Friday, January 31, 2014

Short Fiction Reviews - - - Crime, Science Fiction, Mystery, Horror . . . . . . . . .


Joyland (Hard Case Crime) Paperback                                                                                                            by Stephen King   (Author)

          There is just enough crime and supernatural in this story to justify some of the advertising descriptions, but what is there is very good.  It's typical King fare - - good characterization, great descriptions, an engaging mystery and story.  King knows how to immerse the reader in his world and does it effortlessly.  His skills are so good you don't realize how easily he hooks readers into his plots. I think anything that he writes is worth checking out, especially if you have writing aspirations of your own.  King is a writer that you should study.  The story takes place in a carnival setting in the early 1970's and centers around the main character's coming of age, personal development and discoveries.  His attitudes and philosophy are shaped by the events that occur while he works as an amusement park employee.  There's a murder and a ghostly presence woven into the overall story that ties everything together in the final pages.  Don't overlook King just because he is mega-successful. The man has earned his stripes. 


Old Man's War (Mass Market Paperback)                                                                                             by  John Scalzi   (Author)

          Outstanding.  Will remind you of the master, Robert Heinlein.  But Scalzi is his own man and his own voice - - lots of great commentary and dialogue.   In addition to a great space adventure tale and a commentary on senior citizens finding a purpose, it's also a decades long love story - - and a good one.  Check this out!

Agent To The Stars  (Mass Market Paperback)                                                                                             by  John Scalzi   (Author)

          Scalzi can do no wrong in my book.  Old Man's War reminded me of  Starship Troopers in all the right ways.  And now, I'm reminded of Heinlein once again. Agent To The Stars has a theme also common to Stranger In A Strange Land  (alien visitor espousing philosophy and ascertaining the good in humanity) but the outline, story and resolution are all Scalzi.  Highly recommended. 


The Bedlam Detective: A Novel Paperback                                                                                                     by Stephen Gallagher   (Author)

          The Bedlam Detective is a captivating read blending mystery, detective, supernatural, horror and a bit of adventure all together.  The story is set in Victorian England and follows the work of Sebastian Becker as he investigates a wealthy eccentric to determine if he is sane or mentally unable to manage his household.  With a reputation tarnished by a disasterous expedition to the Amazon and a crazed recounting of events, this upperclassman is now under suspiscion for murders and near-murders that have occured on his estate grounds.   Author Gallagher makes it all seem all too real and disturbing.  A great read.

Head Stone  (Jack Taylor #9)                                                                                                                              by Ken Bruen (Author)

          Acclaimed Irish crime writer Ken Bruen has won numerous awards for his hard-charging, dark thrillers, which have been translated into ten languages.  In Headstone, an elderly priest is nearly beaten to death and a special-needs boy is brutally attacked.  has many guises and Jack Taylor has encountered most of them.  But nothing before has ever truly terrified him until he confronts an evil coterie named Headstone, who have committed a series of random, insane, violent crimes in Galway, Ireland.  Most would see a headstone as a marker of the dead, but this organization seems like it will act as a death knell to every aspect of Jack’s life. J ack’s usual allies, Ridge and Stewart, are also in the line of terror.  An act of appalling violence alerts them to the sleeping horror, but this realization may be too late, as Headstone barrels along its deadly path right to the center of Jack’s life and the heart of Galway.  A terrific read from a writer called a Celtic Dashiell Hammett, by the Philadelphia Inquirer, Headstone is an excellent addition to the Jack Taylor series.

Lake Charles (Trade Paperback)                                                                                                                                                             by Ed Linskey  (Author)

          This book moves through its paces at a rapid-fire clip.  Lake Charles is a very good murder mystery (solved by the accused, with help from friends) that takes place in mountainous and swampy settings (very familiar to Lynskey) in the late 1970's.  It's a little bit retro-history and social commentary (the seamy side, of course) of the times mixed in with the story/plot.  And I haven't mentioned the characters yet.  Lynskey has always done a great job with characterization, and he steps it up here.  After 50 pages or more I still hadn't warmed up to a single character in this book  (yet, it didn't stop me from continuing  to read).  I didn't find any to like.  But, as the novel progressed more and more was revealed of the main and secondary characters a little layer at a time - - exposing their depth as well as creating some empathy.  You understand them better after reading some flashbacks of character-defining moments in their past.  It's a very entertaining and fast read.  If you like crime fiction, this is for you.  It's what I call a "keeper" book.  I won't loan it out to friends or donate it.  I'll save it and re-visit a year or more from now for a second reading and enjoy it all over again. 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

What’s New Wednesday 1/29/2014: The Other Dead #5

THE OTHER DEAD #5  of 6  ( IDW, January 2014)  Writer/Co-Creator: Joshua Ortega.  Co-Creator: Digger T Mesch.  Art: Qing Ping Mui.  Colors:  Blond.  Letters: Tom B. Long  Creative Consultant:  Kevin Eastman.  Based on a film treatment by Digger T Mesch.

Before you can even open to the first page, the great art assaults you.  There are three covers for Issue #5.  All three are great and serve as good hints/teasers for the inside contents.  Art lovers will want to have all three.  (Editor’s Note:  A bad time for me to get practical instead of impulsive.) 






