Home is Where the Heart Is?

We Can Never Go Home #1

Black Mask Comics


Writer: Matthew Rosenberg & Patrick Kindlon
Art: Josh Hood
Colors: Amanda Scurti
Letters: Jim Campbell
Design: Dylan Todd

They've Got the Goods
It is no secret that I support and appreciate the work of [relatively] new comic publisher, Black Mask Comics. Why do I love 'em so much? Because they never disappoint and release hit after hit, and this title is no exception. Matthew Rosenberg and Patrick Kindlon both have a good chunk of experience with this publisher, having done work on the daring, uniquely styled 12 Reasons to Die, Liberator: Rage Ignition, and now this. Josh Hood has worked on a plethora of titles for the big two, and while those books deserve respect, it is awesome to see his talents (especially his human figures) on a smaller press book.


Why Leave Home?
An awkward encounter at make out point introduces social pariah Duncan to Madison, a popular girl at the local school. Through this first encounter it is revealed that Madison has superhuman strength, though she doesn't know why. Duncan also reveals that he may have a dangerous ability, however it is yet to be seen. Situations cause Madison to be branded an outcast and as things worsen, the two teens leave their little community. Why they must leave and where they are going is up to you to find out! That's the most I can say without spoiling this well written story. 


Duncan and Madison both have realistic personalities that are easy to understand. From those personalities the two writers form more depth in the characters by thrusting experiences upon them which they aren't necessarily ready for. The two teens in the story have an immediate chemistry and could easily turn into a will they won't they scenario, or simply a close bond. Rosenberg and Kindlon understand the teenage voice and the other students at the school sound like they are stereotypical closeminded/shallow highschoolers. While the background characters and the story itself has intense beats, it also has some witty dialogue in spots that helps pull back the darkness of the situations. Though Duncan and Madison are connecting quickly over something that forces them to stick together, there is something lying underneath that I can't quite put my finger on... I gotta say though I do NOT trust Duncan, which is a fun feeling that makes me want to read more.


Painting the Town Red
Hood chooses a unique artistic choice in toning down the environments to bring focus almost entirely on the character interactions. He makes it clear that this is a story meant to be about the two characters and how the world makes them feel sort of empty and out of place. A small thing that I greatly appreciate is his design of the houses. Each one looks crisp with perfect lining and distinct styles. Any violence is splotchy and messy, adding severity to the action sequences. The faces of every character was well thought out, each remaining very consistent throughout the story. Scurti chose many blues, purples, and reds in the color palate, each adding a different tone to the panels.


Annnnnd So...
We Can Never Go Home is another bullseye from Black Mask Comics. The issue provides unique characters with unique abilities, thrust into a situation that teenagers (well, nobody really) should never be in. Rosenberg and Kindlon's realistic dialogue further prove that they are staples in Black Mask's continuously growing collection of hits and Hood gives visuals that capture the feeling of the story perfectly, while humanizing everyone involved. The story could turn into a story of heroism or of villainy, which makes the journey even better. This issue is going for $3.99 at your local comic book store and a bit more than that online. Pick it up while you can!






Bringing the Past to the Present!

Jem and the Holograms #1

IDW Publishing



Story: Kelly Thompson & Sophie Campbell
Writer: Kelly Thompson
Artist: Sophie Campbell
Colors: M. Victoria Robado
Letters: Robbie Robbins
Edits: John Barber

Before We Begin
The year is 1985 and kids are going crazy for the cartoon Jem and the Holograms, a vibrant glam rock band that faces hardship and music in a great way. The show ended, as most shows do, and folks assumed that was it. UNTIL an announcement came out in the last couple of years that a new live action movie was in the works. What proceeded that was another announcement about a new comic series reviving the characters in a new and fun way! That's what we have here!


Kelly Thompson is a new comic book writer, however she has been a voice in the comic community for a while, having written for CBR and also co-hosting the 3 Chicks Review Comics podcast (which you should listen to if you want to hear some great interviews and discover some strong reads). Sophie Campbell is an extremely versatile artist with a whole mess of fun series under her belt, including Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Hack/Slash and Hopeless Savages (Too Much Hopeless Savages specifically). This issue showcases the duos immediate writing chemistry and has produced a read that can be read by fans of the old series and new readers alike. 


