Monthly Archives: April 2016

The Magician: The Long Day REVIEW

**Note: I was fortunate enough to obtain an advanced review copy of The Magician: The Long Day, which is about half of the finished graphic novel. For more information on the project, visit The Magician’s Kickstarter here.

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The Magician: The Long Day could easily be summed up as a crime tale about nasty dirt bags doing nasty dirt bag things to other nasty dirt bags, but that would be doing the book a great injustice. But I will say that the nasty business in this book is nasty as all hell. There’s an asshole-puckering torture scene early on that is particularly awful.

Luckily, writer, David Brown and artist, D.N.S. don’t rely too heavily on the nasty bits to propel their story forward. In fact, what you’re not shown is just as powerful. Before the torture scene in those first few pages, there’s a gut wrenching story about a puppy and a buzz saw that actually lessens the blow of the what follows (or enhances it; it’s kinda hard to tell). What the creative team has done here is crafted a rather well-paced, measured slice of comic noir doused with a bucket of 1970s exploitation cinema (see: aforementioned asshole-puckering torture scene).

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**Spoiler Alerrrgh!!! Barf!**

The plot of The Magician is ostensibly a McGuffin story regarding a blue duffle bag that belongs to a vicious gangster and the hatchet-wielding hitman named Eugene (who is seriously fucking disturbed) dispatched to retrieve it. Toss in some low-level thugs, junkies, and other unsavory characters, you get a general idea as to what you’re getting into.

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**”Hi, I’m Eugene and I’ll be serving you gangland justice tonight…don’t mind all the creepy shit about me.”**

While some of the dialogue is a bit jarring (there’s a scene between two goons about to rob a convenience store that just didn’t work for me; but of course not everyone is Brian Azzarello), Brown’s writing is really tight and his sense of gallows humor works well for the story. D.N.S.’ stellar art work stylistically vacillates between early Sin City books and classic EC horror comics like Tales From the Crypt that, coupled with Brown’s humor and love of gore, revisit a foregone era in comics.

If you were to flip through this book without reading it, you’d think it be a horror comic and not a crime book. In a way, it’s sort of both, which is not a bad thing.

The Magician: The Long Day is a refreshing read, one that reminds me of eighth grade when I used to read old copies of Creepy and Erie that an uncle passed down to me. I’m excited to see what comes next in the story and what these guys decide to tackle as their next project.

This is highly recommended.

Final Grade: B

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Black Science REVIEW

**Note: This review covers the first three trade paper backs of Black Science (issues 1 – 16)**

What a time to be alive. Just take a look around you (hopefully you’re surrounded by the abundance of stellar science fiction comics that are being published these days).

Things are good, you guys. Like, really good. If you don’t believe me, or you’re not surrounded by the aforementioned stacks on stacks, I want you to conduct a little experiment: go to your local comic shop and ask the clerk for some currently ongoing sci-fi comic recommendations. The clerk should quickly drop several books in your arms. If they do not, leave that store and never come back, because that place is run by idiots.

Now, if your local comic store clerk is literate and/or clinically sane and they have indeed loaded you up with myriad exciting titles, there’s a damn good chance that some of these books, if not most of them, are written by His Royal Majesty Rick Remender, our lord and savior. BOW YOUR HEAD! Gaze upon your hypothetical stack of comics! Behold! Atop it lies Black Science!

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This comic is unequivocal proof that Remender just might be the best living science fiction writer out there right now…and I don’t relegate that statement to just comics, I’m talking about the genre across the board.

I know that might seem a smidge hypocritical considering my lukewarm review of Tokyo Ghost, but that book is just getting started. Since I don’t review individual issues, my tune can change on a series. Just like a good TV show, a comics need time to evolve.

Black Science, however, does not need much time to get things rolling. The set-up of the book circles around a former member of a gonzo troupe of science folk known as The Anarchist Order of Scientists (yes, for-fucking-real: The Anarchist Order of Scientists) named Grant McKay, who has found a way to punch holes through our reality into other dimensions.

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**This is not one of the good dimensions**

With his gang of Dimensionauts (which includes McKay’s kids, his mistress, the asshole bankrolling his project and his assistant, a badass ex-military dude, and a young scientist who is arguably the most likable character in the book) McKay runs into doppelgangers of everyone on the crew and strange worlds of would could be and what technically are…just not here…or there…or wherever. Look, guts, the plot gets pretty twisted up.

Basically, the book is what if Harlan Ellison wrote Gilligan’s Island.

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**Gilligan’s doppelganger would have totally nailed Ginger**

Much like Remender’s previous masterpiece, Fear Agent, Black Science perfectly blends classic sci-fi tropes aped from works like Lost in Space and Flash Gordon with gallows humor and high concept social and moral challenging ideas.

At times, it feels like the comic is about to leave you in its dust, like it’s being difficult to follow for the sake of being difficult to follow, but things always come around full circle. There are several “oh, I see what you did there” moments in Black Science. The comic is constantly pushing the reader to their breaking point of fathoming the narrative but then rewarding with great pulpy twists and fantastic action.

