Friday, May 30, 2014

Facebrace: The Comic

It was good to see Ben Doane at MeCAF and to pick up his latest minicomic.

Title: Facebrace: The Comic
Date: 2014
Publisher: Benjamin Doane and The Facebrace Collective
Writer: Benjamin Doane
Artist: Benjamin Doane, John F. Quirk, Sadie Saunders, Renata Davis, Nico Hammill, Sarah Hachey

Surreal minicomic involving time travel, pancakes, and an apocalypse caused by the installation of port of Windows 95 to play Pokemon Yellow.

There is also an app that tells you whether it is Christmas, some dog-sitting, and a running battle with rocket-powered heely nomadz.

I will admit to not getting all of this, but I am pretty sure that was part of the point. And even the parts I didn't get were good bizarre fun.

Rating: 7/10

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Giant-Size Action #0

I got a whole pack of these flip book from Red Giant Entertainment during Free Comic Book Day. Here's one that features Nikola Tesla.

Title: Giant-Size Action
Issue: 0
Publisher: Red Giant Entertainment
Date: May, 2014
Writer: Benny R. Powell, Terry Keefe, David Lawrence
Artist: Nigel Raynor, Bong Dazo
Colorist: Jay David Ramos, Michael Bartolo
Letterer: Benny R. Powell, Zach Metheny
Cover: Studio Hive
Editor: Brian Augustyn, David Lawrence

Flip book.

First story is Tesla: The Future Is Mine, featuring Nikola Tesla, in some steampunk flavored historical action. The story features appearances by Pierre Curie and Mark Twain, but the main character is really Mathilde Poincare (the scientist/mathematician Henri Poincare is never actually mentioned, but it would make sense in story terms for Mathilde to be his daughter).

Tesla (who is not actually all that appealing a character here) manages to pretty much end up as the damsel in distress, hanging off of the Eiffel Tower only to be rescued by Mathilde in a scene that's a lot of fun. Mathilde is intriguing. Tesla has potential. As does this story.

Flip the book over and you get: Wayward Sons, an urban fantasy that seems to be influence by a hodgepodge of mythology. It opens with a father and son practicing swordplay. When the son's magical powers manifest themselves, the father takes the son to meet a young woman with psychic abilities of her own.

Then there is a random encounter with a minotaur. No, really. A minotaur just kinda shows up and they fight it. Alanis the female "Wayward Son" (why the gender-specific title if the main characters are one man and one woman?) pulls out a bow and proceeds to go all Katniss Everdeen on the minotaur and it's off to the next stop on the quest to defeat whatever big evil is out there dropping minotaurs into people's living rooms.

This was harmless fun. It had good pacing and tolerable dialogue, and the potential to get more interesting as it continues.

Potential is kind of the watchword here. It will be interesting to see if either series lives up to that potential.

Rating: 6/10

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

O P Q: Adventures In Substitute Teaching

Here is one that I got at MeCAF.

Title: O P Q: Adventures In Substitute Teaching
Publisher: Anne Thalheimer
Date: 2012
Writer: Anne Thalheimer
Artist: Anne Thalheimer

Autobiographical minicomic about the artist's experiences as a substitute teacher, covering for pretty much all grades and subjects.

I loved the facial expressions in this. Thalheimer has some great visual reactions to all of the situations she gets into, whether it be bait-and-switch assignments at school, adorable preschoolers, obnoxious middle-schoolers, or having to teach gym class.

As a teacher myself, I could appreciate a lot of the situations described in this comic. I also learned some things about public school subbing that were new to me.

There were some great anecdotes, especially toward the end, and I would have love to see even more details of the day-to-day interactions with the students.

Rating: 7/10

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Mouse Guard Labyrinth And Other Stories

Archaia goes all-in with this hardcover Free Comic Book Day anthology.

Title: Mouse Guard Labyrinth And Other Stories
Publisher: Archaia
Date: 2014
Writer: David Petersen, Royden Lepp, Adam Smith, Sean Rubin, Tom Hammock, Ramon K. Perez
Artist: David Petersen, Royden Lepp, Kyla Vanderklugt, Sean Rubin, Megan Hutchison, Ramon K. Perez
Colorist: Ian Herring
Letterer: Deron Bennett

Gotta hand it to Archaia. They know how to do Free Comic Book Day right. This is a beautiful full-color hardcover anthology, and yes, it's a freebie.

