Hiatus

I’m going on hiatus for a while. I need to reevaluate my life, my choices , and what I want to do with any of the things I’ve written. I also need to see if I’m even an actual writer or just a guy who writes. I had a vision to discover my most perfect form of self expression, and influence the way people view art in the future. I must now decide whether or not either of those things are important. See you on the other side of forever.

Monsters 101 :Vol 1 Review Or of Monsters and Men


Previously…

I don’t often review graphic novels, but I had seen Monsters 101 by M.Rasheed around for a while and my first inkling of the comic ‘All ages’ , a labeling I actively avoid.
 But the more I saw it the more intrigued I became. So recently, I picked up a copy and was pleasantly surprised by what I found.

Situation

Willy Pugg is a bully. The milk money stealing, nerd tripping, rule breaking bully from every school in the country and every John Hughes movie of the 80’s, and he’s pretty proud of that fact. When we first see Willy who is known as ‘The Pugg‘ by his victims he’s turning a girl upside down to get her money for the day. Willy seems to run the school like the warden at a prison and he is almost unstoppable when the teachers aren’t around. However, someone is watching Willy, someone who even he is afraid of and will have to eventually answer to. Willy runs into these ‘people’ on the outskirts of town in the form of three monsters that want him to bring them other kids to eat. Apparently, children are a delicacy where they come from and they need a supplier, in exchange, they will turn Willy into a monster. However, Willy isn’t well liked and after being caught attacking a student is threatened with expulsion, if he attacks another. His attempts at being nice land him three friends; Jerome, a young foreign exchange student, Mort, his primary target in the school, and Katina a girl whom he inadvertently saves from another bully. These three interactions will shape his life for rest of the book and change the way Willy Pugg interacts with the world around him.

 


Story

 

I will be honest when I started to read this book I wasn’t expecting much. The idea of a comic book aimed a younger audiences never inspires confidence in me as they’re sometimes campy and nonsensical, that being said this was the most emotionally jarring comic I have read since Gaiman’s Sandman. Rasheed does a great job of making us hate this character in the onset, when he tries to be nice to people and they turn him down there is no question about why. Willy Pugg is one of the best villains I have seen in a comic in a long time simply because he is real. We all knew a Willy Pugg, some as his victims others as bystanders and some of those who have challenged him. This isn’t your handsome jock, Flash Thompson bully, this is your emotionally damaged, broken home bully who in their heart just wants to be understood like everyone else. The character of Katina is that chance for him and probably the thing that saves his soul, and though their relationship cannot be described as a romance, there is true love at work, the kind that young children feel for each other and the kind that adults lose as they grow.

 


Pictures

I give props to anyone who writes and draws their own comics. M.Rasheed wrote and drew a 150 page graphic novel and while it can get a bit inconsistent towards the end, it’s more than understandable. His inks are crisp and the way he foreshadows the ending in Willy’s silhouettes is great. I’m surprised this isn’t run as comic strip in a news paper as it reminds me of classics like Gasoline Alley in some subtle ways, with simple facial structure that is also capable of conveying complex emotion.

The Real

 

I loved this story, there were times when I felt a little unsettled by the sheer brutality of the main character, but it worked with the way the story played out. Willy Pugg was already a monster, but by the end, to keep a promise he must learn how to become a man, or at least a human boy. I’d recommend this for people of any age as it is not only a great read but an audit on our current society. With bullying on the rise in school as well as online I think something like this might serve as a tool for discussing the problem. You can pick this volume and others in the series up at www.mrasheed.com Rating 4/5

Watson and Holmes #3 Review Or Where Brooklyn At?


Previously…

Last August, a small indie comic book publisher named New Paradigm Studios launched a modern retelling of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes series. Besides being in the current era, there was another noticeable difference in the characters of Sherlock Holmes and Jo(h)n Watson– they’re African-American. So this week I picked up a copy of the third issue (as I have been a fan for some time now) and hoped that the newest mystery afoot would add to the larger mosaic of the story.

