamson has been getting some high-profile projects lately, and his star is definitely rising. While writing his creator-owned titles, Birthright and Nailbiter (Image Comics), he has also written Haunted Mansion (Marvel/Disney), Predator: Fire and Stone and Captain Midnight (Dark Horse Comics), and Robocop (BOOM! Studios). And, now, Williamson is writing the new Flash series at DC Comics, following their Rebirth event.

Mike Henderson is known for his work on Robocop and Escape from New York (BOOM! Studios), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Ghostbusters (IDW Publishing), plus a handful of single issues for the “Big Two”, including Masters of the Universe (DC Comics), Carnage, Venom, Thor, Spider-Man, and Once Upon a Time (Marvel Comics). The late Gene Colan, one of Marvel Comics’ superstars from the 1960s and 1970s, had this to say about Henderson:

Michael Henderson has caught my imagination. There’s a drama there that is compelling. His linework is economical and sharp yet one sees all the curves. There’s magic in that!

The cover to Nailbiter #1 shows one of our main characters, Edward Warren, in the act of chewing a handful(!) of finger tips. The story opens with Elliot Carroll leading a SWAT team into a house in California. They find Edward Warren sitting on the floor, several bodies (and parts of bodies) around him, while he chews on one of his victims finger tips. “Wasn’t expecting visitors. But don’t worry. There’s enough for everyone.” A file card introduces us to Warren’s M.O.: kidnap people who chew their nails; wait for nails to grow back; chew their fingers down to the bone; kill the victim. Apparently, Warren was responsible for 46 murders in California. The press was responsible for his nickname: Nailbiter. The file card also identifies Warren as “Buckaroo Butcher #16.”

Three years later, we are introduced to Nicholas Finch, sitting on a bed holding a gun to his head. Nothing is happening, so when Carroll calls, Finch reluctantly answers the phone. Finch assumes Carroll is in trouble, and we learn that Finch can always identify a liar. Carroll tells Finch that he has figured out the mystery, and he needs Finch’s help in Buckaroo, Oregon. Carroll thinks he has cracked the secret of the Buckaroo Butchers, and needs Finch’s specific skills to help get the proof he needs.

Finch arrives in Buckaroo one day later, only to find Carroll missing. We also see a flashback to Finch’s past, including what appears to be an interrogation-gone-wrong, with a now-dead prisoner in custody. Finch is awaiting trial, but we aren’t given any real detail about the incident. However, it weighs on Finch. We are also introduced to Buckaroo’s strange townsfolk. Some are fairly normal, and found in every town, and some are products of Buckaroo. Among them, Raleigh Woods, who runs “The Murder Store”, the “…world’s first serial killer souvenir shop,” who informs Finch that 16 serial killers have come from Buckaroo, and he is looking to make some money off that fact.

We meet a few other strange characters, and we learn that Finch has a temper problem. That’s how he meets Sheriff Crane. Finch flashes his badge and identifies himself as Army Intelligence, and she lets him know that there might be a problem with his friend, Carroll. It seems Crane and Carroll met regularly to chat, and he hadn’t shown up, that morning. They check out Carroll’s room, which had been ransacked, and find all of his research. Carroll thought there had to be a link between the 16 serial killers from Buckaroo, and was trying find that connection. Crane could only think of one person in town who might have had a problem with Carroll: Edward Warren. Turns out Warren was acquitted of his alleged crimes, and he returned home to Buckaroo. When they arrive to question him, Warren has meat cooking on the stove, and blood all over his hands. When he answers the door, he says, “Wasn’t expecting visitors. But don’t worry… There’s enough for everyone.”

This book can be gross. Sure, serial killers are nasty. They kill people, and that’s generally fairly ugly. But, I have to say that chewing your victims’ fingers down to the bone, then killing them, is pretty gross. But, it is also interesting. And, slowly, we find out that more of the killers from Buckaroo also have interesting M.O.s. And, every character we meet is interesting. Not everyone is unique, but they are all interesting, and seem to fill a role that makes you wonder how they fit in to the larger story. This is my first Joshua Williamson book, and I feel his character work is great, so far. While I am not so interested in seeing more murders (I’m so sensitive!), I am interested in seeing more characters, including more of the Buckaroo Butchers.

