The Vigilante Returns!

The Black Hood #1

Dark Circle Comics


Writer: Duane Swierczynski
Art: Michael Gaydos
Letters: Rachel Deering
Colors: Kelly Fitzpatrick
Above Cover: Francesco Frankavilla

So Much History!
The Black Hood has been around a pretty long time! I'm talking Golden Age long time! Originally published by the company what would become Archie Comics, The Black Hood was created in the 40's and throughout time has faded in and out of the comic book scene, going through various publishers in the process (including DC Comics and various Archie imprints). His most recent appearance before this book was in the DC Comics' Mighty Crusaders line of comics, which featured a number of new, unique, and resurrected (publication wise, not life wise) heroes. Well, The Black Hood has since returned home to Archie Comics, and is the first to debut the Dark Circle Comics imprint. He will be preceeded by the Fox and the Shield in the coming months.


Duane Swierczynski writes this first issue, which is a perfect fit based off of his expert depictions of some of Marvel's street vigilantes/heroes such as Moon Knight, The Punisher, and Iron Fist. Michael Gaydos has a style that fits Swierczynski's writing perfectly, providing necessary gritty atmospheres as seen in his work on Marvel Comics' Alias, DC Comics' Manhunter and the obscure Virgin Comics' title Snake Woman: Tale of the Snake Charmer.


What Happens In It?
Gregory Hettinger is a cop who sees what he thinks is a small gang related brawl near an elementary school. With the protection of the kids on his mind, he steps in to break up the fight (which is between three regularly dressed individuals, and a man in a black hood). While intervening he ends up on the wrong side of a shotgun and gets half has face smacked with buckshot. The man in the black hood punches the fellow with the shotgun and Gregory, still unsure of the situation, fires at and kills the hooded figure before going unconsicous. Gregory wakes up bandaged and in the hospital, with Captain explaining that the man he killed was named Kip Burland (which was the name of the original Black Hood since the very beginning), a vigilante who the cops have been trying to nail for a long time. Greg finally gets his bandages removed to see that part of his face has been evicerated, and with it some of his speech skills. A nice woman named Jessie begins to teach him how to speak again and he returns to work. His lackluster, lonely life is slowly starting to fit back into place, until he starts to give in to the pain.



Look, you can tell that The Black Hood is going to become a hero (or vigilante anti-hero as the case may be) but what Swierczynski does here is create a man who is just a man. A man who got shot, who had a way of life, and is going to get thrust out of that way of life. Gregory is damaged, drug addled, and totally believable. Like, Brubaker relatable. Swierczynski dangles the carrot for the readers by showing Gregory's descent but also his potential happiness if he is to develop his relationship with Jessie more. There is a strong story building here, further amplified by the heavily narrated (in the best way possible) contents.


But How Does it Look?
It looks damn good. As I mentioned earlier, Gaydos has a gritty art style which dials the atmosphere level up to 10. Further emphasizing the feelings that Swierczynski is trying to convey, Gregory's face shows immense pain as well as a clear uneasiness from taking another man's life. Also, quick side note, Gaydos can really draw the hell out of a police uniform, these cops look like they mean business. Of course, Fitzpatrick's colors add to the experience, enhancing those atmosphere's as if to show the bleak world which Gregory himself sees. Fitzpatrick and Gaydos also have a very respectable understanding of light sources and how they effect the shading of characters.


The Verdict Is...
This is an EXCELLENT start to the new Dark Circle line by Archie Comics. The Black Hood shows a dark flawed character that people can understand and enjoy reading about. Not only that but Swierczynski and Gaydos have shown us exactly what to expect from the Dark Circle imprint, and the expectation is damn good. By killing the original Black Hood these creators have provided a character that now belongs to this generation which will further connect readers with this line of comics. I look forward to seeing how The Black Hood develops, and further seeing that quality from an Archie Comics brand that we have all come to expect. Issue 1 was released on 2/25 and the cover price is $3.99. Here are the other covers!


