Tuesday, December 6, 2016

New Comics Wednesday 12/07: NINJAK #22 from Valiant


NINJAK #22 (Valiant Entertainment, December 07 release date)  Writer: Matt Kindt.  Artist: Cafu.  Colorist: Ulises Arreola. Letterer: Dave Sharpe.  Cover artists: Stephen Segovia with David Baron; Diego Bernard wth Pete Pantazis; Clayton Henry with Ulises Arreola.


   Anyone interested in catching up with the doings of Colin King a.k.a. Ninjak should jump on board here, as a new story arc is beginning. It’s the Silent Prelude Issue to The Seven Blades of Master Darque storyline, and  a great beginning.



    The entire story is told through the art. There are no captions.  There are no words, with the exception of some text messages at the beginning and a very brief exchange of dialogue near the end of the issue. The only place where there is anything to read this issue is on the summary page that precedes the story. 


     Action, escapes, and bloody fighting are the key components of the prelude and well worth a long look.  NINJAK #22 is a showcase for the dynamic abilities of artist Cafu as well as the colors of Ulises Arreola, which pop off the page. 


     The summary page provides as much background as readers need: the supernatural assassin Roku is the former Angelina Alcott, who was also the MI-6 trainer of Ninjak as well as a lover.  The text message informs Ninjak that a “spontaneous mystical temple” has appeared in the Las Vegas desert and Roku has been spotted heading there.  Ninjak is asked to wait for clearance before taking any action. Too late, he’s already there and uncovers an underground bunker which leads to some horrific fighting against numerous robed acolytes of Master Darque.


   Readers concerned that this review might have spoiled the story for them don’t need to worry.  It’s all about the art, which has to be seen to be appreciated.  Also, we left a few surprises behind.






STORY: It helps that Matt Kindt is a visual writer, since he’s also an artist. He can really envision this story in a way that the art can then bring to vivid life. But it’s artist Cafu who does most of the legwork this time around.   2 POINTS.


ART:  Amazing. We love it. The fight scenes are truly special. Check out the tunnel fight and the ladder fight!  3 POINTS


COVER: We also loved all the covers, except for the variant photo cat, which we’re not going to show.  2 POINTS


READ AGAIN?  Not really. But take in multiple viewings? You better believe it.  You won’t be satisfied just looking at this art only once.  1 POINT.


RECOMMEND?  A great example of letting art tell the story. 1 POINT.


TOTAL RATING: 9 POINTS out of 10. Near perfect. Too bad it doesn’t take very long to read it. Just keep staring. 


NINJAK 022 007

Sneak Peek: X-O MANOWAR 2017 from Valiant

EDITOR’S NOTE: This looks amazing!

from the official Valiant press release . . . . .

Valiant Unleashes the Powerhouse Debut of 2017 with X-O MANOWAR #1 – An Epic New Ongoing Series Coming in March!
Visionary Writer Matt Kindt to Lead Rotating Cast of Superstar Talents with Artists Tomas Giorello, Doug Braithwaite, Clayton Crain, Ryan Bodenheim, and Mico Suayan Across Series’ First Year and Beyond


As revealed today at Entertainment Weekly, Valiant is proud to announce the all-new X-O MANOWAR #1 – the FIRST ISSUE of AN EPIC NEW ONGOING SERIES from New York Times best-selling writer Matt Kindt (Divinity, NinjakMind MGMT) and an all-star arsenal of the most formidable visual storytellers in comics today – including Tomas Giorello (4001 A.D.: War Mother, Bloodshot Reborn), Doug Braithwaite (Armor Hunters, Bloodshot U.S.A.), Clayton Crain (Rai, Carnage), Ryan Bodenheim (The Dying & The Dead), and Mico Suayan (Bloodshot Reborn) – that together will span the series’ first year in 2017 and beyond!

A stunning new beginning for Valiant’s most enduring icon starts here on March 22nd, 2017 with part one of “SOLDIER” – a punishing, three-issue introduction that will push Aric of Dacia beyond the farthest limits of our galaxy…and into the brutal opening salvo of the ultimate X-O Manowar tale ever told! 

Born under the oppressive thumb of the Roman Empire, Aric of Dacia learned warfare at an early age. It was amid such violence that he was abducted by an alien race. Forced into slavery, he survived where others perished. His escape would come from bonding with a weapon of immeasurable power: the X-O Manowar armor. With it, he returned to Earth...only to find himself stranded in the modern day.

But that was a lifetime ago.