This is also my first look at Mike Henderson. I have to say that it is a mix, for me. I’m currently having trouble identifying what his style looks like. It can be creepy; it can be deceptively “nice” (think not-creepy); it can be powerful; it can be delicate. I am thrilled with some pages, and turned off by others. I was trying to determine what other artists’ influence I could see in his work, but struggled with that. I feel that I can see something like Frank Miller (artist and/or writer on comics such as Daredevil, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Wolverine, and Sin City, and one of the industry’s most well-known and (in)famous creators) in Henderson’s art, sometimes. I can also see hints of Mike Oeming (artist on Hammer of the Gods, Bulletproof Monk, Powers, Mice Templar) in some of Henderson’s faces. It is hard to pin down, which makes it a fun experience. And, oh, yeah, he can make this shit look gross.

Nailbiter #26 was released on 7/6/2016. It also has 4 collections, so far, covering the first 20 issues of the comic series. Individual issues are priced at $2.99. Volume 1 of the collected editions costs $9.99, volume 2 costs $13.99, and volumes 3 & 4 cost $14.99.

Nailbiter, and other great comics, can be found at Johnny Destructo’s Hero Complex located at 4456 Main Street, Manayunk, PA 19127. Visit him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/jdsherocomplex/

Tim from Last Week Reviews: Locke & Key #1!

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 15, 2016 by Tim from Last Week

Writer: Joe Hilllockekey#1
Artist: Gabriel Rodriguez
Colors: Jay Fotos
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Released: 2/20/2008 (collected in 10/2008)

Joe Hill has published both comic books and novels, and has received a fair amount of acclaim for his writing. Hill originally published his work under this pen name (a modified version of his real name) to avoid connecting him to his extremely popular father, who is known worldwide for his own writing. About a year before Lock & Key was published, Hill admitted that his father was Stephen King. However, after writing several books (20th Century Ghosts, Heart-Shaped Box, Horns, NOS4A2, and The Fireman), several comic books (Lock & Key, The Cape, and the new Tales from the Darkside series), and receiving several awards (World Fantasy Award, Bradbury Fellowship, Bram Stoker Award, British Fantasy Award, and International Horror Guild Award, among others…), it seems clear that Hill has been accepted into the writing community on his own merits.

Chilean-born artist Gabriel Rodriguez has a Master of Architecture, which he used to “pay the bills” while he waited for his chance to draw comic books. His first comic work was on the IDW published companion series to the popular CSI television series. He co-created Lock & Key with Joe Hill, then worked on Adventures of Superman (DC Comics) and Little Nemo: Return to Slumberland (IDW), the latter earning Rodriguez and co-creator Nelson Daniel an Eisner Award in 2015.

Lock & Key is a supernatural story focused on a house in Lovecraft, Massachusetts, and the family (and others) who have resided in the house. The comic begins with the Locke family, initially near San Francisco, working on their summer home. While Mr. and Mrs. Locke are inside, and the Locke children are outside, Sam and Al, former students of Mr. Locke’s, show up with plans to kill. The kids hear the gunshot that kills their father, and accidentally alert the killers to their presence. While Kinsey and Bode hide, the oldest Locke kid, Tyler, makes his way into the house, hoping to avert disaster. In the process, he disables Sam, and Mrs. Locke kills Al. Following the funeral, the remaining family travels back east to the family home, Keyhouse, and Uncle Duncan. As the kids explore their new home (they haven’t seen the house in years), we get to see that this house has a ton of history of its own, though, since most of it is shown to us by Bode, the youngest Locke, it doesn’t form a complete picture; just cool things every place he looks. Meanwhile, back in juvenile detention, it seems Sam is able to communicate with someone, or something, in the reflection of the water in his sink. It promises Sam that he’ll get the chance to try again to complete his mission. Back at Keyhouse, one of Bode’s discoveries is a key (featured on the comic cover). He finds a door with a similar look as the key, and opens it. We see Bode from the other side of the door, and, for a moment, his body collapses, and a wispy ghost form passes through the door. Quickly, he notices the change, and dives back into his body. Moments later, he wakes up. Terrified, he looks at the door. As it slams shut.

