Thursday, June 13, 2019

Dark Red #1

From the Random Stack of Unread Comics. I bought this from Indyplanet in 2007. I know this because I found the packing slip in with the comic.

Title: Dark Read
Issue: 1
Date: 2007
Publisher: Dark Red Comics
Writer: Lynn French
Artist: Lynn French
Letterer: Joanna McKenzie
Editor: Joanna McKenzie

A young woman who was permanently blinded by a sudden illness discovers that she can see elements of a hidden world: Demons, angels, and magical beings and objects. After rescuing a man from an attack by demons, she is introduced to a hidden world, in which the peace that has existed between the supernatural beings of her city is suddenly threatened, and she is being drawn into the conflict.

This book uses digitally-painted art over photographs for a pretty effective and unique look.

The first issue does a nice job of introducing the lead character, Sarah MacAllister, as well as several members of the supporting cast, while balancing a good amount of worldbuilding. Sarah is instantly likeable, and the world is intriguing.

This was a good beginning that did its job of getting me hooked. I have the second issue and I'm eager to see where we go from here.

Rating: 8/10

Monday, June 10, 2019

How I Became A Pirate #2

From the Random Stack of Unread Comics.

Title: How I Became a Pirate
Issue: Chapter 2
Publisher: Feral Kiwi
Writer: TC McKenna
Artist: TC McKenna

Sixteen-page b/w minicomic that tells the story of a recent college graduate who is given a cursed compass that summons a whole crew of pirates who proceed to occupy the house she is renting.

This installment features a visit from the landlady and the test-firing of the cannons. As you might imagine, neither of these go well for "Cap'n" Christine Evans.

As the (sometimes) helpful parrot gives her some additional information on the nature of the curse, Christine realizes that she's going to have to truly take command of her horde of scurvy dogs before they do further damage.

This is an amusing concept, with the pirate world spilling over (kinda Jumanji-style) into our own, and the main character having to accept her destiny if she is to have any hope of removing or controlling the curse.

There were some funny moments, a few good one-liners, and plenty of pirate-jargon. The minicomic format hurt the legibility a bit, but the concept was entertaining enough that it was worth the effort needed to read every bit of dialogue.

Rating: 7/10

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Avatar: The Last Airbender: Free Comic Book Day 2014 All Ages

Title: Avatar: The Last Airbender: Free Comic Book Day 2014 All Ages
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Date: May, 2014
Writer: Gene Luen Yang, Art Baltazar, Franco, David Lapham
Artist: Faith Erin Hicks, Art Baltazar, David Lapham
Colorist: Cris Peter, Lee Loughridge
Letterer: Michael Heisler, Nate Piekos of Blambot
Editor: Dave Marshall, Scott Allie, Jim Gibbons, Shantel LaRocque, Daniel Chabon

Three stories, featuring Avatar: The Last Airbender, Itty Bitty Hellboy, and Juice Squeezers respectively.

The Avatar story has Suki and Sokka dealing with the sexist owner of a collectible seashell shop, in an amusing commentary of the "fake geek girl" trope. The initial action is satisfying in a jobber-squash-for-a-good-cause kind of way, but the ending of the story is quite good and shows some real heart.

Itty Bitty Hellboy has some fun trying to teach a ghost how to do his job, and also plays on the old "cough syrup for the coffin" joke. Not much to it, but I give credit for bringing up a classic dad-joke I got told as a kid.

The Juice Squeezers story involved some kids braving a nest of giant ants to exact a bit of revenge on the local school bullies. I'm not clear on why there are giant ants, but the story did a decent job of representing the "kids on bikes" subgenre (ET, Goonies, Stranger Things, etc). I'd be interested in seeing what this series does when it has more to work with in the way of plot.

Rating: 6/10

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

The Vengeful Half

From the To-Be-Read bookshelf. I've had this for a while.

Title: The Vengeful Half
Date: 2016
Publisher: Catlord Press
Writer: Jaclyn Dolamore
Artist: Jaclyn Dolamore
Cover: Ilicheva Anastasya, Dade W. Bell

Prose novel with comic segments and sketches drawn by the author at the end of each chapter.

Olivia and her mother have been living in hiding in various locations around America, but their past finally catches up to them, as Olivia's mom is abducted by agents from the Hidden Lands, a dimension of magical beings living in a world that has absorbed a great deal of 20th Century Earth technology and culture.

When Alfred, the eldest son of a powerful Hidden Lands crime family, offers to bring Olivia to the Hidden lands to help her mom, Olivia is thrust into the midst of ancient conflicts between powerful forces, including a mysterious telepath who seems to know secrets from Olivia's past lives.

This was a good mix of powerful fantasy with intrigue and romance. The world is intentionally excessively pretty, but it holds many dark secrets beneath the glittering surface, and there is a great deal of background development that adds depth to the story.