Now, far from home on a strange and primitive new world, Aric has begun a new life. Liberated from his past, he tends to his crops. Free from war. Free from violence. Free from the armor.

But the machinery of death marches his way once again. Conscripted into an alien army and thrown into an unforgiving conflict, the fury inside him finds voice as he is forced to embrace the armor once more. With it, he will decimate armies, topple empires and incite interplanetary warfare as he rises from SOLDIER to GENERAL to EMPEROR to VISIGOTH. They wanted a weapon. He will give them war!

“Matt Kindt is a genius-level creator and, with X-O MANOWAR, he’s tapping into the essential core of our most iconic character to deliver something more ambitious, more far-reaching, and more fantastic than anything Valiant has ever attempted before,” said Valiant Editor-in-Chief Warren Simons. “This year marks X-O Manowar’s 25th anniversary, but, instead of falling back into nostalgia, we’re taking Aric into uncharted territory – with five of comics' greatest artistic talents at the helm, no less. This is a premier team that has some truly stunning turns in store – and, when X-O Manowar emerges on the other side, he will be looking at a very different and much larger Valiant Universe.”

In the wake of “SOLDIER”’s staggering assault in issues #1-3, X-O MANOWAR then continues in 2017 and beyond as a superstar cast of Valiant’s most acclaimed artistic talents chart Aric’s path from SOLDIER to GENERAL to EMPEROR to VISIGOTH for a vicious, year-long journey of bone and bloodshed born from the battlefields of a herculean alien empire:

MARCH 2017


JUNE 2017






“X-O MANOWAR #1 is not just the biggest book Valiant will be publishing in 2017; it might just be the biggest book we’ve ever published, period,” said Valiant CEO & Chief Creative Officer Dinesh Shamdasani. “With five sets of creators working concurrently across more than a year’s worth of the series, we’re building what will be the bedrock for Valiant’s next phase. But we’re not content to rest there. Over the coming weeks, we’ll be unveiling a simply massive slate of surprises that are going to add extra fuel to X-O MANOWAR’s fire in comics, video games, and even film. 2017 will be the year of X-O MANOWAR not just for Valiant, but for the entire comics industry.”

Since debuting in 1992, X-O Manowar has endured as one of the best-selling and most popular comic book creations of the past 25 years, with almost 10 million comics sold and contributions from a seminal roster of creative luminaries including current Marvel Chief Creative Officer Joe Quesada (Amazing Spider-Man, Daredevil), former Marvel Editor-in-Chief Jim Shooter (Avengers), and comics legends Barry Windsor-Smith (Conan the Barbarian, Uncanny X-Men) and Bob Layton (Iron Man). After returning to the forefront of Valiant’s publishing line with a chart-topping, multiple sold-out series by New York Times best-selling writer Robert Venditti (Green Lantern, The Flash) and Eisner Award winner Cary Nord (Conan, Star Wars) in 2012, X-O Manowar anchored the resurgence of the Valiant Universe and went onto become one of the best-selling and longest running superhero series of the modern era, earning a multitude of awards and critical accolades from the industry’s most prestigious outlets in the process.

The biggest Valiant debut of all time begins on March 22nd in X-O MANOWAR #1! Join master storytellers Matt Kindt and Tomas Giorello as they prepare for war alongside Doug BraithwaiteClayton CrainRyan Bodenheim, and Mico Suayan in the pages of the year’s most essential ongoing series debut – featuring covers by Valiant-exclusive superstar Lewis LaRosa (Bloodshot Reborn), blockbuster artist Kenneth Rocafort (Inhumans vs. X-Men), Harvey Award-nominated artist Mico Suayan (Thor), Eisner Award-nominated artist J.G. Jones (Final Crisis), and rising star Monica Palosz(Divinity III: Stalinverse)!

X-O MANOWAR (2017) #1 
Written by MATT KINDT
Pre-Order Edition Cover by TOMAS GIORELLO
Interlocking Variant by MICO SUAYAN
X-O Manowar Icon Variant by J.G. JONES
$3.99 | T+ | 40 pgs. | On Sale MARCH 22nd (FOC - 1/16/2017)

X-O MANOWAR (2017) #1 – Cover A by Lewis LaRosa

X-O MANOWAR (2017) #1 – Interior Pencils by Tomas Giorello

X-O MANOWAR (2017) #1 – Interior Pencils by Tomas Giorello

X-O MANOWAR (2017) #1 – Interior Pencils by Tomas Giorello

X-O MANOWAR (2017) #1 – Interior Pencils by Tomas Giorello

X-O MANOWAR (2017) #1 – Interior Pencils by Tomas Giorello

Indie Spotlight: AMANDA-TORY on Kickstarter

EDITOR’S NOTE: it’s time once again to hear from our semi-irregular indie comics correspondent Gary Scott Beatty.  This time, Gary brings to our attention a Kickstarter project with a good creative team.  See below . . .