Situation

This issue opens where last issue left off. Watson and Holmes have just left Holmes’ apartment after seeing a banker murdered in front of them via web cam, and now our heroes must find the next target spelled out on a hit list of names. But before the two can start their search, they head over to a posh club in Manhattan where they converse with Holmes’ brother Mycroft, aka ‘Mike’, and find out that the third name on the list is an alias. After speaking with Mike, Watson gains a bit of insight on his partner’s past and motivations, and begins to question his own reasons for joining Holmes on his crusade. The duo get a lead on the assassins and find out that the next target is a pastor who has recently been dealing in more than just saving souls, but before they can look for him they head back to the hospital to check on a patient injured last issue. While making the rounds, the group of killers gunning for the pastor pays Watson a visit and gets his name when one of his co-workers calls it out. After a narrow escape, W&H travel to Brooklyn to find the marked pastor and have a shoot out on the roof of a building in the Bushwick section whiletrying to save his life.

Story

Writer Karl Bollers keeps expanding the mystery as we move into this issue and, as expected, it’s a slow burn. However, that doesn’t mean it’s not enjoyable as we do learn a bit more about our mystery-solving hero and his life-saving partner, and you gotta love New Jack City references. One thing I can say about this comic, is how much Watson’s point of view helps the storytelling mechanics. There are things that Holmes does in this issue and throughout the series that we only catch glimpses of, however these things prove important when they’re later explained. Bollers does this while not making it seem off the page.

 

Pictures

Rick Leonardi continues to wonderfully illustrate this tale of modern mystery. His pencils give a gritty and sometimes grim image of modern-day New York City from the perspective of African-Americans. The emotional weight on the faces of the characters is as tangible and real as those I see everyday. Paul Mendoza’s coloring makes me miss Milestone Media, with his ability to fade color from far away and enriching it while close up with out making it an issue.

The Real

I love that this series and others like it exist. I feel the industry was long over due for an alternative to Luke Cage as far as black characters go. However, I cannot help but feel like this series may suffer from its own premise…and that is the length of the mystery with little action in between. This series feels like it would work better in either graphic novel format or a monthly series to keep people interested. That in no way means that the series is bad, quite the contrary, but comic books are and have been an action medium for a long time. Most fans are used to instant gratification and power fantasies, which is an unfortunate side effect of a medium dominated by superheroes. Now I don’t recommend either character suddenly gaining superpowers, however I feel like this incarnation of Watson should use some of his military fighting skill in more situations, just to dial the action up a notch. Overall this is a great series that I’d recommend for fans of Snyder’s Batman, Bendis‘ Daredevil and, of course, the Doyle classics. You can find Watson and Holmes on www.NewParadigmStudios.com or Amazon.com for download or print copies. Rating 4/5

Constantine #4 Review Or Running the Voodoo down.

 

Previously…

In February of 2013 DC comics did something very risky. They cancelled their long running Vertigo imprint title Hellblazer after 25 years and decided to fold the character into the New 52 DCU. The risk lie in the fact that main character John Constantine was known for sex, violence and debauchery none of which DC proper could show in their comics. The result was a book called Constantine, which feels much as you’d expect watered down. However just because their water in your vodka doesn’t mean it can’t get you tipsy, so I took a look at DC’s attempt to recapture the magic.
 


Situation

We begin this story in my favorite place, the middle of things and with one of my favorite characters Papa Midnight, voodoo crime boss of Harlem, getting ready to carve our boy John up with a Machete. Flash back three hours earlier we see John assisting Dotty, one of his many teachers in the art of the slight of hand, with her birds who apparently tell the future. He’s also preparing a convenient plot device/magic charm for use later. She lectures him about visiting those closest to him and not taking time off for himself before he leaves and witness’ a customer cheat a store owner out of money. While at his favorite bar Papa Midnight’s boys come looking for our anti-hero and escort him to their bosses hideout via crowbar beating. As it turns out Johnny stole something from Midnight, which Johnny claims was a service to the crime lord, and we’re right back we’re we started. The last few pages John get’s back into contact with his on again off again girlfriend Zatanna and hints at a coming war between superhero teams in the DCU.

