Monday, November 30, 2015

What's New 12/02?: X-O Manowar Commander Trill


X-O MANOWAR: COMMANDER TRILL #0  (Valiant Entertainment, December 2015)  “Destiny”  Writer: Robert Venditti.  Pencils: Francis Portela.  Inks:  Bit.  Colorist: Andrew Dalhouse.  Letterer:  Dave Sharpe.  Commander Trill created by Robert Venditti and Cary Nord









    This is an important one-shot special issue that sheds some light on the background of a villainous character, one who’s been part of the X-O Manowar history since Issue #1 of the re-booted 2012 version of Aric of Dacia/X-O Manowar. As the X-O Manowar series prepares to head into a new story arc, it provides information that will help readers understand the motivations and values of one of the best new adversaries in the X-O legacy as detailed by gifted scripter Robert Venditti.


     Early on in the series, Venditti introduced an alien race, six-eyed members of the Vine, and fleshed out the characters with insight into their history, politics, religion and value system.   As he so ably detailed, not every member of the race is bad or inhuman.  Some members have heart and the ability to empathize with other races.  


    Most members of the Vine (especially Trill) despise Aric, for he was accepted as worthy by the suit of Shannara while so many of their best warriors were fatally rejected. Yet, in more recent issues of the series The Vine reached out to Aric to help negotiate a peaceful co-existence with humans.  And one member in particular, the High Priest, became a friend to Aric and in doing so demonstrated that The Vine are capable of forgiveness as well. 





If the story in this issue doesn’t grab you, the art will.  This is the best work I have seen from penciler Francis Portela.  His style here remains his own, yet pulls from the best of Arthur Adams and Bart Sears.  The inks by Bit and colors by Andrew Dalhouse help give it the proper definition.  The scenes of buildings and landscapes on the home planet of the Vine are gorgeous to view, and many of the double-page scenes in this issue are breathtaking in their beauty and detail.  




The story this issue is narrated by the High Priest, who along with a young Vargosh Trill (later Commander Trill) witnessed a bonding ceremony for the first time. That occurs annually when one member of the Vine (usually the best and strongest warrior) comes before the sentient power suit Shanhara to see if he can survive melding with the  armor.  The Vine have worshiped Shanhara for years, and consider it to be a god who will help usher in a new era of greatness for the Vine.  Yet, year after year the suit has rejected all suitors.  On that day, VargoshTrill decided it was his destiny to wear the armor and dedicated his training thereafter to prove himself the best.  But as the High Priest would remind him after he lost an eye to Aric that “you cannot bend the divine to your will.”







Read this issue to get all the details and behold majesty in storytelling.


Sunday, November 29, 2015

ACTION LAB: Building on the first five years

EDITOR’S NOTE:  During the BALTIMORE COMIC-CON in late September, BC Refugee coIMG 0222rrespondents attended many panel presentations and gathered reams of information.  Unfortunately, production issues prevented us from presenting much of that here in a timely fashion.  However, we plan to sort through our data and post what is still relevant and worth sharing.  We have tagged ACTION LAB as a publisher to watch in 2016.  Since we have never posted any information about this company previously, we aim to make up for that here by sharing  the news from their panel at Baltimore Comic-Con on September 26, 2015 . . . . .


  According to the Saturday Programming notes in the official souvenir program book from Baltimore Comic Con: “ On the eve of their fifth anniversary, ACTION LAB shows no signs of stopping!” 


     In a lively and audience-interactive presentation, Action Lab Marketing Director Jamal Igle (Molly Danger) and writer Vito Delsante (Stray) revealed all the upcoming 2016 projects, including more comics based on Full Moon horror and science-fiction films, more all-ages titles, and the debut of the Actionverse.





Pictured above:  Writer Vito Delsante  (left) and Marketing Director Jamal Igle (right).  Delsante is the creator/writer of the popular STRAY.  Igle has a 20-year career in comics as artist and writer, and has worked for Marvel, DC, Image, IDW, Disney Studios and several television networks.  His current work is MOLLY DANGER for Action Lab.

     For those readers new to Action Lab, the company information on their web page does a fine job of noting what sets them apart from other smaller and independent comics companies:  “The Action Lab is a group of mad scientists who collectively have over 25 years of comic book creating experience.  After slaving in obscurity and alone for lo, these many years, these quasi-evil geniuses have now gathered together from around the globe to form a secret research and development collective devoted to world domination through the purification of the comic book art form.  The Action Lab has sworn to use its powers for a single purpose - - to bring the world the most action-packed, most thought-provoking, most entertaining comics available, thereby ushering in a new age of world peace under the dominating yet benign control of the Action Lab.”



     Their first major release, FRACTURE, was published in July 2011. PRINCELESS, the two-time Eisner nominated and five-time Glyph nominated work, followed in October 2011.  Action Lab continues to publish genre-spanning comics from the all-ages MONSTERS ARE JUST LIKE US to mature reader books like SNOWED IN and DOUBLE JUMPERS.  Delsante explained that Action Lab books are picked by a committee with no set agenda, which helps add to their diversity of creators and line-ups. 


