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.

What’s Kickin – July 2019 Edition

*Time for another round up of projects being Kickstarted that we here at the Driving Creators Network feel you should check out! Some we’re backing but unfortunately we can’t back every project we dig. We still want to highlight and get the word out at the least!*

Ending in 14 Days or Less

Rise of the GoatmanCloses funding July 24th 2019 1:00 PM EDT
Afterlight Comics has another horror book book out there. Rise of the Goatman from Joseph Oliveira, Franccesco Iaquinta, and Adrian Garcia is a 29 page one-shot. A family retreat to a cabin in the woods changes dramatically when the daughter finds a diary from the previous owner that reveals the truth about the cabin. This looks to continue the strong line of horror comics from Afterlight (Wendigo Woood, Ghost Island, Stay Awake).

Art card print and poster rewards available.


Warcorns: Combat Unicorns for HireCloses funding July 26th 2019 11:52 AM EDT
Source Point Press is bringing this fabulously crazy tale from Garrett Gunn, Kevin Stokes, Jeremy Clark, Nicolas Touris, and Hde. This is an entirely new series, but the debut here is a direct tie to the Franklin and Ghost series (Garrett Gunn). Set between VOL 1 and 2 of F&G, Warcorns is a story about this elite Unicorn team being dispatched to bring in Franklin and Ghost dead or alive.

Chromium variant cover, challenge coin stretch goal, and Variant Franklin and Ghost TPBs available!


Facets: Advent Comics 10th AnniversaryCloses funding July 26th 2019 7:14 PM EDT
Advent Comics is celebrating its tenth anniversary in grand style. The 100 page graphic novel sees two cosmic beings discussing the fate of this universe. Depending upon how the events unfold on Earth, the Universe’s fate will go accordingly.  The Advent Comics Heroes and Villains are featured as they unknowingly play their role in a cosmic game of chance that can destroy the cosmos itself. There’s over 50 creators involved so listing them would be insane. The names do include Andy Smith, Bart Sears, Rich Buckler, and Allan Goldman.

Bevy of rewards offering up the entirety of the Advent Universe in addition to the 100 page 10th anniversary graphic novel. Hardcover reward tier available.


BeastlandsCloses funding July 26th 2019 8:00 PM EDT
Curtis Clow, Jo Mi-Gyeong, and Toben Racicot are back with their action adventure story set in a beautiful medieval fantasy world where some people have companion beasts known as Keepers. The exploration into what Mac’s (the main character) father was searching for cnotinues but now here’s a tyrant king that is looking to outlaw the Keepers This is for Issue #2 as #1 was successfully funded, and we can personally verify that the book is great.

Collector’s edition foil stamped covers. Variant and virgin covers for issue 2 available.


Wretches VOL 1Closes funding July 27th 2019 9:00 PM EDT
A 150+ page sci-fi graphic novel about family and the lengths we’ll go to save the ones we love from James E. Roche, Salo Farias, Chunlin Zhao, and Chas! Pangburn. On the rough streets of an alien planet, far from the one they’d called home, Shea and Sean were forced to grow up with nothing but each other. Forever outrunning the horrors of their past, they survive the only way they know how: by hunting and killing robots for profit! Brother and sister have to fight against all odds to be reunited in an epic set to the tones of Blade Runner, 5th Element, and Battlestar Galactica.

Original art and commissions. Charity tier with “4th Monkey Anthology” pdf that benefits efforts at the Ronald McDonald House in Long Branch, NJ.


Gorilla My Dreams: Gorilla Tails – Closes funding August 1st 2019 8:00 AM EDT
Ahmed Rafaat, Big Tim Stiles, S. Greenleaf, and Nathan Kelly bring and exploration of Struggle-Town and its residents. Spotlights shine on KNOCKAROUND-GUY as well as some of the other characters who cross paths with him; The cops, the crooks, even wannabe superheroes. Sure there’s Struggle-Town’s famous masked defender, but there are others who help keep the streets safe.

All stretch goals add to the stories and pin ups. Variant and blank covers & t-shirts available.


More Than Two Weeks Left

Acceptable LossesCloses funding August 3rd 2019 3:00 AM EDT
From Joe Glass, Danny Flores, Moose Baumann, and Michael Stock comes a self-contained 32 page comic detailing the last official mission of the USA’s sole superhuman military operative, the US Eagle. It’s some parts superhero, some parts revenge fantasy, and focuses on the grim action and cycle of violence in the war on terror and those fighting it on both sides.