Story

While never an avid reader of Hellblazer I did enjoy some of the stories and generally liked the character of John Constantine. While writers Jeff Lemire and Ray Fawkes tell a clever story, it lacks the weight of the classic series. John Constantine always had an air of regret clinging to him, this made him as much as a person to pity, as a sad bastard who deserved to feel guilty, and I feel none of that here. I’m not sure if there was an effort to make the character less dark or it just so happened that way, but the authenticity is lost here, and I feel less invested than I did in Hellblazer. I loved seeing Papa Midnight even if he looked more like a super villain and less like a boss, I prefer Mat Johnson’s version. Overall, this wasn’t a bad issue but don’t go into this expecting to feel the same way you did in the good ol’ days.

Pictures

One adjective used to describe John is ‘bastard’ and I feel that Fabiano Neves’ art captures that very well. From his sly bastard grin, to his somber bastard scowl Neves’ art reminds us, at least, visually of the Johnny we once knew. Marcelo Maiolo’s colors however are too bright for a comic featuring this character, which again maybe by design but they’re also off-putting, and I feel someone with a more subdued style like Dave Mccaig could’ve been brought on.

The Real

This is not Hellblazer, and it will never be Hellblazer. However, I can see why DC needed to add their premier magician into the mix of what’s to come. If you’re looking to read a new occult magic comic that’s not too dark and will eventually have superheroes in it, then pick this book up. The rest of you, do yourselves a favor and re-read your old Hellblazer stuff and if you’re looking for something new, Dark Horse has this really awesome series called Hellboy in Hell.

Rating 2.5/5

Engima Review #1 or Days of future now


Previously…

I love reviewing indie comics, especially ones by other black creators so I jumped at the chance to review, Kimberly Moseberry’s Enigma. A murder mystery set in distance bleak future, a concept that immediately brought Blade Runner to mind.

Situation

We open up in the 35th century with Detective Brook Guilds who catches us up to speed on a bombed out and depleted Earth. Humans have destroyed everything left the planet, destroyed the other planets they found and then came back to the their home planet. Brook narrates a great yarn woven by his grandfather about how the air became poisoned and how the earth littered with rubble. We also learn that those who have the money and influence live in elevated cities where crime is almost non-existent so when three headless people are found in a posh penthouse, you can imagine there’s gonna be some problems.

 

Story
We open up in the 35th century with Detective Brook Guilds who catches us up to speed on a bombed out and depleted Earth. Humans have destroyed everything left the planet, destroyed the other planets they found and then came back to the their home planet. Brook narrates a great yarn woven by his grandfather about how the air became poisoned and how the earth littered with rubble. We also learn that those who have the money and influence live in elevated cities where crime is almost non-existent so when three headless people are found in a posh penthouse, you can imagine there’s gonna be some problems.

Pictures

I give Ms. Moseberry credit for writing and drawing this piece herself. The art s not amazing but the character designs while sometimes inconsistent look nice enough. The backgrounds look like they are products of Ms Paint or a similar program, this hurts the look of the book. The colors work well with the pencils and inks to the credit of colorist, Jonathan Price whose skin tones and pallets help bring the book to life.
The Real
I love the concept of this book, that man is nothing more than a technologically advanced animal. Lines like “I asked my grandfather what about the poor people who could live up in the cities and he replied what about them.” Does a great job of telling us what the climate is like, but the book fails in showing us this. My advice would be to rework the script for issue 1 and hire an artist so the writer can focus on constructing a more cohesive story. This is being a first attempt I hope Ms. Moseberry does some retooling and reboot the story. I expect big things from such a high concept story and I will be keeping my eye out.

