Category Archives: creators I like

Review: Virgin Wolf #1 Or Who’s Afraid?

Previously…
Some time ago, I reviewed One Nation # 1, a comic written by Jason Reeves and Alverne Ball. It’s a book I think everyone should read and it introduced me to the undiscovered talent Ball possessed. I later learned that he was working on a solo series called Virgin Wolf and figured it’d make a great follow-up to ON.
 

Situation

The story opens with our main character, Virgin, making her way through a hive of scum and villainy. Here, she has a sword to heart talk with the guards of a notorious noble, who is spending some ‘quality time’ with a woman of the evening.  Of course the noble, named Louie ‘The loon’ Granville, doesn’t take too kindly to this interruption, and responds by transforming into a werewolf before attacking Virgin. Unshaken by this, our heroine confronts him head on, effectively removing his (head) from his shoulders during their exchange. What follows is a manhunt, for his killer and reveals Virgin’s quest for vengeance. 


Story

While not a fan of medieval setting, I do like the fact that Ball used the common misconceptions of women in that era to Virgin’s advantage. In the eyes of any man, a woman would be incapable of hurting anyone let alone killing Louie, allowing her to get away with it. Virgin however, proves that she is a forced to be reckoned with, conjuring images of Frank Miller’s Electra in her prime. We’re also introduced to the son of the area’s duke, who while still unnamed, seems like he’ll have a bit of emotional depth to him. The brief exchanges with his father are enough to paint a sympathetic portrait of a young man hungry for admiration. It’s also interesting that the roles in the comic, at least in my eyes seem to be a bit reversed. Virgin is the take no prisoners bad ass and the duke’s son is compassionate, uncommon for something from this time period. My only problem is that I feel that more could have been done in this issue. The ending could’ve had more impact and the reason for Virgin’s crusade could’ve been made clearer.


Pictures

Max Bartomucci’s pencil’s and inks add something of a rustic look to the piece. It’s exactly how I imagine medieval France should look and feel like. The bar at the beginning of the story looks unsanitary in an authentic way. Adriana De Los Santos’ coloring is a great compliment to the illustrations. They are vivid when they need to be, like in the case of Virgin’s golden hair and subdued like in the brick work of the buildings.

The Real

This was a great showing from writer Alverne Ball and his creative team. The villains were despicable, the heroes likable, and the action was fast paced. I look forward to seeing more of this series and more from its writer. You can find Virgin Wolf # 1 on: ariondmg.com

Rating 4.5/5

Preview: Askari Hodari

Writer: Glenn Brewer

Artist: Glenn Brewer

Publisher: Glenn Brewer

Askari Hodari is the story of three men fighting crime, poverty, and inequality in the fictional city of New Buscoll.   For years, the underworld of New Buscoll was run by the Giovanni crime family.  The drug trade flourished.  Violent crimes and poverty plagued the city until the arrival of Dietrick Romellus and the Askari Hodari.  Dietrick resurrected the organization that his father began and set out to rid New Buscoll of the Giovanni’s.  Armed with high tech armor, ammunition and veiled in anonymity, the three men began to chip away at the Giovanni Empire.  

  
 

Harlem Shadow # 2 Review Or A Hell up in Harlem


Previously…

Some time ago, I came across Raven Hammer Comics in my search for indie black books. Created by writer Brian Williams, Raven Hammer published three original comics, and the most appealing of the trio was the Harlem Shadow. I bought the first issue to see if it was as cool on the inside as it was on outside, and when issue two came out I had no choice but to buy that too.

 

Situation

This issue features two short stories.  The first sees our eponymous hero paying a visit to a local dive, where he has a fist to face or belt to ass conversation with Willie Bourbon. Willie is the abusive husband of Giselle, who happens to be a friend of the Harlem Shadow’s. He (Willie) is also an employee of ‘Bossman’ who seems to run most of Harlem’s criminal underworld, setting the stage for a larger story. The second tale goes inside reporter Nigel Shaw’s attempt to build the Shadow’s publicity, and sell his boss Walter Rhodes on the idea. They plan to use the Midnight Sun, the paper Rhodes owns, to target the various organized crime figures in Harlem. All the while letting the world know that black people now have a superhero of their own, to fight their battles, as the first knight in the kingdom of Harlem. 


