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.


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:

Dan Buksa (HOWL)
Andy Michael (sLAsherMOTEL6VE)
J Paul Schiek 
Sachi Ediriweera (LIONBORNGALLUS)

Cover by Skylar Patridge 

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)


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.

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



Matthew Rucker – @MonumentousMatt

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


Do You Believe In An Afterlife


Told in zine format, Do You Believe in an Afterlife? is a graphic short story of comics and prose about two lovers navigating a war they can’t win, and a world on the brink of apocalypse.

Set in an alternate reality where alien machines have run rampant on earth, two soldiers – Arid, an idealistic recruit, and Claire, an introverted mechanic – fall in love. But the rose-tinted thrills of romance soon fade when the machines attack, leaving nothing but calamity in their wake.

As the world they once knew crumbles around them, Do You Believe in an Afterlife? rises to tell an emotionally charged romance that tests the notion of forever against the end of the world.

TW: Graphic Violence, mild NSFW
Length: 40 pages.

Fell Hound is a queer, Asian-Canadian cartoonist from the Great White North, most notable for her use of bold colors and mood lighting. Do You Believe in an Afterlife? is
considered her debut self-published work.

Love and the Apocalypse, pretty much the eternal partnership to summarize the polar opposites of the human psyche. Take your pick. Usually it’s either eternal hope or eternal despair that drives our actions. Sure we’re not always fully aware of what’s in control of our wheel but the motifs almost always fall into line with one of the two. Everything is bright and fluffy or it’s dark and course. Fell Hound uses the two against and with each other to create a wonderful piece of art.

Right out of the gate we’re introduced to the two individuals that will be the main characters in the tale. As this is a hybrid format Fell is able to use the structural elements to blend a type of character card into an intro page that gives us the basic details of our two mains. Throughout Part I of the story we’re quickly swept through the coming together of Claire and Arid. While done at a swift pace in terms of the relationship, the initial section serves as more than just their drawing close. The art and action depicted serve to give us a much fuller sense of who they are and how they’re drawn to each other. It also helps set the world they live in and what it is they’re facing. Within this section there are a couple of instances of negative space/silhouette art that leaps off the page in wonderful fashion. As the first portion transitions more to the prose story telling we see Fell’s writing ability truly shine. The depth of who the characters are, their hopes and worries about what may come are laid out for the reader. Along with her excellent writing Fell shows that she has also has an excellent ability to choose how to convey the prose through her imagery.

The structural approach really shines in the second part of the story. The comic book first, prose second really allows for the feel of the threat to come across. Right out of the gate we’re in trouble. A full on assault on life greets the reader literally. The machines threatening human life arrive in droves and all but wipe out everything. In this battle and aftermath the impending doom is cast over our couple. More of their personality and beliefs come through as the inevitable choice of how, or whether to at all, confront the future faces them. All encompassing in scale, the threat dares to wipe out all that is. Regardless of personal belief and the differences that sit within them there is a common thread intertwined in Claire and Arid. Despite what seems to be unstoppable in its pursuit of them the two arrive together on solid footing in all of the destruction.

The final segment is a very short but distinct tying of of a bow around the whole package. It is imagery with splash of text in a newspaper headline. Nothing need be said. What we see is the fully tied and entrenched couple heading forward on their own volition. Reality of the world be damned they drive forward doing what they must while doing what they can. Completing each other both Claire and Arid merge their hopes, fears, and beliefs into a life that shines a light refusing to succumb to the ever growing darkness.


AWBW – Dead Legends/Mezo #1

A Wave Blue World has been making a name for itself by way of graphic novels and their highly popular anthologies (Dead Beats, All We Ever Wanted, This Nightmare Kills Fascists, Broken Frontier). With the release of Dead Legends and Mezo they’ve entered some new territory as a publisher. Released with a “premier” 1st issue comic book and then followed by the full story in trade form, the two newest titles from AWBW sees the company branching out into what more people would call a traditional comic book approach.

Dead Legends

Written by James Maddox, with art by Gavin Smith, and letters by Ryan Ferrier the 80s kung-fu flick of a comic comes straight at you. Some parts Kill Bill and some parts Enter the Dragon, the action kicks off early and doesn’t ever really let up. It’s the best part of an 80’s action flick and uses the Kung Fu theme to deliver a ramped up story of revenge. As with real life the characters in Dead Legends are drawn to those like them. Without knowing much other than perhaps a reputation cliques are formed and battle lines are drawn. Other than the obvious revenge motif the intentions of the combatants in the tournament are hinted but held close to chest for the unfolding of the whole story. The read is quick but that’s not to say empty or missing something. The point of this book is simple. Revenge, flat out. By using the tropes of the 80s action flick and the Kung Fu genre the quickness of the read and the A to B point of the story doesn’t fall flat or leave you thinking there’s nothing there. Rather, the approach makes the book come off as if you’re watching the first part of one of those 80s jams. While a serious story on the whole there are bits of humor that help break the pages and keep the seriousness from being an overbearing weight for the reader to lift.

The art and lettering lend to this feel. The aesthetic of the book is perfect of what it is conveying. It’s action full on and the lines and effects push that off the page and into your face. The use of red especially sets things off and seems to be drawing a connecting line through the different threads we’re presented in this first issue. It also ties the literal action portrayed to the story being told. Everything about the book visually enhances the point blank tone of the book.

This is an absolutely solid introduction to the series. It hooked me and had me wanting to pick up the trade upon release (which I did).


Written by Tyler Chin-Tanner, with art by Josh Zingerman, colors by Doug Garbark, and lettered by Thomas Mauer this Mesoamerican inspired offering brings the promise of a grand new mythology to explore. Upon picking up the book it is beyond clear that the people, lands, and mythology of Mezo are drawn from the rich history of the Myan, Incan, and similar civilizations. In Mezo and empire is on the rise and the tribes of the land are endangered by it’s growth. Their safety, way of life, and the peace that runs through the lands are all threatened by the Emperor and God driving the expansion. Familiar tropes are blended with a scarcely used setting to create a wholly new take on the fight against what appears to be emotionless power. While the rest of the series will certainly explore it, the religious and over reliance of divine will that these types of cultures held is on display. While it introduces quite a bit this first issue isn’t crowded and gets enough across to effectively introduce all that it needs to in order to keep you reading. Seeds are planted that leave tabs of exploration open for the characters that are hard line introduced in terms of their place in the struggle. While painted as black and white it is clear that there’s grey within more than one of the main players in this saga.

The book is beautiful. Having the burden of presenting an entire world and mythology isn’t easy. Everything about the book looks and feels grand in stature. The expanding empire is both beautiful and imposing. The tribe is appropriately barbaric in look but clearly more so in culture. Each side of the struggle has a distinct look and the colors just explode the visuals off the page. It all presents as an epic presentation.

I loved this intro into an all new fantasy realm. An absolutely beautiful book that warrants further reading on the art alone, Mezo’s narrative promises plenty to keep you intrigued.