Rating 3/5

New 52 Batman #21 Review Or the very good year

Previously…

Just before the New 52reboot, DC comics had a horror writer by the name of Scott Snyder penning most of the Batman stories and adding his unique brand of scary goodness to the mix. When the New 52 started, he became the full-time writer for the main title and since then he has made Batman feel fresh and new again, so when he started the Year Zero story arc I decided to give it a whirl hoping to see more of that freshness.

Situation

We open up six New 52years’ past, with Batman wearing something I feel would be better suited on Green Arrow. Bat’s saves a kid from some unknown gang and in turn, the kid tells him that “He” thinks Batman is dead and that this mysterious “He” killed the city. Five months earlier, Bruce Wayne (in disguise) has been pissing off the Red Hood gang by stopping their leader from executing several business people who refused to join. Afterward, we’re privy to Bruce testing out some new boots that allow clinging to ceilings before his uncle, Philip Kane, visits him about running Wayne Industries. Bruce declines of course and goes about his way; the last few panels introduce a staple Bat villain, before he was an actual villain, talking to Philip about how Wayne Enterprises should continue.

Story

I enjoyed this issue even if the time difference from this and that of the New 52 don’t make any sense. The conversation between Bruce and Philip about the company, with Bruce stating that he and his uncle are strangers that want completely different things. I like the idea of the Red Hood Gang, a man who blackmailed rich people into joining him in corporate sabotage. The fact that no one from this gang knows who the leader or each other really are makes them more of a threat and harder to take down. I also love that since Snyder has started writing Batman he’s been saying that rich people are evil, and that is awesome in my book. The backup story was a nice touch, in which we learn where Bruce Wayne picked up his crazy driving skills, adding another piece to the puzzle of how Batman was born. This, like Snyder’s other Bat stories, has the makings of a great mystery. I just hope it ends like Night of Owls and not Death of the Family.

 

 

The Pictures

Greg Capullo has been rocking with Snyder since the New 52 started and I hope he never leaves. In the past he’s had some issues with consistency, but he’s been killing this Batman. So far, my only complaints are that Bruce Wayne looks aloof all the time especially in front of Alfred and Gotham City is just New York with a giant penny in front of a building. FCO Placenia colored this wonderfully from the vivid reds of the Red Hood Gang’s helmets to the envious green of our surprise villain’s shirt popping off the page.

The Real

For the first issue of a new arc it’s looking good, and as long as DC’s editorial let’s Snyder steer it in the right direction we should have another Black Mirror on our hands, from which we can all walk away satisfied. If they don’t, we might have another Death of the Family on our hands where we went in expecting a large shake up and instead nothing happened at all. I’d love Snyder to really take the reins on this one, adding that suspense we love and bringing the detective elements back to character as he does so well.

Rating 4/5

 All images credited to Comic Book Resources

Superman: Unchained # Review 1 Or A new look for ‘Big Blue’

 

 

Previously…

Scott Snyder’s success on the New 52 Batman run has prompted DC to have him and Jim Lee do a new Superman book. Obviously, the intention is two-fold, one, hype ‘Supes’ in time for the movie and two have a superstar writer and artist make ‘Big Blue’ cool again. I’ll be 100% honest I’m really in this to see if Snyder can do with the ‘ Last Son’ what he did with the ‘Dark Knight’.

Situation

We open up over Nagasaki, August 9th of 1945. For those of you asleep in history class that was the day Fat man and Little boy destroyed the cities of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, to force the Japanese to surrender during WWII. At least that’s what we thought as Unchained tells us a slightly different story, one that the government has kept from the people. In the present day, Supes is deflecting seven satellites and space stations thrown into the Earth by some unknown force. After a daring rescue, Superman travels to Metropolis, where the infamous Lex Luthor on his way to super-max makes origami visions of the city out of pages from the Iliad. Superman questions him a bit then flies off to his life as Clark Kent, unemployed blogger, where he blogs about himself as Superman, chills out and discusses bagels with Jimmy Olsen. Lois contacts Clark to tell him that his blog was wrong and Superman deflected eight satellites and not seven. The last scene in this issue presents the reader with a conspiracy and hints at a secret weapon the military has had since that faithful day in August.
                       