Story

This issue shows that Williams has a command of both storytelling and mythos building. The story feels like a classic pulp novel but with modern-day comic book trappings, giving the sense that something big is building. The Harlem Shadow continues to epitomize the cool that was the Harlem Renaissance, dispensing justice with style and an unmistakably black flare. How he deals with Willie Bourbon is especially fun to watch considering the man’s crimes. We’re also introduced to villains like Sweet Tooth, a homicidal pimp, and Maggot Brain an undead gangster bring to mind the rouges gallery of another dark knight. If a hero is only as good as his villains, I’ve got a feeling that HS will be one bad ass mutha.
 

 

Pictures

The inks and lines of Rodolfo Buscaglia perfectly encapsulate the noir cool of the book. From action scene to conversation, I feel like I am in 1920’s Harlem. His strong art style brings definition and not only captures the pulp genre but the renaissance itself. Usually I would prefer a book to be in color, however, anything but black and white would have compromised the feel of this work, so I’m glad Williams and Buscaglia went with it.

The Real

The Harlem Shadow is one of the few black comics I’ve read that does African-American vigilante well. There isn’t a hint of stereotype in this book, and while that could be due to the time period, I think it may also lie in Williams’ ability to tell a story without cliché. Whatever the reason Raven Hammer is doing a great job of building a world, and with a cartoon for HS in the works I hope we’ll be seeing more soon. You can buy the Harlem Shadow on: Amazon.com orRaven Hammer Comics
Rating 5/5

 

Re-Maxed Review: One Nation # 1 Or All You Can Be, Too

Previously…

A while back, I reviewed One Nation #1, a comic created by Jason Reeves and John Ruben Milton for the company 133art. The story was penned by Virgin Wolf scribe Alverne Ball , and turned out to be one of the best comics I’ve ever read. When I learned the book was being re-released on Comixology, I figured I’d give it a more professional read through; and see if it still held up. 


Situation

Deacon is a young military man stationed in Kuwait circa 1991. He also has a secret and it’s not the one that the current president repealed, but something that would be taboo even today. When his platoon is pinned in a fire fight, Deacon reveals his gifts in the form of, super strength, speed and agility. With these, he tears through insurgents and almost single-handedly wins the war. When the U.S. government and its shadow cabinet rulers get wind of his activities, they decide to make him a hero. Press conferences, congressional medals and the name “Paragon” are perks that come with being the United States’ first superhero. But Deacon will soon learn not all that glitters is gold and that he is not the only one of his kind.

Story

Alverne Ball is one of the best undiscovered talents I’ve had the pleasure of reading, and I say that in all seriousness. His captions, which are both emotional and informative without being expositional nightmares, do a great job endearing us to the character. The dialogue defines the character relationships, investing the reader in them, and though Deacon’s origin is similar to a certain blue boy scout, it doesn’t feel like a carbon copy. Reeves, Ball and Milton have not created an analog like so many others. What they have done is crafted a character with a sense of familiarity and individuality, using the best parts of classic comic mythos and making it their own. 


Pictures

Jason Reeve’s penciling style tells this story so well. His angular yet full faces do a lot to make the characters feel like living, breathing humans. His ability to illustrate landscapes is something I missed on my first read, but whether it was the rolling fields of Louisiana, or the dust blown battle grounds in Kuwait, it set a wonderful tone. Colorist Luis Guerrero’s ability to accentuate the dull lifelessness of blown out cities, or the calm of back country roads is a visual delight, and this art team is another reason this indie book has professional written all over it.

The Real

I am still in love with this book and I see it as a standard-bearer for independent black comics. I think everyone should be reading this, supporting its creators and maybe taking notes. I am definitely looking forward to the second issue because, my friends, this is how universes are born. You can buy One Nation at the following, 133comics,Comixology, Amazon and Pulp free publishing

Foreign Matter: Vol 1 Review Or In the Air


Previously…

A while back, during my first excursion into comics, I searched for examples of successful indie books. What worked, what didn’t and how others were building their fan base. In my search, I stumbled upon a comic called Foreign Matter, a story about the media, perception and what would happen if superheroes actually existed.


Situation

At the start of the book, the reader is treated to an article about a confrontation between Virtus, FM’s version of Superman, and Acturon, an atomic monster. The article details the battle and gives us a bit of insight into how the world views Metaheroes, as they’re called. Cut to a zombie attack in Champion city, a fictional metropolis akin to, well Metropolis. Here we’re introduced to the Champion Coalition, this worlds Justice League analog, complete with crime fighting billionaire, Phantasm Prime, and the seasoned Amazonian warrior, Femina. A number of other colorful characters such as the robotic genius Cranium Case and the genetically altered Gentleman who is as poetic as he is ferocious, round out the team. When our heroes discover that the source of the undead disturbance is Salma, a young woman unfortunate enough to open Pandora’s Box, a series of events unfold that expose the hero’s, vulnerabilities, short-comings and most of all their humanity.


