Sunday, January 25, 2015

Pretty Deadly Vol. 1: The Shrike

Title: Pretty Deadly Vol. 1: The Shrike

ISBN: 9781607069621
Price: $9.99
Publisher/Year: Image, 2014
Artist: Emma Rios
Writer: Kelly Sue DeConnick
Collects: Pretty Deadly #1-5

Rating: 3.5/5

Picking up a new book is always an experience. Love it and you’re just adding to what seems like an ever-growing pull list; hate it and part of you regrets spending money on it in the first place. There’s a little fear involved, a fear that only increases when the creative hands behind the new title are those whose work you’ve previously enjoyed.

Fortunately for Pretty Deadly all my (largely ignored) worries were for naught.

Decidedly a western (both in setting and ambiance),  Pretty Deadly manages to separate itself from the rest of genre by blurring the lines between western and fable. It would be easy to toss it into the same pile as another famous more-than-straight-western, The Dark Tower, but to do so would be constricting the story. Reincarnation is much more straightforward in this world. Death has a much larger role to play.

Pretty Deadly takes a bit of time to connect the dots and the pay off is definitely worth it. The reader experiences the same “aha!” moment as one of the central characters, Sissy, does. There are three stories unfolding over the course of the five issues that make up this initial arc: the story told by the bunny to the butterfly, the story that Sissy and Fox share and the story of Sissy and Fox. Each builds off the other, feeding into the grander arc until the very end.

This is by no means an arc that feels completed by its finished, which is what frustrated me upon reading it in single issue form and will undoubtedly frustrate those who read the trade. There is so much build, so much piling on as characters and stories collide that the story could almost use a little breathing room. It doesn’t really end but rather just pauses. During my first read, the ending made me sit back not because it was particularly shocking or out of left field (it was a very natural conclusion, though I won’t spoil what that is). It took me off-guard because it happened so fast. Clearly there is another arc plan, one that this is more of a set-up for rather than a fully realized, standalone story.

I have an affection for DeConnick’s way of telling a story though I recognize that her scripts aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. She handles these new characters with aplomb, making them feel lived-in without having the burden of decades of back story as I’d seen her gracefully pull off in Marvel titles. Life very clearly runs through the veins of this story about death and the wild west.

When it comes to Rios’ art, there is really just one word that quickly pops into my mind: wow. The style isn’t what I would call pretty, but if it was I’d probably be more than a little annoyed. There’s a gritty toughness to it, elegant in an atypical way. It seems to crackle off the page, adding just another layer to this story. Together the script and the art work seamlessly hand in hand in a way that is often lacking in books. (One or the other always seems to shine a bit brighter.)

Pretty Deadly isn’t a typical book, but much like other unusual “indie” books out there, it is worth picking up. It doesn’t take long to read, but if you’re anything like me, you’ll find yourself taking a quick break before going back and giving it another read. This book just demands a re-read and doesn’t find itself wanting the second go around.

One thing is for certain: I can’t wait for more.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Spider-Man: Maximum Carnage

Title: Spider-Man: Maximum Carnage

ISBN: 9780785109877
Price: $29.99
Publisher/Year: Marvel, 2012
Artist: Mark Bagley, Sal Buscema, Ron Lim, Tom Lyle, Alex Saviuk
Writer: Tom DeFalco, J.M. DeMatteis, Terry Kavanaugh, David Michelinie
Collects: Amazing Spider-Man #378-380, Spectacular Spider-Man #201-203, Spider-Man #35-37, Spider-Man Unlimited #1-2, Web of Spider-Man #101-103

Rating: 3/5

The series featured Spider-Man, Venom and a host of other superheroes teaming up to take down the offspring of the alien symbiote, the murderous Carnage and his team of super villains.

The story arc brought Spider-Man together with Venom, one of his most hated villains in mutual cause to take down Carnage, a murderous psychopath given the powers of the symbiote. Carnage recruits many villains to his cause including Shriek, Demogoblin, Doppleganger, and Carrion; Carnage dubs himself their father and they proceed to go on a violent, bloody killing spree in Spider-Mans back yard.

