Comics

AICN COMICS Reviews: RAI! Marvel’s ORIGINAL SIN! THE LIFE AFTER! WILL O’ THE WISP: AN AURORA GRIMEON STORY! & More!

Published at: April 30, 2014, 9:07 a.m. CST by ambush bug

The Pull List
(Click title to go directly to the review)

Advance Review: RAI #1
ORIGINAL SIN #0
Advance Review: FUTURE’S END #0 FCBD Edition
THE SAVIORS #1-4
Indie Jones presents WILL O’ THE WISP: AN AURORA GRIMEON STORY Original Graphic Novel
HARBINGER #22
Indie Jones presents THE DOLRIDGE SACRAMENT #3
THE LIFE AFTER #1
Advance Review: VOID Original Graphic Novel


Advance Review: In stores today!

RAI #1

Writer: Matt Kindt
Art: Clayton Crain
Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
Reviewer: Corey Michael Dalton


Mix one part BLADE RUNNER with one part THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS and you get Valiant's relaunch of RAI. Set in 41st century Japan, the comic drops us into a world of robots that look like humans, metallic streets illuminated by neon advertisements, rounded glass architecture, futuristic sushi bars, and never-ending rain. Japan's protector is Rai, a near-mythic, chalk-skinned superdude who takes his marching orders from a sentient computer called Father. When members of a radical group commit the first murder in Japan in over a thousand years, Father dispatches Rai to investigate. At the crime scene he meets a plucky girl named Lula who witnessed the disposal of the corpse. She's always wondered if Rai was real and not just a legend—and now she gets her chance to find out.

So I didn't love this first issue, but I didn't particularly hate it, either. As mentioned above, I simply found it to be derivative of other, better works. Because we're in a future world, characters sometimes use phrases and slang terms that are unfamiliar to us 21st-century-ites. That's to be expected in sci fi. What's not to be expected are the clumsy ways in which these terms are explained to us. For example, when Lula records a "scroll-bio" (like a diary) in which she mentions that "Fish-eyes are just PTs", immediately in a parenthetical aside she clarifies "Positronic Minds…artificial intelligence." Yes, she clarifies the term (a common one for the time) to herself after she uses it. She goes on to state that she's explaining the term for future generations, but pointing out the awkwardness of the writing in-story doesn't fix the issue. Similarly, there are plenty of examples of awkward plot exposition. When one ne'er-do-well says to the other "There hasn't been a murder in Japan in a thousand years", the second guy replies "Correct. And that's why you better pray we cleaned all the evidence off that body …", so the characters are saying things aloud to each other that they both already know solely for the benefit of explaining things to the audience (even worse, Lula later reiterates the thousand year thing, as does a talking head on a TV screen, so we would have received the info dump even without the earlier dialogue.) A couple of pages later, Lula's mother asks basic questions about the evening news just to give Lula's father an excuse to explain the politics of the day to us. Look, I get that as a writer throwing your readers into an unfamiliar environment you have to find a way for us to understand the world and the technology and the slang, but there are better, more elegant ways to do so than by turning your characters into an army of Basil Expositions.

The art is fine if you like Clayton Crain's style. Unfortunately for me, it's not an aesthetic that I enjoy. Everything looks too shiny and too smooth, like all the wrinkles (and personality) have been airbrushed away. At the same time, many of the pages are murky, making it difficult for me to follow the action. The metallic look does work for the title character and the futuristic buildings, but not so much for the everyday people in the issue, and many of the facial expressions seem slightly off. When Lula meets Rai, for example, she looks creepily excited, given the circumstances. He's her hero, I know, but she's telling him about witnessing two guys drop off a dead body (the first murder in over a thousand years!) while smiling like a British school girl meeting that floppy-haired guy from One Direction. The juxtaposition makes me wonder if she's a bit psychotic or something. Having said all that, the art from Crain here seemed no different than anything I've seen from him elsewhere. So, if you're a fan of his style, then I'm sure you'll love his art here, too! It's just not my thing.

This isn't a bad first issue. The idea of a flying island without murders suddenly having its first in a long time is a pretty good hook! Unfortunately, the awkward exposition and world building, the derivative setting, and the unappealing (to me) art left me not wanting to make a return trip to 41st century Japan.

Corey Michael Dalton has written and/or edited trade books, magazine articles, short stories, novels, comics, plays, radio shows, reviews, websites, blogs, and more. You name it, he's probably written it. Except religious scriptures. He hasn't gotten around to those just yet. Soon ...