This series is a favorite of JD (of JD’s Hero Complex), and he has been suggesting it to customers for years. He was worried that I wouldn’t like it, since it’s not really my thing. However, I’m at least curious about what is going on at Keyhouse. Obviously, there is something about doors. And, keys (duh). I’m not sure if the doors steal your soul, or if the key is the key, but something is happening. And, why does the “whatever-it-is-in-Sam’s-sink” want Sam to make another attempt on the Lockes? Is Sam just a crazy killer? Or, is there some connection to Keyhouse, there, too?

As my first entry into Joe Hill, I have to say the story was interesting. There is obviously a lot going on that we don’t know, yet, and I want some answers. However, the issue feels a little jumbled, to me. There are a lot of flashbacks (or flash forwards, depending on your perspective, I guess). The story opens with Sam and Al at the door, and the Locke kids down the hill. Then, we move to the funeral, which includes a flashback to when Tyler was young. Then, back to the kids approaching the house during the attack, and some of Sam’s attempts to find the kids. Then, in the car on the way to Massachusetts, and their arrival at Keyhouse. Then, back to the house, as Sam finds Tyler and the whole sordid affair resolves. Then, back to Massachusetts. Although there are visual ways to track the story, I found the technique to be a little overused, and found myself getting tired, by the end. Hopefully, the storytelling will become a little easier on the brain in future parts.

This was also my first exposure to Gabriel Rodriguez’ art, and I’m intrigued. It has a blocky style, but it is also very detailed. Although I would not call it mainstream super-hero art, I almost have to say that his style could find a home in the new mainstream landscape at Marvel or DC, with their attempts to bring new styles and ideas into their current lineups. I’m looking forward to seeing where he ends up next.

Locke & Key turned out to be quite a story, taking 5 years to complete. Told over the course of 3 acts, each act told in two 6-issue mini-series, plus 2 book-end issues, plus a handful of short-story-type stories, Locke & Key is a story that spans generations and dimensions. This is an epic, and has a beginning, middle, and an end. The series was nominated for an Eisner Award in 2009, it won the British Fantasy Award for Best Comic or Graphic Novel in 2009, it won an Eisner Award for Best Writer (Joe Hill) in 2011 (and was also nominated for Best Single Issue, Best Continuing Series, and Best Penciller that same year), and it won the British Fantasy Award (again!) in 2012. A television pilot was filmed in 2011, though Fox decided not to pick up the series (even though Steven Spielberg and Dreamworks were involved…). A film trilogy was announced in 2014, but fell through, as well. In 2015, Joe Hill said that he was going back to the television series plan, and would shop it around to networks, acting as writer and executive producer. There is a 13-hour audio drama adapting all 6 mini-series, released in 2015, including voice work from such pop culture actors as Tatiana Maslany and Kate Mulgrew. And, yes, there is even a card game based on Locke & Key. Seriously, I think this little story might get some attention…

I read Locke & Key #1 as part of the first trade paperback collection, Locke & Key: Welcome to Lovecraft. Locke & Key is available in 6 trade paperbacks, as well as hardcover editions.

Locke & Key, and other great comics, can be found at Johnny Destructo’s Hero Complex located at 4456 Main Street, Manayunk, PA 19127. Visit him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/jdsherocomplex/

Tim from Last Week Reviews: House of Penance #1!

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 6, 2016 by Tim from Last Week

Writer: Peter TomasiHouse of Penance #1
Artist: Ian Bertram
Colorist: Dave Stewart
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Released: 4/13/2016

Peter Tomasi was an editor at DC Comics for almost 15 years, where he guided Batman, Green Lantern, and Aquaman, as well as one of the most interesting books I’ve read, The Light Brigade. In 2007, he left editorial to write comics. His writing included several small works related to bigger projects (i.e. Requiem, connected to DC Comics’ huge Final Crisis story), as well as several issues within the Batman family of books. He created another great series, The Mighty, with artist/co-writer Keith Champagne. He wrote Green Lantern Corps through DC Comics’ Blackest Night storyline, as well as the follow-up series, Brightest Day (with current DC Comics Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns). After DC Comics “rebooted” their universe as the “New 52”, Tomasi wrote Green Lantern Corps and Batman and Robin.

