2020 Vision

There’s always a fresh buzz when the calendar turns over and there’s new digits on the date. Resolutions and all sorts of fantasies sprout from everyone. Fitting to have that kind of viewpoint as a comic book fan ain’t it?! Well, it only makes sense to capitalize on this time frame and all the new, fresh air to take a look into the future and share some things we’re excited for this coming year! Using our 2020 Vision we’re able to see some brand new projects that look fantastic, some known books getting brand new storylines, and the continuation of some books we love. All in all we’ve got plenty of reason to be excited about the new year. Join us for a quick run down of several things we’re looking forward to:

Ancient Noise (1st/2nd) – Dust Pirates

The 101 continue their mission to rescue their seemingly abducted comrade, Jack, while Brock resurrects with a taste for revenge and a chorus of madness in his mind. Glimpses of nightmare realities and the beings beyond time and space wait for you in the continuation Ancient Noise. Right off the bat I cannot express how over the moon I am that Ancient Noise will be returning with issues #3 and #4! David Crispino writes the goods while colors will come from Simon Gough and letters by Lauren Tyler Norby. Tony Gregori, one of my favorite artists, does the line work! Ancient Noise is a book that I absolutely love. It is easily one of the best reads out there. Yeah it’s a little outrageous but it’s well written and down right beautiful. As a reminder there’s time travel, space bending, and a sentient gorilla named Silver. I can’t wait to see where the exploration of time, space, and our own evolution takes us with the rest of the series. Tony will also be doing the lines for Dust Pirates with the WORD BROS Bob Frantz/Kevin Cuffe (those Metalshark Bro type folks), Marissa Louise on colors, and Chas Pangburn doing letters. Some Waterworld meets Black Sails with D&D/Mad Max type fantasy elements are all going to crash together. I’m told it will be a fantasy/sci-fi buddy cop movie with lots of real world overtones as two pirates struggle against a warlord who has seized control over the remaining water in Atlantis. Also, the two pirates were actually real pirates so maybe it could also be considered Alt history sci-fi/fantasy? Regardless it all sounds like a whole bunch of hell yes.

Gutter Magic – SOS – Broken Gargoyles

Source Point Press re-released Gutter Magic under their banner as a primer for the new stories that are coming in 2020 with Gutter Magic: Smoke and Mirrors. Rich Douek will be bringing us brand new stories from the world of Gutter Magic with art/colors by Fei Chen (letterer TBD). There’s going to be more magic, more problems – Cinder learns that one of the biggest drawbacks to gaining magical power is all the new enemies you make. I missed Gutter Magic originally but have been able to hop on board with SPP’s re-release. I’m glad they’ve done things this way leading up to the new stories. It’ll all be fresh when Cinder’s new problems manifest.
Rich also has another project and has gotten the Road of Bones band back together. Alex Cormack and Justin Birch take the stage with Rich again as they bring S.O.S. to shelves in 2020. The only thing we’ve got thus far is the teaser (which is enough honestly) and the extremely cold shoulder and tight lips Rich had when I asked if there were any super sweet deets other than the teaser image. I kid, but seriously the Road of Bones crew is bringing us another tour. I’m getting tickets to the show regardless of where they’re holding it.
Rich isn’t the only one having some fun at SPP though. Bob Salley, Stan Yak, Marco Pagnotta, Robert Nugent, and Justin Birch bring us Broken Gargoyles. In a Dieselpunk alternate history, soldiers return from WWI and fight a new battle. Physically scarred by war, the struggle for redemption and revenge will separate brothers in arms. Given the quality of books SPP has been pumping out lately, you really should check them out. This looks to be the perfect place to hop on board.

Letter to Jo – We Are the Dead – Gorilla Tails

Next up is a project from Top Shelf Comics (an IDW imprint). A Letter to Jo will bring us face-to-face with the raging terror of World War II. In this firsthand graphic novel adaptation of a Polish-American machine gunner’s letter home. Kelly Williams‘ (Creepy, Eerie) paint brushes bring this heart-wrenching tale to life. A Letter to Jo is at once a tender love story and harrowing battlefield memoir. Writer Joe Sieracki teams with Williams and Taylor Esposito in this harrowing recounting of a time the world wants to forget, but needs to remember. A LETTER TO JO WILL BE AVAILABLE JANUARY 21st!

Beth Barnett is bringing us another enriching project with We Are The Dead. Aiming for a March release, this new historic take juxtaposes World War I against comics, introducing new readers to poetry written by soldiers as a stark reminder of the brutalities of the Great War. This is sure to be another fantastic graphic piece that helps broaden and enrich our experience with the medium and the history we’re all born from. After Dreamers of the Day I’m beyond excited to get ahold of this.

Successfully Kickstarted, Gorilla My Dreams: Gorilla Tails, from Big Tim Stiles, Ahmed Raafat, and Dennis Tirona, is the second in the Gorilla My Dreams series. Dropping in January this is the perfect book for you if you’ve ever wondered what “Batman: The Animated Series mashed into Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles if Saturday morning cartoons came on after 10pm” would look like. You see, in Struggle-Town the streets are protected by Knockaround-Guy, a depressed gorilla who wants to be a superhero. However, when a street mime is found dead (asphyxiated inside an actual invisible box), Knockaround-Guy soon finds himself wading through the ugly and dangerous underbelly of Struggle-Town. I backed the project and can’t wait for it to land for everyone this year.

Scout Comics will be putting Dave Chisholm’s CANOPUS out to shelves starting in February. It’s about a woman who wakes up on an alien planet with no memory beyond an urgency to get home. She and her robot companion explore the planet and her memories gradually return as monsters on the surface of the planet. The ComicbookYeti says “Canopus is so many genres wrapped in one: Thriller. Horror. Science-fiction. Character study. It’s all of them and none of them at the same time.” https://www.comicbookyeti.com/post/canopus-issue-1 If Yeti is excited for a book, you should be too … I am.

Coming to Kickstarter in the first half of 2020 will be Re-Animator Incorporated from Andy Perry and Lyndon White (Candles – Unbound). This is going to be 64 full color pages adapting H. P. Lovecraft’s Herbert West: Reanimator. This time around there will be a combining of the classic horror story with sci-fi elements and putting in a little twist or two. The beloved tale asks “What would you do to save a life?” In a desperate attempt to save his son, Herbert West and his colleague Cain successfully discover how to reanimate the dead, but at the cost of losing his son’s soul and opening the door to other realms. This is a reimagining of the characters and the concepts from Lovecraft’s Necronomicon collection exploring philosophical and theological ideas. There’s a balance between Lovecraftian mythology and an introduction to the characters to appeal to fans and those unfamiliar of Lovecraft and his stories. The story is for fans of sci-fi / horror cross-over who like to ponder the metaphysical while seeing bodies being torn apart.

Bog Bodies is coming from Declan Shalvey, Gavin Fullerton, Rebecca Nalty, and Clayton Cowles around the end of April. It goes a little something like this: An Irish gangster, on the run after a job gone wrong, stumbles upon a young woman lost in the Dublin mountains. Injured and unarmed, the unlikely pair must try to evade their pursuers and survive the desolate bog that has served as burial grounds for unspeakable murder throughout history. So some crime, superstition, and perhaps some survival horror? Everything about this sounds phenomenal. Having read through the ashcan I can attest to just how uniquely this book deals with the bleakness of the noir setting.