A few years back, a little killer clown comic called Clown Townmade its debut in Indie Comics Magazine, and, now, the artist for that series of brutal buffoons has launched her very own collection of short stories on Kickstarter!  
Check it out HERE:


Amandatory is a 64-page anthology of short comics, all illustrated by Amanda Rachels (Vicious Circus, Flesh of White) and written by Flesh of White's Erica J. Heflin (Zenescope's Wonderland, The Black Hand) and Vicious Circus scribe Kevin LaPorte (The Absentee, Scales of Time).  


Amandatory draws on each year of Amanda's comic art career, dipping into her earliest collaborations with Erica J. Heflin in the formative Grayhaven Comics anthologies and even those early Clown Town short stories (now in COLOR!) with Kevin LaPorte. They run the gamut from body horror to killer clowns to sci-fi to good ole' small town suspense!  

ALL of the stories are being modernized and "re-mastered" for this collection. That means colors on previously black-and-white stories or updated colors if they were previously colored, as well as updated lettering on each tale. Amanda will also provide NEW chapter plates for each themed section of Amandatory, and prints of each of these, as well as the cover art, are available as art print rewards!  

Rewards include digital, print and signed/sketched versions of Amandatory, as well as custom art commissions, original art from the book, and even the opportunity to have Amanda draw a 4-page story written by YOU and INCLUDED in Amandatory!  


3.5" x 10" Bookplate Included with Many Reward Tiers - Some AUTOGRAPHED by Amanda!

Many rewards are EXTREMELY LIMITED, so don't hesitate, visit the Kickstarter page and help Amanda make Amandatory a reality NOW: 


I hope everyone's enjoying the holidays! Have a look at Amanda's Kickstarter – and don't forget to download the free 2016 Aazurn Holiday Gift Guide here:


Gary Scott Beatty
Bringing you indie goodness
Aazurn Publishing

Indie Spotlight: GEEK GIRL #2 from Markosia

EDITOR’S NOTE: We’re always looking for worthy independent works to feature on our site. This looks promising.

It's Geek girl vs Alt girl in Geek-Girl #2


Having duped the resident college brainiac into giving her his powers-inducing glasses, and found herself in a position where, in the absense of Maine's resident super-heroine, she's promised to stop badass new super-villain Lightning Storm - Ruby Kaye has now inadvertently hospitalised her city's other resident super-hero (and only potential aide) while trying and failing to stop the villain. So what's she gonna do? What any self-respecting girl would do in her position. Get drunk!

Created and written by Sam Johnson (The AlmightiesCabra Cini: Voodoo Junkie Hitwoman) and illustrated by Carlos Granda (Grimm Fairy TalesCharmed), the 4-issue Geek-Girl Mini-Series sees attractive, popular coed Ruby Kaye's world turned upside down. When she landed super-tech specs on a whim, they granted her flight and super-strength – but a flaw in their programming has also rendered Ruby super-klutzy – alienating all but one of her 'cool-kids' clique. Ruby needs some down time – but things may not pan out quite how she's hoping...

Johnson fills us in on what's in store for Maine's newest (and last standing) super-hero... “Ruby is an 'act first, ask questions later' kind of gal, who is used to getting what she wants, but she's inadvertently gotten herself into a world of trouble with these glasses.” Johnson continues, “All she wants to do right now is hit a night club with her BFF Summer and forget about the whole super-hero thing for a night. However, that's not gonna stop her talking about it – which is going to lead to some attention from another girl who's used getting what she wants – and who's going to decide that what she wants is Ruby!” 

Geek-Girl #2 introduces us to Alt girl Nina Dante; like Ruby [was], Nina is part of a gang of attractive girls, but Nina likes to push her individuality and stand out - and to this end she's just gone one step further than tattoos and piercings and got herself a cybernetic eye, and is at the same club as Ruby, showing it off when she overhears Ruby's talk of super-powers...

Johnson continues, “The name 'Ruby Kaye' doesn't seemed to hold the same cache, since she got hold of the specs, and Ruby's concerned about what they're doing to her image. She's alienated her girl friends, and the guys don't seem so interested in the former 'Little Miss Popular' either, now. But Nina is very interested. However, that might not be a good thing because Nina's a little... 'unhinged'.”