Spider-Man and Venom are not alone in their quest to take out Carnage though; they are joined by Captain America, Black Cat, Nightwatch, Cloak and Dagger, Iron Fist, Deathlok, Morbius, and Firestar. The team dynamic works well over the course of the story as Eddie Brock and Peter Parker take two very different approaches to defeating Carnage, all working up to a spectacular yet bloody finale.

The series began in Spider-Man Unlimited #1 then worked its way through the Spider-Man series, from Web of Spider-Man #101, Amazing Spider-Man #378, Spider-Man #35 and so on, wrapping up in the fourteenth part in Spider-Man Unlimited #2. The entire series was collected as a trade paperback in September 1994 and then was reprinted in January 1995. The series was also used as the basis for Sega’s 1994 video game, Spider-Man & Venom: Maximum Carnage which was released for the Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo and is still one of the best adventures of Spider-Man in video game form.

This story arc is one of the greatest in Spider-Man’s run with Marvel Comics and is one of the most read. Peter is at a tough time in his life having just having lost one of his best friends, Harry Osborn. It shows Peter being forced to make hard choices its even worse that he’s being that he is forced to team up with one of his biggest enemies in Venom to take down an even bigger threat in Carnage. On top of that, this run is one of the bloodiest as Carnage does not hold back or have any qualms about murdering innocents in harsh and brutal ways.

So if you are looking for another decent comic storyline to follow up our previous posts of Death of Superman and Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters, give the Maximum Carnage story a read. It is sure to impress, and bring you back to your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Con Schedule For 2015

As I'm still not working, going to many con's this year is going to be difficult, but here's the lowdown of where I will and will not be going this season.

January 23-25, 2015

Just like last year, I'm not going to be making it to Wizard World Portland this year. There are going to be some great guests there, but there's not enough to get me back. I did love the 1st WW PDX and look forward to when I get the chance to go back. Maybe even have a booth for the Comic Book Covers 4 Cancer project.

March 27-29, 2015

I'm really one the fence about this years Emerald City Comicon. I have a great pair of friends that want to go, but also want to share the experience with me. The other item in favor of going to ECCC is that because of completing my McMenamins passport last year, I have vouchers for free night stays at their hotels. This means my lodging (in Centrallia) would be taken care of. I have decided to wait until I've been able to complete my taxes to see if I'm going to receive a refund this year and for how much. We'll see what happens.

Last year, this was my hometown show, and I was happy to see it arrive. There were some issues before the 2014 event where some disparaging remarks were made around cosplayers. I don't want to bring that back to the forefront again. The 2014 event went well, IMHO, and I was looking forward to the 2015 event... that is until November.

A handful of days before the Cherry City Holiday Craft Fair and Flea Market, the news was released that it had been cancelled by the organizer. The reason I bring this up is because that would be the same person who organized Cherry City Comic Con. Then, Cherry City Events made the following post on their website:
There were several vendors from the craft fair that were intending on selling at the comic con event as well. In December, everything started hitting the fan. The organizer had posted on the official Cherry City Comic Con Facebook page that the event was cancelled and later posted it was possibly coming back.

Then, KOIN channel 6 news aired the following report:

That same night this report originally aired, there was a nasty post (which I will not re-post) on their Facebook page declaring that "Cherry City Comic Con is dead." 

A few days later, KOIN ran this report:

And on January 7, the following was posted on their official Facebook page:

I'm very skeptical about the entire situation as the people that I know who had paid for booths/tables at both the craft fair and comic con haven't received any communication (at time of this writing) nor have they received their refunds.

Because of all these problems, I've made the decision to not attend Cherry City Comic Con this year if they do manage to resurrect it. We'll see what happens.