Rounding out the year our good friends over at PLB Comics are looking to get the next story for John the Swamp Dude out to the masses. Fan favorite PLB Comics character, John the Swamp Dude returns in a brand new epic adventure! Set four months after the cataclysmic events in the ‘Who Killed Mobie Graye?’ one shot, the world has changed for John and his friends. But a new threat emerges, unstoppable and destructive monsters, who are linked to an old foe from John’s past. The Last Outpost #1 begins an exciting new chapter in the John the Swamp Dude saga and is tentatively slated for a late 2020 release. Josh Shockley and James Dufendach are on creative duties.

BHP Comics will be handling the publishing of A Boxer. Launching on Kickstarter January 27th, the creative team behind this book is quite literally award winning. Dominic Archer, Gary Welsh, Marc Casilli, Amanda Miranda, and Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou bring to life a 100 page graphic novel that tells the story of Mike Shepherd, a British fighter trying to succeed in the hyper-masculine world of boxing while struggling to manage his sexual identity. The book is narrated by Mike’s partner and medical consultant, Jude who faces his own challenges as an openly gay man in the sport. A Boxer details the experience of a homosexual man struggling to find his place between two worlds, feeling himself equally empassioned and alienated by both the boxing and LGBTQ+ communities.


Finger Guns – No One’s Rose

On the Vault Comics front we’ve got Finger Guns landing February 26th. Two troubled teenagers discover they can manipulate emotions by firing finger guns. There will be laughs. There will be tears. There will be uncomfortable teen feelings and angst. Oh yeah… and chaos. So much chaos. From Justin Richards, Val Halvorson, Rebecca Nalty, and Taylor Esposito, Finger Guns is all about emotional maturity. It’s an audacious book that tackles the war between compassion and selfishness. In interviews EIC of Vault, Adrian Wassel, has stated “it’s deceptively brave. You’ll have so much fun, right up until you feel the tears welling.” Given that much of this book is about growing up and whether or not we actually do this description seems to fit.
Vault is also set to launch No Ones Rose in March. Upon first look this is set up to join the monumental worlds that have been built in Vault books such as Heathen, Zojaqan, Wasted Space, She Said Destroy, and Sera and the Royal Stars. The solicit is this: Centuries after the fall of the Anthropocene, the last vestiges of human civilization are housed in a massive domed city powered by renewable energy, known as The Green Zone. Inside lives teenager Tenn Gavrilo, a brilliant bio-engineer who could rebuild the planet. But there’s one problem: her resentful brother Seren is eager to dismantle the precarious utopia. Zac Thompson, Emily Horn, Alberto Jimenez Alburquerque, Raúl Angulo, and Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou are lining up another epic book over at VC.

Afterlight Comics is finishing up three series and getting follow ups to two others in 2020. It all starts with their first Kickstarter campaign on January 27th!

Though it had a soft release in the last part of 2019 New York City Gallows is getting some freshening up AND the second issue is aiming at Fall 2020 for release. If you’ve read the first issue (which I have, and you should too) then this is all you need to get ready for the follow up issue: Following the events of #1, Cass finds herself at the mercy of The Hangman, now having to rely on the mass murdering vigilante for a way out. Nothing comes free, but if the price is accepted, nothing will be the same for Detective Delaney again. Ben Cook, Robert Ahmad, and DC Hopkins will take us back to the gallows! And hey, check that snazzy logo from Jim Kersey!

Advent Comics is going full steam ahead into decade number two and for us the highlight looks to be Legend & The Vanguard. Global defenders have gathered to aid the Advent Universe’s Original Hero Legend to right a wrong from his past that jeopardizes the entire planet. Formed to protect the planet from a threat nearly a century in the making the newest super team within the Advent Universe leads the way in their very own Cosmos tie-in title! Available as part of the Cosmos #5 Kickstarter beginning in late February/early March.

Mario Candelaria, Adam Ferris, Lesley Atlansky, and John Keaveney finally have schedules synchronized and are in production for their long awaited and officially unannounced sci-fi action adventure. This is a project I’ve been awaiting for some time and cannot wait to see.
Image
Milan Adame is looking to host Word Hollow through Webtoon in the coming year. With characters modeled after the genres of fiction this project sounds quite intriguing. Fact and Fantasy have a close relationship with each other and the universe humans inhabit. Their friendship becomes rocky when humans begin to favor one over the other.
From Beyond Comics is kicking off the new year with the release of Electric Youth on Kickstarter in early February. “It’s 1989 and the city of Irvine, California is the perfect place to raise a family…some might think it’s a little too perfect.”

Pete Doree’s Stan & Jack is looking to have three issues published this year.

Red Stylo Media will be returning to Kickstarter in February with Ninja Bear. What started as a mini-comic giveaway at SDCC will now see its second issue! Also on tap is the annual anthology, this time focusing on Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Bite Me is in the open call stage currently. It will explore the twists and turns of this gothic classic, taking sideways looks at smaller characters, diving deep into throwaway moments, and twisting on the original in new ways.

Favorite Comics 2019

The DCN's Favorite Comics of 2019

It is time for the second annual "Top Comics" from everyone's favorite Driving Creators Network!
All kidding aside this is a fun endeavor to tackle because it provides an opportunity for so many doors to be opened and so much more joy to be had from the comics we read. Multiple readings upon multiple readings bring more and more life from the pages. It does get tough when whittling down the stack and you're left with two handfuls that have to fit into one. That though, is where the books begin to pick themselves for inclusion on this list. It is when the "feel" starts to set in about titles and the "it" that keeps making you put your eyes back on a book starts to grab hold of you. You rediscover the beauty of these titles and gain more appreciation for a slew of books along the way. It's extremely difficult but the enrichment gained is beyond any difficulty incurred.

I mean seriously ... "oh no, I have to re-read these glorious books, AGAIN" isn't exactly a disaster movie in the making.

There are two categories here at the DCN.

The first is the "published" for books from publishers you know/see on the shelves at your LCS regularly.  As a quick reminder, a book had to have at least two issues published in the calendar year to be on the "published" list and, if a debut title, had to have had three issues or more published in the year.

The second is "creator owned/self published" books that are crowdfunded, or from creators that either do their own publishing or have labels not considered "main" lines.  For the creator owned/self-published category the book had to have debuted during the year or had one new issue put out.

OF NOTE ...

Before we get to the first list there were several excellent titles considered before making the final decisions.

A Walk Through Hell, Superior Spider-Man, Guardians of the Galaxy, Friendo, Fearscape, Evolution, Criminal, Little Bird, Invaders, Transformers, Infinite Dark, DIE, Category Zero, Goodnight Paradise, Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man, Ax-Man, Infinity Agents, The Resurrected, and Miskatonic High are just some of the titles that were fighting for inclusion on the year end lists.  I could very easily make cases for them but ultimately tough decisions had to be made.  For instance from last year's list (and here) Black Badge, Spectacular Spider-Man, These Savage Shores, Dark Ark, Evolution, Bone Parish, Megatomic Battle Rabbit, and Captain Cosmic all carried over into 2019.  All of these titles made this year's list incredibly difficult to finalize.  Some of them were cannibalized by other works from either the creative team or about the characters (Friendo, Friendly Neighborhood SM for instance).  Some titles suffered from going toe to toe with other titles from the same publisher (DIE, Infinite Dark, Fearscape, Transformers for example).  Others ended which ultimately cost them (Black Badge, Dark Ark, Evolution fit this bill).      

