VFTD – Deuce of Hearts

Image result for deuce of hearts vault comics
Richard Mo – Tony Gregori – Claudia Aguirre – Ryan Ferrier – Kim McLean

Tony Gregori is quickly becoming my favorite artist if he’s not already captured that title.  I’ve watched the last couple of years as his style has remained clearly identifiable while growing leaps and bounds.  This book is a delight on several fronts. It takes a truism of today (app life) and brings it into the heart and soul of comicdom.  We get a fantastic voyage that is full of cooky, crazy fun that also delivers a wonderfully written story.

I love the complexity in the book as it mixes several elements in the batter yet still yields a very even tasting final product.  There is obviously a social commentary aspect with the entirety of the app based plot point.  Taking that and merging it with the absurdity (in a good way) of comic books was quite fun.  An app that grants a superhuman ability?  A video game type of buff?  That’s straight comic book at its finest.  Yes, yes there’s clearly a tongue in cheek yet clear message about a particular part of today’s culture BUT it is merely a wonderfully crazy backdrop for the … er, heart of the book.  Those afore mentioned elements are woven by Gregori’s art into a very eye catching visualization of a vanity and ‘how can I up myself’ driven society.  As insanely rich as the presentation is, the true to each of us narrative isn’t overpowered.

Yes, I’ll say it one more time.  Gregori and Aguirre’s work in this book stands on its own.  You can flip through the pages just looking at the incredibly rich and wide cast world that they’ve created.  As you take it in while reading Mo’s story line you can get a feeling of just how well this creative team works together.  The characters are absolutely independent creations and are brought to life in the best possible ways to enrich the book.  Sure, there’s some “base level” dudes/dudettes but that’s the point.  The expertly portrayed fantasy type characters are equally fantastical as the “base” are base.  All of these play perfectly as each of their interactions are as unique as they are as characters.  And that, that right there is the crux of the book.  Despite the overly sci-fi, fantasy, perfectly comic book cast … the point of it all is about US.  Who we are, how we interact, and just what we all come down to when dealing with one another.  Ferrier and McLean lend to the characterizations with spot on lettering.  As with their looks each character’s dialogue feels personal and comes off as unique to them.

Deuce of Hearts is a wonky ride through who we are, what we do, and how we see and value others.  The tale takes a true to form comic book approach in telling us quite a bit about ourselves.  Vanity and superficial machinations are all too often in the driver’s seat.  Very quickly our past choices and actions catch up to us.  We aren’t flawless though and genuinely the truly “bad” folks are outweighed by the good ones.  All of us fall flat on our faces at times with our decision making and none of us are perfect by any stretch.  The tag line is PERFECT.  “Trade up.”  Indeed.  Throughout life people and relationships are often treated and thought of as nothing but just another currency.

Grab Deuce of Hearts.  Read through it and enjoy the superb visual journey.  Read through it again and enjoy the superb personal one.

View From The Den – LONG LOST (Matthew Erman/Lisa Sterle)

The immediate reaction is one of … ok, but … uhm, where’s the stuff?  It’s a first chapter that moseys along and slow burns.  In my opinion it’s exactly what’s wrong with comics, for the most part, today.  Oh, NOT the book … the people reading them.  Thought out exposition usually gets passed over or labeled “boring” because you don’t get the immediate satisfaction or can’t literally see the payoff right then and there.  Well tough crap says me.  Grow up a bit with your reading habits/understanding so you can enjoy well plotted, suspense building, and yes ultimately paying off story telling.  You can do it with your damn tv shows so why not a book?The easy (not to be misunderstood as simple or bland) bake of the first chapter is a good choice I think.  You get ENOUGH of the disposition of the sisters and it is clear that SOMETHING is up with Piper.  What you don’t get enough of, is the point to point narrative that let’s you naturally flow down the stream of the story.  It appears to be purposefully done and I like it.  I was confused but not in a bad way.  I was confused in the ‘this narrative choice made me think and try to figure stuff out’ way.  That’s a good book. So what is this ominous dark being that we get flashes of?  Is Piper (our lead) a mentally fractured young woman?  Is it from the ghost story in the first few panels?  Was that even a ghost story?  Is it a projection?  How does it play in to ……. and so on down the line.  The first chapter is actually set up a lot like a tv show in that it glimpses here and there, flashes pieces of information that’ll surely be relevant later, and leaves you with an image that makes you go … ok, wtf?  I gotta see where this goes.

