Sunday, January 27, 2013

Sneak Preview: CROSSED: BADLANDS by Garth Ennis

 

                                        GARTH ENNIS TALKS ABOUT HIS RETURN TO HORROR WITH CROSSED: BADLANDS #25

Although every title they publish is available in several variant covers, AVATAR PRESS does not ordinarily conduct big promotional campaigns or create huge crossover events to promote their books - - with one exception (C-Day).  While my first love is comics, I also have an interest in the marketing side of this business =  so I’ll share some of the information I obtained with our readers.  This article was assembled from the AVATAR  official press release, a Garth Ennis interview at BLEEDING COOL website, and WIKIPEDIA.   

The Second Annual C-Day this March will do more than just celebrate a year of publishing two issues of Crossed: Badlands every month on time... it will also mark the long-awaited return of the man who created Crossed, Garth Ennis!

Baltimore Comic Con 2012 050

In the comics industry, no doubt you have heard the name.   Perhaps you think of his grueling reinvention of The Punisher for Marvel.  Maybe you cringe and chuckle at his Preacher epic with Vertigo.  Perhaps you thought he “Out-Preachered” himself with Dynamite’s The Boys.  But if you haven’t read Crossed by Avatar Press, you haven’t seen Ennis at his most extreme.

(photo at right:  Garth Ennis at Baltimore Comic-Con 2012)

This March, Ennis returns to the world he created with a four-part story beginning in Crossed: Badlands #25.  There is an apparent connection to history made, with Ennis looking at the military battles fought on England’s shores and skies.  (See previous BC article for a preview of the first four pages).  He will be back one year later for a “Patient Zero” type story that ties into this one.

Crossed 1

crossed 2crossed 3

(pictured above:  Three of the covers for CROSSED: BADLANDS #25)

"Funny thing is," Ennis admitted, "I never really intended to be a horror writer. I'm not the world's biggest fan of the genre.  I like a book here, intermittently follow a writer there.  I like one zombie movie, one vampire movie, a couple of werewolf flicks, but I'm not really what you'd call dedicated. Yet here I am."

Listed in this month's Previews catalog, Ennis returns to the plague-infested world where those infected carried out the vilest of acts.  These are not mindless zombies that survivors would run from or fight. These are living sentient beings who act upon their most evil thoughts, committing the most heinous of acts ever known to mankind.  Their sole unending drive is to satiate their basest of needs and cruelest of thoughts to whomever is closest, usually former loved ones and friends.  This is real horror.

Ennis sees his new story as a great jumping-on point for fans of horror, as Crossed: Badlands arcs are normally self-contained and easy to pick up.   "Like any worldwide horror setting," Ennis explained, " the possibilities are endless. You can do stories about anything, anywhere.  Ideas suggest themselves all the time.  And I do feel a sense of responsibility to come back from time to time, help keep things ticking over."

crossed 4     crossed 5     crossed 6

(pictured above, at far right is the variant leather cover)

Ennis’ new story arc, “The Fatal Englishman,” is Ennis at his best = interesting characters with dialogue that is both thoughtful and full of particular dialect, meticulous details regarding the militaristic cast, a nod to the history of the land, as well as the over-the-top brutality and insanity one expects in the world of the Crossed.  The story centers on a small band of soldiers who have decided enough is enough, and decided to fight back.  They will take the fight to the Crossed hordes and have a plan for wiping them all out.  But can they actually follow through?

Ennis is committed to exposing more people to the infection that is Crossed, as he will be writing and directing live Crossed webisodes later this year.  These 4-6 minute stories will be available for free online, hoping to attract new interest in the world of the Crossed comics, as well as generate interest for a possible feature film.

Prior to the webisodes debuting, however, Ennis returns to tell a new story in the comic, with the first issue to publish on March 13, 2013.  That day, comic shops all around the globe are planning on celebrating the Second Annual C-Day (or “Crossed Day”) with cos-play for staff and fans, creating videos, store displays, contests and generally having fun with letting their inner-Crossed play for a little bit.   To help comic shops celebrate C-Day on March 13th, Avatar Press is offering a Promo Kit in the January Previews catalog, filled with Crossed temporary tattoos, buttons, postcards, stickers and new Crossed masks.

crossed 12

(pictured above: the wraparound cover for #25)

To help create more excitement, Avatar Press is increasing the amount of covers for Crossed: Badlands #25, giving fans more choices for which cover(s) they want to celebrate Ennis' return (eight $3.99 covers, one $14.99 leather cover, two retailer incentive covers and one collector's box set).  Also, available for the first time in the January Previews catalog are Crossed T-Shirts - starting at only $8.99 retail.

ORIGINAL STORY SYNOPSIS (from CROSSED: VOLUME 1  2006 – 10 issues)

A plague of unknown origin infects its victims through a rash that appears on their faces in the shape of a cross.  Carriers exhibit a manic sneer and a berserker-like rage. Unlike typical zombies, they seem to maintain human rational thought processes, although the virus/plague transforms all into beings of pure evil, solely intent on spreading the “Crossed” infection, which occurs through bodily fluids. Carriers have resorted to treating their weapons with their own urine as one of many gruesome methods, including rape and bites. Sometimes victims are torn apart when the influence of the berserker rage or mob rage is predominant. 

(photo at right: some Crossed fans at Baltimore Comic-Con 2012)

Baltimore Comic Con 2012 065

From the Wikipedia entry: 
“The outbreak spreads rapidly, apparently overwhelming the entire world.  The infected run amok, killing, raping, engaging in cannibalism and maiming for fun.  Infected pilots crashed their aircraft into buildings whilst technicians who had also succumbed to the virus intentionally blew up nuclear power plants.  Families and friends turned on one another and butchered each other with whatever weapons they could lay their hands on.  Within hours, society was in a state of collapse as entire cities burned, government officials fled or became casualties along with the general public and police and military response dwindled to nothing.  Outbreaks were reported in every city in every state of the US on the first day of the outbreak, rendering any attempt at quarantine pointless.  Emergency bulletins on the radio from the White House urging citizens to remain indoors and avoid contact with the infected seems to do little if anything to slow the spread of the Crossed, and soon human civilization is all but gone, and mankind appears to be an endangered species.”

