Where Are They Now?!

Effigy #1 (2015)
Writer: Tim Seeley
Artist: Marley Zarcone
Colors: Ryan Hill
Letters: Jared K. Fletcher
Cover: W. Scott Forbes (Left), Andrew Robinson (Right)
Effigy is a brand new ongoing series that just came out this past week. I read a pretty hefty chunk of comics, but can't recall seeing a solicit for this, so when I saw it on the shelf (the left cover was the one I found) I had to pick it up. Plus, it's only $2.99, which is always a plus. 

The issue opens up showing scenes from a campy, colorful sci-fi cartoon called Star Cops (look-wise think Gem and the Holograms meets Space Ace). The show stars three child characters: Tanya Exnon, Alphabetamax, and the issues lead character, Bebe Soma. After a brief action scene from the television series we get brought to the present, the tiny town of Effigy Mound, where Chondra Jackson (the actress who played Bebe Soma) is now a cop. Through the less-than-classy townsfolk you can tell right off the bat that her past as a child actress has haunted her since the show concluded, and she was involved in a certain scandal which I won't reveal. Despite the hardships she is having, Chondra is written to be a very confident character who is rolling with the punches and working hard at being a police officer. After a brief but intimate introduction to this character and a world that seems believable and basically normal, the story flips 180 by giving a quick glimpse (one of which is quite graphic) at some peculiar characters that will be in future issues and a mystery directly related to Chondra's televised past.

Tim Seeley does an extraordinary job of giving away character details while still making you feel that there is so much to learn about the world that character inhabits. Though Chondra seems normal (minus the whole ex-celebrity thing), the people and situations presented in this issue make you believe that there is far more than meets the eye. Yet the interactions most of the characters have still manage to seem very natural. Though the physical/present world of the story is very intriguing, I hope to see more of the television show as well (which I'm sure I will). By starting with the clip of the show Seeley created a story that starts out bright and cheery but quickly descends into a dark and uneasy cliffhanger.

Marley Zarcone's art handles the extremes of reality and fiction very well in this story. With fun character, location and background designs (with thanks to Ryan Hill's colors of course) she creates the fun and innocent world of Space Cops that really feels like a Saturday morning TV show. She then manages to switch the tone completely after that, concentrating on the small town look and feel of Effigy Mound in terms of character and environment. As the issue progresses and the tone shifts even further, Zarcone keeps up expertly by making sure the reader takes heed of the characteristics that make some of these peculiar characters so uncomfortable, as well as bring some of the TV show look and feel back to the forefront.

For $2.99 you can get an issue that feels nostalgic at times, realistic in others, and uncomfortable with whatever is left. Not only that, you will find that the story will engage you further as charm turns to mystery. What I'm trying to say is: you deserve a cerebral treat that's good on the eyes, so go get yourself a copy of Seeley and Zarcone's Effigy.

Sifting for Gold #13

Let's try a new no mess system for Sifting for Gold with:

The True Story of Smokey Bear (1969)

What I Think is Happening on the Cover
Food is scarce in the forest and the half man half bear mutant must resort to eating his full blooded feral brethren to survive. When one tender morsel climbs a tree, the humanoid decides to cut it down to get to the creature. His brain is also half bear though, so he isn't super bright, and he keeps whacking a shovel against the tree in hopes it will knock it down. (Spoiler alert: it doesn't).

What is Actually Happening in the Book
A kind and wise eagle starts talking to the audience (or itself) and recants the origin story of good 'ol Smokey Bear. Once there was a bear chilling doing bear stuff in the woods. A human, who was also in the woods, left a campfire lit, didn't put out a cigarette, or flicked a lit match into some brush (damn senile eagle)... doesn't matter, the point is a fire started. A ton of animals got burnt to a crisp, and the firefighters took a long time to get to the blaze because they had to cut down trees to get there. When they did, they had to lie down and wait for the flames to pass because it circled them and was super intense. When the fire was gone the firefighters stood up and noticed that there was a baby bear still alive! So they took him out of the crispy woods, fixed him up, started calling him Smokey, and turned him into an anti-forest fire symbol. After that the bear really sold out took his title seriously, showing up on the radio (even though he couldn't talk) and on TV with a ranger hat, until eventually retiring to the Washington Zoo. He somehow escaped, threw on a pair of pants, and spent the rest of his life raising awareness and putting out forest fires. Heartwarming.

