Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A Really Good Bad Guy

DARK REIGN: THE HOOD
Writer: Jeff Parker
Artist: Kyle Hotz
Marvel Comics | TPB | $19.99
Review by From the Booth‘s own Ken
There’s a reason that Spider-Man has been fighting Doctor Octopus for 50 years. It’s hard to add a new enemy to the rogues’ gallery when there are so many classics. It’s rare that a new enemy comes back after one arc, let alone resonates with fans enough to get his own book. Originating in the MAXuniverse, the Hood crossed over into theMarvel 616 universe in time to become the new Kingpin of crime during the Dark Reign event.
The Hood appears to his underlings as an almost omnipotent force. Using his hood (really a cloak), he can turn invisible; cast devastating spells and even teleport people out of prison. In Dark Reign, he manages to bring together almost all the super villains of New York into one organization, something thought impossible after it had failed so many times before.
However to his girlfriend and baby, he is a clumsy low level thief who never manages to make enough money. To his mother, he is forgotten as she rots away of Alzheimer’s in a fleabag nursing home. And to Dormammu, who gave him the cloak, he is merely a vessel for his entry to this world.
A petty thief who lucked into a powerful artifact, Parker Robbins is determined to turn his life around while keeping his family totally insulated from his other life. Unfortunately, Parker has many enemies and it’s not long before those seeking revenge on him or seeking to overthrow him and take control of the criminal empire for themselves discover his alter ego.
The art in the book is fantastic, showing every ripple and jagged edge of the titular character’s cloak. The juxtaposition of the Hood’s face with Parker’s when he is with his family is almost enough to convince you they are truly two different people. The story succeeds in making you root for the Hood, not only as the lesser of two evils but even as a guy who maybe, just maybe, deserves this second chance.
The Hood resonates as a bad guy you can almost relate with. Not as a flat two dimensional character that just wants to rob a bank but as a guy who doesn’t know anything else and always puts his family first. He’s brutal, vicious and cunning all while being noble, dedicated and honorable. And that is why this book works.
Final rating (out of 5): 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Want A Little Zombie With Your Halloween?

From the official press release . . . . .

ZOMBIE NIGHT

At Captain Blue Hen Comics

In Newark, Delaware
You like zombies and you like comics--you will love Zombie Night at Captain Blue Hen Comics!
Zombie Night is Wednesday, October 30 at Captain Blue Hen Comics in Newark, Delaware.
Visit and get sketches by zombie comic artists:
· Living Corpse comic creators, Buz Hasson and Ken Haeser
· Fanboys Vs. Zombies comic artist, Jerry Gaylord
· Until We Sleep comic creator, Bob Garr
· Also appearing: Adveture Time comic artist, Penelope Gaylord
Come in zombie costume to enter the contest.
Get your face painted zombie-style.




WHERE: At Captain Blue Hen - Market East Plaza, 280 E. Main Street in Newark, Delaware
WHEN: Wednesday, October 30 from 5pm to 8pm
WHAT: Artist signings, costume contest, face painting mini art classes, door prizes, and fun!
WHO: You are all invited!
HOW: Free admission






- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Fiction Review: Gaiman's latest is a memory book (and very memorable)

THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE
A novel by Neil Gaiman   www.Neil.Gaiman.com
William Morrow, 178 pages
Hardcover, $25.99   www.harpercollins.com

          Can you recall the day you learned that Santa Claus was not real?  (Or the Easter Bunny, Great Pumpkin, Tooth Fairy, etc.?)  You probably heard that via an older brother or sister, a favorite cousin, a respected friend (probably a few years older than you), or even your parents.  Because you looked up to the person that gave you the sad but true news, you made a conscious decision to change your beliefs.  You wanted to be more like that person because you respected and admired them, and so you changed your mindset.  You moved away from your childhood reality and took a step closer to adult responsibility, just one of many formative steps in your life until you came to the place where you are today. Every one of those steps was your decision, and each time the cost was the abandonment of some innocent and carefree childhood perceptions.  Eventually, we reach the point where we can no longer recall those early beliefs from the days when we were so very young and naive.


         
          Neil Gaiman has the tools to help you remember.  Whether or not that is his intention, during the course of his skilled story-telling those memories may come back to the surface during your reading of THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE.  As you read further and become immersed in Gaiman's story, maybe some of those recollections may occur for you.  I recall a short time pre-kindergarten (and a little bit later, prompted by a Halloween incident) when I thought that witches might be real.  They either lived in our neighborhood in disguise during daylight hours or stayed hidden deep in the woods, occasionally straying closer to civilization during moonless nights.

          During your early days, were there adults that you gravitated to because they seemed like kindly mentors of the Gandalf variety, or that you avoided because they seemed evil like Mephistopheles and would corrupt or hurt you?  Children often proscribe mystical abilities to those adults whose characters they are trying to discern.  So, is the main character in THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE simply recalling those early misguided perceptions of reality, or is he relating events as they actually happened?   The deeper you read into this short novel, the more whimsical and unreal that past history becomes.  It's highly engrossing and some early reviewers relate how they read the novel in one sitting, unable to put it aside.