August 15-16, 2015
Thankfully Salem will have an alternative to the loss of Cherry City with the first annual Northwest Comic Fest. Not only will I personally be attending, but I will also have a table there to help promote Comic Book Covers 4 Cancer. They've already been able to help some of the vendors and artists affected by the loss of Cherry City by helping to organize the First Wednesday Free Artist/Craft Event! I'm looking forward to attending this event as well in February.

September 19-20, 2015

The 4th annual Rose City Comic Con proves to be better than last years event. Year after year, RCCC has been bigger and better than the year prior. The best part of going to RCCC is that I can day-trip up there and take-in just about everything I want to. I'm hoping I might be able to add some more autographs to my copy of The Walking Dead 100 Project. My goal is to get every artist to sign it, and I'm probably about 1/3 of the way to meeting that goal. This is a prize in my collection.

The Great Northwest Super Con
Earlier this month, I found out that someone was organizing The Great Northwest Super Con. It's becoming an official non-profit and gaining support from the area. I look forward to seeing what come of this. No dates have been set yet, but I'm putting it on my list to go to whenever it happens.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Trekker: The Train To Avalon Bay

Title: Trekker: The Train To Avalon Bay

ISBN: 9781616553432
Price: $9.99
Publisher/Year: Dark Horse, 2014
Artist: Ron Randall, Karl Kesel
Writer: Ron Randall
Collects: Dark Horse Presents #24–29

Rating: 4/5

When I first met Ron Randall at the 2013 Stumptown Comics fest, I had not hear of Trekker before. He was selling copies of B&W Trekker ashcan along with copies of the Trekker issue published by Image Comics.

I originally didn't think too much about it as I was raised on Marvel and DC titles with superheroes and G.I. Joe. I'm glad I read those issues I picked-up because now I am a big Trekker and Ron Randall fan!

Ron Randall’s Trekker: The Train To Avalon Bay is an fantastic read.  An all-new story featuring Randall’s character, Mercy St. Clair, who made her debut during the height of the indie comic boon of the late 80’s in the pages of the original Dark Horse Presents.

Known as a Trekker, she is a strong willed, tough-as-nails, bounty hunter and is pretty much everything you could ever want from a sci-fi heroine.

A stand out comic back in the day and a breath of relief for those looking for a comic story where the female main character doesn’t rely on skimpy costumes and her feminine wiles to get what she wants.

It still rings true today, more than ever.

That isn’t to say she isn’t sexy or succeeds in her missions. She is highly trained and as deadly as she is beautiful.

The Train To Avalon Bay does not disappoint.

Full of action and a very taut, well-told story. I found this to be one of the most emotional and vulnerable stories Randall has told so far featuring Mercy. You really get to see a more sensitive side of her, when her friend, whom she is on vacation with, is put in the line of danger as a train they are on is attacked.

Picking up sometime after the tragic events depicted in the last story, The Train To Avalon Bay opens on a gorgeous action splash page as Mercy is about to take down a known thug she is after. The bounty for which she is planning on upgrading her equipment and weaponry. That is until her dear friend, Molly, convinces Mercy that she needs a break and drags her on vacation with her. While boarding the train Mercy spots three men, whom she marks as feds and a possible witness. She has second thoughts about the trip but Molly is insistent and they begin their train journey to Avalon Bay. Things are not as they seem as action, intrigue, and danger all explode in brilliantly written and drawn panels.

Ron Randall is no stranger to action and his art just keeps getting better and better with every book he puts out. His handle of dynamic panel composition and fast-paced story telling gives the reader the feel of being in the action and you feel every bullet, hit, and hard right hook. I found myself riveted and needing to turn the pages faster and faster as the story went on.  His absolute mastery comes from his ability to write well-rounded, fully developed characters you care about.

The Train To Avalon Bay is no exception.

As I mentioned earlier this is the most emotional I have seen Mercy in a long time. She still retains the badassery you expect from her, however, now that it is her dear friend is caught up in her world Mercy starts letting emotion and flawed judgement cloud her process and more than a few times it almost costs her and Molly their lives.