What the Book Looks Like
It looks fine! Nature shots, baby bears, and thick lines! The fires are vibrant and engulf the panels they are in and the animals look terrified. The humans have ok facial expressions, nondescript in groups but never lacking a smile when interacting with Smokey. It kind of looks like an old G.I. Joe comic... starring a bear.

What We Learned
Bears hate forest fires! So do deer and mountain lions (this book says so). No animal hates them as much as Smokey Bear though. If you like public service announcements, safety mascots, and origin stories than pick this up! If forest fires are more your thing than don't pick this up, because the fires lose.

Rodent Super Powers for All Ages

I've been on a bit of a YA/all-ages kick lately. Luckily, Marvel has put out a series that feeds that craving perfectly. I'm talking about the unfallible, the unsinkable, the unlikely--

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #1 (2015)
Marvel Comics
Writer: Ryan North
Art/Cover: Erica Henderson
Trading Card Art: Maris Wicks
Colors: Rico Renzi

Squirrel Girl debuted in the 1992 comic, Marvel Super-Heroes #8 and has since appeared as mostly a joke or parody character. She was a big part of the Great Lakes Avengers (especially in their mini) as well as the second volume of New Avengers, where she was performing the duties of a super powered nanny. Throughout all of her appearances, it is eluded that she has immense power and has taken down Galactus, Bi-Beast, Dr. Doom, and Thanos (though he swears it was a near perfect clone). She is also responsible for breaking Wolverine's heart at one point as well as many other curious acts. Squirrel Girl has mutant genes and her abilities include strong teeth, enhanced agility and strength, having a long and bushy squirrel tail, communication with squirrels, and lips that taste like hazelnut. Oh yeah, her sidekick is currently a squirrel named Tippy-Toe (who took the place of her deceased squirrel sidekick, Monkey Joe). Intrigued yet? Good! Let's discuss the issue.

Ryan North has most notably been the writer of the Adventure Time comic book series, so that should give you an idea of this book's tone. The story starts with Squirrel Girl kicking the snot out of some muggers while singing about her exploits to the tune of the Spider-man theme. After a quick dispatch she creates her secret identity of Doreen Green, who will begin attending college that very day. As she attempts to move into her dorm and out of the Avenger's attic, she is having a discussion with the curious Tippy-Toe, which of course gets the attention of the students around her. She's humorously bad at the whole secret identity thing. Anyway, once she drops her stuff off she discovers that she must face a classic Spider-Man villain who has appeared on the campus! Luckily she is prepared thanks to her Deadpool's Guide to Super Villains trading card collection! I'll leave the details of the fight and what happens next up to you guys, but that snippet should give you an idea of the fun in this issue. The book is filled with witty dialogue that will not fail to make the reader chuckle at least once, and under every page there is a quick commentary from Squirrel Girl. Forrrrr example, after she sings her theme song the commentary reads "You now have the Spider-man theme song stuck in your head for the rest of the issue. You're welcome." Funny stuff!

Squirrel Girl's personality and intent are so clear with every line of dialogue, and it shows that she is a ridiculous and fun character without hammering the point home too hard. One quality that is extremely important is how confident Squirrel Girl is, whether she is super heroing or being a normal person, she is always sure of what she is doing. This is most apparent as she develops her secret identity for the first time, and notes and appreciates how big her butt looks with her tail tucked into her pants, showing that she in not only confident, but also body positive. This would be a cool detail for a character to have in any book, but is especially important for kids to see in an all ages title. The message is clear and important.