That said, there's three titles that have come back this year after being named to our Top Comics of 2018. Continued excellence seems harder and harder to spot on the shelves in today's comic world for a myriad of reasons. One of the biggest faults in having long(er) running books of high quality is that we, as fans don't allow for it anymore. We always look for something new and shiny instead of allowing a book to grow and explore. Many of the highly revered classic books and stories simply wouldn't be possible today because fans won't stick with a book for more than 6-12 issues and are highly reluctant to jump into one at an arbitrary numbered issue that has 'insert amount of history' before it.  For creator owned/published titles you're essentially playing the lottery in hopes of hitting a jackpot book.  This comes on two fronts; does the book end up being any good and is the creative team able to produce more than one issue (if not a one-shot)?  Things have simply changed, though it can be argued if it is for the better or not.

Enough of my rambling let's get to it eh?  SAVE FOR THE FAVORITE COMIC IN EACH CATEGORY here's the Driving Creators Network's FAVORITE COMICS 2019 presented in alphabetical order!  And I'll get by with a little help from my friends ...

Atlantis Wasn't Built for Tourists
(Creator/Self Published)

We kick off our list with a 96 page graphic novel that mixes Lovecraft inspiration with rural reality in a tale of dark truths.  Some bad guys are supernatural and others are all to real.  Whether they wear a badge or brandish blood sucking teeth, the evils revealed in AWBfT all combine for an excellent self cointained tale of things not being what they seem.  Secrets are buried everywhere and within everyone.  Though it is stand alone the story is left open for further exploration of our main character.  

Circle Pit Press
Erick Palicki, Wendell Cavalcanti, Mark Dale, Shawn Lee
With Natasha Alterici and Caspar Wijngaard

The Baboon
(Creator/Self Published)

A tribute to the timeless pulp classics of yesteryear, the Baboon is an all ages fun fest.  Treacherous villainy and golden age do-goodery gets an infusion of slapstick banter that'll put you in a Dick Tracy-esque mood.  Word is there are plans for more and hopefully so.  The cast of characters is in place, the relationships are set, and the atmosphere is there for a good old fashioned comic book series.  The Baboon doesn't just fit into the pulp mold of the books it pays tribute too.  It is right at home among them. 

Bow Tie Press
Jamie Jones

Canto
(Published)

This is a brilliant piece of work.  As time is literally running out for the one he loves, a valiant little robot must embark on an epic quest to save her.  Fantasy driven and real world emotionally grounded Canto is a beautiful read for both younger readers and the young at heart.  The creative team's love for their creation shines through and is mirrored in this all new timeless tale of the conquering power of love.  This is the book you give to people to show them how powerfully a concept can come across through comics.

IDW
David Booher, Drew Zucker, Vittorio Astone, Deron Bennett

Captain Cosmic
(Creators/Self Published)
2018 Top Comic

The Silver Age is alive and well in modern comics.  Thanks to Captain (and Kid) Cosmic sailing the star ways taking care of any dasterdly evil doers and lendign their helping hands to those in need.  In the latest issue we are introduced to the Phantom Spaceman and are taught a valuable lesson as the story unfolds.  Everyone will love these adventures and characters.  This is the comic we all need.

Frontier Comics
Andy W Clift

Death Sentence
(Creator/Self Published)

Originally published by Titan, this truly unique book does what comics are supposed to do ... it dares.  Crude, rude, gory, political and brimming with social commentary are just the start of the descriptors for this story.  Now on its third volume and with a massive cult following Death Sentence is a poster book for what's possible with indie comics.  Politics and deconstructing humanity around a plague of an STD that grants you superpowers but kills you in six months ... Yup, phenomenal.

Titan Comics (Vol 1-2)
Monty Nero, Martin Simmonds

@Quetzelish
"Lawrence of Arabia is a figure who most americans know by virtue of the movie about his time in, well, "Arabia" but few know anything more than that. The same was true for me and, while I don’t necessarily know MORE about him, though I do, after reading “Dreamers of the Day,” I sure as hell want to. More than that, I want to know more about Beth’s intertwining journey into the research and I want to see her tell his story in the way she begins to here.

It is a simple book but often the best books are."
@ComicBookYeti
“Part travelogue, part biography, part auto-biography, yet more than the sum of its parts. Dreamers of the Day has heart and authenticity like no other.  This comic made me care more about T. E. Lawrence than Lawrence of Arabia ever did.

This is why I love indie comics.”
Dreamers of the Day
(Creator/Self Published)
This labor of love is part history lesson, travel log, diary, and comic rolled into one.  We are taken on a journey of discovery about TE Lawrence and what the comic medium can do.  Taking in this experience will enrich your understanding of the world and educate you in ways you’re not expecting.  Yes, DotD is an experience in understanding, self, and the comic telling form.  These are the types of projects that articulate the intelligence that resides in comic creators.

We search for more constantly and this is what Dreamers of the Day gives us.  The freedom to explore, literally, is at our finger tips.  Projects like this are a celebration of the entirety of the creative process.

Beth Barnett

@_kellie_k
Contributor at Driving Creators and youdontreadcomics.com

Toward the end of the year we were lucky to have Kellie come on board as a contributor.  She immediately jumped in ready to take on projects.  Along with her own approach is willing and open to trying new books, creators, and publishers.  We look forward to continuing our relationship with Kellie.  As for her picks: 

CEMETERY BEACH 
(Published)

Soldier Mike Blackburn is sent from Earth to an offworld colony to do reconnaissance work because they haven’t heard from the colony since it was founded. Unfortunately he gets captured by soldiers, lead by the corrupt President Barrow, and has to escape with colony native Grace Moody. During their desperate attempt to return to Cemetery Beach, where Mike’s return ship is stationed, Mike learns more about the horrific secrets the colony has been hiding. Cemetery Beach is a seven issue mini series that’s perfectly paced from start to finish with nonstop action and plot points that keep you guessing until the very end. And the art style, with it’s intentionally rough linework and hatching, perfectly fits the wasteland dystopian setting. This is a great story to sit down and binge from start to finish.

Image Comics
Warren Ellis, Jason Howard, Fonografiks

MOTH & WHISPER
(Published)

Before they disappeared, The Moth and The Whisper were the greatest thieves of all time; no one could capture them, and no one knew their real identities. But then they disappeared, leaving behind their only child Niki. Desperate to find their parents, Niki takes on the identities of both The Moth and The Whisper in an attempt to take down crime boss Ambrose Wolfe, the man they’re sure was behind the disappearance. Niki finds help from unlikely allies, including the son of another crime lord, as they try to solve the multilayered mystery their parents left behind, and discover Wolfe’s true intentions. The character design is amazing and it’s exciting to see which disguise Niki will wear next, and the colors are rich and saturated. Moth & Whisper is an exciting futuristic mystery/heist story that can appeal to a wide audience.

