Quick Hits – July 2019

SOVIET GHOSTS
Written by – Brentt Harshman / Art by – Emilio Utrera / Letters by – LetterSquids

A self published, one-shot short, Soviet Ghosts does in just a few short pages what the majority of comics fail to do in much larger page counts.  This team has put together a complete book.  The look, feel, and read is ALL there.  Huge props for delivering a complete tale in a short space.

It isn’t just that this is a whole piece.  It’s very well done.  Better folks than I can speak to design and implementation of structural elements about the visual portion of the book.  I can however state that everything about what the art conveyed fit the theme and the story being told.  This is a spy-noir type of book and what I expected and wanted to see is what I was presented.  For a short piece that’s critical.  No distraction or anything to keep me from what I’m suppose to be paying attention to. While some may not enjoy black and white interiors they don’t bother me one bit.  For this type of story I actually think it accentuates the tone and attitude of what’s going on.  Crime, noir, and spy time books are about a gritty underbelly or culture to begin with.  Black and white interiors only help drive that home.

I love that is serves not just as a brief contained story, but a prelude to a much bigger story.  Replacing the German/Nazi threat of seeking out dark magic and other worldly powers is the Soviet Union with a cold war espionage backdrop.  It’s a spy story, but it’s lifted bits and pieces from the genre and put them together with bits and pieces from the supernatural and found a way to package it all that is fresh.  


ELLA UPGRADED #1
Written by – Dan Whitehead / Art by – P.R. Dedelis / Colors by – Abby Bulmer / Letters by – Jim Campbell

Ok, straight out of the box the synopsis has me loving the potential of this book.  The tragic accident not withstanding, what 11yr old wouldn’t want their gaming console in their brain?!!?  Hell, I’m substantially older than 11 and I’m kinda thinking I’d like to have the ‘ol Playtendobox in my noggin.  The possibilities are pretty endless really. Getting past the kid inside me (read: me because I’m a big kid) loving the concept of having a Playtendobox in my brain, this is an excellent book that provides something for readers both older and younger on the sage scale.  Older folks will have a nostalgia pull and some very familiar feelings with some of the sequences and situations that arise in this issue.  Younger folks can empathize and certainly identify with Ella and the focus of the book.

There’s a fog about why exactly Ella and her much older and adulty brother are in the living situation they are in.  The two are shown on their own and with Ella being taken care of by her brother.  There interaction is genuine and flows very nicely. This work has its own voice due to the excellent character work with Ella. She is very much the high spirited free will driven being that kids are. That comes with positives and negatives as the last panel shows.

Parents and kiddos both will enjoy this. It has elements that readers of all ages can relate to as well as laugh at. There’s also substance that will grab at anyone that flips through the pages.


DARK AGE: LONG SHADOWS
Writing and Art by – Torey Nelson

The story of Dark Age is about an alien demigod named Kildiir, who works with an intergalactic empire to stop a space cult.  Upon detecting a strange energy signal from deep space, the Legion sends Kildiir and the elite squadron First Strike to investigate the source of the signal.

This is a high scope sci-fi fantasy opera in the making.  There’s no shortage of action and the mixing of magic into the sci-fi setting makes for a nice wrinkle in the story.  This thing is a graphic novel folks.  121 pages of story that bleeds right out of the intergalactic sagas you grew up with awaits you.  One of the truly well done aspects of Dark Age is the grounded and believable yet fitting of sci-fi lore characters.  While the plot deals with the space cult trying to cross over something from another dimension, the story itself is driven by the characters.  

As it progresses Dark Age’s quality increases.  Both the story and art reflect Nelson’s growth since the literal start of creating this tale.  It’s got serious tones and feels kind of like it would be one of those Saturday morning cartoons I loved growing up.  It even sparked a little bit of the “bad guys really kind of won” feeling that the Transformers Animated Movie gives me.  Even with that though the story is straight forward and only asks that you go along for the ride. You should as it’s the perfect example of the fun you can find if you just bother to look.


 MASHBONE & GRIFTY
Written by – Oscar Garza, Rolando Esquivel / Art by – Oscar Garza

You’ve heard of Blaxploitation but have you heard of Latinoxploitation? That’s pretty much what M&G is, in a positive way. Taking their real life experiences with the language and stereotypes the duo of Garza and Esquivel have created an legitimate laugh out loud slapstick book full of insane laughs. Being from South Texas I “get” and “understand” the stereotypes and jokes in almost seamless fashion. For some, it could be too over the top or simply miss the mark. Hopefully people will read through though as the book really is done really well.

Sure it’s an insane romp but the book does touch on real issues [one story deals with homelessness]. That’s where this book shines. In the three stories I’ve read there’s a crude humor laden mystery, over the top play on sports to get rent money, and horror-ish detective caper dealing with Santa. All of them are crafted with satirical genius and spun with the “xploitation” humor. It works because it is clear they’re paying homage to the cartoons, shows, and storytellers that influenced them while injecting the tropes and experiences of who they are and where they grew up.

The balance in M&G is hard to pull off. Get past the pre-conceived notion and read the book as it is intended. You’ll find true belly shaking laughs as the duo’s adventures bring all the zany goodness you expect from comedy comic books. Raise your eyebrow in pleasant surprise at the well crafted bone structure that holds it all up, and then be glad you got over yourself and digested it all.

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