Erica Henderson (to me, most notable for her work on Subatomic Party Girls) is no stranger to the YA/all-ages genre, and enhances the image of Squirrel Girl that North depicts. Squirrel Girl herself, as I'm sure you can tell by the photos I've included, is a curvaceous character (further portaying the body positivity) with 2 big bucked teeth and an enormous squirrel tail. The title character is silly, and while Squirrel Girl might not think so, all of the other characters in the story do, and they have humorous facial expressions and actions as they try to keep up with her and her secret identity. It is very clear that Henderson worked hard to make sure the characters/characterization are the clear focal point of this story, and teamed with North's dialogue and Rico Renzi's colors this is even further achieved. The action scenes are a constant reminder of Suirrel Girl's strength and fighting prowess. Also of note is Maris Wicks illustration for the Kraven trading card, I hope we see more of these in future issues.

When it comes down to it, this fine work that Henderson, North, and the rest of the creative team has concocted is a gleaming example of positivity, confidence, innocence and fun that many comics lack these days. With something for everyone, regardless of age, I would be hard pressed not to recommend it. My son saw it and now plays as the character constantly in Lego Marvel Superheroes. The first issue of this story came out a couple weeks ago at a cover price of $3.99. Do yourself a favor and check it out, if the "to be continued" at the end is any indication, the next issue is going to be a doozy!

It's Pronounced Catch-Em-All

Let's but a twist on some childhood obsessions with:

Gamma (2013)
Dark Horse Comics
Story: Ulises Farinas & Erick Freitas
Cover/Art: Ulises Farinas

This is a story that I never thought I would see and now that I have, I just want more. The issue was released as a one-shot that asks the question: In a Pokemon-esque world, what if the monsters were proving to be too detrimental for the planet? It answers that very question using wit, stunning imagery, and impressive story telling, all masterfully packed into one issue.

The story starts with people paying to punch the main character, Dusty Keztchemal (see article title), who has been branded a coward by pretty much everyone. Told through a series of flashbacks, you find Dusty was once a celebrated trainer of monsters who could be captured in half-red and half white cubes and would fight the monsters of other trainers. The more monsters there were, the more it was discovered that they were having a very negative effect on the Earth's biosphere and human population. Dusty dons a Power Ranger-style army suit (which is common for this world's army) and commands troops into battle to fight monster against monster. What happens next and why he is a coward, I will not reveal. Farinas and Freitas weave a tale showcasing the highs and lows of Dusty's life, including his speedy descent from hero to zero, and makes a truly love/hate relationship with the "protagonist".

The art is in your face, colorful, and busy... in all the right ways. Seriously, it's unlike anything I've ever seen in a comic book. Characters have faces that show clear intent, and the switch between the past and the present showcases how much Dusty has changed for the worst. The faces as well as the monsters also show a very clear light source and shade accordingly, a much appreciated touch. Each monster is unique in numerous ways. Farinas draws a variation of species, shapes, heights, and straight up peculiarities to make sure that it is clear that these creatures can be strange, fun or very dangerous. That being said, the monsters are all drawn in an art style that is consistent and relatable throughout the book, providing the reader to delve further into the story. Farinas uses commercial references a lot of people are familiar with (especially with folks from the mid to late 90s) which provide many of "Oh no way!" nostalgia moments. 

As a child I liked the video games this plays off of. I liked the world and the creatures. This is an interesting "what if" issue that puts an extreme twist on the concept and successfully engrosses the reader in an epic short story. Farinas and Freitas have made an incredible work of art that is well worth a glance. Then after that glance, take another one, because there is so much to take in that a second read will be beneficial and worth while. Although this is a one shot, I am remaining hopeful that one day this title may return. If you like pocket monsters and nostalgia, then do yourself a favor and check this out.

Sifting for Gold #12

There is someone on this planet... as close to a god as can be... a man shrouded in mystery... and he has a comic book! This is:

Prince and the Power Generation: Three Chains of Gold (1992)
Piranha Music

Looking at this cover, what do you see? I see Prince, with swagger for days, holding a microphone gun in the Chamber of Secrets. Look out though Prince! There is a poorly camouflaged woman with a sword gun (or perhaps a gun sword). By that look on Prince's face... she won't be a problem.