 VARIANT COVER BY KEVIN EASTMAN  WITH DAVID MILLGATE. COLORS BY BLOND.     above right                                           

         Issue #4 ended with our unlikely band of survivors holed up inside redneck Chet’s house.  Issue #5 is an all-out zombie animal assault on the house with enough action and killing to last another two issues.  The setting might even be a homage to NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD , the original black & white zombie scare fest that is the granddaddy of all current zombie movies, television, fiction, and comics.  Never stop the insanity when it’s this good! 

          Chip, the President’s advisor, does his job and advises everyone to sit tight and wait it out until the evacuation team that President Obama contacted arrives for a rescue extraction.  Little Tommy, scoring points for figuring out that Chet is a former Army Ranger (learned it from “video games” ) asks an intelligent rhetorical question:  “But didn’t Chet say the animals start coming around at night?”  (Flashback to page one where the animal forces are gathering.)  Mr. Advisor responds with a classic answer of “Yes, thought I think if we stay put inside we should be just fine.”  (Also recalling the infamous line from THE NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD - - - “The cellar’s the safest place!”  We know what happened there.) 

        Chet’s just a little bit paranoid about having an animal-bitten rocker in his home, not to mention a black man (even if he is the President).  His suspicions lead him to questioning Obama about the entrance requirements into The Illuminati, as he’s sure that how he landed in office.   And then the mayhem begins as the house is broken into by the animals.  First it’s a pack of vicious dogs, followed by deer and big ass bears.  They all attack with manic fury and don’t go down easy, requiring multiple head shots and smashes.


     The art and color throughout the battle scenes is extremely expressive and explicit this issue. Artist Mui is having a field day as he depicts undead animals in various stages of decay, exposed bones and sinews, with skin stretched back across the muzzle to display rotting fangs, etc.  The inks and colors are bolder than seen before, with reds and greens illuminating the pages.  There are some very effective pages and panels that are shaded one color.

     President Obama should definitely take some time out to investigate this book, as it depicts him in a very favorable light (even if it is bathed in crimson).  He takes up arms,  blows heads apart with both barrels, kicks, chops and hacks away at the animals when he’s balls to the walls and cornered.

   It all comes to a head rather quickly, as we’ll have to wait for the conclusion in Issue #6 to see how this turns out.  It’s not going to be good for one side or the other.  If I told you which side (animals or humans) got the upper hand this issue it would spoil too much of this very engaging story.  Recommended.

(Editor’s Notes: It’s already been announced that a sequel is in the works, slated for late 2014.  So that would indicate that somebody or something survived to carry this forward.) 

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Writer: Dan Slott
Artist: Ryan Sook
DC Comics | Graphic Novel | $14.99
Review by From the Booth‘s own Ken
Arkham Asylum: Living Hell is the first 6 issue arc of Arkham Asylum. Although I haven’t read the rest of the series, I had to pick up the first trade, which was written by Dan Slott who has been writing Amazing Spider-Man successfully. He recently pulled off two major and critically acclaimed events in that universe: “Spider-Island” and “The Ends of the Earth”. Anyone who could make Spider-Man a great book again has got to be worth reading when he gets his paws on Batman.
Ironically, Batman plays a minor role in this arc, but it didn’t bother me in the least. The book instead focuses on Batman’s rogue gallery and how they pass the time between their inevitable escapes. Dr. Arkham and Aaron Cash, familiar to anyone who has played the video game Arkham Asylum, round out the institution as the only people dedicated to keeping order in this madhouse.
Warren “The Great White Shark” White is a Bernie Madoff-like character who has cooked the books of his corporation and walked off with the money of all his investors. Thinking that he is clever, he pleads insanity but ends up sentenced to indefinite detention in Arkham Asylum along with Two-Face, the Joker and many other lesser known Batman villains. Intimidated by the psychos he is incarcerated with; his life soon becomes…wait for it… a living hell.  Meanwhile outside the institution, Jason Blood, AKA The Demon, is on the trail of a seemingly occult-inspired case that went cold when some unknown assailant was arrested and sent to Arkham.
The art in the book is excellent, maintaining detail while still making liberal use of shadows and lighting, as one would expect in a Bat-book.  It only seems off-kilter when showing the Joker, whose long face and thin frame seem exaggerated beyond belief here. The cover gallery is also a work of art, using oil painting-inspired illustrations.
Arkham Asylum: Living Hell shows that Slott can write a darker story while still maintaining everything that is still great about Spider-Man. Slott succeeds in making you care, however much you may not like him, about White and his plight as he navigates the internal politics of Arkham in an attempt to keep himself alive. Aaron Cash’s subplot adds dimension to the arc and gives you a character you can truly root for with no reservations. Although the resolution wanders too far into the mystical for someone expecting a Bat-book, it may not bother readers who are bigger fans of The Demon than Batman.
Final rating (out of 5): 

Advance Preview: SOLAR, MAN OF THE ATOM debuts in April

from the official press release . . . . . .