To find out what happens when alt girl and geek girl collide, check out

Geek-Girl #2 - out now from Markosia in Regular, Digital and Limited Variant editions, and available at http://samjohnsoncomics.wixsite.com/geekgirlcomics.

Praise for Geek-Girl:

"Amazingly good debut issue with a new character that totally fits into today’s younger generation of doing before thinking." Steven Leitman, Reading With a Flight Ring.


"A brilliant premise, an interesting character, and intriguing prospects for the future."

-Chris Orr, Dress Like The Hulk.


“Geek-Girl puts the human back in super-human.” -Wayne Hall, Major Spoilers.


"A charming debut, the dialogue displays a witty back and forth that would make Kevin Smith proud." -Kris Bather, Broken Frontier.


“This book is every geek guy's fantasy come true!” -Mark L. Miller, Ain't It Cool News.


Monday, December 5, 2016

December PREVIEWS Pre-Order Picks: MARVEL COMICS

EDITOR’S NOTE: If you’ve been following our monthly Pre-Order Picks columns, then you know the drill.  Please look over the new December Previews catalog in print or online, and let your local comic shop know what books you want to receive in two months. We’ll continue to review the offerings, focusing on new titles, and leave you some suggestions for consideration. These are our picks for books releasing in February 2017. Let’s break tradition and put Marvel in the first spotlight . . . . . .



KINGPIN #1 Written by Matthew Rosenberg with Art by Ben Torres.  If you’re a fan of the current Daredevil seSTL032821ries by Charles Soule, here are three more titles spinning out of it. However, none of these new books are written by Soule, so whether they will follow his guidelines and continue in the same tone remains to be seen. Still, if you’re not inclined to order all three, we feel the Kingpin book holds the most promise.


Kingpin returns to Hells Kitchen and desires to establish a legitimate business and making a positive change to his public image.  We loved Vincent D’Onofrio’s portrayal of Kingpin on the Daredevil Netflix series. It’s the best live action version of the character we’ve seen. Here’s hoping writer Rosenberg takes some cues from Netflix. 



ELEKTRA #1 Written by Matt Owens with Art by Alec Morgan.  The promotional information in the Previews catalog doesn’t reveal very much. Elektra sets up base in Las Vegas, hoping to escape her past and runs into Arcade and his dangerous games.  We don’t feel as strongly about this book as Kingpin, but if you’re a fan it’s worth a look. 


BULLSEYE #1 of 5  Written by Ed Brisson with Art by Guillermo Sanna.  Bullseye has been a hit or miss character with us. If the series has a decent plot and art and focuses on action and Bullseye’s ability to make weapons out of ordinary items, then it could be fun. It’s probably a good idea that this is a limited series. We don’t recall any Bullseye tales that showed a lot of depth to the character. Sorry to say, but he’s kind of one-dimensional. Still, story and art can make it work. If you’re on the fence about these new titles from the Daredevil universe, this would be an easy one to skip. 


DARTH MAUL #1 of 5  Written by Cullen Bunn with Art by Luke Ross.  Speaking of one-dimensional characters, poor Darth Maul is a sinister looking villain with some badass fighting moves, but he’s served as nothing more than a foil in the Star Wars movie. Glad to see that this is also a limited series. We don’t think the character could sustain a regular monthly book. However, we do like the creative team assigned to this one.  We’ll see. 




Wednesday, November 30, 2016

New Comics Wednesday 11/30: MOON KNIGHT Volume 1 from Marvel

MOON KNIGHT #1 - 5 (Marvel Comics, July - October 2016) Writer: Jeff Lemire.  Artist: Greg Smallwood. Color Artist: Jordie Bellaire.  Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit. Covers by Greg Smallwood.     (Collected in MOON KNIGHT Volume 1 trade paperback released on November 30, 2016)  Rated T+.


Editor’s Note:  WARNING. There are some spoilers in this review.  However, many readers are already aware what the surprise is, if they look at advance solicit notices or read the Marvel news. If that refers to you, don't worry about reading onward . . . .


     The latest version of Moon Knight is Volume 8, a number which by itself reveals a lot about the ups and downs of this peculiar Marvel character.  There have been even more than eight writers try their hand at showcasing the tales of the white-garbed crimefighter, and a truckload of illustrators to put pictures with the words. 