Italian artist, Matteo Scalera’s work is wonderful and it truly feels at home with the hectic nature of the story. I’d like to see more from him. Follow him on twitter, by the way (@ScaleraMatteo). He’s always posting cool shit he’s working on. He reminds me of a more hyper-kinetic version of Sean Murphy.

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**Look at this craziness!**

Black Science is probably the best true blue science fiction comic out there (I’m not talking about science fantasy like Saga, which is wonderful, too) and it’s being written by probably the best sci-fi writer on the block.

Volume 4 TBP comes out next month, so now is the perfect time to get caught up.

Go consume this.

Final Grade: A

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Space Riders Vol. 1 REVIEW

 

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Have you read this goddamn thing? No? What are you doing with your life?

Get. On. This. Shit. Now.

Maybe you’ve asked yourself,  “what would happen if Jack Kirby dropped too many hits of acid and face-fucked a stack of Heavy Metal magazine with his art dick?”

Well, the answer is Space Riders, a tale about a small crew of badasses going on adventures in a skull-shaped space ship. Really that’s all you need to know going in.

I could almost hear distorted guitar solos shred as I turned each page.

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*Kerrrang*

There’s nothing ground-breaking about the story when it comes to plot beats and characterizations, but none of that matters. This book isn’t trying to make you ask “why?” Instead it’s trying to make you ask “why the fuck not?”

I plowed through the entire first trade, which collects the first four issues, in under half an hour and then immediately re-read it, and then I just flipped through the pages to take in all of Alexis Ziritt’s beautiful artwork again.

Fabian Rangel Jr.’s writing is smart enough to get the hell out of the way and let the craziness in each panel breathe, and it’s wise enough to toss in a good joke when needed.

I honestly had never heard of comic publisher Black Mask Studios before, but I will be picking up more of their titles if they kick half as much ass as this book.

Go get this. Now. You won’t regret it. But if you do regret it, there is a rift between us we can never cross.

Final Grade: A+

 

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Orc Stain REVIEW

*Note: This review covers the first TPB of Orc Stain, which collects issues #1-5.

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Every pop culture nerd has that one cancelled-too-early television show they just can’t shut up about it and feel the need to tell you why it’s an outright crime it’s no longer with us, as if the show was some young medical genius with the cure for cancer in his head and just as he was about to write it down, he was murdered in the streets (for me, that show is Carnrivale, by the way).

But rarely do we (we, as in the collective Internet nerd herd/fandom) bitch about early cancellations or (even worse) absent issues that leave loose ends never to be resolved when it comes of comics. But the medium falls victim to early goodbyes as much, if not more so, as TV shows.

Comic books are filled with half realized stories. Look at Battle Chasers or Scud: The Disposable Assassin (Yes, I know Rob wrapped things up, but it took over a decade to do it) or Loveless or whatever the fuck Kevin Smith does with Batman and Daredevil half the time. Hell, I’ve been on the production end of unfinished comics. I published one issue of a crime comic before my finances dried up and my artist caught bigger fish. Of the hundred or so people who read it, I’m sure some of them would like to have known what would happen next (just email me, I’ll send you the scripts).

Now if I were to carry a torch for any one comic book with the same passionate flame I burn for Carnivale or Terriers (seriously, go watch that show), it would be James Stokoe’s Orc Stain.

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*Just look at this shit! Tell me you’re not into this…*

I recommend this book to my friends all the time, and when I tell them what it’s about, they look at me like I’m completely nuts. It must be the same expression I gave the clerk at my local comic shop when he recommended it to me.

But just like the clerk  after he made his recommendation to me, I explain that the comic is indeed filled with orcs, and they use dried up dicks as currency, and the hero is an orc named One Eye, because, guess what? he has one eye, and he has a hammer that can break anything (including mountains and other orcs’ dicks), and none if makes any sense, and then I punctuate my ramblings with the simple words: “…and it’s pretty fucking rad.”

After convincing people to read this book, I have have to give them the bad news: there are only 7 issues of Orc Stain, and we haven’t had a new one in four years. Then when the look of sadness slides across their faces, I tell them about how they use dicks as currency, and I win them back over.

James Stokoe is a madman. His art is as manic as his storytelling, and Orc Stain is the best work he’s ever done .

Final Grade: A+

Note: Gronches are what they call dicks… Yes, Gronch. Go ahead and adopt that into your vocabulary now.

 

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Did you guys see this shit?

Sneak Peek: Cornfield: Preacher: Series Premiere

Who’s stoked about this? Me. And you should be, too.

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Wytches Volume 1 REVIEW

Pledged is pledged…

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Before I picked up this trade, I’d had very little experience with Scott Snyder’s work. In fact, the reason I gravitated to this book was Jock’s cover art (hypocritical, I know; art is always second place for me when it comes to scooping up comics). I flipped through the first few pages, read the synopsis and few quick Amazon reviews on my phone, and purchased it at my local brick and mortar. The first trade is $9.99 MSRP, and let me tell you, (besides subscribing to Heavy Metal magazine) page-for-page, this book might have been the best bang for the buck I’ve ever spent on comics, for two reasons.