“The main story takes place ten months after the outbreak (with flashbacks to those events) as a small group make their way toward Alaska in the belief that its low population before the outbreak will mean there are fewer Crossed to be avoided, and that the Crossed's gleeful bloodlust hampers their ability to look after themselves.  However, they encounter a small group of Crossed who have a degree of self-control and subsequently begin a hunt for the survivors.”

Pghhead again:  Suffice to say, this was one of the most brutal and disturbing zombie infestation tales I have ever read or watched (and that includes a goodly number).  What kept it from being pure all-out bloody exploitation for me was the inherent message planted within by Ennis.  At its core, this is also a love story and deals with personal sacrifice for the greater good, etc. 

Even though CROSSED is a creator-owned property (Garth Ennis and artist Jacen Burrows) permission was granted to AVATAR to publish several follow-up volumes by various writer-artist teams, with David Lapham writing the majority of them.   Over one year ago, the CROSSED: BADLANDS series was begun, with Garth Ennis writing the first story arc followed by various creators. 

David Lapham wrote the second series (CROSSED: FAMILY VALUES) with art by Javier Barreno.  In a February 2010 interview with Rich Johnson of BLEEDING COOL, Garth Ennis commented on his creation:

“To be honest, there was never really going to be a Volume  Two.  William [Christensen, editor-in-chief/publisher of Avatar] would ask me regularly about the possibility, but apart from one or two vague scenes I pretty soon realized I had no more Crossed stories in me.  I didn't want to force the issue, either, because I'm very pleased with Crossed and don't want to dilute it with a sequel that I hadn't the ideas to sustain.  That said, it's pretty obvious that what you have with Crossed is a ready-made fictional world with a good deal of potential for further development, and the Crossed themselves seem to be strong enough villains to maintain an audience.  So when William suggested other people doing more I said I wasn't averse to it, so long as a) I thought the creative teams were up to scratch, and b) my own story and characters would be left alone.  Which means no sequel, no more Stan, Cindy, Thomas or Kitrick (or Horsecock, Face or Stump, come to that) - just fresh stories set in the same world.  As for David, who better?  I think you'll see right from his first episode that he knows exactly what he's doing with the Crossed.”

crossed 7

crossed 8          crossed 9          crossed 10

crossed 11

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Sneak Preview = upcoming CROSSED:BADLANDS art

 

Courtesy of Avatar Press, here are some previews of the first four pages  (just art by Raulo Caceres, no lettering completed yet) of CROSSED: BADLANDS #25 coming out this March.

 

Page 1            Page 2

If this lovely depiction of some scenes from Britain’s military history doesn’t whet your appetitive for this book, then how about this?  CROSSED: BADLANDS #25 begins a new story arc written by CROSSED creator Garth Ennis, and marks his first return to the title since the original creation of the series.

I can’t wait to read the book and see how Ennis ties these scenes into the main story.  Look to this website in the coming days for more details and insights into this “ C-Day” event.

Page 3          Page 4

Monday, January 21, 2013

PGHHEAD PICKS 2012: WIZZYWIG = Best Indie Book

 

WIZZYWIG: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL HACKER (Top Shelf, 2012 $19.95 hardcover 296 pages, black & white) Written and illustrated by Ed Piskor

What began as a serialized web comic has been revised (and in some cases, redrawn) and re-packaged in a new 2012 hardcover edition of the high quality that we’ve come to expect from the folks at Top Shelf Comix. It also earns my vote for a 2012 PGHHEAD PICK as “Best Indie Book” of the year.

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During his years of collaboration with Clevelander Harvey Pekar on AMERICAN SPLENDOR comics and THE BEATS and MACEDONIA graphic novels, Pittsburgh cartoonist Ed Piskor developed an interest in phone phreaking and computer hacking. Based on his extensive research, he created a character, Kevin “Boingthump” Phenicle, who was a composite of several hackers that Piskor learned about or interviewed. He chronicled his adventures and faux biography in the original mini-comic called The WYSIWYG Technical Pamphlet, with the acronym standing for “What You See Is What You Get.” WIZZYWIG the graphic novel follows the early days when a combination of curiosity and an innate sense of how computer-driven systems work lead to Kevin’s tinkering with bus transfers first and then digital tones associated with pay phones. He progresses from this to developing hacking skills right after he gets his first computer. If a reader did not know that Kevin was not a real character, he or she might believe they were reading an actual biography. However, as Kevin’s skills progress and the situations become more and more outrageous it becomes harder to imagine all this happening to the same person. Things begin to border on the fantastic when Kevin becomes a fugitive, makes deals with criminals, and the FBI and various law enforcement agencies pursue him across the country.

WIZZWIG is divided into eight chapters, each chronicling a different stage in his development and eventual decline. As depicted by Piskor, Kevin Phenicle is a sympathetic character, somewhat insecure and shy at school and living with his grandmother. He’s frequently picked on and taunted by bigger and crueler schoolmates The art is “underground” in nature and admittedly influenced by both Robert Crumb and Wally Wood. Each page follows a six-panel format with a few deviations. The narrative switches back and forth between Kevin’s confessional tones and commentary by his best friend Winston Smith, providing two similar but separate points of view and done in a sharp enough fashion that doesn’t confuse the reader.

This is a fascinating read. Kevin learns and adapts quickly and the reader is given a tour of various hacks, scams and schemes perpetrated against the big corporate “man” and viewed unkindly by law enforcement. Some of the prosecution seems cruel as depicted here, but hackers were treated as hardened criminals (same as they are today). While we can see how Kevin went astray and got deeper and further into the underground economy/civilization it’s not hard to empathize with his situation. WIZZYWIG is at times very funny and also at times very sad.