     He began as Marc Spector, and at various times (depending on the Volume #) assumed the identities of Jake Lockley, Steven Grant, and probably some others that we’ve forgotten. He’s been dead. He’s been revived. He’s been committed. He’s in recovery.  He’s suffering from drug and/or alcohol addiction. He’s in recovery. In addition, in the most recent version prior to this, he even went through a uniform change thanks to writer Warren Ellis’ take on the subject.


     Now, gifted writer Jeff Lemire handles the reins.  If anybody is qualified to get into the personality and psyche of this character it’s Lemire. We like where this is going under his capable hands, although at times we’re not sure it’s going where it appears to be. 


     Lemire scripted a great opening four pages, and artist Greg Smallwood depicted the event perfectly.  A stumbling Marc Spector, wearing what appears to be a karate master’s garb, wanders under the moon light until a voice beckons him towards an Egyptian temple.  He meets  Khonshu, the moon god, and learns he is dying. Khonshu implores Marc to put on the Moon Knight face mask, explaining that in order for him to be reborn he must remember who he has been. Cut to a full page with a montage of the various identities that Marc has operated under.  Turn the page and get the shocker: Marc is wearing white scrubs, and is a patient at an institution for the mentally ill. 


     That could have been a classic opener, except for two things:  1) The cover to Issue #1 gives it away (Moon Knight in a strait jacket) and 2) the update text on the credits page gives another big hint:


“Mercenary Marc Spector died in Egypt under a statue of the Moon God Khonshu.  In the shadow of the ancient deity, Marc returned to life and took on Khonshu’s aspect to fight crime for his own redemption. He went completely insane and disappeared for a time, but returned to protect those who travel by night.  At least he thinks that’s what happened . . .”


     Just how bad a state Marc is in is immediately revealed on the following pages. Two orderlies rough him up, heavily sedate him, and strap him down for some shock treatment.  All this is stunningly depicted by Smallwood in small rectangular panels of varying sizes surrounded by white border over a big portion of each page. There’s a funny and ironic scene where an orderly smirks and wishes “night, night” to Spector after injecting him.  In his beaten, weary, and drug-induced state Marc mumbles in response “knight, knight?”


   Many of the patients look familiar to Marc, as if he’s known them in some previous version of his life.  Some seem to acknowledge him. Others don’t. And one particular elderly patient, Crawley, tries to convince him everything is a facade.  The counselor tells Marc he’s been a patient there since the age of twelve, and Moon Knight is a boyhood fantasy that he wrote in his journal about. He’s diagnosed as having Dissociative Identity Disorder. Marc goes back and forth during Issue #1 - - believing and disbelieving. 


  He still hears the voice of Khonshu telling him that the god Seth is trying to take over and only Marc can stop him. Mask on, he sees evidence.  Mask off, he sees normality.  Marc eventually escapes into the night air, in a stunning scene that reveals a city half-buried in sand and jackal-headed winged warriors flying around.  At this point, neither Marc nor the readers know what to believe.  It’s a great set-up and a great ending to the first issue. We were hooked. We had to read the rest of the first story arc.  


   Issue #2 goes back and forth between Marc’s treatment at the institution, his counseling, and his visions, memories and night-time visits from Khonshu telling him of the master plan. He attempts to break out along with some other patients. Sometimes Marc sees the mental institution and the abusive staff. Sometimes he blinks and sees himself as a captive of Egyptian dog-faced warriors determined to keep him from crossing over into their reality. Eventually,Marc does gets out of the building, wearing the Ellis version white suit and mask,  and has to decide if he’s fleeing through a city covered in sand and pyramids, or is it the streets of New York? Just when it seems that the gods have been telling the truth, along comes Moon Knight in Issue #4 to confront imposter Marc. Who is the real Moon Knight?


  The special treat awaiting readers in Issue #5 is the addition of more artists to illustrate different aspects of the story, to help reflect as many versions or personalities as Marc can juggle in his head. It’s fun to look at the pages and try to determine which of the artists was involved, including Greg Smallwood again with Wilfredo Torres, Francesco Francavilla, and James Stokoe. There’s a final surprise when Marc meets Khonshu face to face, hears the real master plan, and yet another version of reality intrudes into his world.




STORY: Clever writing. Just when readers may feel they have a grasp on things, a new bit of evidence or some persuading dialogue will point to another direction. It was certainly fun during the first story arc. However, eventually Lemire will have to settle on a personality for Moon Knight to settle down in. I’m guessing we’re going to see that in Act Two. I think Lemire is having fun along with us.  2.5 POINTS.


