Quick Hits (JAN 2021)

Luke Barnes
Nick Goode
Harry Hughes


A piece of a larger puzzle, Odyssey is futuristic zombie romp. The larger ‘Snow-verse’ that this is part of has seen climate change wipe out pretty much everything. This book hits on the isolated bastions of civilization being infected (literally) from the desolated world outside. The race is on to reach the Odyssey, an spaceship orbiting Earth. With the knowledge that this is set in a larger scale universe of stories the stakes seem a bit more real for those involved here. This book also does an excellent job of presenting a stand alone while being connected to the larger scale universe it resides in.


Ryan Bis
Crizam, Nathan Olson, Cristian Sauret, Nazareno Acuña, Sabrina Deigert, Renan Balmonte, Elijah Isaiah Johnson, Emma Southey-Ray, Jaka Prawira, Harold Palad, Heidi Black, Max Moda, Matias Zanetti and Mauro Mantella, Kathleen Brown and Iwan Yoko Triyono


An anthological look at the future takes place through the eyes of various citizens that are experiencing it. Written by Ryan Bis and illustrated by a host of outstanding talents, CFAW takes seemingly unconnected takes and weaves a singular overarching tale through perspective. Akin to Astro City’s “big picture through the tiniest threads that create it” approach to the themes that make us, CFAW is a grand tale being told piece by piece. This way of storytelling allows for exponentially more breadth and depth without bogging the reader down. There isn’t expositional world building as this is done by the individualism of the tales themselves. An entry into things to come, CFAW is a great project that hopefully sees future explorations.


Dalton Shannon and Wells Thompson
Serg Acuna, Kath Lobo, Mia Strizzi, Mary Landro, Andrea Modugno, Leonardo Grazzi, Antonio Russo Tantaro, Fisher Lee, Sleight, Walter Ostlie, and Doctor Fantastic


Boasting a who’s who of indie talent this horror anthology hits the mark as both a horror book and well put together anthology. Now, obviously not every story is going to be a hit or fit for everyone. That’s not the point. The anthology format is about mood, setting and displaying the talent involved. Aces on these fronts with this one. With an author pair delivering the scripts for each story there is a commonality of tone that really allows each artist to put forth their own flair. This really works as each story is drastically different in setting in order to showcase all types of horror. Whether it’s the terror of a new job or the horror of a cosmic threat you’ll find something in this book that hits that dread button.

Scout’s Honor #1



AFTERSHOCK COMICS
STORY: David Pepose
ART: Luca Casalanguida
COLORS: Matt Milla
LETTERS: Carlos M. Mangual

Fallout meets Mulan meets The Handmaid’s Tale
in this post-apocalyptic thriller. At the heart of the series is a cult that has built itself in the aftermath of a nuclear war, with one artifact of the before-times as its guiding light: a Boy Scouts manual. But the series lead, Kit, has a secret that could upend the entire society in one fell swoop.“In a harsh survivalist society that only allows men to serve, Kit has concealed her identity as a woman to pursue her calling as a Ranger Scout.

But when she makes a shocking discovery dating back to the Ranger Scouts’ conception, Kit will be forced to reexamine everything she once believed, as she struggles to survive both her fellow Ranger Scouts and the radioactive horrors of the Colorado Badlands


David Pepose is dead set on creating all of our favorite comic books. From the hauntingly good Spencer & Locke, to the RomComAction Going to the Chapel and over to the high fantasy O.Z. Pepose has impressively flexed his masterful writing ability. Now we get yet another strikingly different genre but more of the same mastery of writing. Concept alone is brilliant. Execution of this debut issue is flawless. Even though we venture to a dark new setting the prevailing themes of Pepose’s writing hold true. The personal aspect and relatable states have extended into Scout’s Honor. Even more so, the absurdity associated with these things gets even more visible play thanks to the setting – overly large mutant pigs anyone? The tried and true masked gang of baddies is present as well but as with all of his previous writing, Pepose makes them feel wholly his own. Perhaps the biggest piece of brilliance in the first issue is how the Scouts themselves have been made anew. As with what we know of them today, the scouts in this adventure earn their merit badges (listed at the back of the book) according to the new world they live in. Most telling of these badges is the ‘History of the Badlands’ entry. I won’t spoil anything for you but unless I’m reading far to into things, the description is telling and has me ready to dive into each issue going forward.

Adding a dash of fantasy to belief systems that have and currently do exist in society has created an unyielding and unforgiving world on several fronts. The social commentary and allusions in Scout’s Honor drive home the stakes and ramp up the tension to believable levels danger that grip the reader. The bow on this book is the visual representation. Our characters feel both individual unto themselves as well as collective to the environment they inhabit. Post-apocalypticness comes across very well with neon green eyed killer boars, a gritty overtone, rustic and beat up settings and of course the outfitting of the characters themselves. Surprisingly the book is colorful even though it is steeped in the juices of nuclear war aftermath. Again, credit to the art team for delivering an aesthetic that is as gripping as the narrative. Subtle touches with the lettering bring across the atmosphere perfectly. The dystopian reality Scout’s Honor is housing is given its due in spades. It is the scenes outside of the main narrative that really seal the deal though. How Kit earns the Eagle Guard badge as well as a type of cut scene displaying the ‘honor’ of the scouts gives a glimpse of the bigger picture of struggling to survive in the post apocalyptic new world.

