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. 

TALES FROM THE PANDEMIC

Featuring a bevy of red hot creators, Mario Candelaria’s Tales from the Pandemic is a showcase of the amazing talent that resides in the comic community. This “Mix-Tape” is a reflection of the ways in which comic creators have coped with the current state of the world. COVID19 threw everyone and everything for a loop to say the least. As shared as this experience has been and continues to be for us all, there are also countless individual stories to tell. Mario tells some of these tales while partnering with some of the hottest up and coming artists in independent comics.


TALES FROM THE PANDEMIC
VOL 1

All seven short stories written by Mario Candelaria (ASHESTHE CHARTGOOD FIGHT ANTHOLOGY) and illustrated by the following up-and-coming artists in the independent comics scene:

Adam Ferris (JENNY RAYGUNTHE GOOD FIGHT ANTHOLOGYPARALLEL)
Joe Hunter (BEAST HEART STRIKERS!)
Dan Buksa (HOWL)
Randy Haldeman (THE JACKETPRETTY LITTLE STINGS)
Andy Michael (sLAsherMOTEL6VE)
J Paul Schiek 
(DENIZENSASHTOGETHER FOREVER)
Sachi Ediriweera (LIONBORNGALLUS)

Cover by Skylar Patridge 
(REVERSALVOLUMERELICS OF YOUTH)

Fully lettered by Scott Ewen (CORKTOWNTHE SUNDAYS)

Book-ended with an intro & outro by MLS Cup winning soccer/football player Danny Earls (BAROQUE POP ANTHOLOGYWARHAMMER)


AVAILABLE ON GUMROAD NOW:

It is immediately apparent the talent that crafted this collection. The design and overall aesthetic is the proper introduction to the team that delivers Tales from the Pandemic. Brilliantly curated and executed there isn’t a publisher making comics today that wouldn’t benefit from having this book in their line. Taking an obviously old school comic love and seamlessly applying a modern look to it has born into our lucky hands an expertly done period piece that will certainly not be restrained by the times. Borrowing narrative leads and finishes from the likes of The Twilight Zone is just one of the ways that Mario’s writing ability stands out. Being able to use a classic tool to lend a hand to your own distinctive style isn’t an easy task. It is beyond evident that he’s used that tool to fine tune his own voice and amplify it beyond the pages. Every time I read a new piece from Mario I’m amazed at the genuine tone he’s able to portray regardless of the subject matter. Within these pages though, that genuine tone is able to shine insanely bright. There’s also nods and tips of the hat to the larger world of comics and pop culture if you’re paying attention.

The striking cover of Skylar Partridge is an open invitation to the fun and a caution that Tales from the Pandemic contains. At place on the shelves of today and yesteryear it serves as the introduction masterfully. Elements of all that Mario and the entire creative team put on the buffet table in this collection are given a wonderful snapshot that captures the imagination, and piques the interest of anyone that sees it.

Danny Earls‘ book end pieces both set up and close out this collection perfectly. His inclusion boosts the overall feel of the collection and lends to the ‘Tales of’ aspect through which we view the stories. The two sections house the presenter, or narrator that you find in these classic types of presentations. This inclusion is that finish touch that makes the whole package perfect.

The entirety of the Tales from the Pandemic is lettered by Scott Ewen. The stylistic choices he employs sews the strings of connectivity throughout the collection. As individual as the tales are, and the artists that present them, that common pulse of relatability truly cinches the stories together into a shared experience.

The individual styles of the artists that give life to the stories have been perfectly paired with the tales they showcase. Andy Michael’s raw approach brings out the seedy nature that resides in the primal regions of our brains. While justifications such as ‘opportunistic’ are bandied about the true nature of folks is revealed in times such as this pandemic. J Paul Schiek’s reality grounded ethereal tone allows a reminder of the importance of rules to provide a ghastly picture of how dire consequences can be. Randy Haldeman’s rough lines display the aggravation and aggression that boils to the surface when crisis and hardship overcome us.

Joe Hunter’s cartoon-ish take epitomizes one of the mental escapes we create in uncertain times with a frantic energy. Dan Buksa captures the grimy results when flippant attitudes prevail. Sachi Ediriweera’s capturing of the fantastical lengths in which our mind will try to protect us is a wonderful encapsulation of the hysteria that’s been on display during this worldwide pandemic. Adam Ferris rounds out the collection with a surreal look at normalcy, routine, and how they are just as infectious as any outside force.

The whole of Tales of the Pandemic is a masterclass in comic book making. Top notch writing, expert design, perfect artist pairing, and fundamental execution that major publishers wish they could pull off are what you’ll find in this modern day love letter to classic storytelling. The emotional gambit we’ve faced during this crisis gets a full discourse by way of creative means. All of us face our own demons and challenges when things are “normal” but tossing a global pandemic into the mix tests the resolve of even the best of us. Fitting that this collection has come about despite the mounting hardships and difficulties the world has thrown at us.

Ironic?
No.
An outlet only available in the pandemic

REVIEW – Electric Black Vol. 1

Created, written and illustrated by Joseph Schmalke and Rich Woodall, edited by Shawn French, book design by Rich Woodall.

The Electric Black is the pulp horror story of a cursed antique shop and the items on sale within, each of their backstories introduced in an anthology-style format by the creepy, Vincent Price-like proprietor, Julius Black.

The book is horrific, it’s campy, and it hits the sweet spot between those two with absolute confidence and flair. Schmalke and Woodall share both art and writing duties and are in perfect sync, bringing a characterful, disconcerting style to both throughout. Although a couple of times a bit of visual clarity is lost (perhaps due to squeezing in so much content), the end result is an exuberant masterclass in just how fun horror can be.