ART: Good, solid art and an impressive use of white in the borders and backgrounds. Just don’t overdo it, because it means less panels of art and story per page.The guest artists on Issue #5 was a nice bonus.  2 POINTS


COVER:   All of them have been interesting while somewhat simplistic. Just head shots or profiles against a white backdrop. 1.5 POINTS


READ AGAIN?  Yes.  Thought it might help me figure it out. Not with any certainty at all. But I enjoyed reading these scenes again. 1 POINT.


RECOMMEND?   Yes, for now. Have to see how this holds up in the long run. 1 POINT.


TOTAL RATING: 8 POINTS. Solid. You should be reading this. 


Adam Nevill's horror collection of short stories offered for 99 cents

EDITOR’S NOTE:  Adam Nevill is a contemporary writer of horror fiction.  I’ve enjoyed everything that I’ve read by him, and recommend his work.  This is his first collection of short stories, and is available for a limited time as a 99 cent e-book through Amazon.  If you’re interested or curious, I recommend you take advantage of the offer.  Willing to gamble 99 cents of your hard earned wages?




Tuesday, November 29, 2016

New Comic Wednesday 11/30: WOLFCOP #2 from Dynamite Entertainment

WOLFCOP #2 (Dynamite Entertainment, November 30 release date)  Writer: Max Marks.  Artist: Allan Otero.  Colors: Arcana Studios. Letters: Chris Barrett.  Wolfcop created by Lowell Dean. Mature readers only. http://arcana.com  


     WOLFCOP returns for more movie-inspired mayhem, mauling, mutilation, brawls, booze, and broads.  It’s a drive-in B movie transferred to the comics page. The main protagonist from the two Canadian indie film classics returns, bringing with him capacious amounts of blood, gore, sex, and filthy language. There is just enough humor included to make the gratuitous amounts of blood and guts more palatable. The outrageous and over-the-top scenarios depicted here should convince most readers to not take this seriously, unless these are common occurrences in their neck-of-the-woods. 


  WereWOLFCOPclrREVwolf police officer Lou returns along with roadie sidekick Willie. Their stolen police vehicle is still disabled from last issue, and Willie makes under-the-table arrangements with a mechanic to get it running. While he’s busy, alcoholic Lou wanders next door to the strip club.


    Before long, both Lou and Willie wind up as guests at a whorehouse, where appearances can be deceiving. Seems this pair can’t go far without running into biker gangs, cannibals, zombies, vampires, succubi and samurai-wielding security guards (but not all of those in this issue, just some).  Of course, Lou manages to survive the craziest situations and he does so again.  Looks like he’s heading back home next issue.  We’ll probably tag along. 




STORY: Tasteless good fun. A guilty pleasure for us, and perhaps some of our readers would agree. No redeeming merits. There doesn’t need to be much story - - just enough to set things up for page after page of action. That’s what we came for. There is some drama here, and a sad scene. But only for a panel or two. No time for tears.  1.5 POINTS.


ART: Amazing, and very graphic. Fans of horror comics will appreciate it best.  Allan Otero is a major talent. The colors by Arcana Studios are vivacious and explode on the page.  2.5 POINTS


COVER:   The most expressionistic thing about the entire book. Love the title.  1.5 POINTS


READ AGAIN?  Yes.  When you’ve had a bad day, and just crave an escape you turn to mindless entertainment. This is the place.  1 POINT.


RECOMMEND? For selective tastes only.   ONE-HALF POINT.


TOTAL RATING: 7 POINTS. Pick it up and skim a few pages. That will help you determine if this book is for you.


Our review of SIX SCARY STORIES selected by Stephen King appears on the Nameless Digest website.  


Six scary cover

See the link below to read the full review . . . . . .





Sunday, November 27, 2016

Comics Review: AMERICAN MONSTER from Aftershock Comics


AMERICAN MONSTER #1 through #5 (Aftershock Comics, January - October 2016)  Writer: Brian Azzarello.  Artist: Juan Doe. Colorist: Juan Doe.  Letters: Juan Doe.  Covers: Juan Doe.  Rating: 17+. Also released on November 23 in a trade paperback edition.


     AMERICAN MONSTER is not an easy book to summarize, so we’re going to be lazy and share what the official Aftershock website has to say about it:


     “The ugliest side of humanity may be humanity’s only hope.