Piskor is currently finishing another book called DELETERIOUS PEDIGREE which can be sampled at http://www.wizzywigcomics.com/   He also posts a weekly comic strip online (“Brain Rot”) at the “notorious hacker-friendly” website  http://boingboing.net/2013/01/15/brain-rot-hip-hop-family-tree-42.html

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Recent Readings: Horror, Myths and Heroes

 

all star western

ALL STAR WESTERN #13, 14, 15 (DC): I picked this up because of the TOMAHAWK back-up feature that begins in Issue #13, but ended up appreciating the JONAH HEX main feature much more. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde sail to the Americas, and mayhem ensues. Dr. Jekyll’s formula is stolen and mistakenly sold through a carnival barker, as the major populace gets transformed into a raging crowd with a severe mad-on. In issue #13 the carnival clown embraces the dark side and has to be put down by Hex and hanger-on one-eyed Tallulah Black along with Dr. Arkham. There is a side plot involving the Golden Dragons and the Barbary Ghost, who proves much more interesting in this story than she did in her bland spotlight back-up feature many issues ago. In Issue #14 Dr. Arkham is induced to drink some of the formula and begins acting peculiar and very out of character. The massive Mr. Hyde escapes and Hex begins to track him down, now minus Miss Black who left with the Barbary Ghost with the promise of recovering money or some other treasure of her fancy. I thought the TOMAHAWK back-up feature put a different twist on this classic DC series, transforming the main character from a frontier scout to an Indian warrior. Art by Phil Winslade lends a historic flavor to events, and seems a nice tribute to the original works. Too bad it’s wasted by a slow-moving story. TOMAHAWK as portrayed here is a bit too emotionless to empathize with, especially when he doesn’t wince after discovering his wife and young son slaughtered by the Army.

baltimore the play

BALTIMORE: THE PLAY (Dark Horse): A plague is wiping out half the population of Verona, Italy in 1917. Into town rides the vampire hunter Lord Baltimore in search of the ancient Haigus. The legendary vampire has secreted himself away as the financier of a local theatre company presenting an adaptation of Poe’s Masque Of The Red Death. Haigus has infected the majority of the theatre company with vampirism, with the exception of the lead actress (who turns out to be an actual muse with siren like abilities) and the director (who takes advice through his direct link to the late Edgar Allan Poe). All this, and another recent comic with reference to Poe’s The Conqueror Worm poem as well. What more could you ask of a one-shot story? Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden script, along with mesmerizing art by Ben Stenbeck. I loved it.

deathmatch

DEATHMATCH #1 (Boom!) : I passed this up after reading about it in PREVIEWS. The premise was okay = battles to the death between super-heroes paired off in a elimination tournament of 32 combatants. However, if this was Superman versus Spider-Man for instance, or even Batman versus Captain America I would have to read it. But with newly created characters I didn’t feel I would have enough investment in them to even care about the outcome. Still, I picked it up on a whim, based on the attractive $1 cover price and some decent looking art. Glad I did. I was wrong. Writer Paul Jenkins makes you care about the characters. Somehow he juggles all the introductions and includes enough backstory to make you feel like rooting for Dragonfly, etc. And the characters are very inventive, definitely not carbon copies of the trademarked heroes from the Big Two companies. The art by Carlos Magno is very stylish and European looking. This could be a sleeper book. Worth your checking out.

journey into mystery

 

JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY VOLUME 4: THE MANCHESTER GODS TPB (Marvel) : I’d heard about how JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY was one of the best of Marvel’s current titles. After seeing it selected to several Best of 2012 lists, impulse kicked in and I picked up this trade paperback. The art by Richard Elson is delightful. The story has a sort of FABLES feel to it, although it’s set in the mythical land of the Norse Gods (the Marvel version). A young Loki is dispatched to a multi-verse land called Otherworld inhabited by King Arthur and Captain Britain in order to help defeat a new threat. Spawned in the industrial revolution in Britain, the Manchester Gods are giant lumbering trains, machines and monoliths leading an army of goons and leaving a wave of sooty gray in their path of destruction. Kieron Gillen writes with passion for his creation and in his capable hands Loki is indeed the god of mischief and a great schemer. I loved Sinisterworld as created by Gillen and this is another fantastic setting. The man seems to love his steampunk and UK history and I’m ready to read whatever he drops into these creations. This volume also reprints THE MIGHTY THOR ANNUAL #1 written by J. M. DeMatteis and illustrated by Richard Elson again (wow! – his art outshines the script by far). The story is very cosmic, mystical and philosophical as detailed by DeMatteis (like much of his scripts, but a little too wordy here) and includes Thor, Silver Surfer, Galactus, The Scrier, and The Other (with a little Eternity mixed in). At times it seemed like I was reading about one cosmic backstory after another. Maybe there should have been footnotes. The script dragged a little too much for me and failed to indicate the universe-threatening challenge as well as the art did. Bravo, Elson!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Previews for Wednesday 1/16/2013: Time To Get Ugly

 

TODD, THE UGLIEST KID ON EARTH #1 of 4 (Image, January 2013) Story by Perker & Kristensen.  Written by Ken Kristensen.  Art & Cover by M. K. Perker.  Colors by Cemal Soyleyen. Letters & Logo by M. K. Perker.

toddcvr   toddpg19

There’s been a bit of advance press about this book.  Sometimes that makes the critics a little skeptical.  I was fortunate enough to get an advance preview of Issue #1, so I could judge for myself.  This book may just live up to expectations.  It’s funny and deliberately so, in a time when many books that attempt to be humorous end up failing to even make me smile.  TODD coaxed several chuckles out of me.

TODD, THE UGLIEST KID ON EARTH is irreverent and satirical, poking fun at suburban life in the United States, parenting, and social mores, among other things.  Would you buy a comic book version of the SOUTH PARK cartoon series?  This isn’t it - - but it’s the closest thing you can find in a comic  book format.   In the advance press release, co-creator Ken Kristensen commented:  “We couldn’t be happier—right out of the gate the response to TODD from both retailers and reviewers has been overwhelmingly positive.  And, for a take-no-prisoners, politically incorrect, taboo-tickling book to be embraced like that is a testament to the current sate of comic readers, who I think are hungry for stories that have something fresh to say about the world.”   What TODD seems to say about the world isn’t very flattering, but I’m still laughing. Exaggerated outrageousness makes it palatable.

Todd Belluomo is apparently elementary school age.  No one knows of his facial features because his parents force him to wear a paper bag over his head 24/7;  supposedly because he’s just too ugly to look at.  His looks are also his good fortune, as he gets passed over during an encounter with a neighborhood serial killer who only kills “beautiful children”.  I guess everybody has standards.  His mother Peggy, thinks Todd’s an imaginative liar when usually he’s just being victimized and set-up by some local bullies.  His father Gus passes on his “wisdom” to Todd in between beers, which are fetched by Todd in exchange for this valuable knowledge.  His answer to Todd’s questions about “gay marriage” are revealing of his politics as well as his I.Q. = “See, all Presidents try to legalize torture.  Obama’s way is to legally torture gays by allowing them to marry. Simply genius.” 