          Some details about the novel that struck me as odd during the early chapters now seem as if they were deliberate.  Gaiman's narrator, an adult male who was seven years old during the 1960's, never reveals his name.  As he tells his memoirs, none of the other characters address him by name or speak directly to him without preface.  The novel begins with the narrator attending a funeral in Sussex (England), the town where he grew up.  We can only assume it is one of his parents who passed, as he is called on to make a memorial statement.  Rather than distance the reader from the narrator, it actually brings us closer to him.  Instead of dropping a nametag on the story-teller, it transforms him into more of a universal Everyman in whom we can all find some traits in common.
   
          As our book guide follows up on the funeral with a walking tour of his former residence and local haunts, the memories come back and he recalls all the details of his character-building experience at the tender age of seven.  THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE concludes with a tender epilogue relating what he discovers during that return visit.  It's an effective framing device which captures this moment of young discovery and surrounds it with a shell of older, mature rationality/reality.

          The main character is a lonely, shy youth sheltered from frequent companionship with his peers by the remote country estate where he resides and also through his introverted nature.  He does not make friends easily, and becomes a voracious reader choosing to occupy his leisure moments in fantasy worlds.  Following a trauma-inducing event involving the suicide of a renter at their home, he discovers a quaint country farm of dreamy landscapes and meets the friendly girl Lettie, an eleven year old who lives there.  He later meets the rest of her family (mother and grandmother) maintaining the farm, and develops a friendly relationship where he becomes a frequent visitor.



          Lettie's family seems to have wisdom beyond their years and unusual gifts as well.  They are not witches in the traditional sense, but possess magical and summoning abilities.  As events move forward the reader gets the impression that they are of a different and immortal race and not from Earth proper.  When Lettie is asked to obtain something from another dimension, she brings the young boy along for companionship and instructs him to hold her hand the entire time.  During his journey to this dreamlike world with just enough similarities to ground it somewhat in reality, he loses his grip for a short while which results in another being using him as a portal to Earth.  Soon after, the cross-dimensional traveler manifests as the new nanny at their residence, befriending his parents and younger sister but not earning the narrator's trust.

          The conflict arises as our narrator works to expose the nanny for who she really is.  He escapes from her confines and enlists Lettie's family to help him send her away.  Every action has consequences and there are many to occur as Gaiman threads his magic through the story.  It ended much too soon, and I was left wanting more.  However, the ending is not an ambiguous one and much is resolved satisfactorily.

          Another interesting theme that runs throughout THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE is the superior wisdom of the female characters, especially Lettie's family and even the cruel nanny Ursula Monkton.  The three prominent male characters  (the narrator, his father, and the suicidal tenant) are all indecisive, self-centered, and failures to some degree or another.  The only exceptions are the mother, who just seems too pre-occupied with her working career, and the trusting sister who is easily deceived simply because of her younger age.

          Neil Gaiman has authored more than twenty books, including AMERICAN GODS and others for which he has earned many literary honors.  He first shot to prominence as the writer/creator of the comic book fantasy SANDMAN for DC /Vertigo Comics.  A native of England, he currently resides in Cambridge, Massachusetts with his wife (musician Amanda Palmer) and children.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Activities for the upcoming Halloween weekend

Those of us who live in the Southeastern PA / Northeast MD / Delaware triangle (central base to BC Refugees) have plenty of comics-related Halloween options this coming weekend. Things kick off with Comic Fest (brainchild of the Free Comic Book Day organizers), a Halloween-themed mini version of FCBD. 

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CAPTAIN BLUE HEN COMICS at 280 East Main Street in Newark, Delaware  (302-737-3434) will have free Comic Fest comics (1 per visitor) in the store on Saturday, October 26.  The store will be closed on Sunday, October 27, due to a Halloween parade that travels down Main Street. 

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Since access to the store is blocked  (street is closed that day) the CAPTAIN BLUE HEN team will be found at First State Comic Con where they will judge the costume contest.  They will also have a booth at the Con with Comic Fest giveaway comics and other specials.  

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CAPTAIN BLUE HEN also has copies of the Comic Fest mini-comics for sale for neighbors who would prefer to give out comics rather than candy to “the little ghouls and boys”. There are many to choose from in single issues, and also discounted when purchased in bundles.  (Editor’s Note:  I picked up three bundles there – Sesame Street, My Little Pony, and Adventure Time  - - to give away to trick-or-treaters in my neighborhood).

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Speaking of Sunday, October 27 - -  you’ll find me selling my comics at bargain prices at the FIRST STATE COMIC CON running from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the EMBASSY SUITES HOTEL at 645 South College Avenue in Newark, Delaware.  Admission is only $3, and free to kids under 5 and those in costume.

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As mentioned above, there will be a costume contest with prizes.  Special guests attending FIRST STATE COMIC CON are creators  Greg Larocque, Neil Vokes, Buz Hason, Ken Hauser, Blair Smith, PLB Comics, Gabe Dill, James Nguyen and more.