ORIGINAL SIN #0

Writer: Mark Waid
Artists: Jim Cheung with Paco Medina
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Masked Man


All aboard, fools--time to get on the crossover express! As we still wait for the end of FOREVER EVIL (man, I'm just mean!), Marvel has kicked off their next big event: ORIGINAL SIN. The good news is Mark Waid is the man behind the wheel--the guy currently writing one of Marvel's top comics, DAREDEVIL. Oddly enough, Waid has only done one crossover event before this: DC's UNDERWORLD UNLEASHED (I don't count KINGDOM COME, because it was more elseworld than crossover) back in 1995. That's quite a gap for a guy who's a popular staple in superhero comics.

Since killing characters is big business in these crossovers, Waid went after the biggest (man, that was stupid!) character he could think of in the Marvel U: The Watcher. The ensuing storyline then seems to be: whot hoppen? To kick things off with the zero issue, Waid pretty much brings us up to speed with who the Watcher is (see, ya have to know about a character before you can care about his death). Now since big baldy doesn't talk, Waid threw in his newest best friend Nova to help push the issue along (Nova has rubbed shoulders with The Watcher a few times in his new series). The issue also gets into The Watcher's origin, where Waid pretty much sticks to the established story instead of rewriting it to fit the story (like some people!). As a long time reader I appreciate that, and to any new readers, now you won't hear the old timers whine. See? It's a win-win!

Ok, spoiler time – the clever thing Waid does here is set up a parallel between Nova and The Watcher. They both had important fathers. Nova's (I should probably be calling him Sam at this point) was a Nova who later became a drunk, and The Watcher's (I should probably be calling him Uatu) was a big important scholar/scientist who screwed up and made the Watchers become Watchers. So you can see they both have some daddy issues (I'll quickly add that Sam's dad has disappeared after one final out-of-retirement mission). As the two characters bond over this, Uatu breaks his code and tells Sam his father is still alive (I told you there were spoilers!). All of this of course sets up issue #1, when Uatu gets killed like Orion in FINAL CRISIS. Then I'm guessing Sam does not take it well.

Now I won't go as far to say this story is touching, but it certainly isn't ham-fisted. I often feel mental anguish sitting through poorly written scenes in movies where we are shown the 'loving family' in picnics and holiday dinners before the tragedy--oui, I do so hate that! Thankfully, not this issue. It serves the same function, but it's well written. You feel the connection, you learn the history and you don't feel like you just saw a bad magic act. As I mentioned earlier, it's all driven by Nova innocently and unknowingly breaking perceived barriers by just hanging out with Uatu.

Before I forget to mention it, Jim Cheung (and company) turned in a great-looking book, just as they did with the last issue of INFINITY. His work is very clean and a little rigid, but still full of life, gesture and mood. Oddly enough, I don't think he's really become a breakout star yet, but this series could change all that for him.

So with the primer in the can, I'm excited and ready to roll with ORIGINAL SIN, though if you already know Uatu's origin like the back of you hand you can skip this issue. On the other hand, if you want to be set up for the emotional beats this series seems ready to deliver, then you shouldn't miss it.









Advance Non-Spoilery Review: In stores on Free Comic Book Day this Saturday!

FUTURE’S END #O (Free Comic Day)

Writer: ???
Artist: ????
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Optimous Douche


I’m in a bit of a Chinese fingercuff with this review. I’m contractually bound to not deliver blatant spoilers, yet since we only publish on Wednesdays I want you kids to know what will be worth your Free Comic Day time.

So, to that end, I will present my review of DC’s next weekly offering in the form of cryptic and horrible poetry.

Before I give my horrible plot description, I would just like to note that it’s truly tragic there are no credits on this issue (sorry, I just don’t believe that all of the weekly writers for FUTURE’S END worked on these ten pages). Alas, this is the best I can do, I hope it will suffice.

In 35 Years
Heroes don gray beards
The world is a mess
In cybernetic arachnid dress
Fucked, fucked, fucked.

The eye in the sky
Wants to own every gal and guy
Only the cancelled ones remain
To cause this one eyed monster pain.