Todd tries to make friends with the new neighbor girl.  The issue opens up with some classic imaginative play with her Ben and Candie dolls  - - the conversation the little girl creates between the two dolls is hilarious.  Kids’ perceptions of adult relationships are blunt, twisted and spot-on.  The dolls (albeit a little sticky) turn up later as police evidence in a murder investigation in which Todd seems to be the number one suspect.   Along the way we also meet the also-opinionated and mildly perverse Chief Hargrave and Mr. Finger, the blind pet shop owner. 

Kristensen depicts Todd as a sweet, naïve little boy with a little streak of strange running through his veins.  He can also make you care about Todd as we are witness to the misinterpretations and injustices he is constantly beset with.  Perker’s art style is humorous but not cartoonish, reminding of some classic Jack Davis/Al Jaffe work in the early MAD magazines.  Kristensen’s a member of the Writers Guild Of America and the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.  One of the high points of his career (prior to the infamy that TODD will bring about)  has been working with Michael Chabon on The Amazing Adventures of The Escapist for Dark Horse Comics.  Perker is an Eisner-nominated comic book artist and writer whose work included Cairo, Air, some Fables and The Unwritten (for Vertigo/DC) and Insomnia Café (Dark Horse). He is a member of the Society of Illustrators.

OTHER BOOKS WORTH CHECKING OUT ON JANUARY 16:

AA_006_VARIANT_ZIRCHER_1

ARCHER AND ARMSTRONG #6 continues the return of another classic Valiant character – The Eternal Warrior

BLACK KISS II #6 Howard Chaykin’s heady tale of crime, Hollywood, and orgies against a supernatural back-drop concludes.  Adults only.

BLEEDING COOL MAGAZINE #2 – Readers lamenting the demise of Comic Buyers Guide have this alternative magazine to check out.

BLOODSHOT #7 - - a stand-alone issue detailing his brutal history. It’s a prelude/lead-in to the upcoming HARBINGER WARS storyline.

 

BS_007_CVR_ANDRASOFSZKY

 

     CROW: SKINNING THE WOLVES #2 – Original creator James O’Barr returns for a gritty and disturbing tale set amongst a Nazi concentration camp.

     FASHION BEAST #5 Some more Alan Moore Lovecraftian-flavored madness.

     FERALS #12 David Lapham’s spin on the werewolf mythos is bold and blunt, as may be expected.

     STITCHED #11  Artist Mike Wolfer is doing a decent job writing this  book and taking it to a different setting.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Advance Previews: CHANNEL EVIL - - tune in this March

I missed picking up the CHANNEL EVIL min-series the first time around.  I saw that it was available for pre-order through the PREVIEWS catalog for March 2013.  I’m looking forward to reading this.

from the official Double G Marketing press release . . . . . . . . .

         Renegade Arts Entertainment is pleased to announce the release of CHANNEL EVIL TRADE PAPERBACK, collecting the four issues of Alan Grant’s (Judge Dredd, Batman) and Shane Oakley’s (Albion, Cthulhu Tales) horror miniseries.  This deluxe paperback collection also includes a new, never-before-seen strip, An Evening with Ba’al, written by Grant and illustrated by D’Israeli (Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, Future Shocks).

Channel Evil

           Inspired by Alan’s encounter with something from the dark edges of consciousness, CHANNEL EVIL follows Jez Manson, a local TV chat show host ready to exploit everyone in a bid to make the big time.  After watching a successful medium channel a benign spirit, Jez invites her on his show, ready to ridicule her for cheap laughs and a few headlines.   But Jez is persuaded to try channelling himself.  Full of scorn, Jez agrees, planning to fake it, but it turns out that Jez is a natural and finds himself channelling Ba’al, an ancient source of evil.

          Trying to laugh the whole thing off, Jez is unaware that he has opened a door for Ba’al to exploit and return chaos and destruction to the world.  Jez finds his dreams full of twisted nightmares that share too many details, matching the next day’s news reports.

          However, the channelling show has made the national news and Jez could be moving on to the big time.   Persuaded to channel Ba’al again on live TV, Jez knows deep down he's on the edge of the abyss, but the lure of fame and fortune is too strong.  What will he unleash this time?

Alan Grant on the genesis of Channel Evil:

          'The idea originally came to me while I was reading a book by a guy who had formed a "channelling" group to contact the spirits of the dead.   I did some research and found that, although it's ignored by the mainstream media, channelling has a huge audience all over the world.   I wondered what would happen if, instead of channelling one of the boring spirits who advocate peace and love, somebody managed to channel the spirit of some long-forgotten scion of evil. . . . . . “

          “I used to own a flotation tank.  It was soundproof, and totally dark.   Once, when I was in the tank, I was thinking about a Batman story I was working on, which featured a villain known as Cornelius Stirk. Stirk suffered from severe mental illness, which he "treated" by cutting the still-beating hearts out of his victims and then consuming them.   The thought suddenly flashed through my mind:  "This is what I do for a living...and it's evil!"   Immediately, and to my terror, a disembodied voice said clearly: "You think that is evil? I can show you what evil really is!"   Chills ran up and down my spine. I broke out in a cold sweat.   I was out of that tank faster than a ferret up a drainpipe!   When I'd calmed down and thought about it, I realised that - whatever the reality of what had happened - it was a brilliant base on which to build a story.   I hope it frightens readers as much as it terrified me.'

Shane Oakley on Channel Evil:

          'Working with Alan is another ‘dream box’ I’m ticking off.   We’ve been trying to get together on a project for over ten years and I’m still buzzing that we’ve finally got there.   Alan’s scripts are great to work with.  They’re lean and mean.  He gets on with the story and doesn’t arse about or waste space.  I love the idea it’s set at the English seaside.  Like a lot of kids (and grown ups) I had many day trips/weekends away in Blackpool.  The place has a very seductive glamour, a glittering feast for the senses. . . . . . “

          “But it’s also a little grubby and seedy, which suits the personality of Jez and his show perfectly. And obviously, drawing nightmare scenes of horror and a big bad ass demonic storm god is a plus.’