Solar01-Cov-Doe                    Solar01-Cov-Incen-Brown

January 23, 2014, Mt. Laurel, NJ:  Dynamite proudly announces that the new ongoing Solar: Man of the Atom comic book series, written by Frank Barbiere (Five Ghosts) and illustrated by Joe Bennett (Iron Man), will launch its first issue on Wednesday, April 16, 2014.   Solar: Man of the Atom #1 marks the third highly-anticipated title release in Dynamite's "Gold Key" line of comic books, which also includes Turok: Dinosaur Hunter (debuting in February 2014),  Magnus: Robot Fighter (March 2014), and Doctor Spektor, a revival of beloved comic book heroes courtesy of Dynamite's licensing agreement with DreamWorks Classics.


          In Solar: Man of the Atom, brilliant scientist Dr. Phil Seleski is granted unbelievable powers after being flooded with an experimental radiation.  Driven to unlock the secrets of the universe, he begrudgingly becomes a hero along the way… but can a single man be trusted with near-limitless abilities?   What will this mean to those he loves… and will his choices lead to utter chaos and destruction?

          "In our take, we've focused on the theme of family," says writer Frank Barbiere, whose series Five Ghosts launched in 2013 to much critical and fan acclaim.   "We've got a character that suddenly becomes a being of extreme power, is thrust into a universal community, and adopts the mantle of a hero.   At the core is still a man, a human being who is not unlike us.   Making this a personal story about how that affects his life and family has really brought it to some exciting new places.   Solar's all-new cast of characters will feel the reverberations of his every action - and not everyone is going to survive the fallout!"


      While the reimagined Gold Key line is intended to capture the spirit of beloved prior incarnations, the new Solar has been designed as a perfect jumping-on point for newcomers.   "This is a brand new Solar: Man of the Atom," says Barbiere.  " We'll have all the wonderful sci-fi action and excitement that the original is known for, yet apply those classic elements in a new direction that will feel fresh and new, introducing the character to a whole new generation of readers.  We think they're going to love it!"

          Joe Bennett joins Dynamite Entertainment as the artist on Solar: Man of the Atom, bringing his many years of industry experience to the project.  Since the mid-1990s, Bennett has worked extensively on key superhero series from Marvel and DC Comics, including such action-packed titles as Amazing Spider-Man, Captain America, Thor, Birds of Prey, Deathstroke, Teen Titans, Iron Man, and many more.
"Discovering Frank Barbiere's work on Five Ghosts was one of those rare moments in comics when you read someone's first foray into the medium and are immediately struck by his vast potential," says Nick Barrucci, the CEO / Publisher of Dynamite Entertainment .   "He's an up-and-coming voice, and I can't wait for fans to hear that voice come through in Solar: Man of the Atom.   Also, when it comes to Solar's cosmic scope and surreal visuals, I can't think of anyone better suited than Joe Bennett, a man I salute as one of the most talented and respected illustrators in the business."

          Solar: Man of the Atom #1 will feature a wide selection of cover variants, presented by some of comics' most talented artists.   The Main Cover will be supplied by Juan Doe (Fantastic Four, Deadpool), and a Subscription-Only Variant Cover, intended as a reward for dedicated fans who preorder with their local comic shop retailers, will feature the art of industry legend and classic Solar artist Bob Layton.   A Blank Authentix Cover will be created for the first issue, featuring blank white space on the cover perfect for convention artist commissions or the creative whims of the do-it-yourself fan.

          Additional cover artwork by Garry Brown (Five Ghosts), Stephen Mooney (Spike, Angel), and Ken Haeser (The Living Corpse) will be featured on special Retailer Incentive Original Art Covers, rewarded to and available from select retailers that meet certain ordering thresholds through Diamond Comic Distributors.  

Solar01-Cov-Retailer-Castro                 Solar01-Cov-Subscription-Layton

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Comixology: digital comics platform keeps setting records


EDITOR’S NOTE: Comixology continues to grow, which some view as bad for conventional comics business (print) and others view as the future marketing platform for comics development and distribution.  We like that they are expanding the audience base and drawing in new readers, helping to perpetuate comics as a viable medium throughout the 21st Century. We also appreciate that they recognize the contribution that comic book stores can still make to increasing readership.  Most comic stores have a link to Comixology on their own websites.  By clicking the link to visit Comixology via your favorite comic shop’s web page  a portion of the sale is returned to the comic store.


from the official press release . . . . . .

Monday, January 20th, 2014 – New York, NY – Last week you learned that comiXology, the revolutionary cloud-based digital comics platform, charted as iTunes’ #1 Top Grossing non-game iPad App for 2013 in the U.S.  This week comiXology reveals that they also charted as the Top-Grossing iPad Book App for 2013 in France, Belgium, Germany, Spain and the UK!

ComiXology is also making available an infographic, “Where in the World Are Digital Comics Fans?”, showing the penetration of digital comics readers on the comiXology platform across the globe.

Below are some fun facts from the infographic:

  • 51% of comiXology users are outside the U.S.
  • ComiXology is also currently the Top iOS Book App in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, India, Mexico, The Netherlands, New Zealand, The Philippines & many more.

ComiXology’s domination in the 2013 international Top-Grossing iPad Apps lists caps off a year that has seen comiXology’s growth driven by ongoing innovation and international expansion.