The characters are likeable, and there is a lot of light humor and fun, but the ending packs an emotional punch.

The comic segments of the book are mostly short asides that flesh out scenes that got a mention, but were not actually played out in the prose, along with some sketches that give visuals to the characters or add to the worldbuilding. The art style fits nicely with the flavor of the world.

This was fun, and it had quite a bit going on, with plenty of potential for further stories.

Rating: 8.5/10

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

DC Retroactive Batman: The 1980s #1

From the Random Stack of Unread Comics.

Title: DC Retroactive Batman: The 1980s
Issue: 1
Date: October, 2011

DC Comics

Writer: Mike W. Barr
Jerry Bingham, Alan Davis, Paul Neary
Colorist: Carlos Badilla, Adrienne Roy

Letterer: Carlos M. Mangual, Richard Starkings
Editor:Jim Chadwick, Chynna Glugston Flores, Denny O'Neil

This book contains a new story, and a reprint, both written by Mike W. Barr. The reprint is the classic first issue of  Batman Year Two from Detective Comics #575 in 1987. This story introduces the Reaper, a vigilante who once stalked Gotham's criminal element, and who has now come out of retirement and into conflict with the Batman, who is still at the beginning of his own path of vigilante justice, less lethal than that of the Reaper.

This is a good classic Batman story with some excellent character work on Leslie Thompkins, Alfred, and Commissioner Gordon, along with the introduction of
Rachel Caspian, a love interest of Bruce Wayne with a connection to the Reaper. Rachel Caspian is an intriguing character and the art team of Davis and Neary do a great job with her look. Likewise, the Reaper is a really fun design with his twin sickles, hidden guns, and armor.

The Batman's reaction to the thorough trouncing he receives at the hands (blades) of the Reaper seems a bit odd, but it makes sense in the "Year Two" context of the story.

The new story is a sequel, with a new Reaper stalking Gotham's crime families, and Batman on the case with Robin at his side.  The story was fun, with some good plot twists, but it went for more of an 80s-amusing vibe (with some of the dialogue throwing back to Adam West 1960s Batman), and as such, it lacked the gravitas of the original story. The new Reaper just never rises to the threat level of the original, and the result is what feels like just a regular day at work for the Batman and the Boy Wonder. Not that this is a terrible thing; I enjoyed the story. It just felt a bit out of place as a direct follow-up to something as iconic as Year Two.

Rating: 5.5/10

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Giant-Size Thrills #0

Another Free Comic Book Day flip book from Red Giant by way of the Random Stack of Unread Comics.

Title: Giant-Size Thrills
Issue: 0
Publisher: Red Giant Entertainment
Date: May, 2014
Writer: Benny R. Powell, Mort Castle, Kevin Juaire
Artist: Ricardo Jaime, Vincenzo Cucca
Colorist: Marlon Ilagan, Mariacristina Federico
Letterer: Zach Metheny
Editor: Brian Augustyn, David Lawrence

Flip book. First up is Darchon, an urban fantasy story focusing on a man who can see monsters that are invisible to most people. He sees himself as a friend of Darchon, a wizard/detective character from a pulp adventure comic magazine. How much of this magical world is real and how much is delusion is left somewhat unclear.

Flip the book over to find Shadow Children, telling the story of a boy and a girl growing up in a magical dimension, and eventually making their way back to our world.

Neither of these stories managed to hook my interest much. Both were going for a dark fantasy vibe, with Darchon in a straight-up world filled with unseen demons, and Shadow Children putting a dark spin on a fairyland type of setting.

The stories had some appealing visuals, especially Shadow Children, which also appeared to have some complex and well thought out worldbuilding behind it. But none of the characters in either story were all that engaging, and neither story hooked me with its plot.

Rating: 4.5/10

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Dark Horse: 20 Years

From the Random Stack of Unread Comics.

Title: Dark Horse: 20 Years
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Date: 2006
Artist: Adam Hughes, Art Adams, Doug Mahnke, John Sommariva, Sean Parsons, Mark A Nelson, Cary Nord, Sergio Aragones, Paul Chadwick, Chris Warner, Kilian Plunkett, Eric Powell, Matt Wagner, Jason Alexander, Thomas Yeates, Tony Millionaire, Rick Geary, Joss Whedon, Buzz Parker, Stan Sakai, Frank Miller
Colorist: Michelle Madsen, Edgar Delgado, Dave Stewart, Tom Luth, Dan Jackson, David Nestelle
Editor: Matt Dryer, Matt Hollingsworth, Jim Campbell
Cover: Mike Mignola, Dave Stewart

This is an anniversary pinup book, distributed as a $.25 promo from Dark Horse Comics, celebrating 20 years of their history.

