Trouble in the City of Tomorrow

Lady Mechanika: The Tablet of Destinies #1

Benitez Productions

Created by, Joe Benitez
Writer: M. M. Chen
Cover/Art: Joe Benitez
Colors: Mike Garcia
Letters: Michael Heisler
Additional Cover: Martin Montiel

Lady Mechanika is a series that was able to pull off the steampunk vibe exquisitely! The series started in 2010 and was published by Aspen at the time for 4 issues (#0-3) after which it was picked up and continued by Benitez Productions, the creator's personal publication. The Aspen run has been collected in double-sized issues over the past couple of years (available at Joe Benitez's site), however they are not necessary to understand this story. M. M. Chen, a name I am unfamiliar with, writes this story, and it is clear right off the bat that there is a talent and an understanding of the steampunk culture (something which many other writers fail to pull off). Joe Benitez, besides creating this character, has also worked on Magdalena, Titans, Green Hornet, Legenderry (industrial versions of Dynamite characters) and various others. His art style always guarantees great action sequences and gorgeous female characters.

The first issue of this series opens up with an expedition led by a professor and his student to find the lost city on Enki. Upon making the discovery, the story shifts to Lady Mechanika, the mechanically enhanced bounty hunter/detective, as she displays her skills with the bourgeoisie before unexpectedly meeting up with a young friend of hers named Winifred. The girl explains that she traveled to the city alone to find her grandfather, noticing that his communication with her had completely ceased. She also notes that on the way to his house she was stopped by strange Germans. Lady Mechanika travels on with Winifred to Mechanika City, the city of tomorrow, to ensure her safe travel. Once Winifred returns home, a murder and a dangerous interactions with the Germans Winifred met earlier causes Lady Mechanika to think that perhaps Winifred was right to worry about her grandfather, and herself. 

Chen uses dialogue that fits this book very well. Not just the time period, but also the the curious objects and activities that are present. The way he writes characters reactions to certain mechanical practices in the book fits very well. All of the characters seem used to all of the technology around them (which makes sense seeing how they live in it) but still all with a sense of wonderment and discovery. Of course, that wonderment could just be me gawking at this incredible world. The dynamic between Mechanika and Winifred is in direct contrast to the dynamic between her and the upper class she was with at the beginning of the story, so we get to see a whole range of emotions and attitudes from her, all of which make her a more likable character. As for the story itself, it gives just the right amount of context in the first couple of pages and ends with the reader curious about what's next.

Benitez is man who knows the world of steampunk. With no brass, copper, buckle, or clasp out of place, this world is steampunk at it's best. It isn't just in the items (especially guns) that match this genre perfectly but also the outfits. Of course you have a lot of the goggles, vests and the like but it is the touch that is put on them that makes them stand out. Every aspect of the the garb has clearly been designed to look good while still providing the character a full range of motion. Character figures consist of, for the most part, thin and good looking characters. Now, in most stories that would bother me, however in this story it further shows that these characters are living in an industrial society close to being a utopia. Speaking of a utopia, the cities in this story are glistening. Every building is ornate inside and out, none of which lacking innovation and grand scenery. Each action sequences are high octane and end with a palpable blow. Let's add a quick mention of Garcia's colors, which aren't warm, causing the sheen and metallic qualities of everything to truly pop.

If you like a unique style rarely done right, then check this out. It is a unique tale that is reminiscent of an H. G. Wells story mixed with Bioshock: Infinite. Chen has a dramatic and well written start on his hands further perfected by Benitez signature art. This is another relatively small print run so pick it up from your local comic book story as soon as possible. You can also get it directly from Benitez Productions as I mentioned earlier, by clicking here. The first issue of this story costs $3.99 and was released on 4/22. Oh yeah and there's a pinup poster inside! Thanks for reading and there will be a new podcast out on Wednesday!

Sifting for Gold: Titan

Titan #4

Music City Comics

What's happening on this cover? We have a super jacked General Zod that almost has an afro yelling at "The Plasmic Man". He better do something quick because some woman and a white haired Bob Saget are trapped in the monster's... lava tentacles?