But wait there’s another
A millionaire grouse
He was going to ride the flux capacitor
Till someone tore down his house

Now there’s but one
The child of Timm
His itinerary undone
Five years from now we shall meet him


You’re welcome(ish)…

Optimous Douche has successfully blackmailed BottleImp to draw purty pictures for his graphic novel AVERAGE JOE coming out in 2013 from COM.X. When not on Ain’t It Cool, Optimous can be found talking comics and marketing on robpatey.com and just marketing on MaaS360.com.


THE SAVIORS #1-4

Writer: James Robinson
Artist: J. Bone
Publisher: Image Comics
Reviewer: Humphrey Lee


Sometimes you get behind on things--it happens. Most times it’s because, much as I love you all, bills need paid and you can’t always find the time to pump out 1,000 words for the week working for the man. Other times, though, it’s because even though you have a comic shop guy who collects an order from you every month and executes it to the T, apparently a big company whose name is also the subject of a Leonardo DiCaprio movie where he has a South African accent (and that I have no clue if it’s actually good/accurate or not) and has somewhat of a monopoly on comic book distribution tends to not send said shop owner the first issues of these Image titles a good bit of the time, I would mostly assume due to incompetence. But I digress. Eventually you not only find this first issue after still buying all the three others (on good faith the first turned out good, as you trust the creative crew) that came after it but you also finally get to read them and…man, I think I may need one or two issues more to push me off to a side of this fence that I’m currently perched on after all this time.

THE SAVIORS starts off simple and exposition-laden enough, with a gentleman named Tomas Rodriguez regaling a curious little lizard (i.e. us) with his current carefree lifestyle of being a pot-smoking station attendant in a sleepy little town called Passburg. Obviously things aren’t going to remain in ganja time for long, and it takes no time at all for suspicious activity to start heading Tomas’ pretty naïve little way. Not terribly long after a casual stop by of the local sheriff and then a dapper looking gent in a nice, classic automobile does Tomas adopt his role of the unwitting buffoon in a tale of shit going wrong as he sees what looks like a lizard man chatting up the sheriff as well. From there on it’s a game of cat and mouse between Tomas and what turns out to an alien beast that changes shapes and sizes more than Jessica Simpson.

And really, that has been the bulk of this first arc so far in THE SAVIORS. Tomas sees some shit, Tomas runs from that shit with Nate (the gentlemen in the classic auto), and then he finds himself with more people that are in on this shitstorm. Lots of exposition is given as to what these shape shifters are up to and planning, but like their forms nothing is set in stone. All that is given is they hide in plain sight and have a lot of position and power as they go about their machinations with ease. As the comic itself points out, there’s an underlying 1950’s sci fi vibe of paranoia from an “anyone could be anything, and who is the real enemy?” standpoint that really pervades this comic. The only real problem is a lot of this atmosphere is kind of pushed into the background as there’s more a bunch of talking about how anyone could be one of these monsters than going into this other form of the Tom and Jerry game than the one Tomas already played in the desert with his former cop friend.

What I mean by that is, essentially, I think for these first couple issues of THE SAVIORS lots of things are being teased and played at but nothing is fully committed to outside of constantly showing these others going into full-on beast mode. The “they could be anyone doing anything!” angle is talked about a lot once Tomas gets sucked into the fold and especially when Nate brings the two of them to a hideout in Mexico to meet up with a handful of others in on the conspiracy, but for these first issues there’s little stealth to the aliens – or whatever they are – and just lots of action shots of them turning into big, hulking monsters and ripping things (including some of these characters we meet) apart. And that’s all well and good as it establishes these monsters as a vicious, hounding threat to Tomas and anyone he’s going to find himself surrounded with, but it does nothing to really build up this conspiracy just yet, other than that apparently one of these beasts can go rampant in a town and they have enough clout to smooth it all over. Not saying that the more subtle action isn’t coming, but that there’s a lot of hinting at this vast conspiracy that could play out in the shadows followed more by property damage than subterfuge. It sends a conflicting message is all, even if there are a bunch of quality elements at play here, especially on the visual side.

It’s easy to just think of J. Bone’s style as the little brother to Darwyn Cooke’s retro-chic, but I’ve always thought of it as much more jaunty version, especially these days as Cooke’s stuff has gone more squinty-eyed and square jawed. J. Bone’s pencil-work feels like it’s more playful in that cartoonishly emphasized style, while it also does its own level of detailed expressiveness. Like, for example, Tomas is just this kind of doofy guy, right, with his long chin and big nose, and when he’s scared crapless by the aliens it carries a jokiness to it because of those attributes despite the real, absolute terror also being shown on his face. I think that’s a good balance to have for a book like this, especially in these first issues where the emphasis really seems to be on the “holy fuck what is it turning into now?!?” aspects of these aliens as they’re going from winged death birds into sea monsters with their transformations. The subtleness is there for the shadowy side of the book – what little we get of it so far – but it also impresses by making these monsters the larger-than-life threats they are being pushed as for these four issues.