Aftershock Comics
Ted Anderson, Jen Hickman, Marshall Dillon

Elk Mountain
(Creators/Self Published)

Representative of the superhero story that society needs, being a true alternative to traditional takes is what makes Elk Mountain a must have. Without being preachy social reality (not commentary) is put forth to help build the world in which this book operates. It hits close to home, and for some at the doorstep, with the troubles and violence of merely existing that portions of our country live with every day. The superhero feel isn't lost in that though and that's the real prize. An aware book that uses classic tropes and archetypes to bring about resonating issues our world faces is exactly what we need more of, and exactly what Elk Mountain is.

Jordan Clark, Vince Underwood, Brittany Peer, Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou

The Fearsome Dr Fang
(Published)

TKO burst onto the scene with a new publishing model, top notch production and four outstanding debut entries. Of the group the golden age pulp entry that harkens back to no nonsense thrills takes the cake. Driven point to point and not mussing about is what this book's purpose is and it does the straight line perfectly. It is fast paced and makes you keep turning the pages for more. Everything about it feels like it came out of a magazine from the drug store shelves. While it does play at some of the dated approaches to characters (racial) it is clearly distinct in tone that it is homaging the storytelling and not the portrayal of persons. Pulp done right is always a win.

TKO Studios
Tze Chun, Mike Weiss, Dan McDaid, Daniela Miwa, Steve Wands

God Puncher
(Creator/Self Published)

Unconventional, cartoony, mesmerizing, off-kilter, and an absolute breath of fresh air to take in, God Puncher is like nothing you've ever come across in comics. This is a truly unique approach and the ballad of Tim Finnly turns the comic medium on its head. By using the primal thought that resides deep inside all of us (who we are and what our place in existence is) as a guiding tone Lane lays out a slapstick adventure that is full of heart and raw emotion. The seriousness of the thought and emotion is juxtaposed perfectly by the zany art style. A perfect combination of its elements, God Puncher is a book you absolutely need to experience for yourself.

Lane Lloyd

Immortal Hulk
(Published)
2018 Top Comic

Has completely rewritten how a "superhero" book can be done and how we as fans can and should think about the characters we read. Going back to the origins of the Hulk character has opened up a door way (figuratively and literally) of mythos and recreation for arguably the most difficult to present, but most endearing when done right, character in the Marvel Universe. Each issue is an event and making the kind of impact that each one does is something that hasn't been on comic shelves in a long, long time. There is no better illustration as to why I love ongoing series and giving a book the ability to be what it is. The Hulk is a monster. There's no spin. There is however, an exploring of just how complex being a monster truly is and how love, fear, pride and a host of other human emotions are just as powerful as any gamma given strength.

Marvel Comics
Al Ewing, Joe Bennett, Ruy Jose, Paul Mounts, Cory Petit

Incursion
(Published)

Valiant will gets press for several books but this book is the pick for me. Why? It captures so many singular aspects of good books and marries them together to create a great one. The weight carried by this four issue mini series is astounding. Both universal and personal levels are hit head on and executed brilliantly. There's a major threat introduced, but as with the recurring Valiant characters in play, it's just an additional part that makes the sum of the book that much better. There is a certain feel to the original Valiant books that set them apart. Incursion channels that original feeling and brings it forward in using one of the strongest recurring themes in the Valiant universe. Everything is bigger than us and there's always something even bigger than everything else. Powerful and relevant themes drive this book and it delivers.

Valiant
Alex Paknadel, Andy Diggle, Doug Braithwaite, Diego Rodriguez, Marshall Dillon
With Jose Villarrubia, Leonardo Paciarotti

Killtopia
(Creator/Self Published)

Cyberpunk battle royale goodness and plight that tugs at the heart aren't usually two things that are found on the same page. Killtopia delivers both in grand fashion. Set on the backdrop of a dystopian future from where we currently exist we're given a point blank representation of the over corporatization we're quickly falling into. As much as things have changed, they've stayed the same. Most people are facing the same issues we try to manage in our lives. This is the heart of Killtopia. Just as the true story being told juxtaposes the thrill kill adventurous surface of the book the colors and presentation juxtapose the brutal realities that confront readers in each volume. Inspired many greats that came before it Killtopia does very well when held up side by side with 2000AD types of series. You'll get your glitzy neon glamour, cyber infused wrecking ball but you'll also get true depth in storytelling.

BHP Comics
Dave Cook, Craig Paton, Robin Jones (VOL 1), Micah Myers (VOL 2)

Mister Miracle
(Published)

Just, holy shit. It's very hard to find truly elite books at the Big 2 in today's comic world. It isn't their fault and it isn't to say that really good books aren't being produced. They are. When you're dealing with characters and stories that have fifty to going on a hundred years of history the deck is stacked against you in finding a way to create a book that truly drives itself and breaks out from already built in aspects of the characters.  Acceptance of what is, can be, isn't, and can't be already in place makes it near impossible to create something truly unique. How do you do that? You take the most precious of characters (King Kirby's creations) from the most mythologicaly heralded sect (Kirby's 4th World) and you deliver arguably the greatest human story in modern comic history. What makes superheroes truly great is what's left after the super part is removed. Here everything is stripped down and what's left can't be touched by any superpower. Wow and damn.

DC Comics
Tom King, Mitch Gerards

@Quetzelish

King is. I need to re-read the series lest I be swayed by his other writings. King is. A haunting and tense story about depression, escape and family. King is. I felt empty at the end, but not in the ways I did while reading the earlier issues. King is. There is so much to love about this book. King is. But there is an undercurrent of dismissal of the reader that makes it hard to connect. Gerards is. This book is a masterclass in repetition and non-sequitur done right. Cowles is. The team is impeccable and there’s a reason it has earned as many awards as it has. King isn’t. It’s a shame I feel like I have to escape the praise to express my conflicted feelings about the book.

“Mister Miracle” is.

Prey For Us
(Creator/Self Published)

Having fun with a comic while still delivering a tense and dreadful plot isn't the easiest thing to do. In Prey for Us it is done effortlessly. Presented in a very tv-eque fashion, this sci-fi terror delivers very quickly on several fronts. There's some chills, dread, panic and even an 'awwww shit' moment at the end. With minimal dialogue and ample visual cues you are engulfed in a struggle that very rapidly descends into its many layers. The usage of everything about a comic book to tell a story is on display in this book and shows just how fantastic the creative team is. It's refreshing to find a book that purposefully makes use of the medium to enhance what's being read.

LabRat Comics
Matt Garvey, J Francis Totti

The Plot
(Published)

This book forced its inclusion on this list. The debut issue of Vault's Nightfall Line exploded it's horror all over the scene when issue one landed. We graded it a 10 because it demanded such recognition. Pacing, imagery, feel and ... well everything about it is exactly right. This one is a deep and the slow burn keeps the icky feeling on your skin simmering. Like the dark force that has compelled so many to open the door, walk down the dark hallway, or look outside when they all knew they shouldn't there's something within the pages of The Plot that compels you to keep turning the page. Character driven horror is the best when the team behind it can make the characters more than just props. The premise of the book instantly sets up layer upon layer of terror for both characters and the reader. The visceral emotionally driven dread have charted a bold course for Vault's new imprint.