Focus on digital copies but you’ll find some print TPB reward tiers for Joe’s THE PRIDE VOL 1. There’s also some great sketch rewards as well.


Everglade AngelsCloses funding August 11th 2019 7:00 PM EDT
From Scott Lobdell, Blake Northcott, and Roc Upchurch a tale of a girl’s softball team taking a shortcut through the Florida Everglades that sees them end up in a trap set by a murderous cult. They’d hope to have one last blow off before college and their inevitable parting of ways. Instead they’re caught smack dab in middle of murder and mystery. Facing unspeakable evil emerging from the darkness these girls are ready to fight back.

T-shirt and original art rewards. Buy one get one 50% option available.


The GameCloses funding August 14th 2019 12:05 PM EDT
Charlie Stickney, Conor Hughes, and Triona Farrell beg the question “So just what is The Game?” Well, it’s a hell of a question. The team describes it as Quantum Leap, if Sam happened to jump into the body of The Highlander and then got dragged into a sexy noir thriller. This is the team that has brought us White Ash so I’ve no doubt about the pitch.

Something is going on and it has been going on for centuries. An epic game has been and still is being played. By whom? For whom? Purpose? Yeah, all of that is shrouded in mystery. You can go to the campaign and read the first 10 pages of the story and get hooked.

Original art, dice, and SDCC exclusive ashcan rewards. Chance to get White Ash VOL 1 HC available.


Metalshark Bro: Isle of Misfit BrosCloses funding August 15 2019 11:00 AM EDT
The Bro is back thanks to Bob Frantz, Kevin Cuffe, Walter Ostlie, and Chas! Pangburn. The raunchy ride of dudes, bros, and anthrapamorphic folks carries on thanks to MSB whacking Beelz! Lots of weird ass demon creatures want revenge on MSB which means there’s oodles and oodles of gory deaths ahead! It’s an action filled, toilet humor laden comic that is just fun as hell. How could it not be with super pissed dude-bros that admired a douchebag demon dude gunning for revenge against our favorite bro?

Catch up tiers, enamel pins, and t-shirts. Kickstarter exclusive art book available.

Paladins #1

Zillia 1: Awakened by Destiny
Story – James Kinesely
Art – House of Imagi
Self Published

Lately there’s been what I’d call a NEW surge in Anime/Manga love as opposed to a resurgence in the genre.  I think the clear identity within mainstream visual storytelling mediums is what has really happened in all honesty.  I’m hitting the crest of the age hill and I can remember growing up and reading/watching what are now classic and seminal Anime/Manga pieces.  Paladins is a book that is very clearly inspired by many of these books and shows.  Even the black and white interior draws from the very identifiable stylistic choices of the genres.  While it does borrow, Paladins creates a new entry all its own.

As the first in a series (and a whopper too, 80 pages), Awakened by Destiny has plenty of work to do in order to get things going.  We know nothing about anything and for me, the choice of housing our main characters in high school was smart.  There’s already built in understanding, placement, and even some attachment as the overwhelming majority of readers can already relate on one level at minimum.  The book also does a very good job of building upon that by also showing us glimpses of the characters as children.  This helps with engaging these characters as well as getting a sense of their interactions and feelings for one another.  There is history between them already and it was a smart choice to allow that to help the readers out.  

One of the driving factors in the book is a structural element of the writing.  There are hints and nuggets dropped that pay off after you’ve continued to turn the page.  Of course, the narrative itself does this as well.  Who the heck are the actual Paladins?  After our main duo have become two of the ten the search is on.  Is it possible they already know one of the others?  The evil the face comes from a world that is much like ours but is powerful to the point that the brothers will need the help of the others.  The villains though, they feel like more than just your run of the mill baddies set up for our good guys to overcome.  Especially in this style it is very refreshing to be given full on characters across the board.  The Anime/Manga arena is rife with generic bad/evil cardboard cutouts that pose threats.  There is substance to the villains here.

Opposed to the common dark themes of the works that have come before it, Paladins appears to be a much more light filled universe overall.  The world itself has a an air of liveliness and all around hopeful nature but that doesn’t distract from the mysterious nature of the evil that is facing the new Paladins.  This book has done a good job of doing some of the hardest part of world building.  It’s both given and hinted at larger elements that will be forthcoming as this tale unfolds.  There’s got to be a hook (and we’ve got it in the form of both who the other Paladins are, and the full reveal of the evil they face) to continue to drive forward.  We’ve got them and they work.  Neither the action nor the character developing in this first entry overshadowed the other.  There was enough of both to properly move things towards the ultimate journey but also make me want to go along for the ride.  Add to that that we’ve got more to uncover about everything (the naming of the Paladins certainly has more to it, for example).