     Because of the diversity of titles they publish, Action Labs will introduce a new rating system for their books beginning in February 2016.  E books are appropriate for everyone.  A books are intended for ages 9 and up.  T books are aimed at readers aged 12 and up.  T+ books are for older teen readers and adults.  Lastly, M books are aimed at mature readers aged 18+.  


     Here are some of the coming attractions, as announced during the Baltimore Comic-Con presentation . . . . . . . . . .


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  •     Following the success of the PUPPET MASTER comic based on the horror film, Action Lab will 
  • publish a trade paperback edition of TRANCERS in January 2016. Tracers will be written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray with art by Marcelo Salaza. Trancers is a popular 1985 cult sci-fi film by
    Full Moon Productions which introduced Jack Deth, a rogue trooper in post apocalyptic Los Angeles.  Seth gets sent back in time to pursue Whistler, a vicious cult leader with the power to turn people into mindless zombies.  In the new original graphic novel, Jack Deth has been framed for murder and tries to escape from a prison full of recently converted Trancers.


     Action Lab is in the process of obtaining the license for more Full Moon properties, with plans to publish 10 different books in 2016. 


  • The popular PRINCELESS series will be collected in an oversized hardcover edition for Christmas 2015.  The series, written by Jeremy Whitley with art by M. Goodwin, tells the   adventures of Adrienne Ash, locked away in a dragon-guarded tower on her 16th birthday by her parents (the King and Queen).  Never wanting to be a princess Adrienne becomes a runaway and encounters various perils and challenges, including clashing with pirates.



    Out of the pirate stories comes the first spin-off series, RAVEN THE PIRATE PRINCESS.  The first trade paperback, collecting Issues #1-4 was published in November 2015.  

  • Also announced isTomboy 01 1 83524 2 a creator-owned book by writer/artist Mia Goodwin called TOMBOY, a psychological horror/thriller that the Bleeding Cool website favorably compared to Spider-Gwen.  Issue #1 debuted on November 18.  The death of a childhood friend sparks a series of events  hat leads young Addison from a promising teenage field hockey player to a murderer of criminals. 
  • ZOMBIE TRAMP ONGOING 300x413One of the company’s top books, ZOMBIE TRAMP celebrates its anniversary with three special issues and becomes an ongoing series. VAMPBLADE, a spin-off from the Zombie Tramp series is described as a funny bad girl book  and debuts in 2016. 
  • AWAKE features a girl with the power to awaken planets.  Written by Susan Beneville with art by Brian Hess, this all-ages adventure features 12-year old Regn, who can heal planets.  On her first mission she discovers an angry planet tearing itself apart and has to confront the planet’s consciousness. 


  • HERALD1 300x413    The popular HERALD: LOVECRAFT AND TESLA limited series now becomes a bimonthly ongoing title.  Amelia Earhart has been sucked into another dimension.  During the search, inventor Nikola Telsa must work with horror writer H. P. Lovecraft as they uncover a Cthulhu cult conspiracy.  The book is written by John Reilly and illustrated by several artists including Tom Rogers and Dexter Weeks.  Author John Reilly was part of the Action Lab panel, and announced that HERALD has been optioned for television and is currently in negotiations.  He has plotted out the series through 54 issues at presentation, and will also be introducing Houdini, Einstein and Edison in future issues. 


P9260037Pictured Above:  HERALD: LOVECRAFT & TESLA writer John Reilly  

  •   The ACTIONVERSE, created by Ingle and Delsante, will be a brand new imprint for Action Lab’s superhero titles.  Those lucky enough to score a copy of the Halloween Comicfest free comic received a preview featuring Molly Danger, Stray, Midnight Tiger and a new creation: Action Lab, Dog of Wonder by Delsante and Scott Fogg.  A series of one-shot specials lead into the February
  • 06db6b64 8492 4340 b9fd 4db24c5bac99 600x9112016 mini-series, described as an homage to “old school crossovers in two worlds.”  According to Delsante during the Baltimore presentation, “It’s great to be part of a project where everybody is a fan of each other.  In a time when everybody is suffering from event fatigue (in superhero comics) , this is going to surprise everyone!”   
  •  The HERO CATS OF STELLAR CITY will experience its first multi-issue storyline in #7 through #9 and crosses over into MIDNIGHT OVER STELLAR CITY, described by Delsante as “a little darker but still for kids.  Midnight is the Hero Cat (version of) Batman.   The GALAXYMAN / COMSIC GIRL back-up feature in HERO CATS will get a spin-off series as well. HERO CATS 300x413
  • All ages book AERO GIRL has ended its first story arc. She pops up again as a character in ACTION LAB, DOG OF WONDER. 