I can not recommend this book highly enough, especially for anyone looking for a really strong female led comic that is smart and well-written. Ron Randall has really outdone himself and I must say, for a series that started as a black & white title, the new colorist, Jeremy Colwell, really gets the Trekker world and how Ron inks his books and doesn’t let the colors get in the way of the art. It enhances it. Subtle and muted and never distracting I really love this collaboration.

Finally, anyone who picks this up will be treated to an extra cool crossover story that began as a online motion-style comic called City Of The Dead it features the artwork of both Ron Randall and Karl Kesel. It is a “silent” story featuring a team-up of sorts with Randall’s Trekker and Kesel’s Johnny Zombie. It is fun and beautiful to see. Along with the extra story there is a pin-up section featuring some amazing indy comic talent and their take on Mercy and her adventures. Featured are, Mark Shultz, Steve Leiber, Karl Kesel, Rich Ellis, Coleen Coover and a bunch more.

I highly recommend picking-up some Trekker, though don't start with this trade if you want to follow the complete story. Pick-up and read the Trekker Omnibus first. After you read that, you'll want to pick-up Train to Avalon Bay.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Dungeons & Dragons Volume 1: Shadowplague

Title: Dungeons & Dragons Volume 1: Shadowplague

ISBN: 9781600109225
Price: $24.99
Publisher/Year: IDW, 2011
Artist: Andrea Di Vito
Writer: John Rogers
Collects: Dungeons & Dragons #0-5

Rating: 3.5/5

This trade follows a band of heroes while they quest for the source of a mysterious dark force that is creating havoc in the world. They must get get to the bottom of the Shadowplague in order to more darkness from spilling into their world.

Orcs, Elves, swords and sorcery, ancient magic and trans-world struggle for power are just a few of the aspects found in this first Volume.

In good D&D fashion each of our heroes has a different race and class. Meet Adric the Human warrior and leader, Bree Three-Hands the Halfling thief, Varis the Elf ranger, Khal Khalundurrin the Dwarf Paladin and Tisha Swornheart the Tiefling Wizard.

Luck is strong with Adric. His plans are notorious for being bad but coming together at the very last second. Bree is a very skilled thief and trap detector, Varis is the resident archer, Kahl is the poet and basically works as the tank of the group and Tisha is the power house. Varis and Kahl also work as the moral compass to Adric's decisions. Its a rich and diverse party indeed.

One night at the tavern Adric's party is just having a drink when all of a sudden zombies break through the floor and all hell breaks loose. From there things get out of control and Adric, with the help of his party, must fight through Orc armies, ancient ghosts, evil dark elves and a myriad of other fantastic creatures.

Dungeons & Dragons Volume 1: Shadowplague is a fun book to read, even more so if you have a natural affinity with the fantasy genre. You don't have to be fluent in D&D lingo or even in the game itself to enjoy this book. It is just a good and fun fantasy book that anyone can enjoy. However having played D&D will give you something extra.

There are many aspects of the game that are present here. Aspects like the class and race of the characters, the dungeons and their traps, the wizard vs sorcerer take on magic, Adric's luck, and many more. But John Rogers does a great job at keeping this under tight reins and accessible for everyone.

Andrea Di Vito is in charge of the art in this book and he does an excellent job at it. The character models are spectacular, the detail in every panel is great. There are some awesome full page panel that are true delights to the eyes. My only complaint, if I can call it that, is that Andrea could have been  more adventurous with the panel dynamics.

This hardcover is printed in a bigger size than standard normal trades. This makes the inside art look even more fantastic. This book is a delight to read, to look at and to touch. It also looks great on my shelf.

The final portion of this trade takes scenes from the story and translates them into encounters that an RPG group can use to play out the combat and exploration that the Shadowplague group meets. This is a nice bit of bonus material for folks who play Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition and possibly want to mine the story for their own campaigns.