The king of Eridu, city of Erech, somewhere in the Middle East, is stepping down and wants to crown his daughter as ruler. To do so, she must wear three chains of gold. When his brother discovers this plan (it wasn't really a secret) he refuses to allow it and punches the king in the face, causing him to fall to his death (security must be awful there). Meanwhile Prince is in the middle of performing a concert with the New Power Generation (also in Eridu) when all of a sudden a police officer orders them to stop because their western music is forbidden. I'm not entirely sure why he waited till the middle of the concert, he must have been waiting on Purple Rain. Princess Mayte is in the audience and tells the cop it's cool, so the cop lets them continue to play. After the concert, the Princess gets Prince and takes him out on a date (with her bodyguard Raj in tow) which is cut short when she receives news her father has died. She runs to the castle, but first give Prince a golden necklace. The king's evil brother Tammuz realizes 3 golden necklaces to be king (one he took off the old kings corpse), and the Princess gave hers to  Prince, so he frames her for murder and goes a searchin'. Prince is mixing his album when an assassin sneaks up on him. Once he is dispatched Prince goes to make sure the Princess is okay, which she is clearly not. She states that they must get the third necklace from a tomb, so Prince calls the New Power Generation and they set out to find it.

Once the gang gets... somewhere else in the Middle East (via plane crash) they are rushed by fans. Not the Princess, no one cares about her. After a brief gunfight (not important) they get the hell outta Dodge on some camels. Prince and the Princess break into the perilous tomb and make their way to where the chain is. Who's waiting for them though?! Tammuz! He takes the chain off of the corpse it was on (he digs that sort of thing), which triggers a laser trap that bounces off Prince's necklace and right back into Tammuz's heart. The end is a little strange... once the good guys have the 3 necklaces, the Princess gives Prince the entire kingdom but then I think he gives it back. It's unclear.

Let's make this brief. The backgrounds sometimes have a few lines for definition or are just solid colors. The clouds are a lovely shade of purple because why not. Character-wise they have nice expressive faces, especially Prince who is always ready for business. The book does a great job of showing that Prince does, in fact, have chest hair. The Princess is drawn very well in most of her panels, as is Prince, who's outfits are always fierce. That's pretty much it. Not a whole lot in terms of shading or anything.

So if you want a book that is a mixture of Aladdin and... well I don't know what else, then check this out. The story is predictable, obviously, but it is fun to see Prince in a comic and the novelty is enjoyable. If you decide you like this story for some reason, I encourage you to check out some of Prince's other comic appearances by Piranha Music OR check out the movie version of this story for some quality VHS fun!

If I were to pick one panel to sum up this issue, it'd have to be:

Get Enrolled Now!

Normally, a book by one of the "big two" would be out of my jurisdiction, but Gotham City has a new school and it deserves to be recognized. That school is:

Gotham Academy (2014)
DC Comics
Writers: Becky Cloonan & Brenden Fletcher
Art: Karl Kerschl
Colors: Geyser, Dave McCaig, Msassyk, Serge LaPointe, & John Raush
Letters: Steve Wands

In this past year there have been a ton of Batman related titles put out that did an excellent job of opening up Gotham, my favorite of which has been Gotham Academy. This title details a historic and prestigious school in Gotham City. The reader soon discovers that although no one is making people laugh to death or using an umbrella as a gun, there is still a fair amount of crazy in the younger generation of Gothamites. The story centers around Olive Silverlock, a girl who is very secretive when it comes to her past and very curious when it comes to her present dwellings. Along with her good pal Maps Mizoguchi, Olive starts to discover secrets and answers regarding Gotham Academy.

The story opens and Olive is presented as a bit of a trouble maker and far less then popular. Immediately the reader gets introduced to the charming and youthful Maps, who appears to be Olive's only true friend, and is intent on discovering all of the secrets of the school and mapping out the vast campus. After introducing the main cast (which also includes Olive's ex, the class princess, the supportive teacher, and a couple other usual school characters) the story shifts into Olive and Maps first school exploration, an adventure that takes them to the creepy old chapel on the campus. This is the first of many travels on the school grounds. At this point each issue seems to shift into stand alone stories concentrating on one bizarre aspect of the school or the peculiar habits of some of the students. There are a few mysteries that continue throughout the issues that have come out so far, for example the rumor and clues that the school might be haunted, the curious case behind a diary that is found, and the secret behind Olive's past that involves Batman and who her mother was. 