At last year's Festival de la Bande Dessin√©e d'Angoul√™me, comiXology announced the opening of Paris-based comiXology Europe, the company’s first overseas subsidiary, which is spearheading international language content acquisition across Europe.  French language navigation, a precursor to full French localization, was added to comiXology’s iOS apps in June of 2013.  The Franco-Belgian market is home to a ravenous base of comic book fans, which account for a $700 million annual market – roughly on par with the U.S. market.

With over 45,000 comics and graphic novels from more than 75 publishers, comiXology offers the widest selection of digital comics in the world.  ComiXology’s immense catalog and unique Guided View reading experience is available across the iPhone, iPad, Android, Kindle Fire, Windows 8, and – making it the best digital platform for comic and graphic novel fans worldwide.

About comiXology
ComiXology has revolutionized the comic book and graphic novel industry by delivering a cloud-based digital comics platform that makes discovering, buying, and reading comics more fun than ever before. ComiXology’s Guided View™ reading technology transforms the comic book medium into an immersive and cinematic experience, helping comiXology become one of iTunes top grossing iPad apps in 2011, 2012 and 2013.  Offering the broadest library of comic book content from the top 75 publishers, and including independent creators as well, comiXology will not stop until everyone on the face of the planet has become a comic book fan.  A privately held company, comiXology is based in New York City. For more information, visit

Monday, January 20, 2014

Trailer released for 300: Rise Of An Empire


Courtesy of Legendary Pictures . . . . . . . . .

Scheduled Release Date  March 7,  2014

Editor’s Note:  The first film was visually stunning, with a simple yet engaging story. I have high hopes for this sequel.  Will you be in the audience when this comes out? 


300: Rise Of An Empire

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Writer: Zeb Wells
Artist: Clayton Crain
Marvel Comics | graphic novel | $19.99
Review by From the Booth‘s own KEN
It’s no secret that I’m a huge Carnage fan. A big part of that is me misremembering Maximum Carnage which I read sometime around my ninth birthday. Upon rereading it, it was terrible. But the combo of Zeb Wells and Clayton Crain on a number of Carnage books (Carnage: Family Feud, Venom vs. Carnage, Carnage USA) was more than enough for me to rediscover my love for everyone’s favorite symbiotic serial killer.
Zeb Wells has written so many great books it’s impossible to squeeze them into this review but the highlights are Daredevil: Battlin’ Jack MurdockAvenging Spider-ManAmazing Spider-Man and New Mutants. He also is an actor and writer on the amazing show, Robot ChickenClayton Crain is best known for Ghost Rider: Road to Damnation and Sensational Spider-Man. Crain is a somewhat polarizing figure since he uses digital painting techniques in his art. Although some people don’t like his distorted oil panting-like look, many others think it represents the next leap forward in artwork.
The story opens with an armored truck heist that is anything but normal. Spider-Man’s long lost Doppelganger has come out of hiding and is determined to get whatever is being transported in this vehicle. With an assist from Iron Man and some mysterious high tech security agents, the Doppelganger’s plot is foiled. As the truck reaches its destination, Shriek (Doppelganger’s “mother” from Maximum Carnage) steps out of the van and is confronted with the not-contained-for-long Carnage symbiote.
Wells has once again hit a home run with Family Feud by reuniting many of the main characters of Maximum Carnage and writing a better story in six issues than was previously written in twelve. He is ably assisted by Crain whose digital palate is perfect for displaying the wet, sharp tendrils of Carnage which seem to menace the reader in every panel. Whether a panel takes up an entire page or their erratic layout leaves an unusual amount of negative space between them, each one squeezes the most detail possible into the artwork.
It’s easy to see why Marvel kept Wells and Crain together for three Carnage miniseries. The synergy of storytelling and art is as seamless here as it was on the first arc of Savage Wolverine where Frank Cho both wrote and drew the book. It’s a shame they didn't get tapped for the current five issue miniseries, Superior Carnage.
Final rating (out of 5): 

Saturday, January 11, 2014

SHADOWMAN: The dark side of Valiant


SHADOWMAN #14  (Valiant Entertainment, release date 01/08/2014)  Writer: Peter Milligan.  Art: Roberto de la Torre.  Letters: Dave Lanphear.  Color Art: David Baron.


SHADOWMAN #13 ended in a bad way, with the voodoo priestess Punk Mambo failing to separate Jack Boniface from the Shadowman loa.  That loa was also establishing itself as the stronger of the two sides to Jack Boniface, speaking (internally) to him and calling for blood, exorting him to seek and destroy.  I was anticipating a very bad start to Issue #14, with Jack/Shadowman tearing apart everyone in sight, including the priestess as well as Alyssa, Jack’s only sympathizer and friend.

          Instead, the crafty scripter Peter Milligan open up the issue by revealing another layer of the history of the Shadowmen and the link to the Boniface family.  Trust Milligan to never opt for the obvious.  Instead of a bloody battle on the surface world, we are treated to a brutal internal battle for possession of Jack Boniface, body and soul.  When the back-story that opens the issue ends, the only battle that occurs is between the various voices in Jack’s head trying to lead him into his next best option.