Wrapping this up, I guess my take on this book comes down to mixed signals, both from myself and THE SAVIORS here itself. Over these first four issues I just more felt like the book kept teasing this secret war that humanity will now be fighting, only to continually drag it back into a property damage-filled one in the streets (and desert). And that’s all well and fine because visually it plays out fantastically, but when you get a plot that overall is pretty shadowy to the point where you have these hidden resistance fighters doing guerilla shit more in exposition form than actual panel-to-panel enactment, then I’m not sure what your invasion book is fully playing at. And that’s the other mixed signal from myself in that I did quite enjoy what I saw and read here so far, between the designs and the atmosphere and Tomas’ comically wide-eyed disbelief, but when you keep talking up one thing and showing the other I get confused is all. If anything it just shows that I’m significantly interested in what these monsters are and where they come from and how deep their penetration into our world goes that I want to see the book dive into the type of action that would be more revelatory. I’ve enjoyed the big monster action thrown in so far; now I just want to get into the nitty-gritty, especially with some characters that could bounce off Tomas’ constant wide-eyed exasperation, which as amusing as the guy is I don’t think will do well to carry this book by himself. THE SAVIORS doesn’t need any saving yet, but where it takes itself as the next handful of issues play out will mean a lot in establishing itself as what it is and if that is worth keeping around for my $2.99 a month. Y’know, if those kind folks at the shiny gem distribution company bother to get it on the stands and in my hands.

Humphrey Lee has been an avid comic book reader going on fifteen years now and a contributor to Ain't It Cool comics for quite a few as well. In fact, reading comics is about all he does in his free time and where all the money from his day job wages goes to - funding his comic book habit so he can talk about them to you, our loyal readers (lucky you). He's a bit of a social networking whore, so you can find him all over the Interwebs on sites like Twitter, Facebookand a blog where he also mostly talks about comics with his free time because he hasn't the slightest semblance of a life. Sad but true, and he gladly encourages you to add, read, and comment as you will.


Indie Jones presents!

WILL O’ THE WISP: AN AURORA GRIMEON STORY Original Graphic Novel

Writer: Tom Hammock
Art: Megan Hutchison
Publisher: Archaia Entertainment
Reviewer: Ambush Bug


Though there might be a twinge of HARRY POTTER-ian themes, WILL O’ THE WISP: AN AURORA GRIMEON STORY can only be compared to the popular series of books because it’s about a youngster finding out that she is linked to a magical world not known by most. But instead of stuffy gothic castles and damp moors, this tale takes place in the swamplands of the American South and the magic is more of the voodoo hoodoo variety than magic wands and flying brooms. While the similarities might be too much for some to stomach with everyone and their mother trying to vie for the next big fantasy property, this story is unique enough and focuses on a distinct enough corner of magic that it didn’t rub me wrong-ways.

Writer Tom Hammock has created an immediately endearing character in his lead character Aurora Grimeon. Like most kids in fables such as this, she is headstrong and downright stubborn at times, yet never loses her infectious spunk and curiosity. Those who enjoy the determined heroines of Disney films will definitely find Aurora a worthy lass to follow on an adventure. And like all good adventures, Aurora has a fun cast of characters backing her up with her Grandpa Silver who is wizened in the arts of hoodoo and her pet raccoon Missy.

On a side note: I was particularly enamored with this story since I myself had a pet raccoon as a kid, and the small details like having the furry little critter wash all of his food was definitely appreciated and took me back to simpler times in Ohio in every scene the little monster was in.

The story follows Aurora’s journey into her past, finding out about her parent’s deaths, her family’s connection with hoodoo (a hodgepodge form of African voodoo, folklore, herbal medicine, and other old American traditions that runs rampant in the swamplands of the country), and how to wield the swamp magic herself. A little bit KARATE KID and a little bit ALICE IN WONDERLAND (if that Wonderland was a swamp, that is), with a healthy dose of Nancy Drew, and you pretty much get the idea of what this book is all about.