  • “The biggest surprise of the year,” NUTMEG becomes a regular series.  Back issues are now available in trade paperbacks. Delsante described it as ‘Betty & Veronica meets Breaking Bad in the Home Ec room
  • HOLY F 300x413at school.  It’s funny and dark.”
    • HOLY F*CKED is the sequel to HOLY F*CK and “lots of fun.”  Described by Delsante as “subversive and slightly blasphemous” its the sequel to The Bible.  “Jesus and Satan live together and all the Gods don’t like it.” 
  • ARCHON involves events at a strange casino with dragons, orcs and elves in charge of operations.   CYRUS PERKINS AND THE HAUNTED TAXI CAB is the all-ages story of a boy who dies in a cab, and then his ghost haunts the cabdriver. 
  • 4d4d0bfa c4e7 48bb 817c 7aa93d3cd880In December 2015,  Action Lab has partnered with Red Stylo Media to co-publish a hardcover anthology of THE 27 CLUB.  The title refers to promising rock musicians who died too young, all at the age of 27.  Members include Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Jim Hendrix, Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse.  Various comic artists and writers have taken their favorite song or member of the 27 Club as the foundation for their original comic stories.  
  • Small cover1

     Under P9260038 he Danger Zone label, Nightshade Comics’ BLOOD & DUST will continue as an Action Lab title.   BIGFOOT: SWORD OF THE EARTHMAN is a pulp-themed title that imagines events if Bigfoot had been transported to Mars instead of John Carter.  KINGDOM BUM is “Game of Thrones with cardboard homes, a Shakespearean dare with shanty towns and secret societies.”  In  JUST ANOTHER SHEEP 1960’s kids develop super-powers and try to cope in the age of protest and unrest.  SUPERHUMAN RESOURCES Volume 2 comes to Action Labs with the HR (Human Resources) Department getting involved with a superhero team.  STRAY becomes a regular bimonthly book in June 2016 along with MOLLY DANGER going bimonthly in July. 



Pictured above: Cover to Issue #3 of BIGFOOT: SWORD OF THE EARTHMAN.


Pictured at Left:  The front cover to the hardcover edition of THE 27 CLUB.

Pictured Below:  THE 27 CLUB editor Enrica Jang.




Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Flash News Bulletin - - - WRATH OF THE ETERNAL READER

NOVEMBER 25, 2015 NEWARK, DELAWARE . . .  A regular customer of Captain Blue Hen Comics was given some recognition today for his championing of various Valiant Entertainment books when he was given permission to wield (symbolically, of course) the battle ax of Gliad Anni-Padda, The Eternal Warrior whose new series, WRATH OF THE ETERNAL WARRIOR, debuted this week.

   That person was none other than Pghhead, a frequent contributor to this blog site.  As recognition for their support of Valiant comics, Captain Blue Hen Comics was one of several select bookstores to be presented an actual battle axe (with the Wrath of the Eternal Warrior logo cut into the blade).  When owner Joe Murray asked Pghhead if he would like to handle the battle axe , it was a hard request to turn down.

   Pghhead wanted to embed the axe in the head of Slather, an irritating character from Issue #1.  (No less a dignitary than Gilad Anni-Padda did the exact same thing on Page One).  However, Slather was not part of the deal, so he had to settle for a symbolic representation as pictured here.

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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Back To The Future comic duplicates the movie magic

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BACK TO THE FUTURE #1  (IDW Publishing, November 2015)  “When Marty Met Emmett” story by Bob Gale. Script by Bob Gale & John Barber.  Art by Brent Schooner.  Inks by David Witt.  Colors by Kelly Fitzpatrick  “Looking For A Few Good Scientists: story by Bob Gale  Script by Erik Turnham.  Art by Dan Schoening  Colors by Luis Antonio Delgado.  Letters by Shawn Lee.


     Never underestimate the staying power of a popular movie.  Thirty years later, the BACK TO THE FUTURE film trilogy is still being enjoyed by old and new audiences. October 21, 2015 was a big day for the film and its fans as many print and video news outlets devoted headlines and air time to covering the various celebrations of the films occurring in towns across the United States and elsewhere.  In our neighboring area, the town of Newark, Delaware did it up right. (See earlier coverage in our Archives section for October). October 21, 2015 was significant to the 1975 movie, as it was the date that the time-traveling Delorean sports car was set to arrive at. It was also the date appropriately chosen by IDW Publishing to debut a new comics series dedicated to the franchise. 


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     IDW also did it right, by selecting creative teams that were both familiar with the source material and also huge fans who would respect the project and treat it correctly.  Additional kudos to IDW for involving the original script writer for the movie, Bob Gale, who assists by writing or contributing to every story in the comic. IDW has made a four-issue commitment to the project.  Of course, sales and fan demand will help determine if the series continues beyond that.


    Rather than present a long story arc across four issues, every issue will stand alone and focus on “untold tales and alternate timelines” with complete stories, one or two per issue.  Every story adds more background information that helps to flesh out and explain the minutiae of the world of Back To The Future. That is a wise choice.