Speaking of Batman, he is not in this book at all (so far) which makes the story even more unique. Sure, there is a cameo by Bruce Wayne and the Bat Signal shines in the sky, but for the most part that's it. Cloonan and Fletcher's writing shows each student has a different reaction to the ominous light. Olive sees it and feels disdain while other students see the light and get frightened of who might be out there. On the subject of the students, the creative team does an exceptional job of making each character an individual, and building on their personalities in each panel. Everyone has a distinct voice and mind set, each of which holds true in every issue. With an endlessly mysterious school, fun and (mostly) innocent characters, and a $2.99 price tag, this book is hard not to try.

Not to mention the art! Kerschl strongly adds to the feeling of individualism throughout the the cast. Though most of the students wear some variation of the school uniform, Kerschl adds at least one personal touch that makes every character stick out in your mind, whether it's a hair clip, glasses, or hair style (all unique in themselves thanks to the great colorists). The school's architecture adds to it's whimsy and uniqueness with the insane amount of details in the bricks and wooden walls. The buildings seem regal, old fashioned and full of history, all without being so gothic that they detract from the lightness of the characters. All of the colorists of this book deserve a ton of recognition, as they make Kerschl's environments pop even more, especially during scenes at night, which can be exceedingly difficult. As much as Kerschl adds character using those characteristics I mentioned above, the colorists also offer unique characterization using eye colors, skin tones, and make up treatments.

This series has 3 issues out so far, with a fourth coming out on 1/21. The team has consistently impressed and I'm sure will continue to captive the other readers and I through this coming of age/character study as time goes on. It is somewhat rare for an all ages story to have enough heart, mystery, and character dynamic to catch the eye of multiple generations of comic fans, espeically one that can can build on the already vast Gotham City mythos in a way that makes sense, so kudos and thanks to the Gotham Academy team! As always, thanks for reading!

The Good 'ol Days

Alright, this series is NOT scary. A little dark perhaps, but not scary. Baby steps. Let's take a look at an all new take on assassin stories with:

Lady Killer #1
Dark Horse Comics
Story: Joëlle Jones & Jamie S. Rich
Art/Cover: Joëlle Jones
Colors/Cover: Laura Allred
Letters: Crank!

What an incredible start to a [5 issue] mini series! It has been a while since I have found every aspect of an issue enjoyable, a feat Lady Killer achieves with ease! This story centers around a woman in the 50's (at least I assume that's the time frame at this point) named Josie, who is trying to escape the assassin game and have a normal life with her family, all of which are unaware of her previous employment. Before getting into the meat and potatoes, I would like to skip to the extras of the book. In the back there is an enjoyable preview for Hallow County, by Cullen Bunn and Tyler Cook which show cases some fun art and story. Before the preview, there is a letters column called Ask Josie, Advice from a Homemaker. In this column, readers ask questions about subjects ranging from social etiquette to getting blood stains off a carpet. Each letter has the character of Josie respond in a perfect way that makes the character seem real and even more period appropriate. The advice is also pretty funny.

The issue starts with Josie working a job to take out a woman that has way too many terriers. This is a great introduction to the character and displays her resourcefulness and skill, as well as giving a hint at what action sequences and violence will look like in this series, and it looks good! The story then jumps to some time in the future and showcases Josie's homemaker lifestyle of childcare, cooking, etc. More or less (probably less) the household reproduces the idea of a nuclear family. The introduction is quick and seamless and leads right into Josie's past getting brought to the present. For more you will have to read the book, it is an enjoyable welcome for a new and unique character that you can't afford NOT to pick up. (double negatives are hard)

The art is PHENOMENAL! Jones has the characters, cars, and environments nailed down! Especially for the time period. The outfit design is really what stands out, with all of the characters wearing what we have all seen in photos or movies (or perhaps in the actual 50's, I don't know who reads this blog). The characters themselves have very expressive faces that are informative and realistic while their physical action are familiar to the reader (for the most part) and relatable (again, for the most part). There is an interesting artistic choice as Jones adds black ink spots in random areas on the pages. Early in the story blood is shown and the blood is colored moreso black than red, I wonder if this choice is playing off of that somehow. Also of note are Allred's color choices. She has a way of making the backgrounds believable to the world while putting the main cast in bright colors to continuously attract the eye. When Josie's other lifestyle is portrayed in the issue, the color palette darkens, This provides an intense contrast between her light, happy homelife and the dark nature of the tasks assigned to her.