All in all this is an enjoyable entry into a new world and story for the genre.  It differentiates itself enough to warrant further exploration as the next chapters come out.    

AVAILABLE NOW ON ComixCentral

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John The Swamp Dude: Who Killed Mobie Graye?

Story and Art by Josh Shockley with Letters and Edits by James Dufendach.

PLB Comics (based in Maryland) is bringing fan favorite character John the Swamp Dude out of the pages of their Halloween Specials into his own 48 page black and white one shot comic! Along with his best friend Zhub Zhub, JTSD is on the tail of the murderer of their mentor Mobie Graye. If you’re new to these characters the PLB crew has included a link to the first three parts of the JTSD saga FOR FREE on the front inside cover of this issue (and there’s a swanky sketch cover available too)!

***Disclaimer – I read this one-shot on its own without the context of JTSD in the Halloween Specials***

Non-Spoiler review:

The book gets right to the gory details and horrific manner in which Mobie Graye has been murdered.  The described scene ends with the knowledge that his head was jammed on fence post.  That’s the first full on caption in the book.  The book was prefaced as having graphic violence, strong language, and being intended for mature audiences.  Kicking off the book with narration detailing a grisly murder and ending it with a shot of the main character crucified while said decapitated head on a stick is in the foreground of the shot certainly sets an adult tone.  It’s actually a nice juxtaposition that’s created between the content and the art displaying it.    

There’s a quick change of pace as, in a very comic book moment of luck, Zhub happens to be fishing in The Swamp of the Dead where JTSD had been strung up on the cross.  Having pulled himself off the cross JTSD quickly found himself face to face with another threat in the dregs of the swamp water.  Managing to get away he still needed some help.  On cue, the buddy enters the scene and snags him with the hook on the end of pole.  Pulling him out of the swamp we run into what, to me, felt like some forced lines from Zhub (this could  be his character though as this is my first instance with him) that kind of pull away from the first few pages of set up.  It is only a page but does its own job of setting up Zhub a bit.  The book quickly moves to some exposition on Mobie Graye and the who, what, and why of this character’s importance to JTSD.  In one page the book does a very good job of creating substance for Graye while also attaching him to our main character.  Excellent page all around too as the narration overlays panels that have our murderer mirroring the description of Graye himself.  After being helped and having his wounds treated JTSD and his best bud get back on the case. However, the funeral pyre for Mobie raises some questions.  With an active investigation into the murder going on, even with the best of intentions why would one act so quickly to get rid of evidence?  A curious case indeed as our would be heroes have trekked in search of a friend to try and decipher strange symbols found at the crime scene.  While they find some help in the form of their drunken old friend sitting outside of a bar, the answers only beg more questions.    

I will leave the tale here as the rest of the story involves some twists and turns with the reveal of our murderer.  There’s more history to those involved that is given and the bigger picture surrounding JTSD is given even more color.  Overall I enjoyed the story.  I didn’t NEED the parts of JTSD’s story that came before in order to take this one-shot for what it is though it is clear that they would be helpful.  There’s enough done to know and feel the relationship of the characters and the world they’re in.  For me it does seem as though there’s more of this world planned and hopefully PLB will be able to do just that, explore this world more.  There are some instances where panels jump, sequences could have used just a little stretching to capture the full intent, and continuity skips (like say blood from wounds not being in a panel or two but dripping quite clearly in others).  None of this takes away from the book so much that I didn’t get out of it, a nice little tale from a character that has clearly been developed much more off page.  I think though, that is the biggest draw back of the book.  There are several occasions where past places, events, people are alluded too/mentioned that you either have to have past experience with the characters OR it’s part of the ‘there must be much more planned for this’ territory.

Take a look for yourself folks.  You can follow PLBCOMICS on Twitter or head on over to the store and pick up the book for yourself at plbcomics.com

Thank you to Josh Shockley for the chance to check this book out!

Matt Garvey Double Feature

Image result for prey for us #1 matt garvey

Matt Garvey is back at it folks!  We’ve got a GARVEY DOUBLE FEATURE this time around with Prey For Us #1 and Untitled Generic Space Comedy #1!