Michael Gaydos & Howard Chaykin 


Michael Gaydos & David Mack


David Williams
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JUST SO YOU KNOW:
Just a heads up, I'm travelling this coming week so no posts and no podcast. I will return the next week though with posts AND podcasts! (Well... one podcast)

Sifting for Gold #15- COPS

Cops #7 (1988)

 
DC Comics



What's On The Cover?
Isn't it obvious! One of the employees of C.O.P.S. (Central Organization of Police Specialists) is stomping out crime with his elephant transformer known as the Tramplur. The criminal in question has gray hair, and may just be an innocent old man with metallic shoulder armor... who knows, really.


What's Happening Inside?
The evil scientist Badvibes is working on his robot, Buzzbomb, when a giant tube crashes through his ceiling and sucks him and the robot into an enormous mechanical elephant! Who is piloting this pachyderm? A rogue cop from out of town named Rogue! The vigilante (sorta) goes on a rampage in Empire City, arresting people and destroying property, regular police stuff? Rogue wants the evil scientist to make his Tramplur even more emenacing, but that requires income, so he starts stealing money from criminals. 


The non-rogue cops notice the destruction and piece together the fellow's real identity and discover he was the crazed inventor of the overpowered Tramplur, Paxton Dern, so they set out to find him. Meanwhile, at Rogue's base, Badvibes, who has been tied up for a while, notices that there is a buzz saw near him, and after some fancy footwork, flips the saw on (with a light switch) and cut the ropes keeping him captive. Badvibes runs to Big Boss, the worst criminal in the city, and warns him about Rogue and the Tramplur. Little does Big Boss know, Rogue WANTED Badvibes to warn him! 
TO BE CONTINUED?! (though probably not by me)


What's it Look Like?
The art is a bit of a house style for many comics in the 80's. The characters all have very broad shoulders. All of the armor in the story relies on flair over functionality a la Saturday action cartoons or action figures. The Tramplur itself is big, bulky, and boxy, seeming much larger than is necessary. Backgrounds shift between varying levels of detail, which is whatever, I mean it's architecture in a goofy made up city. The cops all have unique and fun costumes and there are some INCREDIBLE mustaches in this story.


Sooooooooooooo....
I don't get it... people keep getting shocked by the Tramplur and surprised when it shows up... but it has to walk everywhere by stomping VERY loudly. Also, there are huge circular footprints wherever it goes. How have they not found this guy?! And another thing! Hasn't Rogue ever heard of jurisdictions?! He's from another town, so what the what?! This issue is so ridiculous... I sort of want to pick up more, but I don't know why! If you want an over the top 80's action series, then give COPS a read.



In the Future... There be Dinosaurs

Ei8ht #1

Dark Horse Comics


Conceived by Mike Johnson and Rafael Albuquerque
Writing: Mike Johnson
Art/Colors/Cover: Rafael Albuquerque
Letters: Nate Piekos

Before We Begin...
Dark Horse is putting out some incredible new series this year! This issue (part 1 of a 5 part story) follows that trend in a big way. Mike Johnson has done a bunch of work for DC Comics (such as New 52 Supergirl, Earth 2: World's End, and various Superman related issues) but what really accredits his work on this issue is his sci-fi experience with IDW on Star Trek and Transformers titles. With titles like that under his belt there was not a single doubt that he would be able to pull off an extremely enjoyable story in this genre. On the flip side of that Rafael Albuquerque has showcased his artful talents and legendary layouts on well known titles such as American Vampire, Blue Beetle, and Batwoman. His panel layouts and distinct art style is a welcome touch to any story, and constantly provides an even more detailed world. This is not a duo I expected to see work together (minus some possible Batman/Superman work) but I'm damn glad they did.


And Now...
Joshua is gentleman with a past that he is trying to rectify. It is eluded to that something has happened to a woman in his life, and that he will do anything to make sure she is alright. He gets the chance to prove that when a scientist agrees to help him out if he goes to find a dangerous man with a scar over his right eye... in the future. The scientist explains that they should be able to communicate with him once he arrives in the future as long as he is tuned to channel 8 on his fancy radio. Joshua writes the number 8 on his arm as a reminder of everything the scientist has told him, and before he knows it is flung into the future. Upon arriving, he eventually gets his bearings and remembers who he is and why he is there (more or less). Still confused, his radio broadcasts instructions from a voice he doesn't recognize to "Follow the dinosaur!" A small raptor looking fellow appears, Joshua gives chase, and winds up getting captured by some locals, still very confused. From there he finds himself at their mercy, quite possibly in danger.