Ian Bertram has worked for DC Comics (Detective Comics, Batman Eternal), Marvel Comics (Wolverine and the X-Men), and Image Comics (Zero), as well as cover work for both Marvel and DC.

The cover of this book is creepy as fuck. Look at it. That is just freaky. A lot of blood red (including some blood), plus some weird tendril things (tentacles?). And, a hammer. The hammer reference will come back…

We start with the disinterment of 2 coffins in the east, as they start their long journey to the west. Murcer is returning the husband and daughter of Sarah Winchester, who is not handling their deaths well. Sarah’s husband was part of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company, and the family is concerned about her state. Sarah has hired many men, mostly criminals, to work on her home, with the family’s money. Somehow, she is able to see the criminals’ pasts in her mind, but she is more concerned about the work being completed. They work most of the day, and sometimes at night. The sound of hammers is present throughout most of the book. She also requires everyone to give up any guns before they enter her home. She’s doing something with all of the collected guns, but we don’t know what or why, yet. She sleeps with her family’s clothing, and talks to them as though they were still filled with her loved ones. Although her mental state may be shredded, I have a feeling she is on a mission that will only become more clear with time.

We also meet Warren Peck, who has an interesting job. He kills 5 (6) Native Americans, with the intent of filling the bullet holes with arrows. It does make sense, but, again, that’s just creepy. As it turns out, his assignment doesn’t go to plan, and he takes a nasty wound, and possibly a curse, to Mrs. Winchester’s home.

Though it seems obvious that we haven’t even seen the real creepiness, this book is just creepy. All of the visuals, all of the characters, every scene, has something that oozes creepy. On top of that, Dave Stewart’s color work highlights the creepy drawings. The palette changes from scene to scene, highlighting different color groups, but always focused on making things just a little uncomfortable (and, yes, creepy). And, again, there has to be more coming.

This comic is just smartly written, which is what I’ve come to expect from Tomasi. Really, very few secrets are given up in this issue, but enough tease is laced through the whole thing that you are likely trying to put things together into a cohesive, if uninformed, whole. Though, I think there is so much going on that we haven’t seen, or haven’t had explained, that we couldn’t really come up with the endgame. But it might involve guns. And tentacles. Maybe.

House of Penance, and other great comics, can be found at Johnny Destructo’s Hero Complex located at 4456 Main Street, Manayunk, PA 19127. Visit him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/jdsherocomplex/

Tim from Last Week Reviews: Five Ghosts #1!

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 6, 2016 by Tim from Last Week

Writer: Frank J. BarbiereFive Ghosts v1
Artist: Chris Mooneyham
Publisher: Image Comics
Released: 3/20/2013

This is my first experience with Frank Barbiere, but he has been making the rounds of the top comic publishers for the past few years. Barbiere has worked on Solar: Man of the Atom (Dynamite), The Broken World (BOOM!), Blackout (Dark Horse), Lobo (DC), Avengers World (Marvel), and White Suits, also published by Image.

This is also my first experience with Chris Mooneyham. Although his list of comic titles is shorter than Barbiere’s, it does seem his work on Predator: Fire and Stone (Dark Horse) has garnered him some great press. He also did work in Anathema (Tiny Behemoth Press).

Five Ghosts is the story of Fabian Gray, a 1930s era “treasure hunter.” Think Indiana Jones, and you’re probably close. Using Indy as reference also works for the feel of the story and premise. This is an adventure book, similar to the “men’s adventure books” from decades ago. Although I haven’t read far enough into the series, yet, I expect to find many of the tropes from pulp adventures (I’m expecting to see a “damsel in distress,” very soon…). However, our treasure hunter has a secret power (curse?): he is possessed by 5 ghosts. Specifically, 5 “literary” ghosts: the “detective”, the “wizard”, the “archer”, the “samurai”, and the “vampire” (they are not named in the 1st issue, but I think we can feel free to think of them as Sherlock Holmes, Merlin, Robin Hood, Miyamoto Musashi, and Dracula). Through some incident in his past, Gray was possessed by the ghosts, and he is able to draw upon their abilities to assist in his adventures. Sometimes. When trying to cross from one mountain to a castle on another mountain, Gray uses the archer’s skills to traverse the chasm. However, when fighting tribal warriors in Africa, the wizard’s powers fail Gray, and is taken prisoner. Gray’s motivation comes from his efforts to save his sister, who seems cursed, as well. He will need all of his treasure hunting skills (and his ghosts’ powers, too!) to find a way to save his sister (and possibly himself!).