It's deeply personal which makes the whole of it that much more intense.  The premise of the book instantly sets up layer upon layer of terror for both the characters and the reader. The visceral feel and emotionally driven dread have charted a bold course for the new imprint at Vault. It's deeply personal which makes the whole of it that much more intense.

Vault Comics
Michael Moreci, Joshua Hixon, Jordan Boyd, Jim Campbell

@CabbageComics
"I'm a huge mark for psychological horror, and it's hard to pull off. Moreci and the team are doing a good job so far in blending the right balance of Gothic and gross. The house as physical edifice and metaphorical mind is a good conceit, and the family dynamics are melodramatic and ragged at the edges (aka, they're real.) The team's good at maintaining tension throughout each issue, and this is a book I look forward to each month."

Road of Bones
(Published)

Horror comes in many forms. Here we're forced to deal with several. Most vividly on display is the absolute worst in the horror of the depths of man. What is usually tucked away and hidden until a gruesome final reveal is on full display in Road of Bones. The entirety of the book travels from one horrid display of what man is capable of to the next. Some is implied, some is shown, and some is directly moving the story. However, when you’ve got a story like this to tell setting is paramount. In this case the physical setting immediately sets the bleak and unforgiving tone that this story is dropped into. It’s perfect. It not only enhances but makes the horror of Road of Bones shine through. There are elements for every fan of the terror thrill and each one is expertly included to help make the others that much more effective. This one, when you're done, you don't feel good in the best possible way.

IDW
Rich Douek, Alex Cormack, Justin Birch

@Quetzelish

In Soviet Russia, you don’t eat people, people eat you. That’s how the joke goes, yes? Well, after reading “Road of Bones,” you won’t be laughing much. . .or, maybe you will. This dark mini will grab you by the shirt collar, dragging you into the frigid outdoors with a vice-like grip, refusing to let you go as the world darkens and the wind begins to howl and your teeth start to chatter and your stomach begins to gnaw and the hand that drags you starts to look just the teensiest bit like chicken until, suddenly, you’re alone and warm and covered in red, red, red, like the flag you’re escaping from. Dare you take the plunge?

Spencer & Locke 2
(Published)

I'm so glad that David Pepose reached out to get this book reviewed. It was on my "read it at some point" list as several friends had mentioned the first series. Getting to it eventually would have been a mistake and out right robbing myself of pure comic brilliance. As innovative as the original series was the second amplifies the stakes ten fold. In comparison the first volume now seems like a gentle exploration of a mind fractured by intense trauma. Volume two is a much darker extrapolation of just what the fact of Spencer's existence means. Adding to the broken psyche relation and main tone of the book, the new antagonist represents one of the biggest mental health issues facing society currently. Continuing the the style and presentation that the first volume used once again helps relay both a wonderful comic and extremely important touching upon real world problems.

Action Lab (Danger Zone)
David Pepose, Jorge Santiago Jr, Jasen Smith, Colin Bell

Tomb of the White Horse
(Creator/Self Published)

People always want to be scared. Fear "sells" as they say. What separates good horror from the pack and great horror from the good is the ability to use all of the elements of the genre to enhance the overall piece. We've got that here. In what is intended to be a multi-part tale the opening of this story uses pacing and atmosphere to create a very wound ball of tension. Taking influence and inspiration from classics such as The Thing has clearly helped the team make the uneasy feelings come about without a visual reveal. Getting a horror story to come across properly in a literary medium is not the easiest thing to do. The actual tragedy one of the characters suffers in his life helps set the mood and make the setting that much more soul devouring. It's a great mix of the demons we all hide, those that lurk in the closet, and those that are waiting to be unleashed on us all.

Ian Mondrick, Benjamin AE Filby, Lesley Atlansky, Zaak Sam
With Kim Myatt and Danny Lore

Wailing Blade
(Published)

This was an immediate smash success that has created instant classic imagery with the Blade itself and the Executioner (and hell, the Hammer too). Yes, ComixTribe pushed this first issue of this book through Kickstarter. Regardless, this book belongs. The choice to Kickstart the first issue is more due to their guerrilla approach and the "in hand with fans" take that ComixTribe has as a publisher. I'm calling this a cult hit right now. Iconic imagery dazzles in this post apocalyptic mash up of every punk-mecha sci-fi piece you loved growing up. Full metal to the floor, Wailing Blade is a fantastical ride on its surface but also holds a solid story underneath. There's immense world building being done and the universe of the Blade is just getting started.

ComixTribe
Rich Douek, Joe Mulvey, Chris Sotomayor, Jules Rivera, Taylor Esposito

Wasted Space
(Published)
2018 Top Comic

It is so damn good it was named the first series ongoing series from Vault Comics. This book is the perfect example of the growth that the current comic fandom as a whole is so begrudging to allow. Wasted Space tackles high concepts, uses low brow comedy, and finds the perfect in between to deliver arguably the best all around comic being printed right now. While one of the best aspects of the book is that it doesn't take itself too seriously, it is the fact that it doesn't do so that opens up just how good the creative team is with the big picture that Wasted Space frames. The book never gives a sermon to the reader even though it is heavily dosed with social commentary. The intellectual sparring both between the characters in play as well as the book and the reader is second to none. It's bold in its aggressiveness with the issues but the execution of the story on all fronts makes the translation from the page effortless and down right beautiful.

Vault Comics
Michael Moreci, Hayden Sherman, Jason Wordie, Jim Campbell

Wrong Earth
(Published)

"Ahoy Comics stepped up to the plate in 2018 and, for my money, immediately started pushing the envelope of the kind of quality you can fit on the shelves. The best of the bunch is Wrong Earth. A 60's campy comic classic mixed with a 90's violent vision created what just may have been the most entertaining read of the last couple of years. It debuted in SEP 2018 and finished up in FEB 2019. Perfectly encapsulating the fun side of comics while representing the edgier trends that the medium has seen, Wrong Earth proved so successful that it is being followed up with Dragonfly and Dragonfly Man (the two opposite "heroes" that were victim of an accidental switcharoo in Wrong Earth). As with comics that stand the test of time it is more than the window dressing. It delivers the fun that comics can but gives the reader a tale that deals with one of the most age old questions about what makes us who we are. The ending of this first volume went against the grain just like the entirety of the series did and has set up much more fun." 

Ahoy Comics
Tom Peyer, Jamal Igle, Andy Troy, Rob Steen
With Paul Constant, Grant Morrison, Juan Castro, Frank Cammuso, Tom Feister, Bryce Ingman, Mark Russell, Carol Lay, Alan Robinson, Kek-W, Matt Brady, Rob Staeger, Joe Orsak, Elliot Mattice, Gary Erskine, Robert Jeschonek, Steffie De Vaan, Cayetano Valenzuela

THE DCN's FAVORITE COMICS OF 2019

These Savage Shores (Published) - White Ash (Creator/Self Published)

@cabbagecomics

These Savage Shores" proves that you can marry epistolary devices, intricate histories of global colonialism and throat-ripping vampires in one book.
Ram V, Kumar, Astone and Bidikar nail this book top to bottom. There's nary a hair out of place, and Bishan and Kori's story will thrill a wide range of comics readers, and this may be one of those books that entices new fans into the fold."