If you're a fan of Dungeons & Dragons or fantasy, I would definitely recommend adding this trade to your collection.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Clerks the Comic Book Trade Paperback

Title: Clerks the Comic Book Trade Paperback

ISBN: 1582402094
Price: $10.95
Publisher/Year: Image, 2001
Artist: Jim Mahfood, Phil Hester, Ande Parks
Writer: Kevin Smith
Collects: Clerks: The Comic Book, Clerks: Holiday Special, Clerks: The Lost Scene

Rating: 3/5

Based off the cult movie of the same name it collects the three issues released in trade paperback form.

If you haven't heard of the movie, I don't blame you; it's one of those that have grown through word of mouth and a rabid fanatic fan base. The story is pretty simple, it's the story of two young men who are stuck in dead end jobs, which pay poorly and have long and unsociable hours. There is no big adventure or life changing story to it, it's about there lives and how they just get by with what they do, never motivating themselves to change for anything better.

-The Cast-

Dante - Works at the Quick Stop, very depressed with his job, the lack of money he makes, the customers who come in the store and he finds generally very annoying. Taken advantage of quite a bit, whether it is by Randal, the owners of the Quick Stop, even customers.

Randal - Works next door to the Quick Stop at RST Video. He is lazy and spends more time in the Quick Stop talking to Dante rather than dealing with customers at RST who get very annoyed that the store seems to be shut most of the time. Randal deals with them by being rude, ignoring them and telling them deals going on at the rival video store.

Jay - Foul-mouthed, loud, rude, obnoxious, abusive, pot dealer who hangs out at the Quick Stop all day looking for trade. He is in his twenties but acts like he's twelve.

Silent Bob - Jay's 'Hetro-Life-Mate' complete opposite of Jay. He's called Silent Bob for a reason, as he doesn't say much usually expressing him opinion with facial expressions. Hangs out the Quick Stop with Jay selling pot. He is much more sensible and intelligent than Jay.

It starts with Randal looking at the toys (action figures) down at the local comic book store. He's amazed at the price they sell for and so he drags Dante into the world of Star Wars action figure selling.

Meanwhile Jay is not pleased that people aren't buying weed because there spending there money on Star Wars figures, so with Silent Bob decides to go do something about it.

It's Christmas time, a time of good will. So Dante decides to visit his old girlfriend Caitlin in the mental hospital (you see why she's there in the film). While Randal is sure Saint Nick, is next door in the quick stop. Plus Dante is smug as he's about to win a bet with Randal he made 15 years ago - that Randal would still be wearing his Montley Crew jacket he got for Christmas 15 years ago? But will Randal manage to get his hands on a replacement?

Here we see the bit where Dante and Randal going to the funeral (in the film it shows them driving there, then a '10 minutes later' tag appears on screen with some people chasing them out the funeral parlour). So we see Dante paying his respects to his old girlfriend Julie Dwyer while Randal is just there for the fun of it?! It's all a bit awkward for Dante as Julies parents caught them in a compromising position and Dante would do anything to not get noticed, but he drops his car keys in the coffin, down her skirt... whoops!

Part of the appeal of these is that they are written by Clerks Director/Writer/Actor Kevin Smith so you feel the characters are staying true to themselves rather than feeling like fan-fiction which is what seems to happen with other well known franchises that get a comic series made.

This is done in a thick black and white style giving it the feeling of the movie (which was done in black and white). The first two comics are drawn by Jim Mahfood and have a more cartoonish style where as the lost scene was penciled by Phil Hester and inked by Ande Parks is drawn in a more 'serious' style, looking pretty much like the two main characters in the film

I'll also point out that all the characters seen in Clerks Dante, Randal, Jay and Silent Bob all look like their characters from the movie. Also Steve Dave and Walt the Fanboy (who make numerous cameos in Smith films) also look like the actors who play them. The only character I would say who looks different is Caitlin. Whether this is because of payment of image rights I don't know.