Immediately I’m dumped into a “didn’t realize this was getting this hot” pan on the open stove.  Chapter 2 paces like the scary movies I grew up with.  Shit doesn’t go right and everything is just off.  Bad break after bad break.  We learn much more about our sisters and of course just as the one thing that was seemingly going gives a glimmer of light …. NOPE!  Then?  The gas is turned up and we’re starting to boil as Chapter 3 starts off right from the get go and we are directly in the land of bad things.  Just like in some of those scary movies I watched growing up, our sisters find themselves overwhelmed by a terror they didn’t even know was coming.  Quickly following is the what the #$^ just happened moment and what should be a moment to breathe.  Instead, everything is assured to be “fine.”  Of course, we know better and the slow burn that is now a rolling boil is priming to spill over onto the stove top.  I mean, there’s nothing more reassuring than a family member that has a remarkably hard time finding you in the midst of a weird shit downward spiral kicking into high gear saying “everything is fine.”  

It clearly isn’t …. all throughout the background we’re given those glimpses both subtle and not, that something is very wrong.  Continuing to play out like one of my childhood scary movies, this book keeps building the ickiness and uneasy gnawing at you as you go along.  Layer upon layer is peeled back, sometimes more than one at a time.  Once reveals begin to happen the narrative catches up to the story it is telling and the book flows nicely.  The chapters are cut at very appropriate points and give you those ‘oh’ moments that invite you right back in.  The story is definitely a constant roll up hill but still builds momentum.  The weird and outright spooky pile on as the layers are peeled back.  The tension between the sisters does seem to circle around a little more than it probably needed to, BUT that only added to the uneasy feelings.  Not to worry though because as the boulder reaches the top of the mountain it is on an expedited trip back down the other side.  Your payoff is there and it is WELL WORTH IT.    

Sterle’s art, accompanied by the grey tones, help keep the story feeling as though it’s a bug crawling along your skin, but you can’t find it.  It is a perfect match for the narrative approach from Erman.  This doesn’t slow build because there’s a lack of direction or a sense of figuring it out as it was being written.  No, this was on purpose and to the point of dreadful frustration.  Each panel you think, will be the one to get you past the moment but instead there’s just a little bit more.  At full crescendo … BAM!  end of the first volume.  Executed perfectly and right on cue, the high tension sits and bodes as the last image of the sisters makes you say …. “no, it didn’t stop here!”

Bravo for pulling off a stoking of the coals approach to a very tense and emotional grind.  There is A LOT that comes at us as we head into the last two chapters.  Yes, there’s the … whatever the hell is going on, to figure out but also questions are raised about much more real things.  Do we ever really know where we come from?  Is our past what we think it is?  Is what we used to be actually what we think it was?  Plenty left open and set up for VOL 2!

I’ll be waiting anxiously for the rest of this story …

You can find Matthew Erman on Twitter @MatthewErman
More of his work will be available in the upcoming CORPUS Anthology as well as the Everything is Going Wrong Anthology

You can find Lisa Sterle on Twitter @lisa_sterle
More of her work will be debuting shortly through Vault Comics title Sub-Merged out July 4th

View From The Den – GOD PUNCHER (Lane Lloyd)

You can find Lane Lloyd on Twitter: @lanedoescomics 

I’ve had the pleasure of “meeting” Lane through my interactions over Twitter.  There’s been both comic and life discourse in our interactions and I honestly have enjoyed the fact I’ve met him.  This book is a challenge he set for himself to put his creative abilities to the test.  He should feel good about the results.

His art style is certainly raw but that doesn’t mean poor.  It seems that the pictures come straight from his thoughts and how he’s forming them there as opposed to forming them on the page in order to fit what he’s thinking.  It’s more of a flow.  For me it fits the very raw and base feeling that many have in regards to life and our placement in it.  The aptly titled GOD PUNCHER is a very raw description of this underlying thought of facing our creator(s) and taking them on.  Man is prideful, if nothing else, and has this indescribable urge to understand.  It is quite clear that we weren’t meant to understand it all, regardless of what you’ve chosen as your belief system.  The very point blank exploration here is of a man that has been given the gift of one on one battle.  He can fight, and fight well.  He himself has grown to a legend of sorts and has, in the minds of the people, grown God like. 