Awwwwww man! Music City Comics talking Music City Comics! A clash of the past and the present! What does the past hold? I'll tell you! Dr. Donald Tong was caught in a lab explosion and finds himself transformed into some sort of blob man that can sense peoples' thoughts, make tentacles out of his appendages, grow in size... of and he has an unquenchable appetite. Elsewhere, Titan and Leslie are pumping iron when Leslie goes off to have a meeting with a scientist named Brian and she WILL NOT STOP talking about Titan and her unrequited attraction towards him. When it is discovered that Tong is out there, Leslie goes to wrangle him, only to find herself captured instead. Titan finds out and goes after Tong. They fight for a bit until a scientist shows up and throws Titan a peculiar gun. Titan takes a shot and hits Tong. Turns out the gun fired a metabolism virus of some sort that stopped Tong's hunger and made him pass out! THE E-- Oh wait... There's a back up story called Shard: The World That's a Little Rough Around the Edges about a cat man with a sword, but that might be a tale for another day. THE END

The dialogue is ok in this story, but what drove me 100% nuts was the lack of grammar & punctuation. There were just very few commas, which forced me to reread some bubbles. There is also a very dated damsel in distress situation going on, but that's whatever. Titan himself doesn't have much of a personality, but it seems like the series made sure to give some characterization to everyone else. That's fine and all, but if you are going to have a title character of a story then give him some personality! 

Everything that bugged me about the writing aside, I kind of dug the art. It uses whites, blues, and blacks (trichromatic?) for negative space and shading and honestly, it works. Donald Tong is super cartoony and gets drawn with some pretty epic faces and actions. Titan is a little too muscular for my liking and the other characters look fine and mostly consistent from panel to panel (more or less). There are even some panels where Leslie looks almost normal! Gotta say though, on the first page there are some dudes in hazmat suits that look pretty legit. Environments can be a little sketchy and blocky, but not bad. Art wise, I could see this style being used in a modern independent press comic. I think it would work in that medium more so than a superhero book.

Music City Comics, one of many publishers formed in the late 80's early 90's, tried to establish a base of creator owned titles that had a slight twist, two total by the end of things. While I don't know about the rest of the series, this chapter in the genetically engineered Titan, did not quite hold up. It would appear the "Hero of Tomorrow", ended up being a character of yesterday... Cool before it's time art though! New Music City Comics podcast next Wednesday!

Samaritans in Peril!

No Mercy #1

Image Comics

Writer: Alex de Campi
Artist: Carla Speed McNeil
Colors: Jenn Manley Lee

This book has been out for a while now, and I have been meaning to discuss it, but due to this and that it ended up taking a while. I apologize for the delay. Alex de Campi gets two write ups in 4 days though so that's great! It's almost like I'm a fan... oh wait I am. Well just for the sake of time, if you would like to see more of her killer work, view the last post on Archie vs. Predator #1. Carla Speed McNeil has worked on all sorts of out of the box titles such as Finder, Mythography, and stories for Dark Horse Presents. It is very interesting seeing her style added to a story that is more or less realistic. There is a level of belief in what's happening in this tale, and that is thanks to the atmosphere and chemistry of this creative team.

No Mercy focuses on a group of students who have traveled to Central America (to a location de Campi has chosen not to specify yet) to build schools. The class, chaperoned by a man named Murray, is to be brought to their location by bus, as the regular paths/airport are not safe to visitors. A nun named Ines who will be leading them through the area brings them to their jerry-rigged bus, much to the students disappointment. The trip begins after a shady traveler joins the bus and everything is on schedule. However, the roads are treacherous and with numerous twists and bends, anything could happen when travelling. 

De Campi has a whole class to work with here, and gives each member a different (sometimes conflicting) personality. While some are appreciating the trip for the good work they are there to do, others are using it as a way to get more followers and likes, adding a further filter of realism. The danger which ends up befalling this group is entirely natural,  producing a dangerous and real threat. There is also a ton of foreshadowing and groundwork expertly laid for characters which will emerge in the future. These kids have a rough go ahead of them, and it will be written perfectly be de Campi.

Carla Speed McNeil uses character models which accurately match each of the personality types. Whether the class member is sort of dorky or cool as a cucumber, they are dressed to match. Some of the teens draw the eye a little bit more, particularly a fellow with red hair and a scarf, however this is an intentional choice that further exemplifies the aforementioned personality types. The environments are all made as foreign to us as they are to the class. Starting in a grassy landscape, they find themselves with more arid and desolate mountain surrounding the further they travel, as if building up to the tragedy ahead. McNeil's linework, especially on the eyes, gives the characters a certain indie feel which I was really into. Credit where credit is due, Jenn Manley Lee's colors manage to push everything I have mentioned a bit further. She also uses vibrant colors that bring a touch of surrealism to an otherwise realistic story, helping to brighten the tone of the danger and preventing the shocking conclusion from being too dark.