If you've seen Clerks, you'll know it's has very vulgar language and descriptions - this has not been toned down in the comic book. So it's not suitable for young people, maybe 16+

I really enjoyed these stories, especially the first two that inspired me so much that when I first read them I spent many months doing drawings copying Jim Mahfood style.

I always really enjoyed the Clerks film thinking Dante and Randal where the two best and most 'real' characters Kevin Smith had come up with and was begging for more stories about the life of Dante and Randal. I guess Smith felt the same otherwise he wouldn't have made Clerks II.

The best stories was definitely the first it was so funny hearing Randal pitch to Dante why getting in the business of Star Wars figures was such a good idea while Dante thought it was joke that a movie that had been out for 20 years made 100 million at the cinema.

The second one was pretty good and made reference to the Clerks movie with Caitlin. To be fair you don't need to have seen the Clerks movie to enjoy this story (especially as it refers in the dialogue what happened to Caitlin) I hadn't actually seen the film till after I read this. I was quite pleased with this one as it lets Jay and Silent Bob take a backseat, only appearing on a couple of pages and you get to see Dante and Randal carry a fun compelling story.

The third is easily the worst of the three I can't say I care it's a 'lost scene' or not. It just goes over the top with Randal behaving like a dick at a funeral (I can't really believe even he would do that? I know through the film you see him act like that, but I still felt it was something no one would do at a funeral). However the gross-out-humor in this was quite amusing and the Alyssa Jones cameo (you know the lesbian in Chasing Amy) was quite good "Why do you smell of shoe polish?"

My only disappointment was that Smith didn't continue doing more Clerks stories and went where the money was with 'Chasing Dogma' and 'Bluntman and Chronic' comics instead, which in my opinion never quite reached the laughs that this book gives you.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 9 Volume 1: Freefall

Title: Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 9 Volume 1: Freefall

ISBN: 9781595829221
Price: $17.99
Publisher/Year: Dark Horse, 2012
Artist: Georges Jeanty
Writer: Joss Whedon, Andrew Chambliss
Collects: Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 9 #1-4

Rating: 3/5

Volume 1 contains the first five issues of Season 9 proper, out of an anticipated total of twenty-five (not including the upcoming minis starring Willow and Spike or the concurrent Angel & Faith series). Issues 1-4 comprise the Freefall arc, scripted by Joss Whedon and Andrew Chambliss with pencils by series artist Georges Jeanty.

Here we see Buffy dealing with the aftermath of Season 8. The Seed has been destroyed, effectively eradicating magic from the world. Among other things, this means that vampires sired after that point (dubbed “zompires” by the gang) are feral and uncontrollable. Buffy also meets a mysterious stranger named Severin, who is draining the energy from zompires. All of that is well and good, but more importantly, Buffy is back to her roots, stabbing vamps in dark alleys while trying to make ends meet.

Gone are the large-scale operations of Season 8, replaced by more of the genuine heart and relationships that have always made the franchise great. After season 8 was finished, Joss Whedon admitted that while the it was an over-all success, they lost track of Buffy’s core in their excitement over not being limited by an effects budget.

Season 9‘s path is definitely reflective of this understanding. The first issue really sealed this with its humorous perspective on Buffy’s personal life. There’s even an “in” joke referencing the fourth season episode The Initiative, in which Spike tries to bite Willow and finds he can’t perform.

The fifth issue in this volume is the one-shot Slayer Interrupted, scripted again by Chambliss with pencils from Fray artist Karl Moline. Re-reading this issue, I noticed some hints at more recent revelations that didn’t register initially. Issue 5 also leads into Willow’s spin-off story, slated to kick off later this year. As if all that wasn’t enough, this collection also contains the short Magical Mystery Tour featuring the Beetles story scripted by the wonderful Jane Espenson.

This humorous and slightly bizarre story is a nice bit of icing on the cake for this collection. So if you’re a fan of the Buffy mythos, you’re going to want to buy this volume. It’s a great start to a very promising season for Buffy and the whole Scooby Gang!