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And, a little further up the road  a Halloweekend Spookabration will occur at THE COMIC BOOK SHOP at 1855 Marsh Road in Wilmington, Delaware (302-477-1119).  Events include free Comic Fest comics, a costume contest, and a big sale.  Also appearing on Saturday only will be several comics creators including Steve Manion (Fearless Dawn), Eric Grissom and Phil Sloan (Deadhorse), and Paige & Claire Connelly of thINK Illustration.   The costumed Storm Troopers (Star Wars) of Vader’s 501st Legion also make an appearance at 1 p.m. on Saturday.

 

All participants get one Comic Fest comic, and those in costume receive an extra free comic, a ghoulish goody bag, and a chance to win the Creepy-Crawly Costume Contest.

 
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Sunday, October 13, 2013

NYCC announcement: Original Q & W creators reunite for series

from the official press release . . . . . . . . .

          Valiant is proud to announce that Christopher Priest and M.D. Bright, the acclaimed creators of Quantum and Woody, will reunite for Q2: The Return of Quantum and Woody – an all-new, five-issue mini-series bringing the original world's worst superhero team into the 21st century.

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          Set wholly in the original continuity of Priest and Bright's groundbreaking Acclaim Comics series, the new mini – which represents the return of both creators to monthly comics – will pick up in the modern day, launching an older Quantum and Woody into an all-new adventure set 20 years after the events of their original series.

          “Soon as Doc and I started hashing out the plotline, we got into a huge argument. It was just like old times. Happy to be back on the goat,” said Priest.

          "It's enormously exciting to have Priest and Doc return to the iconic characters they made famous," said Valiant Executive Editor Warren Simons.  "Over the years, the legend of the original series has only grown, and they're about to unleash a fearless new chapter in the lives of Quantum and Woody."

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          Whatever happened to the world's worst superhero team?  Twenty years past their prime, the unlikely crime-fighting duo known as Quantum and Woody have long since parted ways and retired…until a middle-aged Quantum suddenly reappears with a brand-new teenage partner—and his wisecracking ex-best friend gets mad.  Now Woody is out to break up the all-new, all-different Quantum and Woody and put an end to Quantum's recklessness and child endangerment…just as Quantum sets out to bring down a shadowy, globe-spanning agency of freelance spies and assassins.  As Quantum's plan crumbles right through Woody's fingers, will the former friends set aside their differences…and their age…and their numerous health difficulties…to join forces one last time without driving each other crazy?

          A veteran writer and editor with more than 35 years experience in the comic book industry, Christopher J. Priest has written nearly every major character in comics, with notable runs on series including Action Comics, Amazing Spider-Man, Black Panther, Captain America, Conan the Barbarian, Deadpool, and many more.

          M.D. Bright began his career in comics in 1978 and has worked consistently on some of the industry's most popular and enduring titles ever since.  One of the all-time definitive artists of Green Lantern, Iron Man, and G.I. Joe, Bright has also contributed to Batman, Captain America, Thor, Wonder Woman and countless others.

New Contributor at BC Refugees: meet MICHAEL CLARKE

          For a long time, we have been reading the book reviews of Michael Clarke, as his interests lie across several genres, including weird fiction, horror, dark fantasy, sword and sorcery, science fiction, mystery, crime, detective, and pulp adventure.  These are genres that we here at BC Refugees also have an appreciation for.  We are glad to announce that Michael Clarke has joined the list of new contributors to BC Refugees, and will be posting many of his reviews on our blog site.  Here’s a little bit about Michael in his own words:

          “To go back to the beginning, this all started in my pre-school years when parents and other relatives would often read aloud to me - - everything from Golden storybooks to comic books.  I learned to read from comic books, and soon progressed to reading Hardy Boys and Tarzan novels.  When I discovered some library collections during my middle-school years, I devoured everything from classic science-fiction to classic classics (Ivanhoe, etc.) to Conan The Barbarian, Fahfred And The Grey Mouser, Theodore Sturgeon, Harlan Ellison and Robert E Heinlein.  All this reading was interspersed with a generous sprinkling of assorted comic books.”

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          “Marvel got me through my high school years, except for ninth grade when I decided that girls would not think my reading comics was cool - - so I quit and (sob!) gave away or discarded enough classic books that I could have retired several years ago If I still had them to sell at today’s prices.  My absence from reading comics only lasted about 14 months.  I spent some time in home recovery, in bed for awhile after wisdom tooth surgery and complications.  That’s when I started reading comics again, and kept at it right through college (although very limited, due to finances).  I kept reading through my first full-time job, marriage (an understanding wife), and the birth of our first son.  When we moved to a higher cost of living area in the 1980’s I quit again for budgetary reasons.  That also lasted about fourteen months, when the financial situation improved and I could afford to spend some money on comics again.”

          “I’m still married to that wonderful woman, and my two sons are now fully mature adults.  I’ve got a respectable collection of comics, books, movies and music and keep adding to it.  I think I have amassed more items of popular culture than I can read, listen, and enjoy in my remaining years.  I think it’s a compulsion among us collectors.  Others (less kind) would call it a sickness.”

          “I’m really excited to be a part of BC Refugees, to share my thoughts on various works, and hope the regular readers of the blog will appreciate my contributions.”