Electric Black also avoids the trap that a lot of horror short story collections can fall into, of feeling shallow – providing horrific tale after horrific tale and nothing more. This is a grim and bloody book, but it just about skirts the gratuitous (again a fine line when presenting short format B-movie horror stories), and there seems to be an overarching twisted narrative at the heart of this, setting up some depth to come.

In fact, Electric Black is bubbling over with energy and ideas, making it all the more impressive that it feels so cohesive even when the issue-to-issue format is so varied – some issues focus on the shop, some act more like short story collections, and some tell longer historical tales. They all feel like elements of the same world, and the variety keeps the series fresh and unpredictable.

Moreover, this variety convinced me that the creators have years’ worth of engaging stories to tell. And if those stories are as delectably unpleasant as the ones here in volume 1, they’ll be well worth your time.

Electric Black, Vol. 1. $8.99 (digital) $17.99 (TPB) – for 114 pages of content. Mature Rating.

Reviewed by Tom Woodman @TomMayoWoodman

DIES IRAE #1

CREATIVE TEAM

Matthew Rucker – @MonumentousMatt

SYNOPSIS:
In an arctic post-rapture apocalypse, where the last remaining humans can do nothing but hide to survive, one person discovers the key to fighting back against the denizens of heaven and hell.

There is as much, if not more power in silence than anything else. Too often it is what is NOT said that truly reveals. In DIES IRAE we are given an entirely silent comic and it works very well. In this post-rapture world the remaining humans must hide in order to survive. Taking the truth of their existence (silence isn’t just golden, but a matter of survival) and mirroring it in the structural presentation of the book helps create not only a unique atmosphere, but an effective device that allows the circumstances to do all the talking. The narrative and characters present themselves rather than literally being relayed to us. For me, it works in spades.

Despite being very obviously religiously undertoned, much of the book is left for the reader to make of it what they will. This is fine because they synopsis for the book gives what we need to make our own inferences: “In an arctic post-rapture apocalypse, where the last remaining humans can do nothing but hide to survive, one person discovers the key to fighting back against the denizens of heaven and hell.” From that we can glean what we need in order to follow along, get invested, and make heads/tails of it all. What is especially remarkable about the book is just how much story is told without a single word or sound effect being used. Color and background visuals fill and speak quite a bit if the reader takes the time to fully digest each page. Design choices and presentation of characters also lends to the who, what, and intent we’d otherwise be given in a non-silent book.

What Rucker pulls off in this book is just fantastic. A post rapture apocalyptic world sees its last inhabitants facing their impending doom. A virtuous individual with the help of a “third-eye” seeks to ward of what is apparently the extinction of the human race. Up against both Heaven and Hell we’re given a tale that should reek of desperation but doesn’t. It is almost hopeful. There’s clearly more to this and the stoic hero of the tale (who has a surprise reveal by the way) faces each moment that could possibly be the end, in grand fashion.

Take the time to nab a read of this one folks: https://www.comixology.com/DIES-IRAE-1/digital-comic/845122

BUT YOU DON’T HAVE TO TAKE MY WORD FOR IT:
https://www.comicbookyeti.com/post/dies-irae-issue-1

The Rose Society #1

CREATIVE TEAM:

(w) Eddie Klinker –@EddieKlink
(a) Daimon Hampton – @daimondrewthis
(c/l)Jimmy Greenhalgh – @jimmygcolour

SYNOPSIS:
Adam Martinez and Marcus Veers quickly became best friends in the sixth grade but sadly as time marched on, into adulthood, their friendship fell to the wayside. It wasn’t until Marcus’ untimely death did Adam revisit his past and reopen old wounds. In doing so, he uncovered the truth behind Marcus’ demise and the discovery of the underground society he belonged to.

The ever present hidden demons we all suffer rear their ugly heads in The Rose Society #1. What we perceive to be the truth and what we think is real often ends up shattered by the revelations these demons bring. Upon the death of his best friend from childhood Adam finds himself face to face with his demon. The reality is he’d not kicked the old habit and his drug use proves to die hard. Grief, regret, and the weight of loss kick start a spiral for Adam that sees him find that Marcus’ mother has passed. No rest for the weary though as Adam is on the end of a seemingly unprovoked attack from his dealer. Surprise surprise though, he has a savior … and it shatters his reality. Marcus isn’t dead and comes to Adam’s rescue.

Secret lives and societies are always a good sell. The marriage of these with the element of a deeply personal relationship is an excellent hook. This inclusion helps create the stake for the reader in tandem with the characters. As the pages turn and the road gets ever winding it is hard not to be fully immersed and genuinely intrigued as to where the book is going. What is happening with this underground society and their plans? What is Marcus’ relationship to it and/or involvement. Is everything Adam knew a lie or something else entirely? How can all of it be resolved between Adam and Marcus? Can it be at all?

The underground society brings the thrilling conspiratorial aspect while the relationship between Adam and Marcus delivers an emotional tale of friendship. Both parts of this book are built very well. We readers are immediately submerged in Adam’s world and invest in him as the main character of the story. He’s introduced as being in a bad place that is quickly getting worse. Then everything he knows is tossed into the grinder. Helping this progression is the presentation of the book. Proper color gradation from the start to end of the book helps invoke the changing climate of Adam’s life and the danger he now finds himself in. Flashbacks are appropriately golden lensed and the overall look of the action brings an air of fantasy that represents the collision/shattering of Adam’s perceived reality and what’s really happening. The entire creative team flows in a seamless effort that even “big” publisher books have trouble doing.

The Rose Society #1 is well worth the read folks.