Making Nostalgia Relevant Again!
This first issue starts by showing The Holograms struggling to produce a music video, mostly due to the fact that the lead vocalist, Jerrica, keeps choking at the mic. Embarrassed, she runs out and is consoled by her sister Kimber who offers the unfortunate but necessary ultimatum that if Jerrica can't get it together, she'll leave the band. The other band members Aja and Shanna, are also losing morale as the difficulties continue and tensions start to mount. Jerrica feels defeated but becomes more hopeful when a mysterious inheritance from her father presents itself.



Thompson quickly reintroduces these characters and gives each a distinct personality. She also takes a story about an up and coming band and turns it on its head using a quirky mystery/solution to Jerrica's problems that newcomers will love! The characters all show a serious connection and I look forward to seeing more about how they interact as a band. Thompson has an enjoyable personality (proven by her podcast) and an exceptional knowledge of the comic medium (proven by her CBR articles). It's great to see how that is incorporated into this story.


Distinct Flair!


Campbell's art is mindblowing! The reader is instantly smacked in the face with vibrant colors and a memorable visual of who each of The Holograms are. Each band member has a distinctive eye makeup pattern and color, giving each their own unique tone. They also all have a distinct body type, skin tone, hair color, the list goes on and on. The point is that these girls are all different and unique and they all look awesome. Campbell has chosen sort of a melding of the 80's and the present for their outfits and it works in the craziest way. Character models are enjoyable and a character introduced later in the story changes the tone entirely which is promising even more wonderful visuals. Campbell also has a good handle on instruments and audio equipment which is a much appreciated touch to a story like this. It should also be mentioned that Robado's colors are in your face and bright and make you want to frame every panel of this story (even more than you already might have).





Hit Single
I honestly didn't expect to enjoy this is issue as much as I did, but here we are! This first issue is such a strong start to a great series that anyone can enjoy with respectable and fun characters and a story that is going to a great place. Movies and comics are so oversaturated by bad reboots and relaunches, but they should really take a hint from this issue, because Jem and the Holograms#1 is doing it right! The first issue is $3.99 and came out on 3/25 with some great covers, the rest of which I will list below. Thanks for reading!








Sifting for Gold: Ex-Mutants

Ex-Mutants: Special Edition #1

Amazing Comics


What's On The Cover?!
A woman with a prominently displayed crotch is leading a group of sword wielding youths (and Olivia Newton John apparently) to attack some mutants. They also appear to be protecting a 3 eyed, no nosed young man who is on a rock that is shining on one side for some reason.


What's Inside?!
What a strange and uncomfortable story! A young couple is flirting by a hot tub and then decide to go into the house to get nasty before the woman's flight. The man never sees the woman again. THIRTY YEARS LATER: a disfigured mutant is posing in a mirror, her reflection shows a gorgeous woman. Weird right? Dr. Emmanuel Cugat, with his 3 eyes and lack of nose (and the male from the couple at the beginning of the story) takes her away from the reflection and embraces her with some other mutants, and complains about being a freak. Immediately after that a flashback appears! Basically the countries of the world couldn't stop fighting, blah blah nuclear weapons, and BAM mutants. Flash forward to after the embrace, Dr. Cugat does experiments and heals the group of mutants, creating a breed of had been mutants, but mutants no longer, the EX-MUTANTS! (Four females and one male...) 


Cugat and the ex-mutants form a family bond and he trains them to fight, read, table manners etc etc. until they are ready to venture into the outside world. Once they leave their little lab bunker they are immediately hated by the mutant citizens of the Earth who are super mad at the Ex-Mutants for being human. Once they start to attack, the Ex-Mutants retaliate using swords and KILLING THEM, causing the mutants to retreat to their boss: Big Fred. The skirmish was not without casualties however, as one of the Ex-Mutants broke her nail. Then all of the exposition occurs! It turns out that Dr. Cugat healed the Ex-Mutants in order to bring his wife back to life, the mutants get to and warn Big Fred about the humans, and the male Ex-Mutant (named Belushi) decides that Dr. Cugat healed them so they could repopulate the Earth, which 2 out of the 4 females are against. A whole mess of weirdness and sexism in three pages. Anyway, the Ex-Mutants go to bed (mostly separately) and the next day go driving in the big bad world, only to crash their car and go unconscious... but some mysterious figures are approaching them....... THE END!