     In a small Midwestern town, a large man with a horribly scarred face gets off a bus, and takes a room.  He spooks the locals — nobody knows him — or do they?  It’s impossible to say because he seemingly has no face.  The man’s intentions remain unknown, until he takes on a corrupt sheriff and the rural crew of racist arms dealers.  The town’s impression of the man changes, and he’s seen as a hero . . . until his real intentions bubble to the surface.  The man isn’t there to end the gang, but to take it over. And he’s just getting started.”


     BookMonster gallery3 That paragraph of description above actually clarified some things for me that reading the first five issues of this book did not.  I found myself making multiple assumptions about what I was reading and viewing.  AMERICAN MONSTER contains no captions or explanations.  Instead, it relies on art and dialogue to tell the story. 

There are multiple characters, and each issue skips back and forth among their individual scenes, without providing or even hinting at a link (although the first story arc does provide some of that near the end). 


      That is going to make it difficult for this book to connect with all readers.  I suspect many will give up after an issue or two and move onto to something less challenging. It’s definitely not for the casual comics reader.  In our case, we like books that challenge readers. We don’t mind being confused by a story as long as we can figure it out eventually. Multiple readings help uncover subtle elements that were previously overlooked. 


     AMERICAN MONSTER is a story about crime in a small midwestern town (our assumption). It also appears to be a story about redemption.  The huge man who appears to be the central figure, is a war veteran with horrible scars and an unrecognizable face. He returns to the town where he used to lived, purpose unknown. We don’t learn much more about him until later in the story. Whether or not he is the monster referred to in the title remains to be seen. 


   The man, Theo Montclare, is as personable as his appearance - - that is to say he is not a likable character (although that may come later with more understanding).  There really aren't any likable characters in the entire book.  Each individual is off-center in one way or another. Some are criminal, some uninhibited, some rebellious, some depraved, and some may be mentally challenged.


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     This might just be the darkest story that writer Azzarello has ever told - - and readers familiar with his back catalog (100 BULLETS, LOVELESS, SPACEMAN, etc.) understand that’s saying a lot. 


      We thought that the underrated SPACEMAN was an experiment in new methods of comics storytelling.  AMERICAN MONSTER feels like Azzarello is taking the next step and experimenting still further. If that prospect intrigues you, then our job is done.  Please go and read the book.  Having it now available with all five issues of the first story arc in a trade paperback will definitely help with comprehension. There was a two month or more gap between the release dates of the single issues, which made it difficult to keep it fresh in the memory.


     If you’re still reading and not convinced about checking this series out, then the art should convince you.  It was much easier to become engrossed in the magnificent art compared to getting a firm grip on the story.  The art is just as experimental as the story: monochromatic color schemes, heavy black borders and backgrounds, borderless panels, white or black silhouettes, dark colors, etc. 


      After reading the first issue, and seeing a creators profile page with a photo of Azzarello and just a cartoon emoticon to represent the appearance of Doe, we thought the artist’s name might be a pseudonym.  Is this the work of long-time Azzarello collaborator Eduardo Risso, using a fictional name to disguise his identity so that he can experiment with changes to his signature style?  After all, Juan Doe sounds a lot like John Doe. 


   A little 3389102research reminded us that Doe is the illustrator for many of the ‘industrial revolution’ and propaganda style covers done for Marvel Comics.  You won’t believe the wonders his unique style reveals when illustrating a full book.  Doe’s work on AMERICAN MONSTER is creative and original, reminding of the best of Eduardo Risso, Darwyn Cooke, and Frank Miller’s SIN CITY period. What also makes this remarkable is that Doe does it all without any help = AMERICAN MONSTER is 100% penciled, inked, colored and lettered by Juan Doe. Did we forget to mention cover artist as well?


  Perhaps that combination still doesn’t persuade you.  If you’re still sitting on the fence, keep reading to learn more about this intriguing series. Others can stop reading now.  Just get the book.  WARNING: There may be unintentional spoilers within. . . . . . .


ISSUE #1 HIGHLIGHTS “American Monster”


    The opening pages made us recall 1960’s science-fiction writer Alfred Bester’s words of advice to writers:  ‘Punch the reader in the face repeatedly on the first page . . .”  


   On Page One the door bell rings at an isolated estate.  A woman answers the door, as her husband is busy in another room.  Upon opening the door, a muscular gauntleted arm punches her in the face hard enough to knock her down.  The husband finishes up in the bathroom and sees a silhouette in the doorway. Soon he has a bag wrapped over his head by another intruder, and is taken off panel.  The action images are colored in blood red and black with stark white for sound effects and dialogue balloons.  Ouch. We felt that. (Apparently, Azzarello has read Bester.)