Johnson mixes Joshua's past and present perfectly in this story using well placed flashbacks. The flashbacks not only prep the reader on what the mission is, but also really humanize Joshua's character. The locals he encounters are written as bold and protective of what they have left, while subtly giving the reader more info about the world. Instead of taking a couple of issues to have Joshua explain/explore the world, I can really appreciate how Johnson just tosses him in and has the reader figuring everything out at the same rate he is.


And of Course There Is...
Glorious art! Great character models, great faces, great dinosaurs! Each character owns their actions while the other characters react accordingly. The faces show intent and confidence while the outfits show a struggling world. By the way, Joshua has consistent facial hair, that's so rare! A character with scruff (NOT a full beard) that is drawn with the scruff in the same order in each panel. There is a clearly high level of detail in this issue, which is curiously emphasized further by the unique color scheme. This book uses probably 5 colors at most (almost/possibly all of which are on the cover) to create an atmosphere that could only be unique to this story. While the characters are all shaded in green/blue colors, the locals have red facepaint that pops out of the page and provides an even further level of individuality. The same red is used to show blood, adding more intensity to wounds/violence (there isn't a ton of that in this issue). Oh yeah and Albuquerque draws dinosaurs like a champion, fyi.


What Does it All Mean?
Ei8ht #1 has provided a new sci-fi experience by placing the reader not on another planet, but in another time, with more questions popping up on every page. Johnson and Albuquerque produced a story with a confident direction, that immediately starts to develop the future and the unique characters that inhabit it. The first issue came out on the 18th and costs $3.50, pick it up and I am sure you'll be able to forget about the weather for a while.




Long Arms, Long Necks, Whole Lotta Sand

The Empty #1

Image Comics


Art/Writing/Colors/Concepts: Jimmie Robinson

Before We Begin
I am a pretty big fan of Jimmie Robinson's work, ranging from the super fun series Bomb Queen to Avigon to his old Cyberzone comics. He is just always fun and no two of his series are the same, or even similar. Robinson has proven to be very versatile in his comics career and The Empty, I'm happy to say, is no exception. And seriously! Look at the cover! What an AWESOME cover!


The Meat and Potatoes
The Empty is... well I suppose I could say it's a post apocalyptic story. Atmospherically, think Road Warrior meets Dune minus the technology/gangs (and Sting) and that's the world. Tanoor is a hardened hunter-for-hire (with a fox sidekick) who is currently working for a dreary (I'm going to go ahead and say doomed) little town. Tanoor has noticed that the poisonous roots which have corroded the world, diminished the food supply, and mutated people are still spreading at a pretty alarming rate. She is helping folks simply survive, but morale is down and everyone is starting to accept the inevitable. Everything gets flipped upside down, however, when a girl named Lila washes up on the shore near this village. Lila soon begins to develop certain abilities which make Tanoor hopeful while the village elder sees this as a bad omen. This sets the stage for what is clearly going to evolve into an enjoyable adventure story.


Robinson has made a world that obviously has a large history, which even during this first issue we are starting to get briefed on. He also provides an understanding of duality, as Lila's lush homeland is described and shown in contrast to Tanoor's barren surroundings. Their is a swift sense of comradery between the two main ladies, stemming from Lila's curiosity and Tanoor's open minded search for solutions. This first issue is a completely different type of story, providing an interesting partnership in an ill-fated land. Also, the back of the issue has a short plot synopsis, a very welcome addition to a new book.


Look! Art!
Robinson's character models are veeeeery interesting. Lila's species is basically human with long necks and very wide set eyes, while Tanoor's, also basically human, have very long arms. At first this is visually surprising, because these characters are so close to looking human, and just a little off. As these characteristics become more apparent throughout the issue, the reaction goes from being surprised to finding it clever. There are monsters in this world, that seem purposefully out of place, as the roots have caused them to form. My absolute favorite character to see drawn is Tanoor's fox partner, Fenx, who is drawn in a fun and whimsical way. The backgrounds of this desert-scape are, as the title describes, empty. On the other side of the spectrum, Lila's world is illustrated as lush, colorful and full of life and innovation, that I hope is shown further in future issues. Suffice it to say, The Empty obviously has more hiding in the sand, and the art is going to do a great job digging it up.