          “ I think that about covers everything that might be of interest.  Oh yeah, almost forgot = I was on track for a career as a brain surgeon until a sled riding accident split my head open at the tender age of seven years, forcing me to re-evaluate my career path.  One little incident can have ramifications for a lifetime!”

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Book Review: THE DEVIL'S COATTAILS weird fiction anthology


THE DEVIL’S COATTAILS: More Dispatches from the Dark Frontier . . .
Jason V Brock & William F. Nolan, editors
Cycatrix Press 2011 291 pages
52 Deluxe Hardcovers, Signed & Lettered $194.95
500 Trade Hardcovers $49.95
www.jasunni.com

 
THE DEVIL’S COATTAILS presents a challenge to all reviewers of weird fiction.  It refuses to be pinned down, to be easily classified and tagged through a short description of its contents.  What it does deliver with each and every entry is high quality and great story-telling.  While THE DEVIL’S COATTAILS is not easily summarized, its impressive contents command a carefully detailed review.  A critical analysis could accurately be justified by claiming “The Devil Made Me Do It!”

THE DEVIL’S COATTAILS contains 21 original works, all previously unpublished and is embellished with weird art and illustrations of equally high quality throughout.  It is a follow-up anthology to THE BLEEDING EDGE collection, also assembled by the same team of editors (Jason V Brock & William F. Nolan).

The highly imaginative and evocative cover art by Vincent Chong beckons further exploration and seems to indicate that the inner contents may be very horrific and frightening.  A ghastly horned demon in long overcoat dominates a barren landscape with the only clutter from the discarded pages fluttering in the ill winds.   A lone figure in the background faces away from the demon and seems to be in contemplation.   Should he pick up the scattered pages, some with cabalistic images along with text, and consider their contents? - - or just end it now at the conveniently-placed desolate and apparently dead large-trunked tree that only lacks a noose hanging from its few huge branches?

That is not necessarily what the cover implies or promises inside, but simply one reader’s interpretation of the image.   While the contents of THE DEVIL’S COATTAILS did not completely fulfill the expectations of that initial cover impression and induce shivers -- they did exceed the desire for a collection of good short stories, poems and scripts and surpassed all other expectations through its marvelous diversity of  genres, themes and writing styles.  It doesn’t appear that anything in THE DEVIL’S COATTAILS will shock or increase the heart rate in threatening fashion.  Rather, the horror may emanate from whatever personal baggage the reader brings along for the ride.  It is suspected that many of the stories will strike a nerve, create a reflective ambience, and perhaps haunt the reader long after the story has ended.  That is what occurred for this reader.

It seems clear from the introductory material by S. T. Joshi, Jason V Brock and William F. Nolan that the guidelines for submittal to THE DEVIL’S COATTAILS were deliberately general in nature and sought to avoid any specific categorization.   That is the strength of THE DEVIL’S COATTAILS. 

As S. T. Joshi describes it, “weird fiction” is not a genre, but a “mode of writing” and William F. Nolan later refers to “imaginative fantasy.” Those serve as good a description of the contents as any.  As may be expected, the majority of material in THE DEVIL’S COATTAILS is “dark” and that may be the only thing that distinguishes some of these stories from straightforward mainstream fiction.  “Dispatches from the Dark Frontier”, indeed.  Vive le difference!  The other stories that veer away from darker themes seem to be either light-hearted and humorous or nostalgic.  Their particular placement throughout the anthology provides a welcome intermission. 

The other items that make THE DEVIL’S COATTAILS even more deserving of appreciation are the inclusion of a short biography and photo of the authors following each piece, as well as personal commentary on their own stories (which proved very insightful in more than one instance).

 

Also, when the stories in THE DEVIL’S COATTAILS seek to disturb they do so without utilizing any “gore”, “splatter” or other violent effects.  The style and tone are reminiscent of the late lamented TWILIGHT ZONE television series, a very mature horror/fantasy anthology series that relied on fine script writing and visual effects that implied much more than they revealed writing to achieve a feeling of discomfort among its viewers.   Some of the writers in this collection have a connection as former writers or other association with that series as well.

What’s remarkable about this anthology is that there are few (if any) similarities among the stories.  There is no repetition.   There is no filler.  There is no “formula” employed repeatedly.  All these works stand alone on their own merits.  While none of them would be considered merely “average”, there are at least 13 among the 21 that create the greatest impact and make THE DEVIL’S COATTAILS a worthwhile investment of time.

If only one inclusion can be considered for top honors (a tough choice) then that would be “. . . And Dream of Phaedian Fancies. . . ” by Gary A. Braunbeck which begins by proclaiming itself a “voice over script to accompany a film's final cut.”   It’s a clever device that Braunbeck employs to insert commentary that helps to make his points and also further enhances the feel of a documentary.   One lonely individual deposits a bundle of flowers on the doorstep of an abandoned home in a small village.  The reader is left to wonder why as the commentary provides further details on the individual but no clear explanation for his actions.  From there, the occupants of the village observe and interpret these actions which lead to what amounts to a public gathering, the reviving of a troubled ghost, and a disastrous outcome.   It’s a clever and sly observation by Braunbeck regarding perceptions as well as group mentality.  He also manages to pull the reader in and imply that they are also responsible for what happens.  This is both highly creative and simply brilliant.