This book has six stories, some complete short graphic stories and others just teasers. Archaia's deal with the Jim Henson Company is represented with stories set in the world's of Labyrinth and Farscape. The rest of the stories represent Archaia's stable of original creations.

First up is "The Tale of the Axe Trio", an absolutely wonderful Mouse Guard short that tells the tale of three sisters who inherited the fabled Black Axe together, and wielded it as a team. This is a really fun bit of lore for the Mouse Guard universe, and it's the most complete story here.

I also enjoyed the Labyrinth piece, although I must admit to not having seen Labyrinth since, well, probably since the 80s.

Rust was a visual treat, although just a tease in terms of story, and Bolivar was a fun quirky bit of surrealism.

The remaining two stories, Farscape and Will O' The Whisp, got a bit bogged down in the complexity of their respective universes, and these felt more like standard Free Comic Book Day preview fare.

Still, this blows away anything that I've seen any other publishers doing for FCBD, and I found it to be worth a read just for the Mouse Guard story.

Rating: 8/10

Monday, May 26, 2014

The Sensational Spider-Man #33.2

This is another book that I picked up on Free Comic Book Day from New England Comics. It's not an actual FCBD giveaway, just a random comic from the box of extra freebies at NEC.

Title: The Sensational Spider-Man
Issue: 33.2
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Date: October, 2012
Writer: Tom DeFalco
Penciler: Carlo Barberi
Inker: Walden Wong
Colorist: Antonio Fabela
Letterer: VC's Clayton Cowles
Cover: Simone Bianchi
Editor: Tom Brennan

I haven't really read much from Marvel during this timeframe, so I have no idea what is up with that numbering system.

NYPD detective Carlie Cooper finds herself in the midst of a case involving human trafficking, immigration, elements of the Russian mob, and the new incarnation of the Vulture.

While Cooper pursues the case through her channels, with help from Peter Parker, Spider-Man is going after the bad guys using his own methods. This story didn't duck the complexities of the human trafficking and immigration issues, and it had a pretty interesting cast of minor characters, all pursuing their own agendas.

Detective Cooper is particularly interesting as she grapples with issues of what is right versus what is the law.

Rating: 7.5/10

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Kay And P Volume 2

I saw Jackie Musto last week at MeCAF, but I actually picked up this book through Kickstarter.

Title: Kay And P
Issue: Volume 2
Date: 2014
Publisher: Jackie Musto
Writer: Jackie Musto
Artist: Jackie Musto

This trade paperback collects issues 6-10 of the comic, which, in turn reprints the webcomic version of the same story.

The story is about a young woman who lives with a talking skeleton that has been her companion since childhood and that only she can see. That's how things stand at the start of this volume, anyway.

Kay, an aspiring artist and music student, lives by a simple set of rules: "Don't call me your girlfriend. Don't leave your stuff at my place. And it's not anything serious." She has good friends, good conversations, and not enough time to get everything done.

Kay is also beginning to notice strange things around her, and not just the skeleton who's been her best friend since she was a kid.

Kay is an instantly engaging character with a great supporting cast, dialogue that flows naturally, and enough geeky qualities to make her interesting. P is the overprotective practical member of the team, and he has some great reactions to Kay's adventures, not to mention running snarky commentary.

This was fun all the way through. There were some interesting plot twists, including an absolutely awesome surprise ending.

I'd really only read this in bits and pieces online. I loved how nicely the story flowed when it was put together.

Clever and fun.

Rating: 8.5/10

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Pillow Talk

Here is a minicomic that I picked up last Sunday aat MeCAF

Title: Pillow Talk
Publisher: Scott Springer
Date: 2014
Writer: Scott Springer
Artist: Scott Springer

Minicomic compilation of three-panel comic strips featuring a couple in bed having various conversations. Topics range from their own quirks and relationship, to geeky and pop culture subjects.

I enjoyed the pro wrestling references, along with some nice nods to 80s pop culture. The material is slightly raunchy in places. There were some good jokes in here, although the instances of falling back on boob jokes felt a bit lazy.

Still, there was plenty of interesting material in here. I also liked the use of facial expressions. The book at first glance looks like it's the same art on every page, but there are actually some nice subtle bits of expression that bring the characters to life.

Rating: 6.5/10

Friday, May 23, 2014

Giant-Size Adventure #0

This is the first of the official Free Comic Book Day books that I'm reviewing this year.