Channel Evil’ collected trade paperback. Previews Code: JAN131257.  By Alan Grant, Shane Oakley, D’Israeli. 136 pages, black & white strip.  Color covers and sketches.  Includes cover artwork from Frank Quitely, Mark Buckingham, D’Israeli and Wayne Nichols, plus Shane Oakley’s character design sketches.

Website: http://bit.ly/RAvDhD

ABOUT RENEGADE ARTS ENTERTAINMENT:

          “We are a creator owned comic book publisher based in the Canadian Rocky Mountains.  From our secret Mountain Lair we create stories with experienced A-list writers and artists, and newer blood who pitched projects just too good to turn down.”

www.renegadeartsentertainment.com.

ABOUT ALAN GRANT

Alan is without doubt one of the most successful and prolific comic book writers in the industry.   Having written many stories for the UK's 2000 AD  including the man himself, Judge Dredd.   His work then found an international audience at DC Comics, with Lobo, Batman and The Demon amongst his many successes.

ABOUT SHANE OAKLEY

Shane’s  distinctive style has been seen in stories that include Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, Alan Moore’s Albion, Steve Niles’ The Hiding Place, and Boom Studios Cthulhu and Zombie Tales.

BUSINESS NEWS: Superman stays put

 

SM_AC_V1

On the surface it might appear as if this ruling reveals that the family/estate of Siegel made yet another bad deal as regards the rights/ownership of this iconic character.  At least, it appears that they will (or have) received some money($4 million is a bit better than the original deal back in the 1930’s). 

On the upside, regular readers of Superman will continue to be able to read new adventures every month without interruption as the ownership stays with Warner Bros./DC Comics.  I can’t imagine the Siegel family starting up their own comics company with Superman as the flagship title, then searching for a creative team, etc.   Had they won this appeal, most likely they would have put the Superman properties up on the market to the highest bidder. 

You can read the full story of the court ruling here . . . . . 

http://social.entertainment.msn.com/movies/blogs/paralleluniverse-blog.aspx?feat=dd275de1-0430-45ce-ab86-4ad4df9c274f

as well as all the other news sites that will most likely carry this story.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Indie Comics Horror gets some 2012 award nominations

 

INDIE COMICS HORROR Volume 1, Issue #1  (Aazurn Publishing, Winter 2012)

For more than a year now, INDIE COMICS MAGAZINE (http://www.indiecomicsmagazine.com/) has been providing a showcase for “the best story and art from independent comic book creators.” Sold almost exclusively through pre-orders at local comic book stores, the success of the flagship title has made it possible to add this second title, dedicated to the horror genre.

Indie-Horror2

INDIE COMICS HORROR is a somewhat smaller version of its brother/sister title, with 48 pages in black and white and focusing on the works of six separate creative teams. This is a high-quality endeavor, and has been nominated for The Horror News Network’s 2012 Horror Comic Award. (http://www.horrornewsnetwork.net/) and also the 2012 Ghastly Horror Awards.  (See related article in January 2013 BC archives. )

To read a complete review of this issue, click the link below . . . . . . . . . . .  .

http://namelessmag.jasunni.com/2012/12/26/visual-frights-equal-scare-time-for-independent-creators/

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

PGHHEAD PICK for Best of 2012: HARBINGER

 

**********   Every single one of the Valiant character revivals in 2012 was excellent. I cannot say the same for all of the revived DC and Marvel titles of 2012 - - likewise for the other comics companies whose books I read last year. So, Valiant was my choice to select as a “pick” for 2012 - - but which book ? That was a tough choice. While X-O MANOWAR was an early frontrunner, HARBINGER started out amazing and just got better with each issue. So, my PGHHEAD PICK FOR THE BEST REBOOT OF 2012 is HARBINGER. **********

If you have over-looked this title you are missing one of the most engaging and different books among the current choices. Valiant is wisely putting out the first-story arcs of their new titles in affordable $9.99 trade paperback editions. Lucky you!  The HARBINGER Volume One trade paperback (Issue #1-5, “Omega Rising”) hits comic store shelves tomorrow!

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HARBINGER provides an adventurous exploration of all aspects of enhanced mental abilities through the way that various characters utilize them. They are referred to within the storyline as “psiots”; and exhibit powers of “telekinesis, levitation, spatial atomic distortion, electro-psychokinesis, etc . . .” The two most prominent characters are both psionics = wealthy “humanitarian” Toyo Harada and fugitive Peter Stanchek, seemingly at opposite ends of the universal spectrum like Order and Chaos, or Ying and Yang. There are also various scenes within the book that contrast how these two characters handle similar situations, beginning with the opening of Issue #1 which highlights two separate incidents when they were both 18 years of age.

Things get intriguing from the get-go as it all begins in 1951 when a very young Harada (then 18) braves the unknown to uncover an uncharted monastery in Tibet, and holds off a heavily-armed security force with only the power of his mind. He finally meets the “bleeding monk” who has inhabited and haunted his dreams and who aptly names his discoverer “harbinger”. This new mentor (who later accompanies Harada back to the U.S.) can see into the future and describes Harada as “an unassuming wind . . . waiting to be whipped into a storm.”

Those words foreshadow the panels introducing Peter Stanchek (18 years old in 2012), also battling some waking dreams as his mind acts like a radio receiver, constantly picking up the thought patterns of every single person within his perimeter of reception. (Issue #1 features a fantastic expressive cover which details a barrage of thought balloons bombarding Stanchek from all sides.) Rather than meet his challenges head-on (as Harada did in Tibet) he seeks to muffle or conceal them by using pharmaceuticals to keep himself in a constant stupor.

Toyo has a vision for the future and a purpose, and his every action is calculated to move those plans closer to fruition. (Acquire the building blocks. Develop. Create events that move things forward. Control. ) Pete does not think beyond today, and his actions are immediate and more spontaneous rather than thought out or planned. ( Satisfy immediate needs only. Get numb through sedation. Escape. Avoid.)