Story

Scott Snyder has done a great job at casting a net of mystery into this ‘Man-of-Steel’ story, which is something I did not think could be done. I’m not used to seeing Supes have to figure things out without punching them, and the possibility that the military has something that could match ‘Big Blue’ makes this at least a worthwhile book to check out. What intrigues me is the constant level of distrust for authority and power; Snyder builds in the current DCU reminding this reader a bit of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight movie trilogy. Now I know this is a superhero book and it has a high chance of turning into a punch-face-fest, but the fact that Supes is actually going to need to use his investigative skills to crack this, adds a fresher spin on a character that has been bland for years.

 

 

Pictures

Jim Lee, what can I say about him? He’s a legendary artist, one of the modern pioneers in the field of creator owned work and co-publisher of DC comics. Of all the things I can say about Jim Lee I’ll say this, he doesn’t finish what he starts. I love Jim Lee’s art I have since Hush, but I’m not sure he’s gonna have time to devote to this book and his other duties. He didn’t seem to when he was Editor-in-Chief of Wildstorm and books he was working on, namely the Intimates, got cancelled. However, let’s hope he can do this book at least for an arc and then maybe Greg Capullo can come in. Alex Sinclair reminds us the Superman is still the brightest hero of them all and while the suit has changed the big blue blur stands out like the star on the Christmas tree.

The Real

Good start to a book that I otherwise wouldn’t have read if the writer and artist didn’t catch my attention. I look forward to seeing how his mystery unfolds and what Snyder does to make this bland character refreshing and new. On the plus side, this was a great marketing tool and I am now even more psyched to see the Man-of-Steel which I may or may not review.
Rating 3.5/5
All images credited to Comic book Resources

Avengers # 13 Review Or All White, All White, All Whittee (Kevin heart voice)


Previously…

When Marvel Now! Started last year in July, they had decided to create a large more diverse team to tackle bigger threats and appeal to a larger fan base. With Jonathan Hickman helming the project, I figured I should check it out; he’s never let me down before. So, I picked up this latest copy of Avengers hoping to find something worthwhile, I did not. 

Situation

We find our main team of Avengers in the Savage land tending to the zebra striped evolved children early series villain Ex Nihilo created. Our heroes have lost their young charges and are now searching high and low for them between sincere talks between Thor and Hyperion. It turns out that the villain The High Evolutionary has set up shop and kidnapped them to find out what makes them tick. Our heroes eventually find them with a bit of help from a local and a battle ensues with the Terminus robot becoming active and then being deactivated just as quickly. The issue is book ended with another Thor/Hyperion heart to heart.

 

Story

I have said it before and I’ll say it again, I love Hickman’s writing, however that doesn’t mean that there is anything in the Avengers worth caring about. Sure, Hyperion has a bit of revelation toward the end of the issue but that doesn’t mean that it felt real. I didn’t care about this book, not the characters or the story, its all very run of the mill. The attempt to endear the reader to Hyperion’s plight misses it’s mark with me and would’ve been more believable if he weren’t another version of superman. Even worse the convenient man-sized plot device that leads them to The High Evolutinary’s stronghold courtesy of the ever-aloof Captain Universe. The only good thing about this issue was the way Hyperion ended the fight between Thor and Terminus before it really got started.