We’ll start with Prey For Us.  This is conglomeration of sci-fi rolled into a very nice looking package (thanks to J Francis Totti on the visuals).  As we jump right into things it is clear that our situation is dire.  Everything is wrong and there’s no knowledge of why.  What we do know is that we’re waking up in a stasis pod that’s crash landed on an unknown planet.  Our man character is separated from everyone (or anyone else that has survived) as well as the ship.  Thankfully there are locators and both a second stasis pod and the ship are on the planet as well.  We’ve just got to get there.  With little gear to make the trek, we’re off on a strange planet looking for other survivors and answers.

It is a quick driving narrative that gets us from the crashed stasis pod to the second pod and then on towards the ship.  There is a very clear danger presented during our journey.  Something is out there and it is smart.  Without diving into deep exposition or flashbacking a backstory and set up, our story is given enough meat to make us care about the bones (such as the personal interest in finding out what’s happened for our main character).  We don’t need too much as the setting and situation drive the initial hook that pulls into the true issue at play.  The lack of narrative and reliance on visual storytelling works wonderfully.  Realization playing out over panels and pages that allows the reader to fill the void of narration is almost always more powerful than being fed the feelings.  We’ve got that here.  Other than some inner dialogue from our main character it is the panels doing the telling.  There’s bullet point steps (talking with onboard computer) that do some filling in but mostly it is a “here it is, let your mind wander” approach.

The narrative take does well with the palette chosen for this book.  It is a very bright draw of blue and green that very loudly screams of how alien this planet (and situation) are.  The foreboding mood is elevated with the unnatural look and feel of everything.  By the time we make it to the ship and we’re given the “oh shit” moment of the book we’ve become beyond uneasy with where we are.  That’s the point here.  Prey for Us #1 is a nod to the sci-horror stories we love because they use US to help tell their story.  With the build and impression you form before being given the last bit of information, we’ve got an excellent first issue!

+++++

Untitled Generic Space Comedy, issue #1, cover, self-published, Garvey/McFarlane, cover by Rob Guillory

Our second book, Untitled Generic Space Comedy, is a foray into different territory for Matt.  With UGSC we get a comedic romp that is all sorts of inspired and homage paying to pop culture itself.  To borrow a phrase from pro wrestling, this is a SMARKY book (in the good way).  It knows exactly what it is and loves being so.  It doesn’t apologize for being off the cuff AND on the nose with what it borrows and what it alludes to.  For that alone it is worth the read.  Fortunately for us  Matt can do comedy as well as he does his other books.

For me the book works because, at its heart, it is a relatable human tale.  Your everyman (Jim) is just tired and fed up of simply, being.  Even with the backdrop of being human in a galaxy full of sci-fi fantasticism we’ve just got two dudes wanting more and being bored of the status quo.  This is where Matt’s point blank take on telling his stories shines.  Yeah, there’s an entire universe that needs at least some framework here but he doesn’t dawdle with exposition dumping and long arching backfilling of story.  Nope, the point is that these dudes are space truckers, this takes place in a sci-fi set up, and the boredom of the bummy bro duo is what’s going to set us off to adventure.  There you have it and that’s all you need to appreciate the plight of these two.

The sci-fi backdrop allows Garvey to pull from a huge swath of references and jokes.  He does so with ease and manages to make the comedy work seamlessly.  Nothing seems forced nor does it come across as pandering to the reader.  It works because of how well he’s written Jim.  He’s the main vehicle for both aspects of the book (the actual story as well as the comedy).  Great choice as he’s put forth as this lovable not quite loser type of guy.  So much of him relates and resonates it almost works to well.  Added to the excellent portrayal of the “guy you knew growing up that made all the wrong choices but you loved anyway” are John McFarlane’s art and Allison Hu’s colors.  They’ve combined for the perfect look here.  It isn’t overly cartoony but absolutely lends to the comedic tones of the book.  The palettes go hand in hand with the “ugh” feeling from Jim but also have a vibrancy that you’d expect from a setting that includes all sorts of alien beings and fare.  The action plays out very well visually too.

In typical Garvey fashion this book ends with a perfect execution of making you want more.  Jim’s “ho-hum” looks to be getting revved up as the two are set for quite the departure from their norm.  I’ll be along for the second installment of this one.


Do yourself a favor and : Click to head over to Matt’s shop and get the goodies yourself!