So which of these two is the main character in this book? And who should we root for? The answer is both and neither. As the story progresses it becomes clear that the fates of Harada and Stanchek are intertwined and dependent on each other (but not equally). Toyo does have admirable qualities but you immediately sense that something much darker is hiding behind the curtain of his persona. (One of the reasons I’m following this book - - I want to find out more). There is even less to like about Pete - - - he’s dangerously unstable and an explosion waiting to happen. He’s on the run and not sure where to turn. We can understand his plight and empathize with his situations. But we are unlikely to get warm and fuzzy in the way that issues of teen angst made us root for PETER PARKER, SPIDER-MAN. Stanchek’s problems are self-induced and far removed from simple adolescent angst. He’s a certified “nut job” (apologies to anyone who thinks I’m referring to them). Sure, there have been mentally disturbed characters in comics before. THE BADGER (First Comics, 1980’s) comes to mind as an extreme example. However, he was crazy and funny at the same time. Stanchek is more crazy, and he’s not funny at all. In fact, he’s realistic in a very frightening way. Imagine a mentally disturbed person with super-human abilities. (This is a another reason I’m following this book - - this makes it different than the usual fare).

In the hands of a writer with average abilities these situations would seem more fantasy than reality. We would not care because it would not feel real. Writer Joshua Dysart is a master at this type of writing, and can make you feel it as if it is happening to you. Watch and marvel at his style. (Check out VIOLENT MESSIAHS and THE UNKNOWN SOLDIER for more evidence). Artist Khari Evans brings a realistic style to this book that helps enhance the effect even further.

There are several Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary (Eleventh Edition) definitions for “harbinger” = 1) a person sent ahead to provide lodging; 2) one that pioneers in or initiates a major change (precursor), and 3) one that presages or foreshadows what is to come (forerunner). Between Toyo Harada and Pete Stanchek, which one is the “precursor” and who is the “forerunner”?  Are they both “harbingers”? Let’s pile up some more evidence before deciding that. Right now it seems able to go either way.

ISSUE #1 HIGHLIGHTS:

We get the details on the duration and reason for Pete’s flight and meet his also conflicted companion. We learn of the vast scope of Harada Conglomerates and their efforts to help prop up struggling world economies while providing humanitarian aid to areas of famine or political turmoil. Pete is so disturbed (and lonely) and has struggled so hard to cope that he has to reach back eight years to find any instance of companionship or love. He trashes that relationship and manipulates situations in the worst possible way. The panels in which this occurs will make you sad. There are other organizations besides Harada Conglomerates that are looking for Stanchek and they may be equally dangerous. Pete’s “friend” Joe Irons is operating within an entirely different level of disturbed, and his personal state of confusion causes him to slip up and bring trouble to them both. (They recently escaped together from a mental institution). Toyo has the ability to project images and converse long-distance and communicates with Pete, who only sees a talking dog. He can also mentally project an imaginary setting and make it seem real. Toyo explains his purpose and mission, and offers Pete a chance to join his organization and learn to control his powers, find happiness, perhaps . . . .” Dysart crams so much information into the debut issue that it requires several readings to recall it all. But it’s not clutter. The script has a real flow with perfect pacing so you never notice how much goes on and how quickly it happens until you get to the last panel.

Valiant - X-0 HARBINGER PAGE RH                   HAR_003_cvr

ISSUE #2 HIGHLIGHTS:

Harada’s mental powers surfaced during the Hiroshima bombing. New character Darpan (“The Mirror”) can bring horrible memories to life again and incapacitate a person by doing so. Phased electromagnetic pulses at a certain frequency will disrupt the nervous system of psiots. (Good to know!) Pete reveals more of his powers (a psychic wall with enough force to repel and propel assailants) to add to his thought-reception and mind control / memory wipe abilities. Meet Harada team members Rachle Hopson, a psiot sensate with tele-link abilities and Edward Sedgewick (Stronghold), who draws energy from mass, pulling it from building structures, etc. Pete accepts Toyo’s offer in exchange for a promise of safety for his friends.

ISSUE #3 HIGHLIGHTS:

Peter gets assigned quarters at the Harbinger Foundation, the secret school where he hopes to learn to better control and develop his powers. Meet new character Amanda McKee (Livewire), able to control machines with her mind. Toyo gives more insight into his operation, explaining that it’s a “culture” more than a corporation. The pre-cog powers of the Bleeding Monk still see Peter Stanchek as a threat. Hidden Moon is the headmaster of the school and a psionic dampener. The students access their specific powers through a painful process referred to as “activation”. Ingrid Hillcraft is a telepath who conducts the psychological evaluations for the school. Her consultation with Pete reveals that his powers manifested at an early age and in a violent way, when he was being taunted at a playground. His efforts to bring out similar abilities in others cost him a family member. Eventually everyone became so afraid of him that (while still of elementary school age) he was put under the care of one mental institution after another. Student Daniel Hessler (Ion) controls electricity. Lunchtime and the social hour go badly for Pete.

HAR_004_cvr-RGB-FOR-WEB                                         HAR_005_CVR

ISSUE #4 HIGHLIGHTS:

New character teenage Faith Herbert is blond and big and lacks confidence, but seems to act on hope. Training at the school reveals more of Pete’s powers: a mind whip called “the sting”, thought-transference, limited telepathy, and impact psychokinesis (the repelling wall of force). He worries about his friends and begins to see them in hallucinations. The board members at Harada have mixed opinions and are conflicted about how to best handle Stanchek. Pete learns of the gruesome consequences as Toyo shows him an activation session that ends up failing. Toyo suggests that Pete may be able to activate latents with his mind, thereby avoiding the dangers of the machine process. Pete manages (with unexpected help) to get away from the compound and then rebels when he learns the news about his friends.

ISSUE #5 HIGHLIGHTS:

Toyo Harada does not seem to deviate from his professed calling to help engineer a better world. But mixed in with his public projection as a great humanitarian/benefactor we see evidence of lack of compassion . He seems a great contradiction. The man who wants to help mankind will also easily accept risking the lives of others to achieve those ends. Didn’t someone once say that “deeds, not words” take a true measure of a person? If so then his stated intentions mask an inner heartless being. Pete gets angry and turns extreme, forcing a showdown with Toyo. He get help from those unexpected sources.

As you may suspect, there is an awful lot of great stuff occurring in this title. Just look how many words it took me to try and describe some of it to you ! The contents of Issue #1 alone would take multiple chapters of text to truly convey, but Dysart and the art team pull it off through the visual power of the comics medium. Good stuff. Get some for yourself.