This first issue is a real slam dunk! The characters get enough development to understand them while the reader gets the feeling they will learn more and more as the story progresses. All of the art works with the story to form a cohesive period piece that anyone will be able to enjoy. Lady Killer #1 came out at a $3.50 price point on the 7th so it should still be very accessible. This series is an incredible start for comics in the new year and especially for Dark Horse Comics.

Sifting for Gold #11

Everyone loves clowns! Seriously, I can't think of a single person who doesn't like them! Since I like to cater to the masses, here's:

Bill the Clown: Death & Clown White #1 (1993)
Slave Labor Graphics

Aright so on that there cover we got us a yellow toothed smoking clown with hairy arms playing that American past time, Chainsaw-Cleaver-Mace Juggling. He is clearly not doing well, as bits of his suit and hair keep getting cut off, but you know what? He looks happy, and that's what's important.

Crime is rampant in America and families are scared! Luckily, Bill the clown is on the case with his defensive training program, Hooked on Violence. After Bill's advertisement for that program, the story begins to detail his crappy, gin soaked life by talking about his rundown apartment and these dummies called the Hare Krishnas who hang around outside the airport and dance until someone pays them to stop. Bill, being a clown, figures he would be more entertaining then those chumps so starts dancing on the street (and juggling of course). Well, the Krishnas can't have that, and go to confront him, only to be beaten up. They decide Bill is too dangerous and realize they must take him out, which they try and fail at. The next day Bill goes back to his dance spot, only to find the Hare Krishnas dancing there, IN clown make up! Preposterous! Bill steals their Winnebago and swears revenge. TO BE CONTINUED (but not by me)

Story 2 has Bill walking through the city, just being a clown, when he happens across a store window that showcases Bill the Clown: Unauthorized Biography (in comic book form). He is outraged and decides to find out who is responsible, so he steals a cab and blows up a good chunk of the city on his way to the Revolting Comics office building. Mr. Hilter (who looks like a certain dictator) is running the company and explains to Bill that he is not in the wrong and can publish the biography because it is his First Amendment right. Bill politely explains that he will retaliate because of his Second Amendment right, "The right to bear extremely heavy arms". He blows up the building, and goes on his way. THE END?

This book, as I'm sure you can see, is entirely in black and white, which is good and bad in this case. Good because the artists did some really neat stuff with face shading and bad because each panel is very populated with detail and action, and it gets a little hard to concentrate (particularly in the second story). That being said the art really isn't bad. The first story uses the backgrounds to show how terrible the area really is and the human figures work, I just have a couple issues with some of the mouths. The second story uses stipling in great ways and the facial characteristics are expressive. The second story also has some great set dressing, my favorite of which being a poster for a sinister Flinstone's comic called Dark Fred, however it suffers from that overpopulation I was discussing earlier.

All in all, not the worst issue. It is an introduction to a character who is the love child of The Mask, The Joker, and Evil Ernie. While beating up street performers and comic book execs isn't the best story in the world, it was more or less a fun (albeit unnecessary) issue with some interesting visuals. Not fun enough I guess, because there were verrrry few issues. Looks like this clown never got to his... punch line. YEEEEEEEEEEAH! (That's a CSI joke).

If I were to pick one panel to sum up this issue, it'd have to be:

My Favorites of 2014

I've never done anything like this... but apparently end of December/beginning of January is the time for lists. So without further ado, here is the very first Favorites of 20XX (which is also the year Megaman X takes place) list for Music City Comics!