The first issue was a quick read, but it was enjoyable. I find a certain enjoyment in this kind of story. Yes, the plot is not deep; find things, save people (maybe the world, too??). I enjoy the adventure of it. Yes, we do see him fight Nazis. Yes, we do see him fight African tribesman (are they simply tribesman, though?). Yes, there is a bi-plane involved. And, yes, there is a real bad guy (who answers to even badder bad guys). And, the occult/mysticism seems to touch every player in the story. While I am not a fan of all of the original elements of pulp adventures (i.e. “damsel-in-distress,” noted above…), done well with a modern feel, these stories can be great fun.

What really stood out, for me, though, was Chris Mooneyham’s art. It is an interesting combination of very detailed and very simple, all at the same time; which seems perfect for adventure, but I suspect it could work well for just about any kind of story. He has this moody, eery feel, but everything still seems real. Which, really, does sound like the right look for a book combining old-fashioned adventure and the occult. I find Mooneyham’s art similar to Lee Weeks, a veteran artist who has worked extensively for Dark Horse, DC, and Marvel, but is most well-known for his work on Marvel’s Daredevil (which has also been known to mix adventure and mysticism).

I read issue #1 as part of the first collection of Five Ghosts (“The Haunting of Fabian Gray”). Since I am a notoriously slow reader, I had to stop at one issue, so I could complete this review. However, I fully intend to read the remainder of this collection. Just for fun. Five Ghosts ran for 17 issues, plus a special, and has been collected into 3 trade paperback collections (vol 1 contains issues 1-5, vol 2 contains issues 6-12, and vol 3 contains issues 13-17 and the special), each priced between $9.99 and $14.99.

Five Ghosts, and other great comics, can be found at Johnny Destructo’s Hero Complex. located at:

Johnny Destructo’s Hero Complex
4456 Main Street
Manayunk, PA 19127

Visit him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/jdsherocomplex/

Tim from Last Week Reviews: The Discipline #1!

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 2, 2016 by Tim from Last Week

Writer: Peter MilliganTheDiscipline_01-1
Artist: Leandro Fernandez
Publisher: Image Comics
Released: 3/2/2015

Peter Milligan has been working in comics since the early 1980s, starting on 2000 AD, a popular British anthology comic. In the late ’80s, Milligan was among the last members of the early “British Invasion” in American comics, working heavily in DC Comics’ Vertigo line (Shade, The Changing Man; Animal Man; and Enigma). Some of his later work at DC included Batman, Hellblazer, and Justice League Dark. Milligan has also done work at Marvel Comics (X-Statix, X-Men, and Moon Knight).

Leandro Fernandez started working in American comics in the late 1990s, working at Marvel Comics (X-Factor, Incredible Hulk, Wolverine, Punisher), Oni Press (Queen & Country), as well as work for DC Comics’ Vertigo and Wildstorm imprints.

We are introduced to Melissa just as she realizes that the demon sex she’s enjoying is changing her into something else, and she isn’t sure she’s happy about it. But, wait, that’s the future. It turns out that, just a little while back, Melissa was a mildly unhappy wife, sister, and daughter. Her ill mother lives with Melissa’s sister, Krystal, but Krystal is not the best for dear, old Mom. We also find out that Melissa’s marriage isn’t great, she rarely sees her husband, and her main confidante is her dog, Hemingway.

Enter Orlando. Orlando is mysterious. Orlando is hot. Orlando is strange. Orlando is European. So, she decides to bed him and finally enjoy herself, for a change. But, Orlando plays hard-to-get (as far as Melissa can tell), which, of course, makes her want him more. One phone call later, she meets him in an unexpected place to seal the deal. Unfortunately, Orlando has brought all kinds of other-worldly baggage with him, and soon Melissa is naked and targeted by some of that baggage! Orlando defends her, but is he really helping her? Or does he have deeper plans for Melissa?