Friday, January 4, 2013

HORROR IN COMICS: Vote in the 2012 Ghastly Awards

 

ghastly awards

Fan and Creator Voting will be open from January 1 through January 31, 2013 for the 2012 Ghastly Awards. The nominees, which were chosen by the entire comic creating community, reflect the wide range of horror material being published in print and web form today.

Named after acclaimed creator “Ghastly” Graham Ingels, the awards are now in their second year.  The categories include Best Ongoing Title, Best Mini-Series, Best One-Shot, Best New Series, Best Anthology, Best Original Graphic Novel, Best Archival Collection, Best Writer, Best Artist, Best Inker, Best Letterer, Best Colorist,  and Best Web Comic. Also up for nomination to the Hall Of Fame are Al Feldstein & Bill Gaines, and Bernie Wrightson.

To cast your ballot for your favorites, please go to http://ghastlys.blogspot.com/p/2012-voting.html

I’m going to vote, even though I have not read every single selection in each category.  In the interest of fairness, I’m not going to suggest here what I think are the best of the best.  However, I will share that information once the awards conclude.  I’ll post the names of all nominees in each category, who the winner was, and share who my pick was.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

DIGITAL-ONLY THRILLS: EDISON REX

 

EDISON REX (Monkeybrain Comics, 2012)      Issues #1-5 available through www.monkeybraincomics.com  and www.comixology.com Written by Chris Roberson. Art by Dennis Culver. Colored by Stephen Downer. Lettered by John J. Hill.

After decades of reading comics, I sometimes wonder why I still pursue this hobby. Please don’t misunderstand me. I love this form of artistic expression and the power of text and art working together to create a linked visual and mental impression. It’s a remarkable way to tell a good story, and a method that originated in the United States. I still follow comics because when it works right it can’t be beat - - - and when that happens I can never get enough of it. EDISON REX has it working.

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After all these years, are there any elements that the best comics (the ones that I have the highest opinion and favored memory of) seem to have in common? Well for one, they need to be entertaining. Sometimes the writers use symbolism to make a statement or leave a message. That’s a nice enhancement to a good story. But the story is the main thing. It needs to have structure, a defined conflict and resolution, and it needs to flow. Sometimes writers and/or illustrators get too engrossed in their artistic statement and forget the story-telling elements. That can put a halt to the entertainment value. They also need to engage our attention. Sometimes creators forget that readers need to be given a reason to care about reading more, at the very least for the next issue. There are many ways that writers do this, including leaving clues/hints in the story or revealing just enough detail to create further questions that readers want to stick around and get the answers for. Pulling the readers in is often best accomplished by creating characters that they can relate to and care about, or at least have an interest in seeing how they resolve the conflict. A plot line that seems to meander or go on and on forever (several mega-events come to mind) can make readers lose attention. Gratuitous sex and/or gratuitous violence, blood and gore certainly will get some immediate attention, but there has to be some substance to the story, something to make the readers stay engaged.

I am thrilled to discover the fun of reading EDISON REX, because the creators seem to understand those two above principles so well. I am entertained every time. I am also engaged and especially invested in the main character. I care about seeing what happens next and where this is going.

After reading the first issue of EDISON REX, most experienced readers are going to be reminded of a classic conflict from the Golden Age of Comics. One of the earlier protagonist’s names also rhymes with one of the current protagonist’s names. And the name of the other early character evokes a similar kind of image when compared to the modern character’s name. Actually, just reading the summary on the Monkeybrains website tells you everything you need to know and seems to indicate what comparison is being made =

“Edison Rex is the smartest man in the world, a criminal genius, and the arch nemesis of the world’s greatest protector, Valiant. Having dedicated his life to defeating Valiant and proving once and for all that he is a menace to humanity and not a hero, what will Edison do once he finally succeeds? And with Valiant out of the way, who will be left to protect the Earth?”

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     Engaging the reader does not mean the writer has to be super-serious or grim and dark as relates to the subject matter. EDISON REX is a fun, tongue-in-cheek book that seems aimed at all ages, and will especially be appealing to younger readers. It’s a great platform to introduce to students with tablet computers who are curious about super-hero adventures. Older readers will also appreciate it because of the memories it evokes in addition to the basic story. After reading Issue #1, I was immediately reminded of some classic DC 12-cent comics of my youth, with simple complete-in-one-issue stories and covers that stimulated my sense of wonder. I often couldn’t wait to see what situations would occur next as new issues continued the never-ending conflict between Superman and Lex Luthor. Some resolution is achieved each time; yet the conflict is always later renewed (generally in the next issue). As I keep reading EDISON REX, more of those favorable memories are returning. As scripted by Chris Roberson (former writer of ACTION COMICS, as well as iZOMBIE, ELRIC and MEMORIAL) each issue is a self-contained story that moves things a little further along every time in a logical manner.

EDISON REX is a classic battle for public recognition between two massive egos. What makes it unique is that one of the protagonists has been taken out of the picture, but the battle still continues. Nothing else seems to have changed. The general public’s memory of Valiant is so favorable it cannot be overcome by the efforts of Rex, who continues to be perceived as a villain in spite of the changes he puts in place. This is the crux of the book, and the element that makes it so entertaining and engaging. It opens doors to all possibilities of story without resorting to imaginary situations. Back over at ACTION COMICS, the only way that Superman or Lex Luthor could be terminated would be in an ELSEWORLDS tale.

The art team does a fantastic job of depicting Roberson’s visions of this world. Dennis Culver’s art style looks like the perfect blend of cartoonish illustration and more mature work, similar to the way ARCHIE COMICS morphed Eastman and Laird’s adult style on the original TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES into something more appealing and acceptable to the ARCHIE COMICS core audience. It’s a perfect fit for the semi-serious nature of EDISON REX and will remind many viewers of the classic animation style Hanna-Barbara Studios adopted for their mid-60’s superhero/action/fantasy television cartoon series (Johnny Quest,Thundaar, Space Ghost, etc.) Some of the character and monster depictions in the first five issues of EDISON REX also remind me favorably of images from the DOCTOR WHO series as well as THE HITCHHIKER”S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY.