          Marius Boniface, the family member who became the very first Shadowman, had a very strong will as well as a solid purpose.  He was able to control the internal loa and curb its dark appetites, allowing it out only for a greater purpose in service against more evil forces.  On the other hand, Marius’ grandson Leroy Boniface lacked the internal strength to control the Shadowman loa, and became the unwilling accomplice to its bloody missions.  So, which of these ancestors is Jack Boniface attuned to?  The strong or the weak?  SHADOWMAN #14 offers evidence for both viewpoints but doesn’t conclusively answer either.  Milligan is teasing the reader; and most of us will like it.

Shadowman Issue 14 Preview.indd

          As was shown in Issue #13 recalling earlier days, when Jack Boniface gets into a rage he suffers from selective amnesia, not remembering who he beat up and how it happened.  His memory loss is even more severe when the Shadowman takes over, and Jack usually comes out of unconsciousness surrounded by the bloody evidence.  Readers can’t be sure if Shadowman came forth to battle more evil demons in their human disguise, or if Jack has just killed a human being and left another in a coma.

          Meanwhile, as the past history of the Boniface family is shared with Alyssa, she is given a reason to hope that she may be able to calm Jack and help him confront and control the inner demon.  However, she tentatively tests that theory and doesn’t get results that make her confident that anything will work. By the end of the issue, she too is torn between hope and doubt.  As are we, the readers.  Exactly in the place where Milligan has placed us.

          The art team purposefully depicts all this trauma in spot-on fashion.  The style employed by de la Torre and the magnificent colors and shading of Baron are perfect for this tale.

        Good work here, on what is obviously a dark tale.  The storm clouds are gathering, and it’s sure to be a torrential downpour. Brace yourself and jump in now.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

New Books January 8, 2014 : QUANTUM AND WOODY #7


Should I visit my local comics store today?’

Are you going to ask me that question every single day now?  The answer never changes = of course! Wednesday always brings something fresh and different to read on New Comics Day. Why not stop by your local comics shop and see for yourself? Here are four good books that come out tomorrow that just may give you justification to make the trip.

QUANTUM AND WOODY! #7 (Valiant, January 08, 2014 release date) Writer: James Asmus. Art: Ming Doyle. Colors: Jordie Bellaire. Letters: Dave Lanphear.

          If you enjoy Marvel’s DEADPOOL, then you should also be reading QUANTUM AND WOODY for some regular monthly chuckles.  It’s the closest thing that Valiant has to a bonafide super-hero book (capes and costumes), yet it’s a humorous one that doesn’t take itself seriously at all.  Some of the humor is middle-school caliber, but it’s a step up from DEADPOOL and also includes a generous amount of mild (usually) satire.


           It’s the satire that brings me back, as I keep hoping that this book succeeds in its mission.  I would welcome a laugh-out loud comic that entertains while it amuses.  (The closest thing you can find on today’s shelves is TODD, THE UGLIEST KID ON EARTH – which always makes me laugh. You are denying yourself some inner mirth if you don’t check it out.)

           Eric and Woody Henderson are foster brothers, brought back together by the death of their father and a lab accident that granted them powers but ensures that they stay together.  They need to “klang” their metal wristbands together every 24 hours or they perish.  (Don’t ask how or why. Just roll with it.) Eric is the serious one, mindful of the responsibility of their gift, and trying to make a difference in their world.  It’s he who dons the Quantum costume concealing his identity.  Woody is more of a pleasure seeker and less interested in doing the right thing.  He does not bother to conceal his identity but wears a business suit matching the blue of Quantum’s outfit and occasionally wears blue-tinted glasses to hide his eyes.

          QUANTUM AND WOODY #7 continues the story from Issue #6, but it’s very easy to pick up on what happened there.  Quantum goes on a solo mission to deactivate a dirty bomb inside a separatist Montana village (Stronghold).  He’s been duped and set up for failure, as his employer (Magnum Securities) is hoping to land a big government contract for security work as a result of Quantum/Eric’s failure.  When Woody learns of this, he tries to warn Eric but ends up embroiled in the same conflict. That’s when the fun of Issue #7 begins.

          Lots of prominent genre icons are name-dropped in jest, including Battlestar Galactica.  There are asides to religious hypocrisy, hillbilly fireworks, white supremacy and even Duck Dynasty.  For those not interested in satire, there are some well-timed fart jokes, armpit stank, phone sex asides, and “uncalled for gross metaphors.”

          Eric gets all misty-eyed when he learns that Quantum is a role model for the villagers at Stronghold. The irony is when these white supremacists learn that Quantum is a black man, they become disbelievers and go into a rant against everything they can possibly name.  A hilarious debate ensues between Quantum and their leader, who contradicts himself repeatedly and unintentionally.


Leader: “It’s simple. Ain’t no way that Quantum – a freedom fighter against our tyrannical federal government - - - is some hand-out-grabbing, pinko-commie, socialist, fascist, Black Panther!”

Quantum/Eric: “You – you know those are different political systems, right?  No one can be all of those things at once.”

Leader: “Riiight.  Spoken like a true elitist government stooge!  Whereas the real Quantum fought the police state.  Blew up cop cars and a military lab where the government was making Asian bird flu to unleash on regular citizens like us!”

Eric: “Why the hell would they even do that?  And how can you claim to love this country but plan to overthrow a democratically-elected government?”

Leader: “I didn’t vote for ‘em.”

Eric: “But a majority of people did!  That’s how democracy works!”