Second place for top honors is shared by two stories:  “Object Lesson” by Jason V Brock and “The Woods Colt” by Earl Hamner, Jr. 

In “Object Lesson” as the last remaining parent passes away, the son is haunted not by wraiths but by memories of lost opportunities. Some of the reflective moments and thoughts that occur to the main character at odd times (especially during the approach to the hospital where his mother is in critical condition) will seem very real to anyone with a similar experience in their past -- and may linger long enough to create their own haunting moments of reflection and regret.  Be forewarned.    “The Woods Colt” finds another surviving son at the funeral of his mother.  He returns to the old, abandoned family mansion for one last visit (before it is sold) and finds insight into his own secret past and relationship to the other members of a very dysfunctional family. 

The surreal “Knife Through The Veil” by Marc Scott Zicree details a revenge-driven family member who continues to repeatedly pursue a killer, after death, to achieve final satisfaction/resolution.   It’s a former television script for ROD SERLING'S AFTER TWILIGHT -- a proposed series that the networks declined to produce.

One of the most disturbing tales in this anthology relates a fictional brush with the unknown as experienced during Victorian London by writer/poet/translator Oscar Wilde and aspiring artist/companion Frank Miles, who experiences an encounter with a strange transference in “The Hidden Realm” by W. H. Pugmire & Maryanne K. Snyder.   Equally troubling is a real-world look at the current casual attitude towards AIDS by gay couples and its potential hazards in “If You Love Me” by Paul G. Bens, Jr.  The desire to prove someone’s love for another through challenges or ultimatums can have undesired consequences.
 
 

A family member experiences the dying moments of others in “Dying to Forget” by Sunni K Brock and learns the true details of their father’s passing in the worst possible way.    An alien/mutant with a valued skill (the ability to decode not just text, but also intent) experiences contemporary prejudice and fear among co-workers in “Too Good to Be Human” by J. Brundage.  “On The First Day” by James Robert Smith concerns itself with a paranoid fantasy with evangelical/prophetic undertones as they relate to a global spider invasion.  “The Moons” by modern horror master Ramsey Campbell makes its case for independent thinking versus the group mind when an assemblage of youngsters become lost among the sand dunes and pine barrens of a coastal village.  The children of privilege, who expect to always be looked after, are blindly led astray while a less fortunate child is not as trusting of kindly appearing strangers.

Two stories have historical themes and utilize their careful research to tell compelling tales.  “Gunboat Whores” by John Shirley contains a portion of his upcoming novel about the young Wyatt Earp, who made a dramatic career change after losing his wife and stillborn child.  “Crimean Vespers” by Richard Selzer is a haunting love story that merges a one-night stand in pre-Communist Russia with Greek mythology and also allows its author to honor both his father and writer Anton Chekov.

Among the more light-hearted tales in this collection, the best is “Can You Imagine” by Paul J. Salamoff, that features a "when I was your age" rhyming poem for the digital age of entertainment and gaming.

Those are just the high points of this anthology.  Also found within the pages of THE DEVIL’S COATTAILS  are entertaining tales of demon summoning,  ghost friends, mosquito women, cat women, ash can racing, a haunted camera, and a poetic re-telling of the Circe legend from the likes of Dan O’Bannon,  Melanie Tem, Jerry E. Airth, Steve Rasnic Tem, Norman Corwin, Nancy K. Kilpatrick, and William F. Nolan. 

 

 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Best descriptive 2013 title: Vampire Vixens of the Wehrmacht

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VAMPIRE VIXENS OF THE WEHRMACHT “If You Want Blood” one-shot (Bump and Grind Comics, August 2013, second printing with foreword by film maker Paul Campion) Writers: The Emperor + Alex Ronald.  Artist: Alex Ronald.  Letterer: Jim Campbell. Original Concept: Alex Ronald.  (Parental Advisory, Adult Content)  Limited print run, but digital copies are available from http://www.vampirevixens.co.uk/

          If you can’t figure out what this comic is about from that title, then I’m guessing you’ve been living for decades in a cave without a DVD player and no access to cable television.  VAMPIRE VIXENS OF THE WEHRMACHT is a fast-paced horror comic driven by action, rooted in World War II history, and dripping with blood, gore and tantalizing sexual imagery.  What makes it work is a light-hearted approach to the subject matter, all in fun but never silly or stupid.  You may find yourself laughing at several of the scenarios or chuckling at the devilish dialogue.

          VAMPIRE VIXENS OF THE WEHRMACHT debuted at the Glasgow Comic Con in July 2013, and is the brainchild of primary creator Alex Ronald.  Ronald is a former comics illustrator who worked primarily in British series back in the 1990’s, and this marks a partial and very welcome return to the comics format.  The one-shot story was well-received and the first printing sold out at the festival, with stock of the second printing almost depleted.  Digital copies will continue to be sold through the shop on the webpage noted above.

          What impresses immediately with the opening prologue pages is the photo-realistic style of Alex Ronald and how he uses inks and color to add the appropriate shading and depth.  Dimensions and proportions are spot on and stand out when intended.  Ronald is also very adept at illustrating male and female anatomy along with depicting naked pagan rituals.