@Quetzelish

"Vampires are boring, you say. Vampires have lost their monstrous nature. Vampires are a metaphor that’s old hat and done to undeath. Ram V, Sumit Kumar, Vitorio Astone, and Aditya Bidikar are here to prove you wrong while also shoving the words back down your throat by providing a layered, textural and fucking gorgeous mini-series that demands to be read and re-read. One panel in and you will be hooked, suddenly finding yourself along These Savage Shores, where the days are scorched and the nights are full of teeth."

@ComicBookYeti

“If you’ve never seen a perfectly executed comic before, you haven’t read These Savage Shores. Easily one of the best comics of the year, and arguably one of the best 5-issue miniseries of all time. Deep. Meaningful. Soulful. Comic book perfection in five issues.”

It's almost impossible to think a title can put out monumental issue after monumental issue but that's exactly what this book did.  I’m crushed, in awe, and in love. Those were my immediate feelings upon closing out this magnificent book. The lines drawn in this epic saga and the journeys we’ve traveled are nothing short of brilliant. The overtones and bigger pictures that played the nuance during the start of the series have gave way to the very up close and personal theme of choice. The whittling away of the larger scopes to reveal the singular driving force behind it all was masterful.  This book visually invokes the beauty of tragedy. The paleness of the somehow still vibrant colors mirror the acceptance of the realization that one way or another we will always be what we are despite what we may want. The harsh but fine lines remind us that even the most beautiful things are capable of being the most deadly. All throughout the design choices display the wonder and hope that we all feel and so desperately want to have shine through and win the day. Combined with the harsh reality of the narrative these elements have created one of the best pieces of art that has been produced in the last five years.

These Savage Shores gives us our own choice. We can choose to see the beauty in tragedy or the horror in reality. Or, we can choose to accept it all and realize a tale that is beautiful, horrific, fulfilling, gut wrenching, and everything in between. The one piece we don’t have a choice in is the truth that monsters reside everywhere. However, the takeaway from that is our choice. That is perhaps the enduring beauty in truth that These Savage Shores will have. Monsters DO reside everywhere both real and imagined. Their purposes and designations are as varied as their real and imagined states.  You will be hard pressed to find a piece of art that is perfectly executed across as many levels as this book is. The marriage of history and myth is flawless. The literal and figurative representation is expertly done. The tale itself is horrifically beautiful and tragically elegant. Even though it rips your heart out you can’t help but love it. You’ll feel compassion while detesting the hate you can’t help but have. Even the character that is cruelest and most devoid of redeeming qualities will pull out understanding from you. Reflecting upon the totality of the circumstances will only deepen the heartbreak while sparking new flames of disgust for those you felt sympathy for.

While monsters are everywhere and heartache lies at the end of everything … choice is always ours, even when it isn’t. These Savage Shores is brilliant. I’m enriched and better for having chosen to trust this creative team.

Vault Comics
Ram V, Sumit Kumar, Vitorio Astone, Aditya Bidikar

@COMICBOOKYETI

"Finally, a new spin on the Fantasy genre!

Everything I want to say about this is a spoiler, but trust this Yeti, it’s great!”

White Ash is an absolute breath of fresh air in the fantasy genre.  Mixing paranormal elements into a fantasy tale has helped create a truly unique world.  Ripe with mythology and mystery, White Ash envelops you in a brand new coming together of age old tropes, a take on Norse mythology, fantasy, love, coming of age, and mystery.  For a small town the secrets are pretty big.

It is insanely easy to get caught up in White Ash.  The characters, setting, and blending of the familiar draw you in and welcome you with open arms.  The mystery hints a bit towards the likes of a Twin Peaks while the mythology and fantasy is akin to Lord of the Rings.  The mix and balance of these elements is done seamlessly in this wholly new aesthetic.  Diving beyond the catchy surface elements reveals several issues that plague society.  Racism and classism are very real and run rampant across every day life.  White Ash doesn't hide from the very real effects of these within its pages.  There are other aspects of life (such as the awkward realization of romance) sprinkled in that help convey a very relatable atmoshpere despite the fantasy and mythological inspirations.  White Ash keeps the characters grounded in who they are while using the larger elements to illustrate what they are.  This approach makes it virtually impossible for readers to not identify with what's going on and to whom the events are happening.  

The following this book has already is immense.  The popularity has given rise to the series being picked up by Scout Comics.  Its beyond deserved as the quality of White Ash is second to none.  There's no detail left untouched.  The world building is on par with and even surpasses many "big" books you'll find at your LCS.  Soon enough you'll be able to see for yourself just how fantastic of a book this is.  Even though there is a complete HC edition available (and it is gorgeous) capturing the first four (oversized) issues of the series, this story is just getting started.  Even with the reveals we've had thus far there is clearly much more to this little town, the people, and the mystery that runs through it all.

Comic readers are always looking for enthralling new worlds, stories, and characters.  White Ash delivers on all of these fronts.  This book is hands down one of the best comics being made today, period.

Charlie Stickney, Conor Hughes, Fin Cramb With Nick Robles, Romina Moranelli,  Joe Quinones

FAVORITE INDIE PUBLISHERS

Lately the independent comic scene has seen a very welcome resurgence. Some of the HANDS DOWN best books on the shelves are coming from publishers you may not know, know little about, or are new to the scene. This isn’t the first time that independent comics have burst to the forefront and it certainly isn’t the first time that indie publishers have been pushing out the best books on the shelves. There’s something a bit different about this time though. At least, it seems that way. This push has not just been sustained, but rather, the momentum has grown and there’s been more of a swell and growth. There’s depth to independent books now and they aren’t just serving a niche or telling a story or two that the “big” publishers won’t touch. For the past several years there has been connection between the independent outlets and the fans. The synergy has been glorious and I truly hope that this is the new norm. Now let’s get to your favorite indie publishers (alphabetically).


Founded in 2015 the company quickly got the attention of readers with one of the best books of the past five years. Animosity immediately showed that the company was intent on making an impact and producing original, quality stories. Other early titles such as Black Eyed Kids, Dreaming Eagles, and Alters showed that Aftershock was willing and able to deliver on a wide variety of comic stories as well as tackle relevant and resonating societal issues. More quality books have arrived and, as with their initial pushes, they cast a wide net. Jimmy’s Bastards, Dark Ark, The Normals and several other titles continued the strong debut titles and follow ups. The publisher has already had a very distinguished list of creators work on their books; Cullen Bunn, Donny Cates, Warren Ellis, Garth Ennis, Francesco Francavilla, Mark Waid, Tim Seeley, Amanda Connor, Marguerite Bennett, Hayden Sherman, Eliot Rahal, and Christopher Sebela are but a few of the names that have already worked with Aftershock. They’ve got an anthology that looks as though it’ll be a regular thing (SHOCK) and have continued to enlist known creators to help draw attention to their ever growing line. There’s something for pretty much everyone within their library already. Not afraid of taking chances, Aftershock has been a welcome addition to comics.