"OMG how sad. They were all so young." That is the caption under a Facebook photo of the group on the second page. It is also showing us what is coming our way. The descent of this class is a tragic mystery that will be intriguing the whole way. The issue starts with a slow burn, but it is clear that de Campi, McNeil, and Lee have a plan for this. The first issue of this series came out on 4/1 and costs $2.99. It is still available in some stores and online, find it and give it a read.

To Catch A...

Archie vs. Predator #1 (of 4)

Dark Horse Comics

Story: Alex de Campi
Pencils: Fernando Ruiz
Inks: Rich Koslowski
Colors: Jason Millet
Letters: John Workman
Above Cover: Eric Powell

Archie Comics has had many a crossover and genre change over the years and for the most part they've each been fun in their own right. The most "violent" I can recall (zombies aside) is Archie Meets the Punisher. With a somewhat similar feel but with gore and violence dialed way up this time around, it is clear that the partnership with Dark Horse Comics is bringing another fresh spin on the Riverdale characters as well as providing another tale of a badass character that everyone appreciates, Alex de Campi has written some instant grindhouse classics for Dark Horse in the past including Bee Vixens From Mars, Slay Ride, Flesh Feast, Prison Ship Antares, and more. Her style of writing matches this type of story very well and she uses gore/violence as a prop to add to the campy fun. Fernando Ruiz has been making Archie his own through his vibrant, lively art for a while now. His resume of titles starring this classic character is long and understandably so. In this series he proves that he can drawer far more than the innocence of youth, adding a surprising edge to de Campi's story.

In a Tayto-Chips sweepstakes Jughead has won a free vacation for him and the gang to Los Perdidos. The jungle island gives the characters a chance to relax, participate in some fashion contest fun, and explore the lush landscape. After a "shooting star" is seen by all, the fun that everyone was having now hides a threat. One thing leads to another and Archie and his friends end up heading back to Riverdale, unaware that a hunter is on their trail.

De Campi presents us with characters that are true to their innocent Riverdale roots and puts them in a situation that they would never believe they were in (and probably won't until it is too late). Each of the Riverdale folk have a personality that carries over from the typical Archie Comics and though there isn't much speaking on the part of the Predator, she gives him a personality through fun "text" boxes. This book is wrote as a fun "you just missed him", blissful ignorance scenario that is going to continue with an enjoyable plot and a good chunk of shock along the way.

Fernando Ruiz brings a change to both, the style that Predator is typically presented in as well as the content people have come to expect from Archie. The character models, while typical of the franchise, go through numerous costume changes depending on their locale, each to be a fun reminder of the americana roots of the series. Predator, though in the enjoyable filter applied by Ruiz, is still presented in a very threatening light. With all of the weaponry we have come to know and love from the gladiatorial alien, we get to see some violence that is truly shocking, approached by a scene that is illustrated hilariously. Rich Koslowski, another Archie alum, further accentuates the charm of these characters in this offbeat story, along side Jason Millet's wide range colors.

This is a great first issue to combine these two properties. Instead of getting speedily thrust into a series that could be rushed, the team takes the time to concentrate on the characters personalities while having the Predator be a background force. Between the pacing, the personality, the humor, and the imminent threat, Archie vs. Predator is off to a killer start, and the escalation of the situation is bound to be a blast! The first issue of this mini came out on 4/15 and costs $3.99! Join the fun!

Monster Mash

Kaijumax #1

Oni Press

Creator/Writer/Art/Color: Zandor Cannon

Oni Press has a reputation for putting out some exceedingly clever out of the box titles including Scott Pilgrim, Princess Ugg, Sixth Gun and many more. Before this series they started the title Hellbreak, which I also love. Yessir, the publisher definitely puts out a good chunk of hits, with Kaijumax being no exception. Zander Cannon has done his share of out of the box series himself, with his name on a whole mess of titles such as Top 10, Replacement God, and Double Barrel. His style of taking somewhat familiar images and writing them in an unexpected way or giving them a whole new look made his totally creator owned work even more tempting. So tempting in fact, that I bought it.

Alright so Kaijumax is an island set up to imprison giant monsters. Whether they are of the Earth, nuclear creations, aliens, mecha, or scientific experiments, this island can and will detain them. The most recent round of prisoners coming in includes Electrogar, a large orange mixture of an insect and a t-rex. Electrogar quickly discovers that the prison is a horrible place with horrible precautions in place should the monsters act out. Worse than that though, Electrogar's two children are alone, and don't know how to take care for themselves. Understanding the situation, Electrogar doesn't try to escape the island, but he does try to get some help for his kids. However, even with some help, a powerful gargantuan monster can only get pushed so far.