    “When Marty Met Emmett” explains for the first time exactly how the two partners in time travel met.  Would be rock musician Marty McFly is threatened by a punk rock band who want to borrow some equipment from him.  His amplifier needs a new tube and Marty soon learns that all the available replacement parts in town were purchased by Doc Brown, the wacky eccentric inventor.  He tries to visit him but finds an elaborate maze and obstacle course at the entrance to Doc’s garage.  Marty is the only person to solve the riddles, which results in impressing Doc enough to offer him a job.  What is most appreciated about this story is that the main characters speak and act and display mannerisms true to the film versions of them.  In some of the panels, I can almost hear the lines being spoken in the voice of Michael J Fox.


     “Looking For A Few Good Scientists” is a humorous account of the time Doc Brown almost lost a chance to work on a famous project by pretending to be something that he’s not.  Just like the films, this is the same quirky Doc Brown that we’ve come to know and love.


    Issue #1 wraps up with a nice article by screenwriter Bob Gale outlining what his plans are for the comics series.  Finally, the back of the book shows cover images for all 34 of the variant covers produced for Issue #1.


     If you’ve been wondering if the comics versions or spin-offs can do justice to the original films, look no further than right here for the evidence that all things are possible in the right hands.  

Batman Europa sprinkled with international flavor

EDITOR’S NOTE / SPOILER ALERT = If you are a Batman fan and already plan to purchase all four issues of this series to read at one sitting, then stop here.  If you read this review, it will spoil many of the details for you.  Just buy it.  To all others considering a purchase of this title = go ahead and read the review. While it does spoil some of the story, it won’t ruin it for you.  It may just help you make the decision to pick this up.  We believe that you should, for several reasons. Keep reading. . . . . .


BATMAN EUROPA #1 of 4  (DC Comics, January 2016)  1. Berlin =  Story by Matteo Casali and Brian Azzarello.  Layouts by Giuseppe Camuncoli.  Pencils and Finishes by Jim Lee.  Colors by Alex Sinclair.  Letters by Pat Brosseau.



     The first three pages of this story open in very dramatic fashion and lead the reader to believe that everything has come down to the final battle between Batman and The Joker.  Both are dying and Batman indicates (in the captioned narrative) that he’s “ready to go all the way.  And do it.” (This I have to see.  Which means I’m already in for the four issues.)  Other readers may be thinking (along with us) that this is a very bold move to put this hint of a final battle at the very beginning of Issue #1 of a four-issue limited series. Then a flashback sequence begins on page four, and we readers begin to have our doubts.  Things may not be as they seem. 


     Batman seems to be losing his edge.  It takes far too long to defeat his opening opponent.  He nearly doesn’t win.  It seems a virus has infiltrated the Bat system.  Not just the computer and technology, but Batman’s physical system as well.  Alfred helps trace the origin of the virus to Berlin and Batman is off and on the trail.  The nature of the way the threat was communicated to them makes Joker the early suspect. Alfred’s instincts prove to be right.  The first crime scene that Batman investigates in Berlin has Joker traces all over it.  


Batman europa 2 157257

    Its not long before Batman runs into the Joker, in the midst of torturing a female computer hacker, the one who infiltrated the complex data systems of the Batcave.  Naturally, Batman senses a woman in peril and fights first, questions later.  The questions reveal that both he and Joker are infected with the same virus and both have been following different trails to try and uncover the perpetrator and get the antidote. The trail then leads to Prague.  We’ll all learn more next issue.


   I have to admit to being pulled into this story, but it ended very quickly.  I was under the impression this was a deluxe edition promising a longer than normal story considering the $4.99 price tag.  It does turn out to be a 30-page story, longer than standard.  It just reads too damn fast.  So, why should you bother?  Here are the reasons . . . .


  1. The writing team.  I admit to never having encountered the works of Matteo Casali before this. He is a writer of some renown, in both his native Italy and the United States, having done freelance work for both Marvel and DC.  He’s written some very popular crime comics in Italy, for Mondadori Comics and others and is also an art director and teacher.  He may be a writer with a great future ahead of him, so I’m glad to finally be exposed to some of his work here on Batman Europa.  I’m mostly excited to see Brian Azzarello back on a Batman book. His last Batman script was a winner.  You will always be entertained by anything he does. He is a master at the mechanics of plot.  Case in point is his successful run on 100 Bullets many years back for Vertigo/DC.  He took a simple premise for a crime noir series and made it pay off story arc after story arc, never routine or ordinary. 
  2. The art team.  Italian artist Giuseppe Camuncoli is best known for his Marvel work on The Amazing Spider-Man and The Superior Spider-Man.  This is his first work for DC that I’m aware of; and it’s great to see what he can do with the dark locales that Batman inhabits.  Jim Lee needs no introduction.  His body of work and distinctive drawing style are well-established.  However, if you picked up this book and did not look at the credits page, you might not say that Batman Europa looks like Jim Lee’s artwork. It doesn’t, but what you do see is excellent.  This is an artistic collaboration.  Camuncoli did the layouts while Lee did the pencils and finishes. So you are looking at panels as they were visualized by one artist and finished by a different artist.  This is not  necessarily the way that Lee would visualize or choose to illustrate the story. It’s a nice change, and still incredibly effective.  The facial expressions alone are impressive enough. 
  3. This is a Batman-Joker team-up!  They have to work together.  They need each other.  Can you imagine the dialogue between them in the issues to come?  The reluctant acknowledgement of each other’s skills.  The lack of trust. The double-crosses.  Plus, the opportunity to kill each other that working in close proximity will provide. 
  4. The extras. In addition to the main story, there is some excellent commentary and sometimes editorializing in the captioned descriptions that introduce scenes.  It helps to set the mood and atmosphere in  so many ways.  I won’t spoil it by repeating any of them here.  You’ll have to look for them but they are easy to find.     