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          The action begins in 1940 London, with fears of an imminent German invasion by Hitler’s forces. After learning that the Nazis have revived and enslaved four ancient female vampires (from a site in Tunisia, Africa), Winston Churchill (perfectly portrayed here) forms the Special Occult Executive team. A core member of that team (we are only introduced to two members) is one of the Nazi vampire women, now freed from Hitler’s enslavement through the mysticism of necromancer Aleister Crowley.

          The other member of the team is Morris, a chaplain as well as “a former member of the Royal Marine Commandos and a Vatican-sanctioned exorcist” and obviously appalled and offended by who he’s been teamed up with.  He’s frequently in argument with the former Nazi tool, and has to keep this vampire vixen under control as she continually taunts and tempts him with sexual puns and innuendos. We never learn her name (Libyenah) until 22 pages into the story, but it’s doubtful that any readers will fail to remember her character.  She is adorned in leather (a sleeveless vest with no shirt, just a big zipper down the center) and below the waist wears only a lock-free leather chastity belt that features a cheek-free back.  In her kinky boots with lots of buckles, she is a real temptress, leather clad, sexy, and packing a firm load of sass.

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          The British also employ a team of psychics who uncover a Nazi plan for a supernatural attack on England.  They are four elderly, hat-wearing ladies sipping tea while they channel Nazi spirits.  They will remind many Monty Python fans of the sketch where The War of the Roses is reenacted by members of a women’s tea club, swinging their handbags in fierce battle and screaming their lungs out.

          The new SOE team must sneak into the Black Forest in Western Germany, interrupt a midnight satanic coven (naked witches and naked Nazis) in order to steal away a small portion of Adolph Hitler’s anatomy that was removed by his mother during childhood, a spherical object that is apparently a power source for the supernatural forces that will be turned against England.  The battle that ensues is full of blood and bullets complete with exploding body parts.  Libyenah get extra credit for her impromptu choice of creative weapon.

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VAMPIRE VIXENS OF THE WEHRMACHT is worth your attention.  You will be entertained, amused and possibly stimulated.  Alex Ronald, please come back for more.  Another one-shot issue is in the planning for late 2014, in a chapter titled “Arses High”.

Alex Ronald currently resides in Glasgow, Scotland and was a regular artist in the 1990’s for the British comic 2000 AD, mostly drawing the character Judge Dredd.  He also spent some time working for DC Comics, as an artist on LOBO.  Since 2000, he’s been mostly involved in the computer graphics industry as a digital 3D modeler and 2D concept painter, working on TV commercials, video games, films and kids TV shows.  Some of his other work can be viewed on his blog at http://alexronald68.blogspot.co.uk/.

          When asked why he chose a WWII story of vampires and Nazis for his return to comics, Alex responded: “Painting blood thirsty vampire women, wartime action and gore is my therapy after all the nicey, cutesy day job artwork.  It’s also a throwback to all the war comics I used to read as a kid in the 70’s (but in a very X certificate fashion).”

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

New contributor to BC Refugees: meet JIM

 

   We welcome our new reviewer, Jim Dietrich, to the BC Refugees blog.   Jim is also an avid comics enthusiast, and serves as DC counterpoint to Ken’s Marvel inclinations.   Jim is a critical but objective analyst, whose eye for detail and underlying themes is always something to look forward to in his reviews.   With our other new reviewer (Ken) and also Kita Roberts  , Jim can be heard regularly on From The Booth, the official podcast of Captain Blue Hen Comics in Newark, Delaware.   http://www.captainbluehen.com/category/podcast/

jim d

We’ll let Jim tell you more in his own words:

          “Jim is an electrical engineer working in the telecomm industry, but that's just his day job.  When he's not typing this paragraph, he's a frequent comics reader (has been since the 80's), and co-host of the From The Booth podcast along with new BC Refugees contributor Ken.  Of course, he is also a husband and proud father 24/7.

          "I'm always on the lookout for new pulpits from which to preach the gospel of good comics, good movies, and good sci-fi.   That's why I jumped at the opportunity to be a part of BC Refugees," Jim thought as he typed his....thoughts.   "I look forward to being a contributor," he added, intelligently. 

New contributor to BC Refugees: meet KEN

 

          We welcome our new reviewer, Ken (let that last name be a mystery for now), as a regular contributor to the BC Refugees blog.  Ken, or Ken of From The Booth as he likes to include in his byline, is an avid comics enthusiast, partial to Marvel but very open to all publishers, likes to cosplay (just for fun, no competitions)  in his Wolverine outfit plus others, and has become a regular attendee at comics conventions where he and his podcast partner manage to obtain several choice interviews with creators.  He can be heard regularly on From The Booth, the official podcast of Captain Blue Hen Comics in Newark, Delaware.   http://www.captainbluehen.com/category/podcast/

Please welcome Ken to our website.

Joker Ken

          “I started reading comics (X-Men and Batman) when I was seven, and have been reading them on and off ever since.  Over a little more than two decades of reading, I’ve amassed a collection of over 8,000 comic books (not including trades or hardcovers). “

          “I mostly read Marvel but I know enough about DC to fake it and find my pull sheet is increasingly populated with third party publishers and non-capes and tights books.”