Title: Giant-Size Adventure
Issue: 0
Publisher: Red Giant Entertainment
Date: May, 2014
Writer: Kevin Juaire, David Lawrence, Chris Crosby
Artist: Wilson Tortosa, Sebastian Cheng, Tina Francisco
Colorist: Katrina Mae Hao
Letterer: Zach Metheny
Editor: Brian Augustyn, David Lawrence

Flip book.

First story is The First Daughter, featuring the teenaged daughter of the (fictional; near-future) President of the United States as a superheroine.

Tasha's alien mentor/advisor sends her to Long Island and the site of a long-abandoned lab where a time-traveling menace is about to reappear.

But in the midst of the fight, Tasha discovers that she while she may be the First Daughter, she is not the first First Daughter to don a costume and fight monsters. In fact, thanks to some convenient memory-wiping, there have been a whole succession of First Daughters, even in the case of presidents who where believed to have never had children.

This sounds pretty goofy, but the shear awesomeness of Abby Lincoln just about makes up for it.

This was a fun book that didn't take itself too seriously, avoided sexualizing the female lead character, and presented an interesting character in the alien mentor, who showed enough hints of manipulation to make the reader question his status as a good guy.

Flip the book over and you've got Magika, a fantasy story about a world that closely resembles ours, well, aside from ogres and the like. Niko, a boy from Earth, has been living in Magika long enough to have made some friends. But when one friendship gets strained, Niko is led into a confrontation with a clan of apple-ogres.

This was a fun book, with gorgeous artwork, and the beginnings of some good character interaction.

Rating: 7.5/10

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Spectra #4

Another issue of the Spectra series that I picked up at the National Conference on Science Education. Artist Kerry G. Johnson found this review blog and was kind enough to send me issue #6 of the series as well as the trade paperback for #1-4, so expect some more Spectra reviews soon.

Title: Spectra
Issue: 4
Publisher: American Physical Society
Date: 2012
Writer: Rebecca Thompson
Artist: Kerry G. Johnson

When you have a teenaged superheroine living a double-life as a middle school student, the mean-girl story seems inevitable. Returning to school after summer vacation, Lucy Hene quickly becomes the target of mean-girl and social manipulator Tiffany Maxwell.

It doesn't help matters that Tiffany is an even match for Lucy on the swim team, or that Lucy's friends are taken in by Tiffany's charm.

But Tiffany has more up her sleeves than gossip and jealousy. She has a demon. Maxwell's Demon, to be precise. This is the monster that physicist James Clerk Maxwell described in his famous thought experiment on thermodynamics, and Tiffany's version is small, green, highly elusive, and several notches meaner than Tiffany herself.

Text introduction gives the basics on Maxwell's Demon. The story is mostly teen drama leading up to the impish imperilment at the climax. Lucy's friends continue to be pretty fickle with their loyalty, but it is all resolved nicely in the end.

Tiffany is the most effective villain so far in this series, and this issue had a more serious level of danger to the characters.

Rating: 6.5/10

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Civil War: Dr. Hawk's Diary #1

Here's a historical minicomic that I picked up from Marek Bennett at MeCAF.

Title: Civil War: Dr. Hawk's Diary
Publisher: Marek Bennett
Issue: 1
Date: 2013
Writer: Marek Bennett
Artist: Marek Bennett

This minicomic comes from Marek Bennett's Live Free & Draw series of comics on New Hampshire history.

The comic is adapted from the diary of Esther Hill Hawks, one of the first female doctors in the United States. After finding herself not allowed to join in the war effort as an army doctor or nurse, she volunteered to work for the National Freedmen's Relief Association, working to help former slaves in South Carolina.

The story, using words taken from referenced primary sources, begins with Dr. Hawks' voyage South via New York City in 1862. Caught in a storm off of Cape Hatteras, Esther and the other women of her mission deal with seasickness as a ship that was never meant for ocean travel taking on alarming quantities of water.

When she finally arrives in the Carolinas, Esther finds her adventures have just begun.

Great true story about a fascinating historical figure.

You can read this entire comic (with a full color cover!) online here.

Rating: 8/10

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Zombie Romance's Live Drawing Mini Artzine #1

On the agenda: Comics purchased at MeCAF, comics from FCBD, and comics from the National Conference on Science Education. Plus the usual backlog. Trying to make a push to post every day to at least get through the books from these recent events.

With that in mind, here's a minicomic I got yesterday at MeCAF.