Story

What writer Martin John has done in this comic, is take beloved superhero arch-types and made them fun again. Not unlike the hyper-violence of the Authority or the over sexed heroes in The Boys, John shrouds his characters in drama. From the moonlit rendezvous of Virtus and Femina, to the roof top intervention of Phantasm Prime, we have a recipe for a good reality T.V. show. However, drama isn’t the books only draw as members of the Coalition begin to die and Virtus’ mysterious origins come back to haunt him. The thing I love most about this story, is how it uses media, mainly fake ads and blogs, to inform the reader about the world without the need for exposition. That brings me to another great thing about the world of Foreign Matter, and that is ‘superhero as celebrity’. There seem to be whole careers built upon the coverage of Metahero/ Methuman activity, both in and out of the crime fighting world. This angle makes the book feel like a fresh take, instead of a Supreme Power rip-off.


Pictures

German Ponce’s ability to add realism to a fantastic landscape is another reason I dig FM. From the intricate designs on Pandora’s box, to Cranium Case’s various metal caprices, to the luscious lips on Femina , this world looks real. That being said I’d love to see this comic in color at some point and hope that both John and Ponce have that in the works. My only issue is that some background designs look like they were borrowed from other comics, such as the creatures wreaking havoc on the city.

The Real

The biggest impression I get from Foreign Matter, is that John and Ponce took time to develop it. From the story to the character designs, this doesn’t have all the tell-tale markings of a rushed indie book. On the contrary, it seems to be an attempt at the big leagues and if this is just the beginning, I cannot wait to see what else they have in store for us. You can pick up this book on Amazon.com or on Foreignmattercomics.com
Rating: 5/5

 

Watson and Holmes #1 Print Edition Review Or Uptown Saturday Night


Previously…

Last year upstart publisher New Paradigm Studioslaunched their digital comic book series Watson and Holmes. It was a modern re-imagining of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s iconic characters with a new twist: the lead roles were African-American. The   series was enjoyable and after hearing they were releasing a print version of the first issue (including a few extras) I had no choice but to take a look.  

 

Situation

We open up with medical intern, Jon Watson at the hospital, attempting to save the life of a newborn found in a dumpster. Unfortunately, things take a turn for the worse and the child dies, just as young man is wheeled into the ER on a stretcher. Watson learns that besides being severely beaten, the victim has overdosed on drugs. This is where we’re introduced to the second part of our duo as Holmes enters, and informs Watson that the patient had overdosed on truth serum. Their fateful meeting leads to a mystery involving a gang member’s kidnapped sister, an exclusive nightclub that’s never in the same place twice and a group of mercenaries who may hail from Watson’s stint in the Afghan war. After finding out Holmes is not affiliated with law enforcement of any kind, Watson is left to wonder what his newfound partner’s motivations are.


Story

Writer Karl Bollers does a good job of us making us feel for our narrator (Jon Watson) right off the bat. His narration captures the essence of a compassionate man dedicated to helping people. Holmes’ hunger for mystery is a fixture of the character; it’s what he does, if not who he is. Holmes, especially in this incarnation, is almost an enigmatic force of nature, embodying the conundrums he attempts to solve. Watson, on the other hand, is a normal man who fought in the Afghan war, has a normal job as well as a family, and is swept up in the story’s mystery like a leaf in the wind. Bollers has not only constructed a good story but also asked one of the most important internal questions and that is “What drives a man?”


Pictures

Rick Leonardi does a great job of visually telling this story, and though I’ve read the comic in digital format, the print version is even more beautifully done. The pacing of the art on the page adds emotional weight to scenes (i.e. when Watson and co. fail to save the newborn) and a high-octane, adrenaline-fueled rush during chase scenes. Paul Mendoza’s color looks like a work from the Harlem Renaissance, using earthy colors that give an urban feel without looking grimy. GURUEFX’s digital re-master adds touches to the art that help the story come to life.


The Real

I never thought I’d say this, but the print version of Watson and Holmes is actually cooler than the digital version. There is something refreshing about the tone of this series and it’s not just that the main characters are African-American, but the way they’re portrayed as well. When contemporary comics feature underrepresented groups, they end up falling into categories that become caricatures; this story avoids that and makes them people, who happen to be African-American. That said, there are no questions of authenticity here either, as the characters keep certain cultural nuances that remind us where we are in the story and where the characters come from.  Watson and Holmes # 1 is now available at your local comic shop.
Rating 5/5