Pictures

When you’re dealing with Mike Deodato and superheroes you’re gonna get quality. The Hyperion’s angry scowl reminds you never piss off anyone with powers like superman, and the cracks in the face of the character Garook are hauntingly inhuman. Frank Martian’s semi-metallic colors do a great job of bring the High Evolutionary to life and letting us know that this is a self augmented man and not some guy in a costume.


The Real

You’d think that a team with 18 heroes in it would have a lot of diverse characters especially when it claims diversity. I for one think that white people are underrepresented in this one as in all comics and hate that the companies add minorities to create diversity for its own sake. But in all seriousness I find it funny that the best this issue can muster in the way of minority representation is an aloof and confused, albeit powerful, Captain Universe who only ever shows up for two seconds and then walks back into some corner of the comic. I mean seriously, there are 18 people on this team 9 of them are white men that’s half the team. Out of the 9 that are left 4 are white women and what we’re left with is 1 Asian, 2 black guys and 1 black woman. Dear Marvel, don’t promise me gold and give me lead, it’s not cool. If you’re an Avengers fan you’ll like this, the rest of us will be reading Saga.

Rating 2/5

All images credited to Comic Book Resources

Thanos Rising # 3 Review Or…“See You, Space Black Man”

Previously…
Earlier in the year, Marvel hinted at a new big event called Infinity starring Thanos. Many eyes have been on the Mad Titan since his appearance at the end of the Avengers movie and Marvel has further pushed the villain with his own miniseries. Thanos Rising explains how the man became the monster and how the monster amassed his power. Since Thanos is my favorite Marvel villain, I had to check this out and I wasn’t disappointed.

Situation
This issue picks up where last issue ends off with writer Jason Aaron painting a very vivid picture of Thanos‘ self-image. We flash forward to see him laying in bed with one of the many women he will sleep with and impregnate in this issue. When we get to his time as a navigator for a group of bloodthirsty space pirates, we notice that our boy has cooled his heels and hasn’t killed anyone in a while in hopes of living a normal existence. Thanos and the reader soon realize that he is not about that life; with the most he can hope for being total isolation. His time aboard the pirate ship and his hopping from woman to woman only illustrates his sense of displacement and evokes sympathy from this reviewer. When in either setting, Thanos often mentions his mother whom he killed last issue and how he wish she’d been allowed to take his life as a newborn. He also talks about the nameless woman whom he loves and how much he’s tried to forget about her, of course he can’t.


Story

Honestly, I prefer Aaron’s rendition of Thanos to any other. We’ve seen the power mad schemer, we’ve seen the opportunist and the purveyor of mass genocide. What we never see is the lost, lonely child searching for someone to love and love him. Thanos‘ nihilistic introspection at times of boredom and his quick wit while in situations of danger color the character perfectly. When we meet the nameless woman on his home planet of Titan, we can see very clearly, who she really is and just how crazy in love Thanos is. Aaron does a good job of explaining; even in the comic book work, love makes you do things– crazy, violent, psychotic things.


Pictures

Simone Bianchi’s art is always breathtaking but does better as cover work than a story telling device. That being said this book is pretty to look at but something about Thanos‘ movement is off. He also seems to have taken many references from “Star Wars” as almost every one of Thanos‘ ladies looks like Jedi, Aayla Secura. Nonetheless, Ive Svorcina does a good job of coloring, which I imagine is hard given Bianchi’s level of detail and his colors help set the tone for this dark space saga.

The Real
Something I noticed about Thanos is that he conforms to many of the stereotypes of a black man. He’s large, devious and has sex with as many women as he possibly can, though this could be my sensitivity. The fact that his mother doesn’t want him reminds me of the film “Losing Isaiah” and the way people on his planet treated him reminded me of a line from “Boyz in the Hood” about black boy’s becoming criminals when they grow up. Maybe that is why Thanos always resonated with me, maybe he’s just a misguided black man who loves his woman so much he’d do anything. I will keep reading Thanos Rising to see if my feelings are right until then.
Rating 3/5
All images credited to Comic Book Resources