Title: Zombie Romance's Live Drawing Mini Artzine
Issue: 1
Publisher: Kristilyn Stevenson
Date: 2012
Writer: Kristilyn Stevenson
Artist: Kristilyn Stevenson

Full-color folded quarter-sized collection of portraits of Boston-area musicians performing. The subjects include Courtney Swain, Gem Club, Gene Dante, Edrie Edrie, Mali Sastri, Vending Machetes, and Emperor Norton's Stationary Marching Band.

The portraits all represent performances that the artist attended in 2012, and the sketches were done live on-site.

This is a fun project, and an interesting slice of the Boston music scene. The vivid colors really bring the art to live.

Rating: 7/10

Monday, May 19, 2014

Bandit Mountain

I just got back from the Maine Comic Arts Festival with a small stack of comics that I am looking forward to reading and reviewing. I'll start with one I had a chance to read at the show.

Title: Bandit Mountain
Publisher: Sarah "Chu" Wilson
Date: 2013
Writer: Sarah "Chu" Wilson
Artist: Sarah "Chu" Wilson

Eight- page half-sized b/w minicomic. Adapted from one of Aesop's fables, but with human characters.

When a knight needs a guide through a treacherous mountain pass, he makes a bandit girl an
offer she can't refuse. Unfortunately for the knight, the consequences of underestimating an
opponent on Bandit Mountain are pretty harsh.

Simple story, but very effective.

Rating: 8/10

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Our Last Convention For A While

This Sunday (May 18, 2014), Dandelion Studios will be appearing at our last show, at least for the foreseeable future.

As mentioned here before, I’ve taken a teaching job in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, and we’re excitedly looking forward to new adventures on the other side of the planet.

We’re going to be moving all of our Dandelion Studios comics publishing activities online, and we are expecting to be off the convention circuit for at least two years. Of course, anything is possible, so you may see us show up at an anime con somewhere in Asia, or at a show back in the USA if we end up coming home for our summers.

But we are treating this coming weekend as our farewell show. The event is MECAF, the Maine Comics Arts Festival in Portland ME, and it’s consistently been one of our favorite shows.

It features exclusively small press/independent talent, and adult admission is a mere $5. If you are anywhere near Portland this weekend, and you are at all geekily-inclined, this is the best deal for your money, barring none.

Guests of honor are Kazu Kibuishi of Amulet, Vol. 1: The Stonekeeper, Zach Giallongo of Ewoks: Shadow Over Endor, and the creator of one of my favorite recent comic series, Jimmy Gownley of Amelia Rules! Volume 1: The Whole World’s Crazy.

So, come to Portland this Sunday and stop by the Dandelion Studios table to check out all of our comic titles, plus a full selection of plushie giant spiders and (not technically giant) narwhals.

Hope to see you there!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Superman #205

Time was tight for me on Free Comic Book Day this year, with two family events occupying most of the day. I only managed to get in a brief visit to one comic shop, which was New England Comics in Quincy MA.

NEC always puts on a huge event for FCBD. They had the creative team of one of the new Tick comics on hand, and a picked up an autographed book from them along with some of the regular FCBD books. NEC also gives away some bonus comics, which are regular back issues they have overstocked. This is one of those bonus freebies that I picked up this year.

Here is my complete haul:

And now for tonight's review!

Title: Superman
Issue: 205
Date: July, 2004
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Brian Azzarello
Penciler: Jim Lee
Inker: Scott Williams
Colorist: Alex Sinclair
Letterer: Nick Napolitano
Editor: Casey Seijas, Will Dennis, Eddie Berganza
Cover: Jim Lee, Scott Williams

This is a fairly introspective and quiet issue, with even the opening action scene proving to be a flashback. It focuses on Father Leone, who Clark (as Superman) has been turning to for spiritual advice.

Clark is struggling in the aftermath of a recent attempt to stop the fighting in an unnamed and mostly-symbolic Middle Eastern country. As might be expected, Superman's paternalistic approach of taking away everyone's weapon and scolding them to just get along proved to be an ineffective approach.

Not much was resolved here. This story raised more questions than it answered, and it only presented a very simplistic scenario in response to the rather complex question of whether Superman can literally function as the world's policeman.

In spite of the lack of easy answers (which was, to a large extent, the point), I enjoyed this issue. There was good character development for Father Leone, who is a fairly complex and interesting character. I also liked seeing Superman take some time to think about the consequences of his actions.In a comic book universe where there are few things Superman is not capable of accomplishing, it was interesting to see the focus on something that he is preceiving as a shortcoming.

Interesting read.

Rating: 7/10