Category Archives: Comic

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

 

Maxwell’s Mini Review: Battle Masterz # 1

 
Over the weekend, I got around to looking for little known, but impressive looking black creator owned comics. In my search, I happened upon Battle Masterz, created by Antuan, Sha, and Roland Broussard. BM is the story of Rymz. A man gifted with the lyrical prowess of Rakim, and the reality altering abilities of Scarlet Witch. These gifts put him on the radar of Plague, a secret organization with bad intentions. Our hero is assisted in his evasion of Plague by Delilah, a cabbie who is as beautiful as she is deadly. This femme fatale is tasked with aiding our boy into the near future.

The book looks incredible. The art done by, Ivan Anaya, Katrina Alberto, and Sherwin Santiago harkens back to the golden days of Capcom. The writing does the same, unfortunately Capcom was never known for storytelling . The vignettes that make up the book are a bit jarring and towards the end, they’re just plain confusing. It’s a case of beautiful art hampered by writing. The idea of hip hop as a weapon and a means to change the world for the better is a good idea. However, the overall delivery was hurt by the message, and ultimately the book. You can buy this book at Battlemasterz.com
Rating: 2.5/5

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

Preview: Trainwrecked #1


Written By: Lonnie Lowe Jr.

 Artwork By : Wolly McNair
Publisher: Dark City Comics
                       
Trainwrecked!! A teaser of what’s to come in the Dark City Comics Universe as our heroes Alloy and Torque are pitted against a powerful force unlike anything they’ve ever seen. Alloy and Torque is set to be a nonstop, action packed series of true heroism and self discovery

Preview: Swag Patrol # 1

Written by : Rubyn Warren II

Artwork by: Raymond Sanders 

Publisher: Fantasy Art Comics
 

Super speed and fire; force fields and flight; energy and strength. Those are the powers of Kongo City’s newest heroes, K-Swag, Mindset, and Blaze, collectively known as, Swag Patrol. With the help of their science teacher, Dr. Tre and K-Swag’s friend, Lawrence, Swag Patrol defends their precious city while trying to keep curfew.

 


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

 

Tech Watch # 1 Review Or Welcome to the A.N.T.S farm.


Previously…

Not too long ago I had heard of a comic called Tech Watch, created by writer Radi Lewis and published by his Chameleon Creations imprint. It was a sci-fi, espionage book with cool art and a promising story, so when I got my cash up I sprung for a copy to see what the deal was.


Situation

At the beginning of the book, we find ourselves witnessing a raid in progress. The black ops mercenary group known as the A.N.T.S(Assault. Nano. Tech. Soldiers) led by Isaiah Grey infiltrate the laboratory of Dr. Sebastian Lyons who possesses technology that, is important to Isaiah’s research. Initially, Isaiah had asked Lyons to join his organization to pool their knowledge, but the good doctor refused prompting the invasion. With a gun to his head and the A.N.T.S surrounding him Dr. Lyons is dead to rights, or is he, as the team search his lab and find no way to interface with his computers. What’s worse there the doctor can’t be threatened, with Isaiah doing his best not to give Lyons a lead lobotomy, the doctor unveil his master stroke. He unleashes a virus, which begins to eat away at the A.N.T.S hard drive in their HQ known as the ‘Hive’. Fed up with Sebastian’s defiance, Isaiah executes him, copies the knowledge directly from the doctors brain and exits. That is where the real story starts as eight months later someone or something takes Isaiah’s base in the Arctic Circle offline, someone looking for revenge.

Story

Radi Lewis, paints the portrait of a man willing to do anything he has to get what he want in this Spy-Fi epic, however it is not made clear why the reader should be invested. Isaiah Grey reminds me of a cross between Nino Brown and Lex Luthor. I wouldn’t consider either man endearing, but both have their complexities and reasons why we love to hate them. I wish I could love to hate Isaiah, but I just can’t seem to be bothered. His braggadocio and lust for power are fine, but they’re surface, and back story is much-needed. Dr. Lyons seems like he could have been an interesting character but dies too early and we eventually learn he wanted the same thing as Grey and that’s world domination. That sort of character was great for the Golden and Silver ages of comics, but in the post Moore-Miller era, fans call for characters of depth, be they hero, villain or anti-hero. The large amount of exposition in the beginning of the story doesn’t help either, as the reason for the Arctic Circle trip could’ve been illustrated in a few pages instead of explained out right. Tech Watch however does end off on a bit of a cliff hanger and though it’s only mentioned a few times the H.A.R.D.W.A.R.E project seems intriguing enough to stay with the story.


Pictures

Tech Watch has to be one of the most professionally illustrated independent comics I have ever read. Ernesto Vicente does a great job of capturing the scale of this story from the tech to the facial expressions. The head’s up displays look like something out of a Philip K. Dick novel and makes me wish that this kind of tech existed now. While Mike Borromeo makes the sleek, chrome sheen of the future shine, with dark tones and glossy finishes. This is the level of art, by which all indie creators, black or otherwise should judge their work.

 

The Real

I love reading comics by black creators, however they usually feel rushed and unfinished. Tech Watch doesn’t feel rushed per say, but there is a sense that more time could’ve been put into the character development. I am not saying that this is a bad comic, it has potential and would probably read very well as a trade paper back, but as of the first issue there are very few things keeping me invested in the story. If you’d like to pick up a copy of Tech Watch, go to chameleoncreationsllc.com, Amazon.com, Comixology or your local comic book shop.
Rating: 3/5

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

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