Finishing off the first issue is an excellent hook that throws a wrench into everything. It immediately calls for a second read through as it exposes, brings light to, and alters how you see and comprehend what was presented to you. Within the patriarchal framework of the seven laws that guide the Scouts’ way of life there is very serious sci-fi going on. Nothing is ever what it appears to be and that holds especially true in the nuclear ravaged future of Scout’s Honor. As beautifully as this book is put together I hardly noticed the amount of dialogue/narrative. It all moved together and flowed from page to page effortlessly. I have no doubt that this book will end up on quite a few lists come the end of the year … and we’ve only just begun.

Wishful Thinking

Wishful Thinking #1

Writer: Jackson Raines
(twitter: @mysticmike8, insta: @zachbrains
Artist: Carlos Trigo
(twitter and insta: @carlos_trigo)
Colorist: Ester Salguero
(twitter and insta @estersa_art)
Letterer: Letter Squids
(twitter and insta: @lettersquids)

Described as a comic with inspirations such from the Dresden Files and Better Call Saul, Wishful Thinking is an effort to produce a character driven trip while hitting on themes relating to identity (losing identity, finding your identity, etc) which are struggles we all face.

The book is stylized very well with the art and coloring. The lettering adds to the environment and setting and really helps the overall feel of the book fall in line with the story. I couldn’t help but think of ” … the animated series” type of presentation as I read through. The art, colors, and lettering shine as they make rather mundane settings (an office and bank for the most part) feel extra worldly, as the plot and characters certainly are. The creative team did an excellent job of creating the magical scene while keeping things grounded enough in the reality of it to maximize effect.

So what’s it all about then? Well we’ve got an ex-genie that is now a wish consultant. Borrowing from tried and true tropes we are given an almost animated take. Don’t be fooled by the famous blue genie-esque look of a certain someone however. He’s more actual genie (Djinn) than the other guy. It is this usage that drives the narrative, action, and consequences of the book. It works extremely well as our main character (Jim, the blue guy) goes about helping his clients go through what he used to do do on his own (grant wishes, but with the whole untidy back end part). What we end the book with is a bit of a mess, both literal and figuratively, as a fairy is introduced. This all sets up what would appear to be a whole heck of a lot more for good ‘ol Jim. The trappings of the law (real and supernatural) are utilized perfectly and create a truly unique premise. The promise of relating to identity is delivered upon in this very first issue. Our first “adventure” sees Jim’s client knowingly and vehemently willing to give hers up to have her wish. In doing so we’re given what is very surely the main antagonist for Jim as this book continues on.

If you get the chance go find this one. It delivers on more than one layer and was a very good read.

AHOY THERE!

In the last few years we’ve seen a slew of new indie publishers enter the comic realm. With attention spans lasting less than a second and the speculation sector once again trying to crash the whole damn party, Ahoy Comics has quickly made a name for itself by doing something so outlandish that it worked. They put out good comics. Yes, I know. Crazy concept yeah? Well they dared to do it and have excelled thus far. Admittedly there’s a fresh approach employed by Ahoy that … well, borrows directly from comic’s past! That’s right folks. Ahoy has masterfully crafted a comic book for today by amalgating so much of what we loved about comics from yesterday and stuffing it between the covers along with fantastic stories of their own. You will be quite hard pressed to NOT find a title that suites you under their banner. Below I highlight some of my favorites from their lineup:

WRONG EARTH
Dragonfly & Dragonfly Man

A perfect showcase for what Ahoy is doing is this series right here. A throwback to the caped crusading do-gooders of yesteryear, this book landed on our favorites of 2019 list. The first two volumes are phenomenal. It illustrates the combination of today and yesterday quite strikingly by essentially telling a shared story of Adam West era Batman and the Jon Bernthal Punisher character being the same character but from different worlds. Yes, there’s classic campy caped crusading alongside vigilante justice dealing all made possible with a little sci-fi/magic chicanery.

In short, it has it all. Thankfully we’re scheduled for a third installment come January 2021.

CAPTAIN GINGER

Cats. Cats rule the roost and it is the most gloriously hilarious book on shelves in some time. Rather than just paint humans as cats in a cheap sci-fi set up, this book gives us actual cats and it is brilliant. Soaring the starways in their ship, the feline brigade led by the titular character is searching for other evolved felines. Between the infighting, dirty litter boxes, and killing of mice the efforts to herd this band of felines are serious in nature even though hilarity ensues. The double nature of this book hits perfectly on both tones. It’s comedy gold as well as an excellent sci-fi epic. The cats are trying to figure things out before their resources run out.