Ahoy Comics launched in 2018 and was a smash success right out of the gate. They’ve already got a linchpin title/book/character with the Wrong Earth saga (Dragonfly/Dragonfly Man is now out and is the second volume in this universe). The other three launch titles (High Heaven, Edger Allen Poe’s Snifter of Terror, Captain Ginger) all found varying degrees of fandom but were all critically acclaimed and well received (Captain Ginger continues to make new fans especially). The company has given MORE to the reader with each book they put out by including back up stories or novella type entries after the main story of each issue. It’s clear they are paying tribute to the whole of comics as well as just having some damn fun. The follow up wave of books was just as much fun (Bronze Age Boogie and Hashtag Danger getting most of the love) and continued the love for the medium. With what’s on tap for 2020 it is clear that Ahoy doesn’t plan on stopping the fun any time soon.

Two of the best and absolute hardest hitting books to grace shelves the last two years have come from the Tribe. Both Sink and Wailing Blade are as in your face as you can get. Distinctly different genres drive the titles but the results are the same. They’re fantastic and they’re perfect examples of what goodies are on offer with ComixTribe. The past 18 months have been especially good for the publisher with highly successful Kickstarters helping a guerilla approach to marketing their books. The outfit also Kickstarted The Standard and just finished a short campaign for the second volume of their acclaimed Red Ten series. Don’t let the recent success cloud over the fact that solid and well received books have been out in the wild for a while now. And Then Emily Was Gone and SCAM preceded the recent titles and created a nice buzz for the publisher. Heading into their 9th year of making books the Tribe looks like it’s just getting started.


The publisher has long been known for faithful retellings of licensed properties as well as quality expansions of said properties (The Abyss, Aliens, Mask, Buffy, Star Wars, Predator, Terminator, and Godzilla among them). Just as identifiable are characters/stories Dark Horse combined with the licensed properties in the debut (and highly acclaimed) book from the publisher Dark Horse Presents. Many books were spun from the pages of the anthology such as Concrete, Sin City, and Next Men. That anthology had three iterations with the last volume debuting a new fan favorite pulp hero in The Black Beetle. The outfit isn’t without its own properties however. Ghost, X, Barb Wire and most famously Hellboy. Not to be lost in it all are the recent run of books from Dark Horse that have embraced the new era of creating comics. Harrow County, Death Orb, Triage, Black Hammer, and The Strain have continued the fine precedent set by titles before them. The licensing continues as does the original creation. There’s a hell of a lot in Dark Horse’s basket and the quality has been steady for over 30 years now.

(Contributor Kellie Keener’s pick) “Image was the reason I really got into comics because they were publishing Saga. And it seemed like they were always putting out a new story, book, or #1. Which was great because that was so much less intimidating to me, a complete newbie, than heroes with 50+ years of history and countless reboots. Image gave me lots of options with a very clear place to start and follow a character or story. Image titles I love: Plutona (A group of kids finds a dead superhero in the woods and have to decide how to handle this; coming of age, dark), Saga (A family tries their best to survive despite a war raging on and everyone wanting them dead; space, drama, action, NSFW), Bitch Planet (takes place in a futuristic prison for women who are deemed Non Compliant; LGBTQ+ representation, action, social commentary, NSFW), and Rat Queens (Dungeons and Dragons-esque adventure following a group women who party hard and fight harder; LBGTQ+ representation, action, fantasy, NSFW).”
A wide open cabinet of stories has helped Image maintain the reputation of being a go to publisher for fresh ideas and quality books that they’ve had for quite some time. These titles all exemplify this perception of the publisher. Each year they seem to just add to the stack of top notch comics that’s been piled up under their banner already.


The hits just keep coming from Vault. Not even a full handful years old yet and they’ve already put themselves atop the “hot” list in terms of where to go to find the best quality of book on the shelves. Even though they focus on sci-fi and fantasy it hasn’t kept them from pushing the envelope within those categories. Finding new and intuitive ways to express these ideas has been paramount in their ability to churn out title after fantastic title. What may be most impressive is that readers of all ages can find a book they can relate too (and Vault is launching a specific YA/YR line shortly). In very quick time though they’ve published absolute chart topping titles such as Wasted Space, These Savage Shores, and Heathen. Another title, The Plot, launched their new “Nightfall” imprint (another publishing initiative) and looks to be yet another chart topper. The publisher instantly grabbed readers though with a wide array of approaches to sci-fi/fantasy and wasn’t afraid to take chances as is illustrated by Powerless, Karma Police, and Deuce of Hearts. I’ll end with the fact that Vault is also pushing what the medium can do with titles like Fearscape, Deep Roots, and Friendo.

I do want to mention Source Point Press and TKO Studios.
While TKO is brand new (having just released their second wave of books) they have immediately captured the attention of readers. The innovative approach to publishing aside, the stories they’re putting out are top shelf worthy. Everything about their books screams quality. With just eight titles released they’ve got, IMO, bon-a-fide hits in Fearsome Dr Fang, Goodnight Paradise, Sentient, and Eve of Extinction. That’s not a dismissing of the other titles but simply where my feelings are. Critical acclaim has found many of the books at TKO. Should this course continue I’ve no doubt they’ll be one of my favorite outlets in short order.
Source Point Press has been at it since 2012 but they’re a “new to me” publisher. I’d heard of ’em but only in the last year (little more) have a truly started getting ahold of their books. So far so good. I’m loving the recent uptick in grabbing creator projects such as Touching Evil, Gutter Magic, and Samurai Grandpa. On top of these there’s been high praise for titles such as Rottentail, The Family Graves, Hope and Achilles Inc. The partnership with Comics Experience has really helped get solid books out to the masses as well. SPP is picking up steam and I’m here for it.

*Eye on SCOUT, BOOM, IDW … plenty of gems in these publishers if you take the time to look.

Over The Ropes #1

A young high-flyer named Jason Lynn goes off-script in a match to win the world title and sets the southern territory on fire as the face-painted wrestler, Phoenix. Jason’s battles between the ropes are only outperformed by his struggles outside the ring. First dates. Crooked promoters. Cage matches. Factions and families. No matter what problems smack him with a steel chair, Jason lives by his catchphrase: I. Will. Rise.

Solicitation for OTT #1

STORY – Jay Sandlin
ART – Antonello Cosentino
COLORS – Francesco Segala
LETTERS – Justin Birch

Full disclosure: I’m a wrestle-head. I grew up on 6:05pm EST on TBS watching World Championship Wrestling. The NWA and later WCW featured megastars like Sting, Flair, The Horsemen, Road Warriors, The Russians, The Rock N Roll Express, Dusty Rhodes and so many more. I was a kiddo during the heyday of the 80’s wrestling boom and then was the perfect age for the 90’s explosion. I was ecstatic upon hearing the announcement of this book.

Sure, there have been several comics featuring pro wrestling and there are ones currently on the shelves. This one though, is different. Over the Ropes from Mad Cave is written by Jay Sandlin. I’ve been fortunate enough to have gotten to know him a bit through social media over the last 18 months or so. In this time we’ve had several conversations about pro wrestling. Jay is a fan. This is huge in regard to the fact that he’s writing this comic about pro wrestling. He understands what makes pro wrestling entertaining … and what makes it magical. In the press release through Newsarama Jay stated “The characters grew out of my desire to write the kind of wrestling story I gravitated to the most; where the predetermined nature of in-ring action and backstage drama blends with shades of reality until the two are indistinguishable.” The main story line of OTT follows Jason Lynn (a play on a highly popular 90s wrestler) who is a curtain jerking jobber (guy that opens shows and loses to the big names). The in ring and real life persons start to merge as the chosen one of the promotion Lynn works for gets himself beaten out of the title picture, literally.