          “For the past two and a half years, I’ve been a regular co-host of Captain Blue Hen’s official podcast, From The Booth, where I talk about everything nerd and pop culture related.”

Monday, October 7, 2013

Jim's Movie Reviews: Rush

Rush is the latest film from director Ron Howard and screenwriter Peter Morgan (Frost/Nixon, The Queen).  It tells the (true) story of the intense rivalry between Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl) and James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth), two Formula 1 drivers with extreme personalities whose on- and off-track battles were the stuff of sports legend in the 1970's. In a sport where a significant percentage of drivers is killed, on average, every season, the two figures rise to dominate the track, each fueling the other's desire to win, regardless of risk and personal cost.

The Good:  The personalities on display here are extreme, almost to the point of caricature, but neither the script nor the direction can be faulted for it.  To put it simply, the film does a good job of conveying the truth:  To take up this sport required a certain fearlessness not present in your average person.  To win, one must have been more than a little insane.  The dialogue conveys this, including some word-for-word quotes from interviews and other recorded footage, as if to let the audience know that the personalities on display here are extreme, but aren't "amped up" for cinema.  The subjects needed to be that way, or it wouldn't have been their story being told decades later.  Hunt did show up for interviews with multiple models on his arm. He did speak as if the world was his playground. He did take chances on the track that resulted in both wins and critical injuries. Lauda did walk onto one of the most storied racing teams of his time, blackmailing them for a spot by first building a faster car and then demonstrating that he could beat their best driver in it.  It's one of those situations where narrative truth could have taken a back seat, and personalities could have been toned down to make it seem more real or believable to audiences.  That, and events could have been re-arranged or edited for a more pleasing arc...but it wouldn't have been the truth.

Cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle gives us some of the best work of his career. The 70's muted Kodachrome color palette was perfect, especially where integrating stock racing footage was necessary to tell the story.  The camera work both on- and off-track was thrilling, and edited to perfection.  I gotta say, this is a contender for "Best Editing", with cuts paced to build intensity during race sequences, and communicating to-the-point personalities outside the track very, very well.

I don't know who to credit with this, but this film needs to win several awards for sound, especially the way the foley work was integrated with the music.  Although there were some missteps and hokey-ness off the track when it came to chosen songs for montages, on the race track was perfection:  Engine noise overwhelms, then gives way to announcers, whose voices in turn echo seemingly right on beat with the music, and it all blends to a seamless whole.  I was thrilled with the race sequences in general, and due in no small part to the craftsmanship evident in what I was hearing.

The bad:  The film may cause feelings of inadequacy, especially among middle-aged males.

Oh, and some of the CG wasn't absolutely perfect.

The verdict:  Probably the best racing film I've ever seen...but that doesn't say much, as, let's face it: Most racing films are stupid.  If you like action and drama, go see it.  9 out of 10.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Getting familiar with the Stranger

THE PHANTOM STRANGER  # 1 - 8                                                                                                                TRINITY OF SIN: THE PHANTOM STRANGER  #9 -10                                                                                 (DC, December 2012 – September 2013)

PHSTR_Cv1_R1                    PHSTR_Cv6

          It was the fabulous art of Brent Anderson that first captured my attention, in a style highly evocative of DC’s classic HOUSE OF MYSTERY back in the Wrightson era.  Also, not being well versed on the character of The Phantom Stranger it seemed a good time to check out the New 52 version. 

          Dan Didio does a workmanlike job on the series.  The opening story arc is a good one, although Didio’s style reads just a bit too much old-school.  It seems that The Phantom Stranger has assumed the persona of a normal family man and keeps his off-hour activities secret from all.  The first story arc lasts three issues and is a nice introduction to the Stranger’s wife and kids.  Along the way he encounters Doctor Thirteen and The Haunted Highwayman.  Story and dialogue improve immediately in Issue #4 with the addition of J. D. Dematteis writing the script from Didio’s plots.  A long story arc begins here with the abduction of the Stranger’s (a.k.a. Phillip Stark) family in a complicated plot that includes Justice League Dark, Pandora, The Spectre, and the Question just for starters.

           Gene Ha takes over art responsibilities for one issue, but it’s the cream of the crop.  If you only pick up one issue, make sure you get THE PHANTOM STRANGER #6.  The Phantom Stranger enters a high-stakes poker game with three demons that must been seen and read to be believed.  The imagery and story are awesome, and this makes my short list of the best single-issue stories of the year 2013.  From this point forward, the stories become more engaging and convoluted.  The Stranger dies, visits Hell, Limbo/Paradise, and Heaven; confronts his inner demons and angels; and lays the groundwork for the path forward. 

          Things kick into high gear with Issue #9 when DeMatteis takes over all writing responsibilities.  He takes it to another level, a metaphysical one that asks deep questions about spirituality.  Issue #11 begins the crossover Trinity War, which is where I get off. I’m already too involved in a few other epics right now.