     The onImagesly downside to this is the $5 per issue price tag.  Publishers take heed!  If you’re going to raise prices you need to be sure you are offering extra value.  It’s bad enough at current $2.99, $3.50, and $3.99 prices.  When you consider that you can read a comic book in 20 minutes on average, that’s not an effective use of your money. A good paperback novel takes much longer to read and can last for days or weeks.  Yes, art costs more than literature.  And comics are a combination of the two mediums.  


     Batman Europa is worth the price of admission. However, if all comics go up in price, I predict a sales decline which would likely result in more titles being cancelled by the publishers and leaving us fewer options.  That would be a sad day. 

Teaching an old dog new tricks: The Old Testament gets dusted off

EDITOR’S NOTE:  Between November and December there are a large number of new series and debut issues being published. We will do our best to provide some previews of the better quality works, and help you decide where to spend your hard earned dollars.  Please don’t fall into the rut of only buying titles from one or two comic companies. There are too many deserving publishers out there and we need to spread the wealth around so they all can survive.


TheGoddamned01 Cvr ab5f6

THE GODDAMNED #1 Before The Flood Part One “The Mark of Cain” (Image Comics, November 2015) Written by Jason Aaron.  Art by r. m. Guera.  Colors by Giulia Brusco.  Letters& Design by Jared K. Fletcher.  The Goddamned created by Aaron and  Guera. Rated M mature.


     Jason Aaron is an extremely talented writer with a creative imagination.  I hope that he never signs an exclusive contract with Marvel or DC to write their licensed properties.  His work with established characters (Wolverine, Thor, etc) is usually good and always promises a decent story.   But his creator-owned originals are head and shoulders above the licensed work.  His original material just kills it.  Proudly display your freak flag, Mr. Aaron.  Long may it wave.


    THE GODDAMNED is another superior effort from Jason Aaron’s creative cranium along with an accomplished assist from artist r. m. Guera  (small letters per preference).   


     The two-page opening depicts a barren landscape with no vegetation and a few bone white carcasses partially buried in the dirt. The caption quoting the Book of Genesis 6:5:6 leaves a solid clue as to what this story is all about.  THE GODDAMNED is a Biblical epic that puts a savage spin on events taken from the Old Testament. It’s a tale of survival and the living is brutal. 


     The story occurs 1600 years after Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden of Eden.  A young boy whose garments show a slight upgrade from standard caveman apparel discovers a naked man, throat cut and left for dead in a pile of waste.  When the man is apparently resurrected with no visible scars the boy tries to befriend him and become his traveling companion.  As the man says: “I had a family once. It didn’t work out.”

  What follows are twelve pages of garish mayhem as the stranger gets his revenge against the band of civilized speaking cavemen who stole from him, the Bone Brothers.  It’s one man in berserker mode in a melee with many.  It’s no contest.  Stranger wins and gets his gear back.  



Goddamned 01 03


     As we learn a little more about the stranger it becomes apparent he has serious anger issues.  He hates his parents, who were kicked out of life in paradise when they messed up.  He hates his brother., and eventually kills him.   He hates his curse, which has forced him to endure hell on earth for nearly 1600 years.  As the captions reveal, he is Cain.  Son of Adam  The Man Who Invented Murder.  The Man Who Cannot Die. 


    I have a feeling that in the hands of Aaron, this version of Cain will deviate greatly from what little we know of him from various editions of the Bible.  Near the end of the issue, another biblical figure emerges quite different from what we might expect.


       If the story sounds too simple, trust me it won’t stay there for long.  But if you’re the impatient type, just give a second look  at the incredible art, inks and colors used to illustrate the tale.  r. m. Guera is a major talent, and his style gives Aaron's bending of the Bible the proper atmosphere and visualization.  I wonder if artist Frank Thorne was an influence.  His characters remind me of Thorne’s late 1970’s incredible work on RED SONYA at Marvel Comics. 


   When Aaron and Guera get done, the Old Testament will never seem the same.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Beware! If you dare, WRATH may enrapture you!


WRATH OF THE ETERNAL WARRIOR #1 (Valiant Entertainment, November 2015)  Writer: Robert Venditti.  Artists: Raul Allen & Patricia Martin.  Art Assistant: David Astruga.  Additional Colors: Borja Pindado.  Letterer:  Patricia Martin.