Leader: “Un-%$#(&^”believable . . . .”

It’s my favorite issue of QUANTUM AND WOODY so far. I have hope.

          Quantum and Woody are not part of the original Valiant family.  When Acclaim purchased the rights to the Valiant characters they added some original titles to their line, the most remembered of them being Quantum and Woody (scripted by the infamous Priest).  Both writer Asmus and artist Doyle remain fairly faithful to the original spirit of the series, including the humorous chapter headings.  The 1990’s version was the most successful of the Acclaim-originated series, but even it was cancelled due to low sales.  The outcry and support from the fan base persuaded Acclaim to bring it back after a six month hiatus and continue from there until the decline and cancellation of all Acclaim titles.

          I’m glad to see that the current Valiant editorial board has seen fit to revive one of the Acclaim titles.  They definitely picked the best one.  Here’s hoping this updated version of QUANTUM AND WOODY will click with readers, both new and old.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Advance Preview: BLOODSHOT and H.A.R.D. CORPS #18


“Should I go to the comics store tomorrow?  (January 08, 2014)”

          Are you going to ask me that question every single week?  The answer never changes = of course! Wednesday always brings something fresh and different to read on New Comics Day.  Why not stop by your local comics shop and see for yourself?  Here’s just one of many titles coming out tomorrow that may be of interest to readers looking for something a little different . . . . . .

BLOODSHOT AND H.A.R.D. CORPS #18 (Valiant, January 08 release date)  “Get Some” by Writers: Christos Gage & Joshua Dysart. Art: Bart Sears. Flashback Art: ChrisCross & Victor Olazaba. Color Art: Matt Milla & Allen Passalaqua. Letters: Dave Sharpe.


          This issue marks the beginning of a new story arc, and a good “jump on” point for new readers. However, Valiant does such a good job with their opening summaries on the inside credits page that readers never have to worry about being lost in the middle of a story.  They are always well written, very concise and bring readers up to speed quickly in just a few paragraphs.  You could pick up any random issue of a Valiant title and become comfortable with the story by reading these updates.

          BLOODSHOT AND H.A.R.D. CORPS  #18 also features the inimitable Bart Sears taking over art duties, and his work here is a most welcome sight.  Sears really knows how to depict musculature, sometimes exaggerated but always interesting to view.  His characters all have square jaws and chiseled features, so you don’t mistake them for the regular man on the street.  There are plenty of fight scenes this issue to allow Sears to show what he’s capable of.

          Briefly, Bloodshot is a living weapon (similar to Robocop, with even more enhancements) with nano-machines in his bloodstream and system that give him strength and speed, allow him to repair himself (auto-immunity) and also infiltrate communications systems.  H.A.R.D. Corp members are ordinary civilians recruited from the street and given implants that allow satellites to download mental abilities and grant them various powers.

          They are an interesting and curious bunch, not the usual gifted teenagers or former soldiers you would expect to be granted these powers.  They include a working-class mother (Granite), a homeless wino/druggie (Vagabond), a developmentally challenged 30-year old man (Genius), a youth minister (Disciple), and a teenage girl with cystic fibrosis (Flatline).  They are led by veteran Charlie Palmer, the only survivor of the original H.A.R.D. Corps in the 1990’s.  Following a revolt and restructuring at Project Rising Sun, Bloodshot and H.A.R.D. Corps are now working  together for Project Rising Sun’s new C.E.O. Morris Kozol.

                                                                                                                         The story this issuBSCORPS_018_002-640x984e is engaging and provides lots of details and background information to help encourage readers to return for more.  The action begins in Nigeria where Project Rising Sun’s CEO is asked to accept a job to help curtail thefts of oil along a major pipeline.  It’s a trap, led by a disgruntled Simon Oreck (the former director)  back to seek revenge against his old agency, and armed with a new group of high powered psiots (natural mental abilities).  They are The Specialists with unusual abilities to manipulate cold/heat (Coldwar), radiation (Chernobyl), adrenalized muscular growth (Big Boy) and visual hyper acuity (Sharpshooter).  Bloodshot and H.A.R.D. Corps enter the battle and more captors are taken.

          It’s going to be a definite grudge match, as we learn in the flashback sequence that both current and former Project Rising Sun C.E.O.s banged heads over implants versus natural mental powers back in the 90’s when Oreck shut down H.A.R.D. Corps and began developing his Specialists.  This issue provides a great deal of depth, more than the average single issue provides, and it will take a little more time to read and catch it all.  Recommended.

Guardians Of The Galaxy movie news : stills and synopsis


(Rocket Racoon looks pretty realistic for a CGI creation. At least they made him to the proper scale. However the only way a racoon would be that tall is when it is upright and begging for scraps. )

Images and Text from the and web sites . . . . . . . . . . .