But don’t go thinking this is all kid-friendly and fluffy. The magic here is much darker that what you might be used to seeing in a HARRY POTTER flick. The art gives it a bit of whimsy, but it’s still pretty down and dirty. There are some downright scary moments at play in this story, and with writer Hammock a designer for films such as YOU’RE NEXT, ALL THE BOYS LOVE MANDY LANE, THE GUEST, & VHS2, his dark roots definitely show throughout the story. It’s never gross, but the story is dark enough to satisfy the ghoul in adults who like stories with a bit of an edge and twisted teens like I was who will most likely be attracted to it because it feels edgy.

And what a book it is. As usual, Archaia had put together a beautiful looking hardcover highlighting the classical storybook quality of the whole thing and featuring the art of Megan Hutchison exquisitely. Hutchison’s art is somewhat wispy itself (like the title of the book) and light in detail, while heavy on distinct form. Somewhat cartoony, Hutchison’s panels have just enough depth and edge to feel somewhat more sophisticated than your average, every day animation, yet captures the gestures of movements and magical lights in a way that seems to radiate off the page. I was especially impressed at the numerous scenes without dialog where Hutchison alone is left to tell the tale. It’s great to see a writer trust the artist so much to tell the tale in this day and age of insecure writers bogging down pages with verbose extrapolation.

WILL O’ THE WISP: AN AURORA GRIMEON STORY is a substantial read at 200+ pages, but one I think those who love the classic Disney tales of old and the modern tales of Harry Potter and Percy Jackson will definitely want to seek out. It’s currently available from Archaia’s website and all comic shops worth a damn. Check out the trailer below with samples of the art and story.



Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole/wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of AICN COMICS for over 12 years & AICN HORROR for 3. He has written comics such as VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS THE TINGLERS & WITCHFINDER GENERAL, THE DEATHSPORT GAMES, & NANNY & HANK (soon to be made into a feature film from Uptown 6 Films). He has co-written FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND’s LUNA: ORDER OF THE WEREWOLF (to be released in 2013 as a 100-pg original graphic novel). Mark wrote the critically acclaimed GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS THE JUNGLE BOOK from Zenescope Entertainment & GRIMM FAIRY TALES #76-81. Look for GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS THE JUNGLE BOOK: LAST OF THE SPECIES available in February-July 2013 and the new UNLEASHED crossover miniseries GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS WEREWOLVES: THE HUNGER #1-3 available in May-July 2013! Follow Ambush Bug on the Twitter @Mark_L_Miller.


HARBINGER #22 Writer: Joshua Dysart
Artist: Clayton Henry
Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
Reviewer: Optimous Douche


This issue would most appropriately be titled Rise of the Renegades, as our ragtag group of next gen powered vagabonds finally move from defense to offense in their battle against Toyo Harada.

I won’t lie, this tonal shift is abrupt and it could prove ill fitting. Part of HARBINGER’s charm has always been the team’s, how shall we say nicely, loserness??? Also, the fact that they have licked their wounds, moved into battle positions and were able to execute all in the course of one issue is a rapid fast-forward from the more time-compressed stories as of late. When I get used to a book taking its time…with time…perhaps I become too expectant on the rhythm.

I’ll also admit l was kind of looking forward to a respite for the team, since they haven’t had one in 21 issues. When they set up camp a few issues ago in the sewers of Cali, there was a part of me that was selfishly hoping we would get a time period where the book took on a bit of a RUNAWAYS vibe. There’s relationship trust issues, budding romance, and even deep psychosis within the brainpans of these powered beings--why not let us spend some time with those delightful trust issues?

All right, I’ll stop writing and simply report. Like I said earlier, this issue is the strategic strike straight into Harada’s weak underbelly. After some lovin’ and cuddlin’ between Torque and Zephyr, the battle plan is laid and the team dive-bombs straight in and kicks some ass.

Until Toyo Harada arrives. Here lies my other problem with the turning of the tides; there is still no fucking turning of the tides.

Harada is a god compared to the Harbingers’ psychic powerhouse, Peter Stancheck. When it comes to slinging mud bullets, Harada is still the quickest draw with the highest caliber gun. Harada can also easily squelch the powers of Torque, Flamingo and even the new L33T hackzorz-powered AX. Speaking of, I think he’s the one who buys it next issue. If you look close at the silhouettes on the cover of the next issue, he is the only one that can’t be made out. If I’m right, I’m sorry guys, but you get covered in boo sauce. We just met this kid two issues ago; that does not make for a death worth heralding for multiple months. Ohhhh you will be so missed, human modem who just showed up. If I’m wrong, then please accept my most sincere apologies--carry on.