This panel makes me want to shower...

How's it Looking?
This black and white comics has so many different types of mutants! Ugly mutants, uglier mutants, hockey player mutants, melty face mutants, Ex-Mutants, it's got them all! Although I don't understand all of the mutations, I do find each of them... unique. The Ex-Mutants are all soooooooooo 80's, as is every female hair style (all 5 of them shown in the story). Basically what you get is a book that looks like a mixture of Ice Pirates and Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome.


And So...
What's that? You want this comic? You want to read about a group of uncanny teenagers that follow the instruction of an older professor? Well then you can find this issue for as little as 25 cents. Want some more good news? Their are more omega level 80's issues of this book AND the series got picked up by Malibu for even more strange stories about humans trying to live as humans! Sounds like all good news to me, try getting rid of the misogyny though.


These Days are HUGE

Giant Days #1

Boom! Box


Writer/Creator: John Allison
Artist/Cover: Lissa Treiman
Colors: Whitney Cogar
Letters: Jim Campbell

Let's Begin...
Boom! Box is a pretty new (last few years) imprint of Boom! Studios that promises creative, experimental, and cheerful fun. All of those words describe this book very well. Giant Days was originally a webcomic that was released as a spinoff of another of John Allison's webcomics, Scary Go Round. Besides those two series, he also has the series Bobbins and Bad Machinery under his belt, both of which are very successful (check them out at http://scarygoround.com/). Lissa Treiman is a great partner to his writing with a style that screams fun. She has previously been the story artist for Big Hero 6, Tangled and Wreck-It Ralph (each of which have impressive art books with a similar style to this comic). You can view some more of her work at her Tumblr, http://lissabt.tumblr.com/. So what do you get when these two awesome creators get together? Don't worry, I'll tell you.


In The Book...
Giant Days is a slice of life story that revolves around three female college students: the insecure and innocent Daisy Wooten, the curious and dramatic Esther de Groot, and the confident somewhat standoffish Susan Ptolemy (I seriously love that last name by the way). The trio all live together and are buds working on their classes as well as trying to survive the random misadventures and happenstance of Esther. In this issue, Susan and Esther place a bet that if Esther doesn't cause any problems for anyone for one week she gets to doll up Susan. If Esther loses the best, she must give Susan an epic massage. Susan is pretty confident in her chances, but when someone from her past shows up, things get complicated.


This issue gives each of the three ladies a very distinct voice. It also conveys that they are friends, though some are more confident in the friendship than others. We also begin to see some of the quirks that make the main cast original, and they range from silly to bizarre. It is so nice to read a story where the world isn't in peril and there aren't 7000 dimensions to worry about (though their is a hint of some occult activity in the story), but rather a story about three friends living their lives and making it through each day as happily as possible. I am unfamiliar with much of Allison's work, however I can tell you that this is a great issue. I was impressed by how easy it was to become attached to the characters and his ability to make them feel very real. He brings a lot of fun to the dialogue and a sense of kinship that is sort of heartwarming but will also make you a little nostalgic for college days. 


The Art...
Treiman gives further life to these characters, making the reader understand each by matching their dialogue with a perfect look. Esther's appearance is pretty goth but she also has a strong air of fun around her, Daisy wears glasses and postures herself with a sense of innocence and naivete, and Susan has eyes that are rarely opened all of the way and slouches a bit, pronouncing how cool and confident she carries herself. Besides just capturing the characters' personalities to a T through general look, Treiman also handles the outfits and hairstyles to further match the attitudes. No two hairstyles are the same, even on the background characters, and from hoodies to t-shirts to shoes, each character has a unique fashion sense. The sketched backgrounds provide a sense of the school's campus without going into any unnecessary detail, and Cogar's colors further emphasize the school environments while adding fun tones for an even broader sense of character definition. 