And So...
Jimmie Robinson's completely creator owned work, The Empty, is a tale that screams originality. I mentioned Road Warrior and Dune earlier as a frame of reference but honestly, nothing has the same feel that this story has. The first issue cements the atmosphere of the world perfectly, while giving an easy introduction to the characters. It may not be the happiest story, but it is intriguing, different, and shows a ton of promise. The first issue came out just last week for $3.50. Get it before it's too late!


Space Prison!

Cluster #1 (2015)

Boom! Studios


Writer: Ed Brisson
Artist: Damian Couceiro
Colors: Michael Garland
Covers: James Stokoe, Simon Roy

The Origin
Ed Brisson has quite the repertoire of great books under his belt! With the work he has done on sleeper hits such as Prophet, Sheltered, and the In The Dark anthology, he has consistently proven his talents. So when a book shows up, almost out of no where, with his name and Boom! Studios veteran Damian Couceiro (who had previously worked with Brisson on Sons of Anarchy) adding his signature style, this issue was a no brainer.


The Writing and Story
Cluster takes place in a universe where prisoners are dropped onto the planet Midlothian, which, humans are trying to colonize. The prisoners quickly discover that they have been drafted, and are forced to fight another warring species for dominion of the planet. Samara, the main prisoner of the story, was placed under arrest for driving under the influence and severely harming others in the process. The story begins with her arrest and then immediately shoots to her transportation (via cryo-tube in a spaceship) and drop off at Tranent Penitentiary, the barracks/prison on Midlothian. Samara and the other prisoners don't have time to settle in, as they are quickly prepped and trained to fight. After some brief character/species introductions, the prisoners get dropped in the front lines as the enemy species starts to strike on some of the humans' resources. Oh, and did I mention that if they don't return to the prison in a certain amount of time their insides will liquefy? 


Brisson proves with every page that he can handle the scifi genre masterfully, while also providing a narration that makes the story even more engrossing. I feel it necessary to note that each character has apparent motives and a distinct voice (just like real prison?), many of which start developing more in just this first issue! Providing that level of narration and character development is particularly impressive as this issue continues to pick up and move at a break neck pace.


The Art
Oooooooooh man. This art is hectic and busy and I love it. The environment of Midlothian is sprawling and endless, further emphasizing how stranded the prisoners are, and how impossible escape is. What the environment lacks in definition (to the story's benefit), the characters make up for with uniqueness and definition. While many of the inmates are human, there are also some serious bruisers out and about ranging from strange to monstrous, each with an attitude to match. Action sequences are drawn with large explosions and violent physicality, hammering home the war that the prisoners must fight. Couceiro's enhances Brisson's fast paced hit-and-run narration, with style, creating an even more epic tale.


The Bottom Line
The team behind this book is weaving a scifi story that has what all successful scifi stories have: an understanding that not everything needs to be explained. You don't finish this book with wordy explanations of who some of these species are and what other casualties the war has demanded, you finish this book with wonderment at this exceptional opener and complete curiosity at what will happen next. By taking certain aspects of the genre, mixing them together, and creating something that is somehow 100% original in idea and execution, Brisson and Couceiro have made buying this book an OBVIOUS choice. Cluster #1 came out on February 4th, and is still very accessible.



Sifting for Gold #14

Captain N: The Game Master #3 (1990)

Valiant


What I Think is Happening on the Cover
...Not a whole lot. Except some super hipster with great hair and an NES controller belt is committing a hate crime on a poor unsuspecting creature! It's cool though, he's licensed by Nintendo.


What is Actually Happening in the Book
Captain N (aka Kevin), Kid Icarus (a cherub from a game of the same name), and a nice young lady named Lana, and a dog named Duke find themselves surrounded by exploding reactors! If they blow, it will kill everyone in Video City! The only one who can stop is is Mother Brain (of the Metroid series) but she is a coma. The quartet go into Mother Brain's mind to try to wake her up. Annnnnyway, I'm not 100% sure how, but the gang rescues Mother Brain and the city (using a computer virus antidote in Mother Brain's... brain). PHASE 1 COMPLETE!