Reason 1: The story is quite good. Hell, I’d even call it great.

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Wytches be scary, yo.

The story starts out simple enough: a troubled teenage girl is trying to adjust to a tough living situation and ever growing family strife while a bunch of supernatural crazy shit turns her world completely upside down. The new witch folklore this book presents is refreshing and turns what is usually fodder for young adult fiction or crappy CW shows into truly terrifying creatures. The only issue I had with Wytches was how quickly the resolution in the final issue (#6) came about and the giant information dump near the end to make for a (mostly) nice, clean ending. I wonder if Snyder and Jock were worried the book wouldn’t get picked back up (luckily, all signs point to issue 7 coming out sometime this year). But these nitpicks can be overlooked.

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“GAH! Nitpick! I said, nitpick! Not fucking nosepick!”

Reason 2: This book opened my eyes to how damn good Scott Snyder is as a writer. I mean, really good. Shortly after reading Wytches, I plowed through his run on Batman and The Wake, both of which are amazingly good. This guy is the real deal. Not since I first read Jason Aaron’s Scalped have I been so head over heels for a comic scribe. I’d read this guy’s grocery list (I bet there’s something creepy on it).

If you’re horror fan, read Wytches immediately. It rocks.

Final Grade: A-

**images from imagecomics.com and comicbookresources.com**

 

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Mark Millar’s World Part 2: The Burning Clog FUN SIZE REVIEWS

I feel like I might have come off a bit too harsh on the creator-owned comics in the first part of my Mark Millar retrospect. I totally shat on both Kick-Ass and Nemesis, but they deserve it. Millar is a great story teller, but not every tale he tells is woven equally tight. Sometimes, great artists create crap. But I am a firm believer you should judge an artist by their best work, so I am more than willing to ignore some speed bumps. With that being said, let’s dive into one of my favorite creator-owned stories by Millar…

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Wanted (2003 – 2005)

This book simply rocks. It’s a nasty little Arthurian style “you are the chosen one” story where the chosen one happens to be the bad guy.  Wanted follows the exploits Wesley Gibson (modeled after rapper Eminem; no seriously) who goes from being a loser with a cheating girlfriend and shit job to a badass super villain with an endless supply of wealth and hedonistic, ball-draining activities at his disposal. J.G. Jones artwork is stellar. The pacing of his panels make the action pop, and Millar’s biting dialogue has never been so hilarious. As for the plot, it’s pretty basic (no spoilers), but the simplest stories often work the best. The story beats are familiar (and even somewhat predictable), but it doesn’t detract by how much damn fun Wanted is. Go. Read. Now.

Final Grade: A

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Superman: Red Son (2003)

Believe me when I say this: “I DO NOT GIVE A SHIT ABOUT SUPERMAN.” Like, not even a little bit, but holy hell, this is one Superman story I can get behind.  Red Son is simply a “what if…?” story that asks “What if Kal El landed in Moscow instead of Smallville?” The answer to that question makes for a compelling vision of the world’s most popular superhero. This book is definitely political, but not necessarily  in a red vs blue sort of way. The story of Red Son shows that greatness can be achieved under any circumstances, good or bad. It also says a lot about rival philosophies and how even some radical world views have their merit and can be shaped into something almost universally appreciated…Also, Batman is a badass anarchist who terrorizes Superman. It’s rad.

Final Grade: A-

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Jupiter’s Legacy (2013 – present)

This is another one I wanted to love. The concept is solid: Superheros have become so strong in numbers, villains stand no chance against them (there’s a really cool scene early on where a pack of heroes give some random baddy a good ol’ blanket party, only to comment on how it wasn’t the most noble of battles). With the lack of actual villainy to combat, the super-offspring of these heroes don’t know what to do with themselves and slip into lives of being celebutantes (think Paris Hilton, but if she could fly and had heat vision and wasn’t completely awful). All of this makes for some really interesting characters, but not all of their motivations were strong enough to justify their actions. But to be completely fair, I’ve only read Book 1 of the series, which covers the first 5 issues. I’m hoping that the second half of this series turns things around and really tries to have fun with the world it has built.

Final Grade: B-

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The Ultimates (2002)

Hey, nerd! Do you love all those fun superhero movies Marvel Studios keeps cranking out? Do you get a big boner knowing that you’ll get two every year for the rest of your natural life or at least until they start bombing at the box office? Ya do? Well then, you should pucker up and kiss Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch’s The Ultimates’ big, fat ass, because without this book, those movies might not have been worth a damn. I feel it’s impossible not to give this book a great deal of credit for, if nothing else, giving Marvel Studios some solid groundwork to build The Avengers on. A lot of the story beats and character traits (e.g. Sam Jackson Fury) from The Ultimates have been translated to the big screen and most of it works really well. I suggest reading this book if you haven’t, and it’s good (but not quite as great) follow up (but not the third one by Jeff Loeb; that one’s not so good).

Final Grade: A-

 

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