In a perfect marriage of Kayfabe (the portrayal of both real and staged events as being real) and real life, our underdog hero gets the opportunity of a life time. There’s a big issue though. See, the owner of the promotion is the reigning champion and he’s been grooming his son as the hotshot boiling over to challenge and eventually take him down. The whole plot line borrows from real instances that played out during the 80s and 90s pro wrestling scene. For wrestling fans it is an absolute treat. Comic fans will appreciate the person behind the persona story line. Jason is the low man on the totem pole and doesn’t gain from the nepotism coursing through his biggest personal (but not professional) rival. As the persona becomes too much for Billy Raddison (the champ’s son and next in line) to handle outside of the confines of the wrestling ring he finds himself on the end of a real life ass kicking. This tosses a huge wrench in the plans. Jason Lynn finds himself being given the silver platter but with a huge catch.

Being told that you’re going to be the champion is undoubtedly the pinnacle of a pro wrestler’s career. Everything you’ve done has been noticed and the promotion feels that not only have you earned the chance, but that the business will be better with you as the face. It’s got to be just as big of a gut punch though if you’re told you’ll be champion … but not as you. This is exactly what happens to Jason. See, our hero isn’t the only one with a huge opportunity. The SFW (the wrestling promotion in Over the Ropes) is sitting on the cusp of a huge deal with a major TV Network. Just as Jason’s opportunity comes with a catch, so does the SFW’s. The network wants a new face as champion. It’s a situation that has to be acted on for the promotion to step into the limelight. With this knowledge the plan is hatched and Jason looks to make his move. Going off-script he jumps on the opportunity and takes flight.

With the inner workings of pro wrestling serving as the backdrop for this book to draw from I can’t wait to see just which dusty road we go down. Both Jason and the promotion are set up and in precarious positions. The entirety of the situation is tenuous at best and danger is now lurking around every corner. Hidden behind the references and nods to pro wrestling tradition (such as a Luchadore that wears his mask at all times) is a carefully curated personal story. As a wrestle-head I am well served with this book and get plenty of feel good moments/bits. What I do feel though, is that the casual, merely familiar, or not hip at all to wrestling comic reader won’t be able to connect as much to this book. There is a decent amount of nuance that they’ll blank on because they simply don’t know. The perfect example of this is Jason’s outfit on his date. This book is done well and the real life subject matter it borrows from is wonderfully infused and alluded too. However, there’s going to be a good chunk of folks that simply miss out on that and don’t know how well this is done. The effectiveness and execution of this title simply won’t be recognized by many comic readers, and that’s a shame.

Beyond Sandlin’s scripting, Cosetino delivers fantastic visuals. The artwork is excellent and captures the look and feel of what the title is portraying. Segala’s coloring matches the lines. Only thing I’d have liked more would have been a little more dynamic approach to the wrestling personas and scenes. Part of the appeal of pro wrestling is that it is larger than life. I’m not digging on the colors from Segala mind you. I just feel that there is a missed opportunity to enhance the book here. The same goes for the lettering. Birch is very good. You don’t get in the Ringo convo and letter books for literally more than a handful of publishers if you aren’t. As with the colors though, I feel there was some missed opportunity given the subject matter. Bottom line is that this is a very good debut that does more than a little justice to its source matter. There is a solid premise set up and I’m eagerly awaiting what this series brings. I just wish that everyone picking it up would “get it” as much as I have.

IN SHOPS NCBD DEC 4th!

Driving Creators grade for Over the Ropes #1: 9.2

The heart and soul of pro wrestling is evident in this book. Jay knows what makes it tick and what makes it relatable. Being a fan of the sport gives Jay the ability to create things within the comic that other writers couldn’t but it is also a slight alienating factor as well. The book’s effectiveness does rely on a certain level of interest/understanding of the reader. While slightly limiting, if it is the biggest thing working against the title then this will be a great series.

STORY: ***
ART: ****
COLORS: ***
LETTERS: ****
OVERALL: 3.5*

GOD PUNCHER

Lane Lloyd is a creator you need to be getting hip too, full stop. Early on in my comic book twitterdom I was fortunate to have come across Lane as God Puncher was getting ready to debut. Now, with three issues out, this fantastical explosion of imagination is a book that deserves your diving head first into. This self-published comic is as raw as they come in the best possible way. Lane’s unbridled joy for the medium shines through in the work he produces. Self described as “if Dr. Seuss dropped acid before drawing,” the train of thought is pretty spot on for describing Lane’s art. It is unconventional, cartoony, mesmerizing, off-kilter, and an absolute breath of fresh air to take in. Chances are you’ve not come across anything that’s very close to what you’ll see in the pages of God Puncher. A truly unique approach to comics and storytelling sit within the ballad of Tim Finnly.

One of the best parts of this story is the simplicity through which a very broad and complex world is filtered. Lane has taken a very basic and primal thought (who we are in life and what our placement in it is) and thrust it directly into the confrontation that man, as a species, begs for. The very title, GOD PUNCHER, elicits this confrontation and the action we’d likely take were we to meet our creator(s). Despite being prideful and having an indescribable urge to understand our belief systems are predicated on that which we can’t and weren’t meant to understand. In God Puncher we get a point blank exploration of the gifts (in this case Tim Finnly’s ability to fight) that the Gods have bestowed to mortals. Within that gift we see the hubris of both man and God. Finnly has become a legend and grown to have a God-like status himself. One of the Gods seeks to erase the false claims and put ‘man’ right back where he belongs. As both entities suffer the consequences of their actions the story of Tim Finnly truly sets off on a wild and fantastical journey.

The confrontation of Man VS God is but the start of this tale. Focused and with new purpose Finnly charts a course for redemption. The chase, showdown, and comeuppance of both Finnly and the God is an entire saga in of itself. The fact that it is just the opening salvo to the God Puncher story speaks volumes to the ground work Lane has put down and the ambition with which he is creating this story. Issue two gives us a rather grand introduction and we get a glimpse at just how big of an area Tim (and we) are playing in. There are other deities and powerful beings that would have their wills imparted. The tale is grand but Lane is more than up to the task of telling it. The rampant imagination explodes from every page. While slapstick in approach there is a sharp edge to things that keeps the humor in check. Truly unique in its presentation, you cannot help but be drawn to Lane’s art. With this series we actually get to see just how much and how quickly that Lane has grown and improved in just four issues (a zero issue and #1-3) of work. Seeing how he’s played with color usage and the advantages that his zany style provides is an added treat to the books themselves. You can still jump into God Puncher with ease. The story moves quick and the pages flow. You’ll find yourelf going back and forth to fully take in the art. In going back you’ll find an added layer to the book. I did when I re-read after getting issue three. The big scale world and big time issue that Lane tackles with God Puncher is perfectly juxtaposed by his art. One of the many (and most successful) ways people deal with overbearing situations is humor. Seeing the God figures with a slapstick edge to their look helps endear Tim and his endeavor to the readers. It allows for the connections to be made and the heartstrings to be tied.

Go support Lane and grab yourself the God Puncher series at: https://gumroad.com/lanedoescomics

After you’ve caught up be sure to nab issue #4 NCBD NOV 27!