In the second story, Captain N is showing off the powers of his super NES controller belt (not a Super Nintendo controller, just a SUPER Nintendo controller), lethal Duck Hunt gun, and newfound agility. He demonstrates these abilities by fighting off Space Invaders (from the classic game of course). Then his batteries run out (which is what he deserves for being a show off) just as the Eggplant Wizard (of the Kid Icarus series) and a squadron of tomato men start to attack! Luckily Samus Aran (also of the Metroid series) shows up and helps a brother out. PHASE 2 COMPLETE!


In the final story of the issue, Duke and Captain N have switched bodies! Lana and Kid Icarus think that Captain N lost his voice, to which one of them exclaims, "Oh-oh! How will my hero give me orders?" It doesn't show which character said that, but it's upsetting whether it came from the full grown woman or the infantile cherub. Meanwhile, King Hippo (of Punch-Out) is schemeing with Mother Brain to use a gun on Captain N that will turn him into a dimwit. The N team then gets ambushed by crocodile mobsters with tommy guns! The gang (minus the dog... which is really Captain N) gets cornered inside a building. Captain N (the dog) sees King Hippo waiting for the unsuspecting group to come out of the building, and lures him into a used flying saucer, then sends King Hippo into space. A button gets pressed on the NES controller belt, which causes Duke and Captain N get put back in their right bodies. PHASE 3 COMPLETE?


What the Book Looks Like
Captain N was also a Saturday morning cartoon and the issue is drawn to accommodate that. It really looks with a little animation this would be a regular cartoon. It is fun to see the depictions of classic Nintendo characters and how they interact with eachother. The backgrounds of the cities are colorful and have varying types of building to go along with different game genres. With vibrant colors, cartoony visuals, and video game characters, this must have been a 90's kid's dream!


What We Learned
Captain N: The Game Master is a book I discuss with a little bias. I don't remember a ton about the cartoon, but I remember enough that this issue caught my eye with a hint of nostalgia. It's goofy and fun and reeeeeeeally has that late 80's early 90's vibe... but that's totally cool. With Valiant being on the rise, maybe we will see this title come back (but for some reason I highly doubt it). Every other Wednesday I sift for gold, but this time I found it. Also, podcast next Wednesday!


Welding Masks are Scary

HEADS UP! There is a panel I used that drops the F bomb.
Random Acts of Violence (2010)

Image Comics 


Writers: Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray
Art: Giancarlo Caracuzzo, Paul Mounts
Letters: Bill Tortolini
Cover: Tim Bradstreet

The Origin
Random Acts of Violence is a 72 page one shot graphic novel that was originally a project on Kickstarter (see last article). When the project was successfully funded, Image Comics published the creator owned work.... and here we are! This book is also under the PaperFilms imprint, which chronicles the work of Palmiotti, Gray, Mounts, Amanda Conner, and Frank Tieri. I mentioned this before, but you can download a PaperFilms sampler on Noisetrade (and it's as easy as clicking here.) This is clearly a well thought out passion project and I am thrilled that it was able to be published.


The Writing and Story
Random Acts of Violence tells the story of Ezra and Todd, a comic book writing and drawing duo (in the order I just mentioned them) that has created a horror comic titled Slasherman. As soon as the first issue comes out it is a cult sensation, spawning cosplays and fans quicker than people die at Crystal Lake! Before they know it, Ezra and Todd are going on a cross country signing tour for their title. All is well until the second issue come out, and they try to incorporate the fans. Bodies begin to pile up, and eventually the creative team find themselves and their loved ones in danger.


Palmiotti and Gray weave a cinematic tale that will terrify and excite all readers. Though it's not the longest book, this story is able to provide a great deal of detail about the world and the characters it captures. The book is a perfect length because you will NOT want to put it down. The caricatures of the comic industry and it's fans is humorous and fun while the deaths provide a level of uneasiness and fear that is felt throughout the entire story. Palmiotti and Gray have an exceptional handle on the consequences of cause and effect, and how one mistake and a little too much character worship can be disastrous. 


The Art 
Mounts and Caracuzzo set the atmosphere perfectly with their gradiated color scheme and expressive/satirical character models. The main action sequence is intense and you can never be sure who is actually going to emerge victorious. There is definitely something to be said about the powerful and strategic use of blood, as well as the colors which really give it meaning. The team does an exceptional job of capturing the small towns which Ezra and Todd visit, as well as the characteristics and actions of those that live there (minus the murder... probably).