I have to admit: this is a strange book. There is nudity and sex, but it’s not graphic (though, graphically suggestive?). I am pretty sure there is a deeper story, but, so far: there are possibly 2 factions of demon-y type groups, possibly some reference to Ancient Rome or Greece, and demon sex. Milligan describes this as possibly “…the edgiest story…” he’s written. Which is saying something, considering some of his work for Vertigo. That being said, demon sex is generally considered edgy. However, I’m not getting edgy when I read this issue. I’m curious where the story is going, so, hopefully, we can get more edge as we go along.

I have not been a huge fan of Leandro Fernandez in the past, as he often succeeded another artist that I enjoyed with his completely different style. Even with that, I find this work to be interesting. I am still not sure that his art is “right” for this comic, but I did not find it to be jarring or painful, and I could follow his story-telling. Some of the panels are beautifully constructed, using negative space and what ends up being almost spot-coloring (colorist: Cris Peter). If you are not sure you know what spot-coloring is, think of black-and-white art with just a single “pop” of color thrown in (see the movie Sin City as a good example outside of comics). I am still not sure I like Fernandez’ art, or that he is right for this book, but I will have to see what follows to decide yea or nay.

I am not sure I am hooked yet, but, these days, most comic book stories (or story arcs) are 6 issues long, so it may take 2-3 issues to find that hook. While I am not excited about Fernandez’ art, I am pretty sure Milligan will provide a real story to follow. The Discipline is published monthly, and is priced $2.99 per issue.

The Discipline, and other great comics, can be found at Johnny Destructo’s Hero Complex located at 4456 Main Street in Manayunk, PA! Visit him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/jdsherocomplex/

Tim from Last Week Reviews: Outcast vol. 1!

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 3, 2016 by Tim from Last Week

Creator, Writer: Robert KirkmanOutcastVol1_Cover
Artist: Paul Azaceta
Publisher: Image Comics
Released: 1/28/2015 (Volume 2 released 10/7/2015)

Robert Kirkman holds a fairly significant place in comic book lore. As the creator of The Walking Dead, his legend will live on, forever. Robert is also unique in that he is an officer in Image Comics (Chief Operating Officer), and is the only member of that particular team that was not part of the founding of Image Comics, back in the 1990s. New boy does good. He has also written a ton of comics for Marvel Comics, but now does all of his work through Image (including his own imprint, Skybound Entertainment, a little corner of Image Comics for his creator-owned work to reside).

Paul Azaceta has worked on Spider-Man, Daredevil, Captain Marvel, and Captain America (Marvel Comics), Hellboy and Conan (Dark Horse Comics), plus a bunch of stuff with BOOM! Studios.

I had heard great things about this book, and it has been received well enough that it is currently in production as a new show for Cinemax. However, I was not super excited by this book. Some of my issue comes directly from the art. Well, not the art, exactly, but the panel layouts. Much of the action is told through big panels interlaced with small panels. Unfortunately, there were several times where my eye did not follow the action, correctly, and a few times where the panel layout simply threw me out of the story (I needed to stop and think about the panel layout, as opposed to thinking about the actual story). I also had difficulty following some of the movements of the “demons,” so I am unsure if I even have all of the story, at this point.

I feel so distracted by my concerns about the visual storytelling, that I am less intrigued by Kyle’s story, which I think I really do want to know. This is the first full story of Kirkman’s that I have read, so I do want to give him a chance to hook me. While I am curious about the demons, Kyle’s past, and how they connect, I am more interested in the “little things” – a hint of a relationship for one character (which, if it happens, will, of course, somehow end badly) – Kyle’s sister’s own marriage. Mostly small, character things that could impact the bigger story, but that just seem interesting on a character development level.

Even with all of these concerns, I intend to read volume 2. I suspect I will not find all of the answers within just these 2 parts, but if some of my needs are fed, I might find this to be a really deep ride. Outcast is published monthly (#14 was released on 12/23/2015), and is priced $2.99 per issue. Volume 1 of the trade paperback collections (“A Darkness Surrounds Him”, #1-6 of the monthly issues) is priced $9.99, and volume 2 (“A Vast and Unending Ruin”, #7-12 of the monthly issues) is priced at $14.99.

Outcast, and other great comics, can be found at Johnny Destructo’s Hero Complex located at 4456 Main Street in Manayunk, PA! Visit him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/jdsherocomplex/