A race against time … potentially derailed by a hairball. What more could you want?

PLANET OF THE NERDS

Ever wondered how BIFF from BTTF would do in today’s Nerd ruled world? Welp, we’ve got a pretty good view of things in this book. An accidental cryogenic freezing of three typical 80s jock head types lands them in 2019 upon their unfreezing. Everything they know is upside down and backwards. There’s plenty of the expected tropes but also a good story underlining the nostalgic/present day mash up of geekdom. There’s a harsh reality that slaps the biggest biff of the bunch square on the nose too.

It’s loads of fun and very well done. A yesteryear romp courtesy of today’s flipped coin.

These three are just the tip of the iceberg at Ahoy. My personal favorites of the bunch thus far certainly don’t encompass all that they’re offering for comic readers. Perhaps the most well done book overall, Edgar Allan Poe’s Snifter of Terror perfectly encapsulates what Ahoy is capable of as a publisher. Dead, drunk, and alone the famed author has been sized down to merely introducing horror stories in this anthology. This is an ode of sorts to both Tales from the Crypt type mags of the golden age as well as the crass adult humor mags like Mad and Cracked … a dash of Drunk History seems to be in there too. Meanwhile Penultiman takes the harshness that life deals folks and tosses it on a Superman type. Truly out of place he’s caught between where man wants to go and being ahead of where he is. Rather than fall into attempt #1000 at being an archetype book, it brings forward an excellent tale about the battle of feeling deserved and deserving of.

Take a gander for yourself here folks: https://comicsahoy.com/series
Ahoy Comics has brought some masterful books to the shelves and show no signs of slowing down. Thoughtful and innovative, their new but old but new approach to comics is delightfully fresh. You’ll certainly recognize plenty of the creators and I highly doubt you won’t find more than one book you like. While satirical and tongue in cheek, they’re not afraid to tackle issues head on (Second Coming – Billionaire Island – Happy Hour). I highly urge you to check out Ahoy folks.

REVIEW – Yasmeen #1

“Yasmeen” #1 tells a story through two time periods that’s tense and complex, and this first issue builds a compelling and relatable protagonist. 

Creator/Script: Sarif A. Ahmed
Artist:
Fabiana Mascolo
Letterer:
Robin Jones

“Yasmeen” #1 looks at the life of Yasmeen, a young girl who’s reunited with her family in America after being kidnapped by ISIS in Iraq two years ago. Told partially in flashbacks, the book knits Yasmeen’s re-entry into the world with the events that lead up to her family’s flight from their home and her abduction. However, because the book’s style is airy and relatively texture-free, it’s hard to differentiate at times between the past and the present.

Ahmed and Masciolo do good work in “Yasmeen” #1 to set up a main character who draws interest, and give her enough backstory to hook readers. There’s a lot of good here. Ahmed’s dialogue is natural, and there’s enough political backstory to center us in the appropriate time period and to get at some of the nuances of Yasmeen’s parents’ characters, too. Mascolo does an excellent job of differentiating the younger Yasmeen from her older self physically. her hijab is a different color (brighter) and her expressions are more joyful and open. The older Yasmeen is guarded: her eyes don’t widen in the way they did when she was young and her body language is closed down except for the moment she hugs her mother again. The anatomy in this scene is a bit strange – Yasmeen almost looks like she’s football tackling her mother – but the emotion of the reunion excuses and justifies a bit of wonkiness.

What can trip up a reader in this book is how seamless some of the time shifts can be. There’s a definite palette for each – warmer for the present, cooler and slicker for the past – but there’s often not enough of a contrast. There’s also no wash, texture or effects to let us know we’re hopping back and forth. Mascolo’s line tends toward precision, with minimal shading or scratchiness. That style serves well in certain scenes, as in Yasmeen’s adorable blush when she spies the neighborhood boys as the family leaves their new home, and less so in others. There’s also a curious jump in quality on a page turn to a government checkpoint that features a thicker line and darker colors. This style shift appears again on the final page turn but to much greater effect. The final aerial shot is excellent, if a bit abrupt from a story perspective, and the doll-like people suit the mood as much as the distant, omniscient view.

Jones’ lettering is succinct and sharp, with a narrow font and minimal leading. The balloon stroke is a bit thicker than Mascolo’s line – a smart choice to draw our attention subtly and ensure that the balloons don’t blend in with the backgrounds in a bad way. One piece of dialogue whispered by Yasmeen’s mother is smaller to denote the muted tone, but a bit too small to read. Interestingly, the book doesn’t use any sound effects. It’s not immediately noticeable because Mascolo experiments with a thicker line for explosions and action, but as that doesn’t always cohere a few effects would be welcome.

Overall, there’s nothing jarring about the issues in “Yasmeen,” but it could be a little tighter and demonstrate a bit more visual flair. Still, Yasmeen’s story has us turning the pages at the appropriate pace to see what will happen next, and there’s more than enough here to keep us on board for a second issue.