The Bottom Line
Random Acts of Violence is a welcome entry to the slasher horror genre as well as an interesting look at the creative process. The creative team on this book formed a well crafted story that moves at breakneck speed. Putting a project on Kickstarter can be a daunting and ambitious endeavor, however this graphic novel is a prime example of how awesome the payoff can be! This trade is $6.99 and available at all the regular online shops. Pick it up, especially if you enjoy good books.


Kick It, Start It, Print it


If you are reading this, chances are you know how to use the internet. If you know how to use the internet, chances are you know what Kickstarter is. If for some reason you don't, here's the gist. Kickstarter is a website where creators and entrepreneurs can get funding from the many denizens of the internet in hopes of have the money available to realize their creation or business. Each project is only available for a limited time and the people posting have a goal they hope to reach. As the potential backers of these projects donate money, they are often guaranteed a variety of awards and thank yous for their contribution. If they reach or exceed the goal then GREAT! That project will happen! If the goal isn't reached then unfortunately, they will have to find funding elsewhere or try again at a later date. Kickstarter has a variety of different categories of projects including film, music, theater, technology food, games, and many more. 

This is a comic book blog, so we will be featuring 3 titles currently eligible for funding. Everytime I look under this category, I see that fans of the medium really band together, as many of the projects exceed their goals. Some awesome projects that deserve some attention are:

TerraQuill Collected
Posted by Shawn Daley


Shawn Daley was first writing/drawing these stories as an exercise and when he realized that they could be and were something far more than that, decided to make a collection. The characters are of all shapes, sizes and species, further providing a personality for the land of TerraQuill. This trade is an anthology of 10 stories. However, unlike many anthologies, all of these stories take place in the same world, which is sprawling enough to get it's own map. Stories range from realistic to fantasy and each one is full of emotion. You can read the story when it is published for as little as $10, but if you can spend a little more you can also get some original artwork from Shawn Daley. This project is available for about another month and you can find it by clicking right here. You can visit Shawn Daley's blog by going here!


Satellites Vol. 1
Posted by Joe Bluhm



Satellites is an anthology written and illustrated by 9 different cartoonists, all of which are hella talented! This all star team includes:
Joe Bluhm - http://joebluhm.blogspot.com
Kendra Phillips - http://kendra-p.tumblr.com/
Adam Volker - http://volkertron.tumblr.com/
Vanesa R. Del Rey - http://vrdelrey.com/
Christina Ellis - http://www.skellopia.com/
Drew Alderfer - http://drewalderfer.com/
Jeremy Townsend - http://www.iamjert.com/
Kimberly Kuchenbecker - http://kimberkuk.tumblr.com/
Beavan Blocker
How CAN'T you support that?! Each story is exceptionally well drawn and has a distinct look and feel. There is a very large set of back rewards and this book is also available to read for as little as $10, but with the opportunity for original art, you should show some more love. The link to this project is right here! Hurry up though, there are only 11 days left!


Love Me Nice: Volume 1
Posted by, Amanda Lafrenais



Love Me Nice is being collected in it's first printed volume! The story takes place in a world where cartoon actors/charactors live among regular humans, and in particular, a studio called Fable. Amanda's art is PERFECT for this type of story and her goal is very pure. That goal being, if she is getting income from the story, then it can start getting produced again. She is also revamping the art and layouts of the pages, providing an even more cohesive story. This story can be obtained for (again) only $10, and additional rewards include charms, more graphic novels from Amanda, a sticker, and art. Find out more about this project by clicking right here. This project is only going to be available for 12 MORE DAYS! Also, Amanda Lafrenais's website is at this link!

There you have it! A couple really great projects and the people who are creating them. Kickstarter provides a terrific medium for comic writers/artists to produce works that we wouldn't normally see. It also gives people a chance to get out there with their great work! On Monday I will actually be writing about a graphic novel which was originally funded on Kickstarter. It pretty much goes without saying, but the website is www.kickstarter.com. As I said earlier, there are TONS of great projects on Kickstarter, and new ones are getting added/old ones are being removed all the time. Want some more suggestions? Rapid fire...................... GO!