A classic hubris fault of all depicted Gods, our man sees a God come down to challenge the assertion the people have made.  This collides directly with a classic hubris fault of Man.  Despite his clear place in the pecking order he quite literally places one across the chin of a God.  Ultimately the “bout” ends in the only “real” way possible.  Both God and Man have endured humiliation.  The God is pushed well beyond what anyone could imagine and the Man ends up reaping what he’s sown by standing toe to toe with him. 

But is that it?  The simple form of it, Man vs God, is either played out as a grandiose triumph for man in one way or another OR a straight bitch slap reminder of man’s place in the order.  Lane gives Man his moment and the God does the bitch slapping … but all is not as it seems.  The confrontation in of itself isn’t the culmination of the journey, but rather, the start.  Battered and torn, our Man faces an all new purpose and if he’s got any hope of redemption he’s got a pretty big fix to make. 

The story, as I stated, is a very raw interpretation and approach to a grand concept.  Both sides of the concept are given a bit of a run and the tale is set up for a much bigger adventure.  I’m glad this was shared with me.

Thank you Lane.

I recommend you check him out and check out God Puncher.   

View From The Den

Words: Ryan O’Sullivan – Pictures: Plaid Klaus

The first ever VIEW FROM THE DEN features VOID TRIP from Ryan O’Sullivan and Plaid Klaus.  I was extremely lucky to be given the chance to receive a digital copy of this trade and I’m really glad I took the chance and reached out.  First of all a HUGE THANK YOU for allowing me to read this over and offer up my take.  Now, off we go on one hell of a trip

– Right off the bat we get the prevailing attitude of ANA (our lead and one of only two humans left in the galaxy) painted picture perfectly.  When you’re the last of something you find yourself in a pretty liberated state.  Seriously, with literally nothing to live for and nothing to lose … what’s the point AND what’s the consequence?  Even with an emptiness burning both ends of the candle of their lives they at least find some kind of purpose.  Find Euphoria, and no it’s not just the search for the high of eating FROOT.  It’s a fabled long lost planet.  An epic quest for an epic end of human kind eh?

– ANA gives us a stoner/hippie-esque approach to the end of our race while her partner for the trip (and only other human in existence), Gabe, doesn’t quite share the same ‘fuck it’ viewpoint.  Despite having the exact coordinates the trip just wouldn’t be worth it if you hoed a straight line, now would it?  The bickering between the two is VERY realistic and conjugates the much deeper than they let on story that unfolds in this book.  Subtle humor (such as Ana stating she can’t feel her face after eating some FROOT, Gabe stating he can’t either, and Ana asking why Gabe should be able to feel her face) makes conversation and transition very smooth.  Natural flow from a character isn’t always easy to pull through but O’Sullivan does a great job.

Oh and yes, BUSIEKhini DOES taste like the best food you’ve ever had (or read, if I imposed a nod that isn’t there I apologize, but if not … spot on).  This little nugget is in a scene where our two humans are essentially pushing drugs (the FROOT) on someone.

Anyway …

… the book is written very, very well.  Each character has their own tone and they all come off.  Whether it’s an Owl-esque creature in a woe-is-me final moment or the callous, nameless hunter that’s after our humans, everyone is distinct.  This gives an even bigger expanse to the UNIVERSE concept of the book.  Then you toss in Plaid’s art.  The visuals all throughout this beauty are just that, beautiful.  The ‘normal’ landscapes are perfect, the universal scenes are appropriately grand, and the tripping balls ventures certainly are every bit the part.  As with the writing, the artwork in this book flows the river of the narrative effortlessly.  Again, with the ‘trip’ the book takes you on, in every level, the scene on every page makes the ride that much more enjoyable.

O’Sullivan himself: “VOID TRIP aims to answer the question: “how can we be free in a universe that will always course-correct to limit us?”

The journey we end up taking isn’t the one you think when you first dive in.  The voice of this book speaks not only about the characters within, but also directly to those that decided to come along for the ride.  The questions posed throughout the trip make those that read it ponder for themselves not just for the last two humans in the universe.  It smacks us all square in the jaw upon arrival to Euphoria.  A pretty terse and basic summary of what we do as people is laid out to our duo … and it explains the state of Euphoria with a sad truth of our actual reality.  Or is it?  Perhaps what some find a sad truth, others find a happy and reassuring freedom.  It’s up to you to decide.  

Is it the trip?

The journey?

The end?

The after?

All of it?

None of it?

… or is it simply what you make it?

VOID TRIP asks all of these of you, gives you enough to stir it all around, but leaves it to you to make of it what you will.  For that, it was a fantastic ride.