ALERT : SPOILERS BEYOND THIS POINT

ISSUE #1 HIGHLIGHTS: What I noticed after several issues has its’ beginnings here. Edison Rex rarely gets his hands dirty. He seems able to accomplish his goals by talking or thinking his way out of a problem or letting others do the physical work or fighting for him. He is able to persuade Valiant to his point of view so much that Valiant is convinced he’s become a threat and takes action without Rex having to lift a finger. But does Rex truly believe everything he has told Valiant, or was it a clever made-up campaign? Roberson’s scripting leaves some doubt here, whether deliberate or not I’m not sure. There are other scenes in the coming issues that make me wonder if Rex believes everything he says. That keeps me coming back to find out. Also, I’d like to know if Rex sincerely intends to take over for Valiant as the new protector of the Earth, or does he plan to soften up the masses before taking over control of the planet? There is no given explanation how Rex came to have an armored green-skinned bodyguard/sidekick with a light saber and an aggressive conquering demeanor that reminds/resembles some super-powered wonderful women at the big two comics companies. She also has a great name: M’Alizz.

ISSUE TWO HIGHLIGHTS: Rex goes up against the Nuclear Norseman, a bearded radioactive Viking trying to ransom a school bus of children in exchange for a billion dollars. Oops, my theory’s not looking so good because Rex gets physical here. M’Alizz seems to believe that Rex really intends to conquer and wonders when he will do so. The media gets it wrong, and broadcasts reports of two villains having an argument. An intergalactic subplot is brewing on the last page, sure to come into play later. This issue introduces a back-up feature -  “The Secret Files of Edison Rex” - with background details on characters, weapons, and locations. These are written by Rex and have some amusing comments and insights. This is also the first place where the Gladstone Institute is mentioned, a place that is prominent in the history/development of Edison Rex.

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ISSUE THREE HIGHLIGHTS: Valliant's former fortress is discovered, and my theory is back in play again as Rex admits he brought M’Alizz along solely to handle the automated defense system. It’s amusing and ironic that Rex berates the late Valiant for turning “his home into a museum dedicated to himself.” We later get a glimpse into the Edison Rex hideaway and find it to be very similar. Rex rescues Cerebella, the “computational engine of unimaginable potential” that Valiant had modified and held captive while using “her” to run the fortress systems. This issue ends with another intergalactic preview, as “Worldline” considers another recruit for what appears to be a program of planetary destruction. Cerebella is an interesting new character, as the backup secret files feature reveals. Also, the text as written by Rex reveals more of his character and alludes to his arrogance and attitude of entitlement: “I think that’s what I found so unsettling about her at the outset – her willingness to go to any extremes in the pursuit of her goals. It’s safe to say that I know something about self-sacrifice, but even I’m not eager to use my own body as a testing ground for unproven technologies. That’s what test subjects are for.” Rex is just a loveable charlatan. Not to be missed is the REXfiles commentary while describing Valliant's Vault. Rex turns the explanation into a piece of biased evidence to show the alleged dark side of Valliant's nature.

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ISSUE FOUR HIGHLIGHTS: An intruder with Valiant-like strength and abilities breaks into Rex headquarters. It’s Defiant (the obvious antithesis of Valiant) and a very Bizarro-like “genetic golem” that Rex had created to go up against Valiant in a previous failed attempt. Just as he did against Valiant in Issue #1, Rex uses his powers of persuasion (what a smooth talker!) to get out of trouble. After reading the description of Defiant in the backup text piece, I begin to get the feeling that Rex is deliberating inserting select commentary into the “secret files” that will show him in a favorable light after he makes the files public. Or, he’s just trying to convince himself that he’s actually as noble as he claims. A little self-doubt, perhaps? The REXfile on “The Hideout” provides further evidence of his vanity and identity confusion. The explanations of various items of destruction are worded in such a way as to defend or rationalize what he was doing. His description of the “death booth” as a failure that never worked is pure conjecture/cover-up. We do learn how Rex was able to command the loyalty of M’Alizz after viewing the Alien Armor. Some favorites are the Rexbot, the Rexmobile (very Bat-like) and the Rocket = This Rocket is “ From the time I tried to convince the public that I had been rocketed to Earth from a dying world as an infant, in a failed attempt to garner sympathy and support.” The one-page comic at the end of the book is a faithful homage to the type of advertising frequently found in older comic books (and as ridiculous as it is funny).

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ISSUE FIVE HIGHLIGHTS: Are the first and last two pages of the main story featuring a team of simian super-heroes and the coming attractions blurb on the last page a preview of things to come, or are Roberson and Culver having some fun at their own expense while mocking the whole super-hero universe in general? In the main story, Rex makes a public announcement dedicating the beginning of Edison Aid, a new building on the foundations of the former Gladstone Institute. Some of the origin story of Edison Rex is hinted at. It also seems to be an issue chock-full of secret organizations and the ensuing bombardment of acronyms that always accompany such things: H.O.R.N.E.T. and L.A.R.V.A. Again, Rex avoids physicality this time simply by providing a better opportunity for his foes.

At a very reasonable 99-cents-per-issue (shorter than print-based comics at an average of 15 pages) EDISON REX offers a fun and economical way to explore the world of digital comics.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

PGHHEAD’S PICKS 2012: Edgar Allan Poe, wormy remix

 

I simply didn’t get to read enough in 2012 to come up with a longer list of picks as in previous years.  However, I will be spotlighting some of last year’s works that I feel are deserving of another look and/or more recognition, such as . . . . . . . . .

EDGAR ALLAN POE’S THE CONQUEROR WORM  (Dark Horse, November 2012):  Adapted by Richard Corben  (writer, artist, inker, colorist).  Lettering by Nate Piekos of Blambot. 

Poe worm

In my opinion, this is the BEST STAND-ALONE, SINGLE ISSUE STORY  of 2012. (At least, among all the books that I read last year).

Corben takes Poe’s classic poem and moves forward from there, elaborating, enhancing and adding to the imagery from this morbid reminder of the inevitability of death.   Corben sets his adaptation in the 19th century American West and adds a background story of arrogance, greed, betrayal, murder and deception that weaves its way throughout the template that Poe laid down.  Any fan of Poe or classic horror need to pick up this book.

A longer, detailed review was originally posted on the NAMELESS MAGAZINE website, and can be read by clicking the attached link . . . . . . . . . .

http://namelessmag.jasunni.com/2012/12/02/visual-frights-the-poetry-of-worms/