Lots of classic characters and stories are represented here, with some great-looking artwork. What's really fun about this book, though, is getting to see artists do characters by other creators. Highlights included Adam Hughes on Hellboy, Matt Wagner's rendition of the Goon, Frank Miller drawing Usagi Yojimbo and Stan Sakai's take on Sin City, Paul Chadwick's Groo, and Sergio Aragones bringing a very Groo-style take to Conan the Barbarian. There's even a rare art credit for Joss Whedon, who drew Emily the Strange.

Nice way to celebrate 20 years.

Rating: 7.5/10

Spongebob Freestyle Funnies 2014

From the Random Stack of Unread Comics by way of Free Comic Book Day 2014.

Title: Spongebob Freestyle Funnies 2014
Publisher: United Plankton Pictures
Date: February, 2014
Writer: Graham Annable, Sam Henderson, Maris Wicks, Gregg Schigiel, Corey Barba, James Kochalka
Artist: Jacob Chabot, Sam Henderson, Maris Wicks, Gregg Schigiel, Corey Barba, James Kochalka
Colorist: Rick Neilsen, Mike Lapinski
Letterer: Comicraft
Cover: Graham Annable, Jacob Chabot, Rick Neilsen

This is the Free Comic Book Day offering for Spongebob Squarepants from 2014. It includes three main stories, plus some one-page gag strips, and activity page, and even an educational feature about marine life.

The first full story involves Squidward activating the "Relocate" feature on his house in an attempt to get away from annoying neighbors Spongebob and Patrick. Unfortunately, their houses also come equipped with the same feature. This was funny, and definitely in the flavor of the show, and it never wore out its welcome.

The other two main stories are aimed more at the geeky crowd.

There is a cute parody of Silver-Age (and 1960s TV) Batman/Batgirl featuring Mermaid Man and his sidekick Barnacle Boy as they battle Octopus Doctor, with some help from the mysterious Mermaid Girl. This did a nice job of mirroring Batgirl's debut, and featured some amusing action bits.

Finally, Underswimming Comics was a parody of Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics, which was one of those things that I'm surprised no one thought to parody before this. It didn't completely hit the mark, but it was still good for a few laughs, and the overall flavor of it worked really well.

I liked all of the shorter features in this book as well, which is a pretty good achievement when so many elements have to come together to make a book like this. This was fun all around with plenty of appeal for younger readers as well as serious comic fans.

Rating: 7/10

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Red Bird Comics #1

From the Random Stack of Unread Comics by way of the SPACE convention.

Title: Red Bird Comics
Issue: 1
Publisher: Dimestore Productions
Date: April 2009
Writer: Madison Shires, Ally N., Kaitlyn R., Hanna M., Ben B.
Artist: Madison Shires, Ally N., Kaitlyn R., Hanna M., Ben B.
Editor: Ian Shires

This is a minicomic anthology that grew out of a comic workshop run by Ian Shires for his daughter's elementary class. The short stories by young creators include football rivalries, a family of lost birds, and time travel (complete with a T-Rex!).

Cute, fun, and heartwarming to see kids encouraged to make comics!

Rating: 8/10

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Spring-Heel Jack: Revenge of the Ripper #2

From the Random Stack of Unread Comics.

Title: Spring-Heel Jack: Revenge of the Ripper
Issue: 2
Date: 1993
Publisher: Rebel Studios
Writer: David Barbour
Artist: Wayne Tanaka
Letterer: Gary Kato
Cover: Tony Harris, Tim Vigil

This story combines the 19th Century folk legend Springheel Jack with the infamous Jack the Ripper, and brings it all into a modern setting.

Although this was the second in a three-issue series, much of this issue was devoted to explaining the Ripper's backstory as Prince Albert Victor, grandson of Queen Victoria. His dealings in the occult granted him immortality through the commission of ritualistic murders, and he was later captured and held prisoner by the British government in a succession of psychiatric asylums.

Opposing the Ripper is Spring-Heel Jack, a tulpa conjured by a woman with psychic powers. As London detectives attempt to stop the Ripper from replicating his past crime spree, and Spring Heel Jack begins his own campaign to locate the Ripper, it becomes apparent that the Ripper has a new target in his sights: Diana, Princess of Wales.

The art style is is grim black-and-white, befitting the story's noir style with its callbacks to steampunk. Some of the action could be a bit hard to follow, and the incompetence of the Princess' security detail was a bit dismaying (although it's nothing that we haven't seen from the GCPD in pretty much any random Batman story).

I liked the Spring-Heel Jack character a lot. He's more interesting than the villain, and I'd be interested in reading more of this series and his previous series just to get more sense of his backstory, as almost all of the exposition in this issue is focused on the Ripper.

Rating: 6/10