Favorite Series:

This year, Marvel Comics started a new volume of Captain Marvel (the second volume of Carol Danvers's adventures as the Captain) that was expertly written by Kelly Sue DeConnick. Each issue contains laughs and heart and strong female characters that aren't limited to just the title character. There are also occasional guest appearances from other Marvel Comics characters which all make sense in the situations and aren't just thrown in for sales, including one of my favorite ol' X-men universe characters, Lila Cheney. DeConnick's story has been extremely enjoyable and I'm sure will continue to be, but what makes the series even better is knowing the community it spawned. The two volumes of the series created the Carol Corps, a group of people who started out as just fans of the characters but developed into a team that supports each other very admirably. A series that can create friendship, strong female characters, humor, and great sci-fi stories was bound to get a commendation. For another killer Kelly Sue DeConnick read, check out her new Image book, Bitch Planet.

Favorite On-Going Trade:

This year, Image released the first volume of an incredible journey (that started in 2013) known as Sex Criminals. The story is written by Matt Fraction with art by Chip Zdarsky and it is brilliant. This trade is riddled with laughs, character development (sometimes for the worst), and people who can stop time by doing it. You know... it. You get to see these characters get used to their abilities and use them in funny but very honest ways. Fraction and Zdarsky are the perfect team and work completely in sync with one another, which results in a totally cohesive story. The character models look very similar to many people and will make you think "Oh hey, I know someone who looks like that" which brings you to a whole new level of humor. As the volume progresses, some mysterious characters present themselves, creating an even more pressing need to read more. At $9.99, there is no reason not to get this book, especially if you like fun. There are some extras included in the back, most hilarious of which being the list of sex positions that the team made up for this series. There is also a satirical companion book titled Just the Tips, which consists of sex advice, erotic stories (my favorite of which has a vampire), and some useful drawings. This series has received a huge fanbase in a short amount of time and it is easy to see why. The second trade gets released this March for $14.99.

Favorite One-Shot Trade:

This is going to be short, because once again, I will podcast about this one day (by the way, the first episode is almost done). Naja is about the worlds #3 assassin who is intense, emotionless, and [for the most part] cannot feel pain. She finds herself being hunted by some of the other assassins, and must go on the offensive to figure out why. The bodies begin to pile up as she slowly solves this dangerous mystery. Bengal has a very distinct style, with very smooth backgrounds and character details and confidently drawn human figures. It is an interesting read in a gorgeous oversized hardcover volume (it even has one of those fabric built in bookmarks). The trade is large, beautiful, and only $29.99. Give it a read!

Favorite First Issue:

Another Image series that started this year, Wytches (written by Scott Snyder with art by Jock), is an incredible addition to anyone's subscription list. The first issue of this series is absolutely terrifying and that is because Snyder and Jock write/draw about the unexplained. Characters starting in the first few pages find themselves in impossible, claustrophobic situations that set the tone for the rest of the issue. Jock's uneven lines create an uncertainty of what is lying in the shadows while Snyder crafts a backstory that creates more questions and a greater feeling of uneasiness. In the back of the issue there is a true story of Snyder's youth that is pretty Blair Witch esque and successfully adds to the story. The series comes out monthly (the fourth issue coming out this month) and is only $2.99. The first issue was just reprinted as an Image Firsts issue, available for $1.00.

Most Daring Publisher:

Since the beginning I have loved the books that Black Mask Studios has put out and this year they REALLY showed off the quality they will be producing. With incredible titles such as Last Born, Godkiller, Pirouette (there's a review I wrote around here somewhere), Critical Hit and more, the publishing company continues to impress. Some of the characteristics that these series include are also controversial, and written masterfully by the fledgling publisher. The amount of talent that has been collected in the short time the company has been around is admirable and it is hard for me to imagine that Black Mask Studios isn't going to be a big deal. If you haven't picked up a title from them yet, then give it a shot, you will not be disappointed.

Favorite (possibly most ridiculous) Moment:

Free Comic Book Day 2014 produced many fun stories, including G.I. Joe vs. Transformers #0. In this issue, surprise, the Joes fight Cobra Commander. In a huge firefight Snake Eyes lands on Cobra Commander's plane, and stabs him in the gut WHILE getting shot in the face. It doesn't make sense and I don't quite get it... but it was a pretty epic moment. Don't worry, Snake Eyes lives.

2014 was an EXCELLENT year for comics and I cannot wait to see what 2015 has in store!