Editor’s Note:  Here is the official synopsis of the film, just released a few days ago and described by various sources as “Avengers in Space”.  From the website:       

“From Marvel, the studio that brought you the global blockbuster franchises of Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and The Avengers, comes a new team--the Guardians of the Galaxy.  An action-packed, epic space adventure, Marvel's "Guardians of the Galaxy" expands the Marvel Cinematic Universe into the cosmos, where brash adventurer Peter Quill finds himself the object of an unrelenting bounty hunt after stealing a mysterious orb coveted by Ronan, a powerful villain with ambitions that threaten the entire universe.  To evade the ever-persistent Ronan, Quill is forced into an uneasy truce with a quartet of disparate misfits--Rocket, a gun-toting raccoon; Groot, a tree-like humanoid; the deadly and enigmatic Gamora; and the revenge-driven Drax the Destroyer.  But when Quill discovers the true power of the orb and the menace it poses to the cosmos, he must do his best to rally his ragtag rivals for a last, desperate stand--with the galaxy's fate in the balance. . . .”


(Credit the producers for making Groot’s facial appearance close to the actual features of Vin Diesel.  I never realized before how much his face resembles the side of a tree. )


          “Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy, which first appeared in comic books in MARVEL SUPER-HEROES #18 (Jan. 1969), stars Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, featuring Vin Diesel as the voice of Groot, Bradley Cooper as the voice of Rocket, Lee Pace, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Djimon Hounsou, with John C. Reilly, Glenn Close as Commander Rael and Benicio del Toro as The Collector. . . . . “

          “James Gunn is the director of the film with Kevin Feige producing, and Louis D'Esposito, Victoria Alonso, Jeremy Latcham, Alan Fine and Stan Lee serve as executive producers.  The story is by Nicole Perlman and James Gunn, with screenplay by James Gunn.  Marvel's "Guardians of the Galaxy" releases in U.S. theaters on August 1, 2014.”

“          In addition to "Guardians of the Galaxy," Marvel Studios will release a slate of films based on the Marvel characters including "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" on April 4, 2014;  "Avengers: Age of Ultron" on May 1, 2015;  and "Ant-Man" on July 31, 2015.


Monday, January 6, 2014

GHASTLY AWARDS 2013 Nominees announced

from the official press release . . . . .

EDITOR”S NOTES:  2013 was a very good year for horror in comics.  It’s now time for the Ghastly Awards to decide where the top honors will go.  While I wasn’t able to read everything that was nominated, I am familiar with most of these works, and have added my recommendations/comments in italics to give it a local/personal flavor . . . . .


           The Ghastly Award Judges are proud to announce the 2013 Ghastly Award Nominees.   The nominees, chosen by the Ghastly Award Judges, reflect the wide range of horror material being published in print and web comic form today.  All Nominees were selected from work that was submitted by comic Publishers and Creators throughout the year for Ghastly Award consideration.
Named after acclaimed comics creator “Ghastly” Graham Ingels, the awards are now in their 3rd year.

          Fan and Creator Voting will be open from January 10, 2014 until January 24, 2014 at   You may only vote once for the 2013 Nominees, and Fans will decide the winner of the Best New Series Award.   Winners will be announced in January 31, 2014.

We thank everyone who took the time to submit their work for this years awards.

The 2013 Nominees are:

Best Ongoing Title:

Afterlife with Archie (Archie Comics) - - an impressive first issue
B.P.R.D. (Dark Horse) - - - always high quality reading
Coffin Hill (Vertigo) - - I didn’t read this
John Carpenter's Asylum (Storm King Comics) - - my pick to win . (Read a review of Issue #1 here - -                                                                                                                                                                                           
Rachel Rising (Abstract Studios) – also very good. Too bad only one can win.

Best Mini-Series:
Colder (Dark Horse)
Five Ghosts: The Haunting of Fabian Gray (Image Comics)
Killogy (IDW Publishing)
Locke & Key: Omega (IDW Publishing) - - I’ve read none of the five nominees yet. However, if I had to predict = it would be this one. I’ve read the earlier volumes and they are excellent.
Lot 13 (DC Comics)

Best One-Shot:

'68: Hallowed Ground (Image Comics) I completely missed this. 
Baltimore: The Widow and The Tank (Dark Horse)  My pick.  Two fantastic tales.
Edgar Allan Poe: The Raven & The Red Death (Dark Horse)  A close runner-up.
Fubar: Free Comic Book Day (Alterna Comics/Fubar Press) Consistently good and entertaining.
The Living Corpse: Haunted (Dynamite Entertainment) Sadly, I didn’t check this out.

Best New Series (Fans Will Decide the Winner):
Abe Sapien (Dark Horse)  Always good, but hardly “new”.
Afterlife with Archie (Archie Comics)  Bold and beautiful.  My pick.
Coffin Hill (Vertigo)
Ghosted (Image Comics)
Ten Grand (Image Comics)

Best Anthology:
American Vampire Anthology (Vertigo)
Bela Lugosi's Tales From the Grave (Monsterverse Entertainment)  Awesome stuff here.  My pick.
Bloke's Terrible Tomb of Terror (Independent)
The Witching Hour (Vertigo)
Twisted Dark (T Publications)

Best OGN:
Aliens: Inhuman Condition (Dark Horse)
Eldritch (SLG)
Flesh & Blood Vol. 3 (Monsterverse Entertainment) – My pick. A horrific tribute to classic Hammer Films.
Hellboy: The Midnight Circus (Dark Horse)
The Shadow Out of Time (SelfMadeHero)

Best Archival Collection: 
B.P.R.D. 1948  (Dark Horse)  Can’t go wrong with this work.  My second pick.
Creepy Archives Vol. 17 (Dark Horse)
The Chilling Archives of Horror Comics: Haunted Horror (IDW Publishing/Yoe Books)
The Human Gargoyles (Bleeding Moon Comics)
Steve Ditko Monsters Vol. 1: Gorgo (IDW Publishing/Yoe Books) Hard to obtain otherwise, so this makes it a solid number one pick.  I loved this Charleton series, read when I was much younger.