Conclusively
Boom! Box' Giant Days#1 is experimental in the sense that not many month to month comics feature life so prominently. The plot of the mini series hasn't been fully explained yet and this issue doesn't give a ton of synopsis away, however you don't need it to. Allison and Treiman provide memorable/likable characters with fun quarks in an environment that many people will understand. Giant Days #1 (of 6) was released on 3/18 for $3.99. Pick it up for some real fun!


MCC Podcast #4- Leaving Megalopolis

Leaving Megalopolis

Dark Horse Comics


Writer: Gail Simone
Art: Jim Calafiore
Colors: Jason Wright
Letters: Dave Sharpe

Everyone! It's back! After a stupid hiatus that I didn't feel like taking, I have put up episode #4 of the Music City Comics podcast. In this episode I discuss Leaving Megaolopis Vol. 1. This Kickstarted book is by the well renowned Secret Six team of Simone and Calafiore and does NOT disappoint. Especially if you are a fan of the survival horror genre. 

More on that soon, listen in first by searching Music City Comics in iTunes (or by clicking here).
It is also located on my Podomatic page which is located riiiiiiiight here

If you Google it there is also a Podbean page but DON'T TRUST IT. I didn't end up using that service.


Leaving Megalopolis takes place in a city occupied by superheroes who have become murderous. The main character is a confident individual named Mina who is trying to lead some other survivors out of the city and past the various dangers lurking around every corner. This volume also introduces some interesting evil avatars of superheroes we are familiar with and a whole mess of extras. The well packaged hardcover volume has a cover price of $14.99.


After checking out the podcast and hopefully the book, check out some other work by Gail Simone on her Goodreads page at this very link! Also check out some awesome work by Jim Calafiore at this website!


Once again makes sure to checkout the Music City Comics podcast in iTunes, the podcast app, or by clicking this here link! Don't want to do things the Apple way? Then give it a listen at the Podomatic link by clicking heeeeere.

If you'd like to contact me then shoot an email to musiccitycomics@gmail.com or tweet me @justdrewvg.


Oh yeah, I would also appreciate some comments, particularly on iTunes. Just be nice, I'm still getting my footing dont'cha know! That being said I appreciate feedback and good comments help other people find this podcast which in turn helps promote these graphic novels and creators... sounds like a real win win to me!


Series starting this week:
Image Comics- Invisible Republic
                       Red One
                       Chrononauts
Boom! Studies- Giant Days
Dark Horse Comics- Shaper
                               Frankenstein Underground
Rebellion/2000 AD- The Grievous Journey of Ichabod Azrael
Antarctic Press- Furry Tails
Northwest Press- Rise: Comics Against Bullying

New graphic novels to check out:
Image Comics- Birthright vol. 1
Dark Horse Comics- Oink
Alterna Comics- Billy the Pyro

Join me on my next podcast when I review:



Space Cruise

Southern Cross #1

Image Comics


Writer/Cover: Becky Cloonan
Art: Andy Belanger
Colors: Lee Loughridge
Letters: Serge LaPointe
  
Behind the Curtain
Becky Cloonan is constantly proving her talents by pumping out hit stories and gorgeous art. That is especially true as of late with books such as Gotham Academy, The Kitchen and Demo vol. 2. Andy Belanger also has a unique way of telling stories through illuistrations, as primarily exhibited on the title Kill Shakespeare. His understanding of the human figure is really top notch stuff, and adding his art style to Cloonan's eerie tale promises a really enjoyable read.


What's Going On?
Southern Cross focuses on Alex Braith, a woman travelling aboard the transportation vessel known as the Southern Cross to Saturn's moon, Titan. Her sister, Amber was working their with an organization mining the moon's resources, until she died. Alex is off to retrieve the body and hopefully find out what went wrong. Many passengers on the ship prove to be strong personality types such as her chatty roommate Erin, the informative Captain Mori Tetsuya, and an obnoxious gentleman bunking across the hall from the two ladies. The longer she is on the ship, the more she begins to discover about it. I think that as the story continues we are going to find that what is starting out as a relatively simple quest is going to develop into so much more, as hinted in this first issue.