     The statement has been made here and elsewhere that the best feature of the “house style” or editorial direction of the post-2012 relaunch of the Valiant titles is their ease of acclimation for first time readers. In others words, you can pick up a Valiant title anytime, at any place in a series run (whether it is Issue #1 or Issue #21) and not be lost.  You can always follow the story and get a single-issue appreciation for the title. 


     That also speaks well of the artist and writer teams chosen to tell the story.  The well-traveled Robert Venditti is such a writer.  He can make you feel at home with his characters (although that applies more to his work for Valiant) and gets right to the core of his protagonist.   The art team on WRATH OF THE ETERNAL WARRIOR brings the highlights out in a dynamic way.  This book has a lot of heart.   


  The question remains:  can a new reader who heard about The Eternal Warrior but never read a single word pick up this title and become involved in the story without getting confused?  The answer is a solid YES.  While other readers familiar with THE VALIANT,  BOOK OF DEATH, and BOOK OF DEATH: ETERNAL WARRIOR will get even more out of this book, it remains a great launch point for the new reader.  Issue #1 picks up from all of those titles but is a standalone work. I am very familiar with the character of Gilad Anni-Padda, the Eternal Warrior. However, I’m going to write this review as if I was being introduced to him for the very first time. 



     There are some fantastic variant covers available for WRATH OF THE ETERNAL WARRIOR.  The most eye-appealing to the curious impulse buyer is the main cover by David LaFuente and Brian Rebur.  In a glorious double page cover, a cloaked Eternal Warrior walks away into the dark blue shadows from an epic battle scene taking place in what must be Hell and brought to life in rusty blood red hues.  


     There is also a bold quotation on the front cover, a statement from a pre-release review by All-Comic:  “Five Stars. WRATH OF THE ETERNAL WARRIOR #1 firmly establishes itself as the best first issue to come out of Valiant yet.”   Wow. That is bold.  While I think it may be true for many readers, others would disagree.  My personal first issue favorite from Valiant is HARBINGER #1.  Every person on the planet needs to have a copy of that.  But, it’s a good argument.  In terms of what it promises more than what it actually delivers, WRATH OF THE ETERNAL WARRIOR #1 definitely would rank within the Top Five first issues from Valiant.  (By the way, the best introduction to the Valiant universe is THE VALIANT trade paperback.  I’ve neglected to review that here.  Something I need to correct.)  


   As seen in many Valiant books, the inside front cover provides a brief biography, description of powers and abilities, and timeline for The Eternal Warrior.  It’s short, succinct, and gives a new reader all the background information they need to get started.  


    Gilad Anni Padda is immortal. He can be killed but he always returns. Over a 6,000 year life he has become proficient in multiple forms of combat and strategy, and is an expert tracker.  In return for his immortality his mission is to guard the mystic protectors of the Earth, the Geomancers.  Over the course of his long life, he has experienced his share of failures and seems pitted in eternal combat with a demon from Hell bent on destroying every Geomancer and returning the world to Chaos. 


   The story opens in Hell or whatever beyond dimension the demons inhabit.  Seems that Gilad returns here briefly after being killed and before he comes back to Earth.  A new character is introduced, a fan or follower of Gilad, an ugly talkative demon called  Slather.  It’s not the most memorable character created by Venditti but serves the purpose of updating and framing the current story.  The biggest drawback, which may be an annoyance to some readers (especially me) is the dialogue of Slather.  He/she/it speaks in stupid English, a hybrid of the way that Jar Jar Binks (Star Wars) and Gollum (The Hobbit) form sentences.  A little goes an awful long way.  In this case, less is more. Please, Mr. Vendetti, tone this down.   



WRATH 001 001

  What serves as the long middle section of this issue is Gilad’s return and awakening in “home”, which is not defined by location or timeline.  When and where is not elaborated.  We meet Gilad’s family, or perhaps one of his many families.  This is the section of the book that may endear Gilad as a flesh and blood character with depth to many new readers.  The illustrations drive the point home in a beautiful, simple and quiet fashion. Employing as many as ten narrow panels per page, in scenes without dialogue, we learn just how important family and children are to Gilad. I won’t spoil it by telling any more.  Suffice to say that one family member may have a destiny/legacy to be revealed in future issues. Kudos to the art team for the perfect atmosphere and using illustrations to say what it would takes numerous panels of dialogue to convey. 


In quiet bedtime conversation with Leena, his wife, we learn of Gilad’s past mission (see BOOK OF DEATH) which led to his most recent passing and resurrection.  And there are hints in the dialogue as to which timeline their modest home occupies.  As the issue ends, Gilad goes for a midnight walk and learns that Hell is that much closer.


Issue #1 is an appropriate introduction and build-up.  I have to believe it’s the calm before the storm.  And it looks to be a nasty one.  