The hor5343210 04ribly scarred man arrives in town, barely fitting in the doorway of the gas station where he gets directions to a hotel and restaurant. The station employee, his friend, and the janitor are open-mouthed with awe and fear of the stranger. It’s our first introduction to the big guy.


The See-Saw Man, a middle-aged sexual voyeur, visits some youngsters at a playground and pays teenager Snow to show her breasts while he fiddles with himself. Dumpy looking Candy, a cap-wearing tomboy, is jealous. 


Flashbacks are illustrated in sepia tones. Two U.S. soldiers in combat gear walk into a trap. The site is not identified. From illustrations it appears to be either Iraq or Afghanistan.


  A diner patron recognizes the big man (still unidentified) as a veteran and offers to pay for his meal in appreciation for his service. Instead of accepting, the big guy insults the patron in crude fashion and flashes a big wad of money (placing the stack on top of a newspaper with the headline ‘Bank Heist’). Outside, the big guy’s van explodes.


     We return to the kidnapped couple from the opening pages, now forced to play a cruel and twisted game by their two kidnappers, Felix and Josh, who look like bike gang members. 


 So ends the first issue. We haven’t learned where this is taking place. We don’t know the name of the big man.  We don’t know if these incidents are related, but suspect they will be important later. 




    We learn that Snow’s parents are no longer living together, and Snow stays with her self-important Mom (most ofBookMonster gallery2 the time).  Snow hangs out with four other friends, who are reckless and bored.


 Gary, the local deputy, investigates the van explosion and this is how we learn the big guy’s name is Theodore Montclare. Deputy Gary acts a little backward and shy. His last name is ironically Downs. His boss, Sheriff Verdi, hates paperwork, takes shortcuts in enforcing the law, and doesn’t appear to be honorable. 


Felix Black and Josh are arms dealers who are wary of doing business with crazy Reverend Jimmy Cross. Felix is Snow’s father. Someone shot Felix’s dog.  If we tell you who gets shot dead next, and who did it, it will spoil your fun.  And Gary still lives at home with a real or imagined mother, who may have Alzheimers disease.

   We’re going to quit with the details now. After all, this is a review - - not a book report.  We just wanted to indicate how complex this story is with multiple threads that have yet to be connected. We believe we’ve made our point. 


ISSUE #3 HIGHLIGHTS “We Bury Our Dread”


   There’s a hint here at which of the other characters in AMERICAN MONSTER has a previous connection to Theo, in a war-time flashback scene with flaming consequences.  It’s amazing what Doe does with color. 


   The See Saw Man finds another susceptible teen to take his dirty money in exchange for favors. 


    After three issues, Theo finally talks nice to someone.



     Here’s a spin on the corrupt preacher concept:  Reverend Jimmy Cross (more irony in that name) is a ‘guns and bibles’ evangelist. Check out his words to the media from Sin.N.N.: “If Jesus Christ and his Apostles were alive today, they’d all be proud gun owners.” Rev Jimmy is anti-Washington D.C., and predicts the fall of the empire.


Cam, the gas station manager, is Snow’s brother. Weird, too.


ISSUE#5 HIGHLIGHTS  “Univisible”


    This is the issue where all the loose threads seem to be coming together to form the big ball of yarn that should be fully formed sometime during the second story arc.



    Theo meets the person who wronged him in the war.  Does he have revenge in mind, or redemption, or something else?


   The back of the book includes some cool examples of the process employed by Azzarello to communicate what he wants to happen on the page, and how Doe interprets and illustrates that.  Here’s hoping there are more examples of this in the trade paperback.




STORY:  AMERICAN MONSTER has been all about the set-up for the first five issues.  It’s been a fun ride with Azzarello and Doe. The writing is dynamic, and reminds me of the way noted author Joe R. Lansdale sometimes tells a story .  3 POINTS.


ART: We love Doe’s illustration style and can’t get enough of it.  3 POINTS


COVER:  Love the use of white silhouettes for the characters on the covers. Consistent each issue, except for #5 when the silhouettes go to black.   2 POINTS


READ AGAIN?  If you don’t, you might overlook some fine details and be confused later. Repeat readings are rewarding, as they increase our appreciation for this work.  1 POINT.


RECOMMEND?   While we love this book, we know there will be some who hate it. We can only recommend it to those who crave unconventional creations and unique story-telling methods.  ONE-HALF POINT.


TOTAL RATING:  9.5 POINTS out of 10.  Damn near perfect.