Cloonan uses the characters very effectively as a way of progressing the plot and developing the main character, but more interesting than that is the way she uses the ship's crew for exposition. Many stories that take place in space use heavy text to create context or just don't relinquish details at all, but Cloonan has many of the shipmates explaining what different parts of the ship do, some of the vessel's history, and general layout. It is a much more engaging form of story telling. There is also a duality that is brought to Alex Braith. On the outside she can be cold and stand offish but when displayed introspectively it is revealed that this journey is completely unknown territory for her and that there is a definite sense of cautious uneasiness. The characters that are introduced in this book each have a distinct voice that is heard throughout the issue. I don't trust all these folks, maybe that's from me being cynical or maybe I'm really not supposed to, guess we'll find out!


How's it Looking?
Belanger's style is a great match for Cloonan's storytelling style. They clearly have an identical vision for this tale. Belanger manages to create a universe that looks expansive while inhabiting restrictive claustrophobic environments. Space looks awesome, he clearly has a great handle on fleshing out a place that could be portrayed as empty, but with all the detail he adds it still manages to feel cold and vast. Inside the Southern Cross, there are machinery, pipes, and cables that need no explanation. They are set dressings that make the reader want to know more about the ship and what else could be tucked away in it. What I found particularly impressive is the way Belanger draws eyes. Every eye is glossy and expressive, providing further emotional recognition in each character as well as furthering an already intricately detailed story. The character models and their costumes are perfectly matched with their surroundings, and are not overly detailed as many interstellar stories tend to do. Loughridge provides deep blues, greens, and teals to make the ship seem almost as dark and mysterious as the vacuum surrounding it. The colors also utilize dramatic lighting to show some gorgeous eye grabbing scenes.


And So...
Treat yourself to this story. It is a well written, fresh look at a genre with impressive visuals that further add to the experience. It's clear that character voices are important to Becky Cloonan and she makes sure to make them distinct and engaging. Meanwhile, Andy Belanger ensures that your eyes will be constantly drawn to each panel. That duo as well as the rest of the team form a read that is hard to put down and even harder to wait for the next issue. Southern Cross #1 came out on 3/11 and costs only $2.99!



What Lies Beneath...

The Surface #1

Image Comics


Writer: Ales Kot
Drawings: Langdon Foss
Color: Jordie Bellaire
Design: Tom Muller
Letters: Clayton Cowles

Where to Begin...
Ales Kot is continuously showing what a successfully cerebral writer he is, (as exhibited in Zero and Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier) and The Surface further proves that. Mixing his writing style with the interestingly detailed, almost abstract art of Langdon Foss (Bucky Barnes: TWS, Warrior Nun) provides an  uncertain world and story that seems broad and energetic.


The Words
Alright so this book kind of blew my mind in terms of density, world building, and supplementary materials (all of which were incorporated into the actual story). Almost immediately we get a look at the President of the Three States' suffocating look at personal information and individuality, or lack there of. Watching the President's broadcast is Mark, his son, and Mark's two lovers, Nasia (a young woman) and Gomez (a young man). The trio possess the very hacker mentality which the President is trying to repress, and decide that in order to get the real freedom/escape they are looking for they must find The Surface. What is The Surface? It is a location shrouded in mystery, said to awaken those who go there about the world's truths. Those who go there come back and see the world in a way that makes it seem fake. It's hard to explain, partially because everyone has a different idea of it, but mostly because it is intentionally vague. ANYWAY, Gomez, Nasia, and Mark go through great effort to elude the constantly watching eye of their current residence (in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania to be precise) and embark on their journey to find and discover The Surface.


Look, that small synopsis does NOT do this book justice. Kot treats the world as a character just as important as the principle cast, providing a personality further shown by the various articles throughout the story. The ideologies and opinions that the characters exhibit are well thought out, and especially in the trio, provides a very real feeling of enthusiasm. There isn't a ton of character development in this issue which is fine, because once you arrive at the end you can tell that this was clearly a buffer issue meant to lead to a chapter of pure discovery and fascination.