Sunday, November 22, 2015

THE HANGMAN: Gritty crime with a supernatural twist

THE HANGMAN #1  (Dark Circle Comics / Archie Comics, December 2015)  Frank Tieri, writer.  Felix Ruiz, artist.  Rachel Deering, letterer.  Kelly Fitzpatrick colorist. Rated Teen + violence and mature content.



    The back cover blurb tells you everything you need to know about the new HANGMAN series:  “They say he’s just an urban legend  A spook story told to scare criminals, but for those poor souls who encounter him - - like hitman ‘Mad Dog’ Mike Minetta — they know the frightening truth, that when The Hangman comes for you   . you’re already dead.”  



     The story inside the covers lives up to every word of that proud statement, and doesn’t disappoint.  This is gritty, mysterious, and dark - - and profoundly profane.  Vulgar language is employed on nearly every page.  I went back and counted a dozen different curse words among the twenty-page story.  However, these words are employed for effect, and rightly so.  At first I was shocked and then pleasantly pleased.  This is a story involving some rough gangsters, and that is the way they talk.  The Hangman is realistic because of it, not excessive.  And to think that all this is going on under the umbrella and with the blessing of Archie Comics!  


     Frank Tieri’s script is rugged and fast-paced.  His characterization of hitman Miinetta is vivid and leaves a bad taste - - which it should.  This is a character that very few readers are going to warm up to or feel sympathy for. He doesn’t have to enjoy his assignment so much - - but he does. He’s also got a lot of nerve, leaving a gagged and bound body in the trunk of his car while parked in the family garage overnight. 



Just after he completes his assignment, he meets The Hangman.  Always there. Behind you.  Over your shoulder. In front of you.  You can’t escape. And you will pay.   We don’t learn much about the main character in this first issue.  Just as he enters the picture late in the story, things end on a cliffhanger.  There may be changes in store. Already.  


If that isn’t enough to keep you coming back for Issue #2, the art by Felix Ruiz will pull you in and tease you into wanting more.  It’s done in a style that is well-suited for crime comics and helps propel the story along. Colors are also used here to great effect.


This book is definitely worth a try-out. 

James Bond returns to comics from Dynamite

JAMES BOND #1  (Dynamite Entertainment, November 2015):  “Vagrgr”  Warren Ellis, Writer.  Jason Masters, Artist. Guy Major, Colors. Simon Bowland, Letters.  James Bond created by Ian Fleming


     After a 20 year absence, James Bond Agent 007 returns to comics with this new series written by experienced crime/suspense  (Gun Machine) and comics (various projects) writer Warren Ellis and artist Jason Masters .  Here’s hoping the franchise lasts a bit longer than the last time.


     In 1995, a very good original story three issue mini-series was published by Dark Horse Comics (James Bond 007: The Quasimodo Gambit by writer Don McGregor and artist Gary Caldwell) but met with little interest among comics readers.  That same year, Topps Comics published Issue #1 of a planned three-issue adaptation of the Goldeneye film  (by a distinguished creative team of Don McGregor, Claude St. Aubin, Rick Magyar and Brian Stelfreeze) and never finished it. 


Issue #1 of the new series is impressive. Granted, a good amount of the first story needs to be dedicated to introductions and set-up and this can sometimes be boring and tedious for those already familiar with the character from films and books.  However, Ellis manages to get it accomplished quickly and fills the reader in as the story moves along rather than using a flashback or summary.  


    The art by Jason Masters is dynamic and fluid, and reminds me of the great work done by Paul Gulacy on some of those earlier James Bond mini-series for Dark Horse in the 1990’s. James Bond, as visualized by Masters, is a neat combination of the chiseled facial appearance of actor Daniel Craig (the current portrayer of James Bond in the cinema) and the rugged handsomeness of actor Sean Connery (the original star of the James Bond films).  The pages of dialogue-free action scenes really lend the book a movie-like experience and atmosphere. 


    As far as the story is concerned, this James Bond also exhibits the more brutal fighting style of Daniel Craig, and combines it with the suave sarcasm and witty one-liners of Sean Connery (before things morphed into the cornball groaner one-liners scripted for Roger Moore).  The banter between Bond and M and administrative assistant Moneypenny is especially well done.   Recently, the film series updated for the 21st century with a black actress portraying Moneypenny.  James Bond the comic does it one better by casting the MI6 director M as a black character as well as retaining a Moneypenny like the current films.  Nice touch, and tastefully done.  M is still a proper English executive and emotes as expected.


   Issue #1 opens in snowy Helsinki with six pages of wordless action featuring flight and pursuit across a construction site.  We are not sure the pursuer is agent James Bond until the fight ends and he is identified.   The scene shifts to a flophouse in London where a new and dangerous drug is making the rounds.


   As Bond begins a meeting with M to hear about his next assignment, I am reminded of a similar way that the current film (Spectre) begins.  However, it could be purely coincidental and in no way does the comic copy the movie.  