Best Writer:

John Arcudi (Abe Sapien, B.P.R.D.)
Cullen Bunn (Helheim, Sixth Gun)
Joe Hill (Locke & Key: Omega)  His style just slays me. My pick.
Terry Moore (Rachel Rising)
Paul Tobin (Colder)

Best Artist:
Richard Corben (Edgar Allan Poe's The Fall of the House of Usher, The Raven and the Red Death) – Number one for sure.  Untouchable when he handles the right material.
Glenn Fabry (Lot 13)
Juan Ferreyra (Colder, Kiss Me Satan)
Francesco Francavilla (Afterlife with Archie)
Gabriel Rodriguez (Locke & Key: Omega)

Best Inker:
Terry Moore (Rachel Rising) Very fine work here. My pick.
Jason Paulos (EEEK!)
Drew Rausch (Eldritch, My Blacks Don't Match)
Emma Rios (Pretty Deadly)
Rob Sacchetto (Rob Sacchetto's Cape Fear)

Best Letterer:
Jack Morelli (Afterlife with Archie)
Nate Piekos (Billy the Kid's Old Timey Oddities, Colder, Kiss Me Satan, To Hell You Ride)
Robbie Robbins (Locke & Key, X-Files)
Clem Robins (B.P.R.D., Baltimore, Hellboy in Hell, The Strain) My pick. So responsible for the consistent style to the Mignola books.
Rus Wooton (Ghosted, The Walking Dead)

Best Colorist:
Jordie Bellaire (Pretty Deadly, The X-Files)
Jay Fotos ('68, Locke & Key: Omega)
Francesco Francavilla (Afterlife with Archie)
Miroslav Mrva (Ghosted)
Dave Stewart (Abe Sapien, B.P.R.D., Hellboy: The Midnight Circus) The coloration in Mignola’s books is spot-on, and often a dark red spot.

Best Web Comic:
Chopping Block (
Crossed: Wish You Were Here (                                                                                                             Crossed is my pick.  So well done, even without the shock value.  Spurrier does a fine job scripting, often tackling moral/philosophical issues underneath  the main story.                                                                                                                                                                                                        
Last Halloween (
My Blacks Don't Match (                                                                                       
The Eighth Seal (

Hall of Fame Inductees:
Gene Colan – I hope they both get in.
Archie Goodwin – Colan was an artistic innovator, but Goodwin did so much to influence genres, writing and artists during his editorial tenure that I give him the nod.

We congratulate all of the Nominees for what they bring to the comic reading community.  To be nominated by the Ghastly Award Judges is a big honor and the Ghastly Awards are here to celebrate your achievements.

Decapitated Dan, Rachel Deering, Mike Howlett, Belinda "Spaced" McNeill, Lonnie Nadler, Bree Ogden
Steve Banes, Pedro Cabezuelo, Denise Dutton

Founded in 2011 by Decapitated Dan with the help of Steve Banes, Mike Howlett, Lonnie Nadler and Mykal Banta, the Ghastly Awards recognize outstanding achievements in Horror Comics over a range of 15 different categories. The nominees are chosen by other horror comic book professionals and winners are chosen by a panel of judges. Since the start of the awards, 5 more judges have been added into the group.

The Awards were named for acclaimed comics creator "Ghastly" Graham Ingels. Starting in 2013 the Ghastly Awards switched over to a Submission based process. Comic Publishers and Creators can submit their books for nomination consideration throughout the calendar year. The top five nominees in each category will be chosen by the Judges, and will then be voted on by the Judges, Creators and Fans to decide the winners.
The Ghastly Award Judges work strictly on a volunteer basis. There is no paid staff and the awards are completely funded from the generous donations of its sponsors.

Friday, January 3, 2014

SAGA - - - a critical analysis of the impact on the industry


EDITOR’S NOTE:  I was hoping to begin posting several articles covering the Best of 2013 beginning on New Years Eve (12/31/2013) and continuing into January 2014.  Those plans were scrapped by some unplanned travel, which I’m feeling compelled to write about (it’s not comics related at all) and may still do although I’m holding back at present.  In the meantime, SAGA at Image Comics, following the receipt of numerous Harvey Awards in 2013 continues to captivate the attention of many comics blogs and has been mentioned again on many Best of 2013 lists.  


I have not been following SAGA but feel that it deserves some mention here on the BC  REFUGEES site.   I did purchase and read Issue #1 but was not impressed and decided not to continue. After hearing it mentioned so often, and following the Harvey Awards receipts - - I reconsidered my decision and then  purchased the first volume/story arc in trade paperback.  However, I still haven’t read it. 

There have been several well done reviews and critical pieces written about SAGA.  The best that I have seen was recently published in the PASTE online web magazine Issue #122.   It’s a lengthy piece from writer Sean Edgar, but very thorough and worth your time . . . . . . .