Arrrrrrrrt
Foss draws a detailed world that matches Kot's evocative dialogue extremely well. The two main locations in the book, Dar Es Salaam and the desert that they must travel through, each have their own amount of distinct detail. In the case of Dar Es Salaam the buildings themselves are each unique and are composed of various geometric shapes, but when the skyline is shown and veiled with a sandy sepia tone by Bellaire, the city becomes the singular machine that the President wants to maintain. The desert is drawn to be vast and empty, totally devoid of the advancement man kind has provided the city. This provides an even greater sense of dedication from the three kids towards their journey. The character models also have tons of detail. Faces have contours to make expressions that are understandable while clothes have ripples and puckers that look very organic. Also, everyone has really cool hair styles. Bellaire's colors provide another layer of individuality to each of the locations in the book, giving each one a distinct feel and atmosphere.


What I'm Trying to Say Is...
This book is just great. This week a lot of good series started that people have known about for a long time, so this may have fallen by the wayside, but it deserves a ton of attention. Ales Kot provides game changing story in relation to individuality and technology's growing presence in society, and I can't wait to see how his style changes once the cast arrives at The Surface. Langdon Foss makes you feel the importance of every panel and you can tell he is having fun doing it. The characters and actions exude life and much like Kot, that's only going to change with the arrival at The Surface. This book has rich dialogue and eye popping visuals, all of which combine to provide a comic that has promise, drive, and makes you think. The Surface #1 came out on the the 11th and is listed at $3.50.



Sifting For Gold #16- Dark Claw

Legends of the Dark Claw #1

Amalgam Comics


What's on... THE COVER?!
Clearly this cover shows Batman rea--- wait sorry, shows Wolver-- hold on... I'm confused. Hey everyone, check out that awesome gargoyle!


What's on... THE INSIDE?!
I would like to preface this by saying that Dark Claw is a rich orphan with adamantium claws and a healing factor. Though he has many Batman-esque moves and mannerisms, his speech patterns are allllll Wolverine, so his niceties are very surprising.


When this issue starts we have Dark Claw fighting Hyena (a Joker-Sabretooth hybrid) who manages to get away with no thanks to Dark Claw's sidekick, Sparrow (a mixture of Robin and Jubilee, who says she would prefer to be called Death Urge Overdrive). Meanwhile, Carol Danvers, aka the Huntress breaks into rich "techno wizard" Logan's penthouse and discovers he is the Dark Claw, only to be caught by Logan/Dark Claw in the process. Huntress shows she knows a bit about the Dark Claw and his origin. Blah blah blah, experiment to create a killing machine etc etc Hyena was made, so on and so forth Dark Claw was the failure of the experience because he had... a conscience. Since she already knows so much, Dark Claw let's her into his Batca-- I mean "the Barrow". 
From there Sparrow, Huntress, and Dark Claw discover that the Hyena is going to try to poison the president! Luckily, the president is currently flying to Gotham (yes, it's still Gotham, there is also a S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier).

Okay so Sparrow does NOT like Huntress (it's a real Wendy-Tinkerbell scenario) and when they catch up to the presidents plane, Huntress has to shoot a grappling gun. When it is time Sparrow says "...Tell that slut to take her shot!" Ohhhh man I got so mad! There was no reason for it! None! It took me out of the zone and made me uncomfortable! Sorry for the soap box or whatever, I was just so mad!

Anyway, the gang catches up to it and stops the Hyena... buuuuuuuuuuuuut he escapes again, but Dark Claw is hopeful that he will catch up. TO BE CONTINUED?!?!


But What About... THE ART?!
The characters are all ripped and have powerful movements accented by the fast paced fight scenes. I really dig the Sparrow character model. She could use some leggings or tights or something, but still, I dig it, especially with her sunglasses. Both Bat Claw and the Hyena are very recognizable amalgamations of the characters they're based on, which makes for a more fun read. Gotham looks like a concrete jungle a la Batman the Animated Series, with an atmosphere and a color scheme to match. Despite some regular Wolverine behaviors, this looks/feels like it could be a 90's Batman issue (more or less).


Which brings us to... THE CONCLUSION!
Amalgam Comics was (is?) a shared comic imprint of DC and Marvel (obviously). Some series were better than other, but Dark Claw had quite the little fan base. The issue is a fun attempt to do something different to some popular characters. For the time I can see it being a super out there and fun read. Currently though, I think I paid the perrrrrfect price. Who knows, maybe Amalgam Comics will be a world in Multiversity or something., that'd be pretty nuts! Thanks for reading, as always.