     In Spectre, Bond takes out an assassin in Mexico City and returns to London to learn that a new regime is looking to dissolve the “double-O” agent program.  In “Vargr”, Bond  sits down for his meeting with M and is greeted with this opener from M:  “isn’t it strange that the Service struggles to obtain an efficient performance from you on any number of engagements, but that a straightforward revenge mission sees you in and out in nineteen hours?”  



   Quartermaster and weapons supplier Q is portrayed here as an elderly gentlemen (like actor John Cleese) but rather stoic and critical as opposed to the way that Cleese portrayed him. 


    Bond ha
s to accept some new guidelines and begin his travels through Great Britain en route to Berlin without carrying a weapon until after he arrives.  Q gets in some smarmy comments about Bond’s choice of gun and holster.  The first issue ends with a brief introduction to the newest Bond thug/combatant who will be waiting for him in Berlin.


A nice beginning. I will be following this title to see how things develop.  Cheers! 

Monday, November 16, 2015

View Star Wars original art at San Diego Comic Art Gallery

from the official press release . . . .

EDITOR’S NOTE: Kudos to IDW for establishing a museum dedicated to comic art and setting up a special gallery near their publishing offices.  I wish I was in San Diego.  Hopefully, some of our readers will make the pilgrimage.  If you go, please be sure to take some photos and get them to us. We’d love to post them on BC Refugees website.

San Diego, CA (November 16, 2015) – The San Diego Comic Art Gallery (SDCAG) is proud to announce the Comic Book Art of Star Wars exhibition, which will run from November 21st through January 31st, 2016.  The exhibit will feature 30 pieces of rare Star Wars original art from the very first comic book series that was released by Marvel Comics in 1977.
The majority of these originals are from the first six issues, which adapted the blockbuster George Lucas film. Included in this landmark display are many key and historically significant pages.
Most art featured in this stunning exhibition are by renowned comic artist Howard Chaykin, who will be on hand at the SDCAG on Saturday, November 21st from 5:00 to 8:00 PM, signing copies of the Star Wars Artifact Edition. This Artifact Edition is a 12" x 17” oversized hardcover art book and features an incredible selection of Star Wars pages. Additionally, the book will include many other pieces of Star Wars art not in the exhibition
Each page of the Star Wars Artifact Edition is scanned from the actual original art and printed same size as the physical art boards. While appearing to be in black and white, an Artifact Edition features art scanned in color so all the subtle nuances of original art are clearly visible to the reader, including white out, blue pencil editorial notations, paste-over corrections and more.
The Star Wars Artifact Edition is the ultimate holiday gift for Jedi’s of all ages, and will be available at the SDCAG from November 21st, and in finer comic book shops on 12/9. You may also order it direct from the publisher at

All artwork is courtesy of the David Mandel collection.
For more details visit
About San Diego Comic Art Gallery
In 2015, IDW opened the San Diego Comic Art Gallery, a unique, new, and dynamic space designed to educate and engage the local San Diego community and the region of Southern California with sequential comic book and graphic arts. The SDCAG is located in the NTC in Liberty Station and contains a gallery of original art from comics and animation, a retail space, a working artists’ studio, and a research library.

About IDW
IDW Publishing is an award-winning publisher of comic books, graphic novels and trade paperbacks, based in San Diego, California. Renowned for its diverse catalog of licensed and independent titles, IDW publishes some of the most successful and popular titles in the industry, including: Hasbro’s The TRANSFORMERS, G.I. JOE, MY LITTLE PONY and JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS; Paramount/CBS’s Star Trek; Nickelodeon’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles; Toho’s Godzilla; Twentieth Century Fox’s The X-Files; Sony’s Ghostbusters, Temple Street Productions’ Orphan Black; multiple monthly DISNEY titles; and many more licensed and creator-driven titles.
IDW Publishing is also home to acclaimed imprints such as; The Library of American Comics, which publishes classic comic reprints; Yoe! Books, a partnership with Yoe! Studio; and the multiple award-winning IDW Artist’s Edition line. In 2015, IDW acquired Top Shelf Productions, an award-winning publisher of graphic novels. Top Shelf is known for publishing works of literary sophistication, including the #1 New York Times and Washington Post Best Seller March by Congressman John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell and the authorized graphic-novel adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
IDW Games publishes both creator-owned and licensed tabletop games. The division was launched in 2014 and has quickly found success with one of the top-selling card games of the year with the Award-Winning Japanese import card game, Machi Koro. 
IDW Entertainment was started in 2013 to fund, develop, and produce television series based on IDW properties. IDW Entertainment is currently in development with a slate of properties for television including Wynonna Earp, licensed to Syfy and premiering in early 2016; Brooklyn Animal Control, sold to USA Network with executive producers David Goyer (DaVinci’s Demons, Dark Knight Rises) and Circle of Confusion (Walking Dead); and Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, sold to BBC America with writer/executive producer Max Landis (Chronicle).
IDW Entertainment also has several active theatrical projects in development, including Zombies vs. Robots, which is in development as a major motion picture with Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes and Sony.