The guys delivered yet another fine issue, and if you ignore all of my bitching, it actually serves as a great jumping-on point for new fans. The collapsed time is c’est bella for someone who does not know the team yet. Again, not where I would have taken things, but also certainly not wrong either.


Indie Jones presents!

THE DOLRIDGE SACRAMENT #3 (of 4)

Writer: Wilson Taylor
Artist: Maia Gröss
Publisher: Alterna Comics
Reviewer: BottleImp


A supernatural mystery set at a remote manor house, THE DOLRIDGE SACRAMENT is one of those kinds of stories that ALMOST gets it right. You know how it is--sometimes all the puzzle pieces are there but they don’t fit together just right, or you have all the recipe ingredients you need but not in the correct amounts. So far, this comic book feels like one of those clumsy metaphors. The first two issues give the reader a collection of scenes and images that would be right at home in a David Lynch movie: a woman standing at the threshold of a ballroom, leaning up against the towering double doors, a burning man in the glare of headlights heedless of the flames crawling up his back, a cyclopean severed arm ending in a taloned hand big enough for a man to sit in, impaled on a spike in the center of the vast ballroom. These images are certainly intriguing, but they desperately needed a story structure to thread them together.

Thankfully the plot of the story, heretofore only glimpsed in fragmented panels, is largely spelled out here in issue #3. The young Reverend Daniel Dolridge recounts how he came to own the secluded mansion, and why he has gathered a motley handful of strangers together to participate in the bizarre rituals conducted in the house’s ballroom. The intended outcome of these rituals is still unclear, but the brief glimpses shown to the reader seem to spell out a sense of their purpose.

The strengths of the series are in the nearly overwhelmingly disturbing atmosphere created by the deceptively simple black and white artwork. Slightly cartoony figures are set in motion against backdrops of cavernous spaces and seemingly infinite rooms of the house, giving the comic the feel of an animation cel juxtaposed against a sense of stark, almost noir cinematography. I invoked David Lynch’s name earlier in describing the first two issues of THE DOLRIDGE SACRAMENT, and that comparison holds true for this issue as well. Many of the panels could have easily been freeze-frame captures from the eerie “Black Lodge” moments from Lynch’s TWIN PEAKS, sharing the TV series’ bold sense of stark composition.

Unfortunately the artwork, so effective in establishing mood, weakens the comic in another way. I mentioned the cartoony figures before; the simplified, almost manga-like stylization of the characters’ faces (coupled with the lack of color) does lead to some confusion at times, especially when all the characters’ faces are basically the same shape, with sometimes only subtle details of hairstyle to differentiate them. I would have liked to see Maia Gröss vary the character designs a little more to avoid these awkward moments when the reader has to triple-check for the character’s name.

After reading the first three issues of this four issue miniseries, I’m feeling slightly let down. In many ways this comic reminds me of another black and white graphic novel, PIXU, by Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá. That comic book conveyed the same off-kilter sense of dread and mystery to the reader. But so far the difference between PIXU and THE DOLRIDGE SACRAMENT is that the former resonated on a deeper level, forcing me to think about the book for days after I read it. As of now, the latter unfortunately does not. But with one issue left to go, I’m still intrigued enough to see how THE DOLRIDGE SACRAMENT plays out…maybe the conclusion of the story will have that little extra something needed to turn this series from an ALMOST into a TOTALLY.

When released from his bottle, the Imp transforms into Stephen Andrade, an artist/illustrator/pirate monkey painter from New England. He's currently hard at work interpreting fellow @$$Hole Optimous Douche's brainwaves and transforming them into pretty pictures on AVERAGE JOE, an original graphic novel to be published by Com.x. You can see some of his artwork here.


THE LIFE AFTER #1

Writer: Joshua Hale Fialkov
Artists: Gabo
Publisher: Oni Press
Reviewer: Masked Man


To get a better understanding of this title, you need to flip the title around- that's right, After Life. This is a tale about what happens to a typical, nothing to live for average guy who ends up in the afterlife. The story itself has two main plot points: 1. Something seems to have gone wrong (in the great scheme of things) as we don't know how our main character got here. 2. We learn the rules of this metaphysical realm. And like any good story about the afterlife, it's both touching and interesting.