Valiant Hits the Bull’s-eye with Bloodshot

Written by Ken of From The Booth

TPB:  Bloodshot Vol 1Setting the World on Fire (2012)
Writer:  Duane Swiercynski
Artist: Manuel Garcia, Arturo Lozzi
Price: $9.99

Ever since Valiant Comics got resurrected from a decade in obscurity, I have loved their new stuff and have gone in search of their old stuff.  My ’92 XO Manowar review details Valiant’s long and complicated history but in short, all of their old titles are back with a fresh coat of paint. 

Duane Swiercynski is best known for his crime novels but has also worked in the comic industry since 2007.  His credits include Cable, single issues of Moon Knight and Punisher and many X-titles.  Both Garcia and Lozzi are both virtual unknowns.

Bloodshot was one of the most popular of Valiant’s characters back in the ‘90s and has been reimagined in his self titled book. Bloodshot is best described as Punisher with a little bit of Hulk mixed in. A member of the US Special Forces, Bloodshot believes himself to be Angelo Mortalli, Raymond Garrison, or any of a number of other identities. As a super soldier whose body is packed with nanites that allows him to recover from wounds that would kill anyone else, he has been brainwashed to believe he is always fighting a last battle so he can finally go home to a family that doesn’t exist.

The story opens with Bloodshot being dropped into a warzone and taking out a base where he believes his brother is being held.  During the raid, his brain is hacked by a defector from Project Lazarus, the organization that created him.  Now flooded by a sea of contradicting synthetic memories, he runs from the government that turned him into a weapon of mass destruction. 

The storytelling in this book is fantastic and uses the novel device of having the nanites move the narrative along by having conversations with Bloodshot in the form of his nonexistent wives and children.   The art treads that thin line between photorealism and cartoony that works remarkably well here.  Facial expressions seem to be carefully crafted and effective at conveying the dark mood of the story. 

While I’ve been loudly telling anyone who would listen about how awesome X-O Manowar is, I think Bloodshot might even be better.  This is definitely a book for people who are fans of the MAX universe, war comics or science fiction.  The genres seem to blend together into a cohesive and believable whole in a way few books can pull off in the first four issues. 

Final rating 5 out of 5.




Friday, October 4, 2013

New Feature At BC Refugees: Genre Fiction Reviews

            We are happy to introduce a new feature to the BC Refugees blog beginning soon.  We will post reviews of genre fiction, including crime, mystery, detective, fantasy, horror, science fiction, steampunk, pulp revival and whatever else comes to our attention in the form of popular culture. It's what we're all about!  Reviews will be written by Michael Clarke and others.  Please keep watching this space. 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

What’s New with HARBINGER? October update

CLAYTON HENRY Goes Exclusive for "RESISTANCE" in HARBINGER #20!

Editor’s Note: HARBINGER is our favorite Valiant title. We haven’t written much about it here recently, but that will be remedied soon. In the meantime, here is the latest news . . . .

from the official press release . . . . . . . . . ..

          Valiant is proud to announce that acclaimed artist Clayton Henry (Harbinger Wars, Archer & Armstrong) has signed on as the publisher's next exclusive artist for the launch of "Resistance" – a brand new story arc beginning this January in Harbinger #20. 

          Henry joins artists Doug Braithwaite (Unity), Trevor Hairsine (Eternal Warrior), and Cary Nord (X-O Manowar), as well as New York Times best-selling writer Joshua Dysart (Harbinger, Bloodshot and H.A.R.D. Corps) and acclaimed colorist Brian Reber (Unity), as the latest addition to Valiant's roster of exclusive talent.

HAR_020_PULLBOX_MONTOYA

          As revealed today in an exclusive interview at Comic Vine, the best-selling Harbinger Wars creative team of Dysart and Henry will reunite for "Resistance" – an all-new jumping on point that will lead Peter Stanchek and the Renegades into the final act of their crusade against Toyo Harada…and introduce an unlikely new ally into their growing battle against the Harbinger Foundation.

          Peter Stanchek and his team of teenage superhuman outlaws have decided that the best defense is a strong offense.  Pursued from coast-to-coast by their would-be overlord in the Harbinger Foundation, the Renegades are about to launch a strategic strike on Harada's secret empire – and they'll start by revealing to the world just what kind of power they've been hiding all along.  The ace up their sleeve?  A seemingly normal teenage hacker named Ax…who knows exactly what Harada has been up to since day one...

          As the latest installment of the MUST READ VALIANT campaign, Harbinger #20 is a perfect introduction to the series that Comic Vine says "[will] leave your jaw on the floor."
"This arc will be incredibly new-reader friendly... We've built a lot of great jumping-on points into the previous issues, but this will be the easiest one yet. If you've haven't read the book, this is the one to try. If friends haven't read the book, this is the one to hand to them," Dysart told Comic Vine.

          Other recently announced MUST READ VALIANT milestones include Quantum and Woody #5 by award-winning writer James Asmus and rising star Ming DoyleShadowman #13 by the all-new creative team of Peter Milligan and Roberto De La Torre;  and Bloodshot and H.A.R.D. Corps #18 by fan favorite creators Christos Gage, Joshua Dysart and Bart Sears.    HARBINGER #20 (NEW ARC – RESISTANCE)