Ok, let's talk some spoilers. The first few pages are the worst. As Fialkov sets up how boring and useless the main character's life is (no, Fialkov doesn't name him--I know, right?) the ye olde montage of a boring life is just boring and something that could have been covered in one panel. Now with some snappy editing and music, it can be entertaining--but that's a movie, not a comic book. Either way, we soon push past that on to the weird and the unexplained, setting up what appears to be the main thrust of the series--the wandering angel bit (main character meets new people each episode, helps with their problems and moves on, i.e. Bill Bixby's HULK). Lastly we segue into the reveal (yer dead, dummy!) and enter the quirky sidekick. By the end Fialkov leaves you wanting more.

On the bad side, this is something we've all seen before: another this ain’t your father's (fill in religious text) afterlife story. Funny that everyone seems to love quirky tales of life after life, as questions about life and the universe get answered in an entertaining fashion with a quirky cast of characters (did I mention it's quirky yet?). And lest I forget another important trope, a broken main character who becomes fixed by doing all these good deeds. Ok, I'm projecting a bit on this issue. On the good side, it's all done really well for a first issue. Fialkov explains enough for you to understand the setup, but doesn't reveal the whole ball of wax, so you are still curious about what is going on. He also pulls on your heartstrings in a deft manner, to make you care about seeing more as well. Lastly, he throws in a dash of surreal comedy for fun.

The artist, Gabo, is very much an indie artist. He's not going to be drawing JUSTICE LEAGUE or SWAMP THING anytime soon, but he's one talented mofo too. I can tell the guy really knows how to draw and doesn't use his style as crutch (like he draws that way because it's the only way he can draw). All his normal scenes look good, as do all his paranormal scenes. He has a good sense of design and storytelling, too. Lastly, his overall style adds to the quirky nature of the story, like how ADVENTURE TIME is more effective because it looks like ADVENTURE TIME.

Truth to be told, I read this book on a lark and it actually won me over. Being a grumpy old reader, I suspect Fialkov will let me down in some cliché manner. But assuming that will never happen, I look forward to reading the next issue.


VOID OGN (September 2014)

Writer: Herick Hanna
Artist: Sean Phillips
Publisher: Titan Comics
Reviewer: Optimous Douche


In space, no one can hear you scream. Inside a prison ship, though, screams can resonate through every chamber and swooshing sliding door.

The time is the future; exact dates are truly unimportant, though. To appreciate VOID you simply need to know that man has reached out to the cosmos and bred in such rapid fashion we now have entire planets dedicated to the interment of space scoundrels and scallywags. Naturally, to transport these prisoners we had to upgrade from white buses with bars on the windows to giant vessels with no windows or any amenities. Goliath 01 is one such vessel, but her payload in this story is only two passengers, because all the rest are dead.

The POV of the story is told through an inmate named John. The other denizen of the ship is her Captain, Mercer. Mercer is known throughout the cosmos as the hardest hardass to pilot a vessel, only now he seems to have taken corporal punishment to the realm of sadistic pleasure. He not only disciplined the prisoners on this journey, but systematically murdered all of them.

As John tries to escape the haunting Mercer, who toys with our hero using the ship’s systems, Hanna begins peeling back layers of psyche including our own constructs of fear. In the present we are presented with the horror of the unseen. Fear not, though, those of you who like to gorge on gore. There is flashback aplenty where John recounts how his fellow crewmates met their ultimate demise through malfunctioning airlocks, automatic doors used as guillotines and sometimes the good ol’ ultra-violence of simple stabbing and blunt force trauma.

There’s another psychological dance going on here, but to explain it would ruin the book’s twist. I’m not averse to spoilers, but I’m also well aware of how elated I was at the “d-d-damn” reaction I had towards the revelation.

Phillips has panache for rendering space, its vessels, and bloodbaths. I will say that I felt the human forms were a little loose, especially towards the end, but it was nothing that would make me toss the book out of bed for eating crackers.

VOID lives in the vein of classics like ALIENS and a wee bit of THE SHINING, but sits alone with its revelation of the sheer madness induced by the solitude of space. As I also mentioned before, there’s a really great twist that isn’t projected until the very last moments of the book.


Editing, compiling, imaging, coding, logos & cat-wrangling by Ambush Bug
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G

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