Cannon gives the monsters in this book each a distinct personality. Some come off as stereotyped criminals while others show fright or even comfort. Some don't even need to really say anything at all! They just look how they are feeling or find some way to emote what is going on. I never thought I could feel for city destroying monsters but here we are, with dialogue that Cannon uses to give the readers so many feels. Especially when it comes to Electrogar's paternal instinct, which hits pretty darn close to home. Cannon also sets up the force keeping them on the island in an intimidating but fun way. He also lays the groundwork to set a dynamic between the different types of kaiju.

Cannon has an art style that is totally his own and totally awesome. While the island is a lush landscape the monsters range from goofy to creepy (and everything in between), with both ends of that spectrum accented by a vibrant color scheme. Many of the monsters are derived from various kaiju creatures familiar to the media, as are the warden and officers on the island, each of which having a somewhat Power Ranger/Yatterman look. Every panel is busy with creatures doing various actions and each one is fun to experience while showing what these characters can do. 

Oni Press has worked with Zander Cannon to present a terrific and original take on giant monsters. The monsters themselves are peculiar creatures that immediately grow attachment with the reader and the enforcement crew on the island is "protecting the world" while still giving a large feeling of antagonism. The fate of Electrogar is unknown, but I know for sure that it will be written professonally and look amazing. Kaijumax was released on 4/8 and costs $3.99. Get it while you can, it was a relatively low print run and word of it's excellence is going to catch fast.

I've Got No Strings

Puppet Master #1 (of 3)

Action Lab

Writer: Shawn Gaborrin
Art: Michela Da Sacco
Color: Yann Perrelet

Oh hello everyone, you all strike me as folks who like the finer things (that's why you're here). What are the finer things? Horror franchises that put human souls in puppets, creating murderous marionettes! Shawn Gabborin, co-founder of Action Lab and writer of numerous properties of the publisher brings this franchise back to life with a tone that fits right in with all the horror greats. Michela Da Sacco further portrays that tone by pitting her realistic and attractive character models against the puppets in a gory and fun way. Check out her art here.

So we got some classic horror stuff going on here. A group of 7 teens decides to go on vacation at the old, abandoned Bodega Bay Inn. The Inn is a mysterious building that has had many dark events transpire inside. To prevent further dramatic events, people bring dolls to pay tribute to the spirits. Everyone is drinking and of course there is some hormonal sex happening (par for the course) when the deaths begin... This is a book with a lot of "see it to believe it" fun so I won't explain it in too much detail. I just wouldn't do it justice.

Gaborrin provides a story with very believable teens for a horror scenario. Seriously, it feels like you are reading something that you could be watching on the big screen. There is a fun factor that combines with a certain amount of cult classic cheesiness to make for a very enjoyable read. This is also a good jumping on point for the franchise, as one of the characters reveals the origin of the man who constructed and worked with the legendary haunted puppets.

Da Sacco, as I mentioned earlier, draws wonderful human figures and, as it turns out, violence. She provides visuals that really stick with you and makes you wonder how the remaining cast will reach their demise. Not only that but the actual action sequences of the violence are very detailed. It is obvious that Da Sacco understands how clothing moves and draws it appropriately. Her use of shading is particularly impressive. Most of the Inn is dimly lit and the teens are lit by lanterns. The way that light reflects off of the contours in the characters body (and particularly their faces) is perfect. Obviously I can't talk about this books art without mentioning the puppets. They are all illustrated in the campy, goofy way that they should be, however the reader sees them in a different light as the story goes on and the puppets show their true selves.

This is a great edition to the Puppet Master franchise! It serves as an excellent next chapter in the story but it doesn't deter new fans either. There is a little something for everyone (if you like the genre) and you won't be lost if you're new. This is part of a 3 issue series and if this first part is any indication, it's going to be classic cult movie fun! The first issue is $3.99 and has a whole mess of covers, pick it up and have a grand ol' time.

A Comic for Bowie Fans

Space Riders #1

Black Mask Comics

Creators: Alexis Ziritt & Fabian Rangel Jr.
Writer: Fabian Rangel Jr.
Art/Color: Alexis Ziritt
Letters: Ryan Ferrier

It's happened... after We Can Never Go Home last week and Space Riders this week, I am a Black Mask Comics fanboy. This Wednesday and the Wednesday before further cement the rising popularity of the publishing company as well as their quality of work. Alexis Ziritt has a busy page filling signature art style that has primarily been applied to covers of books such as Big Trouble in Little China, Uncle Grandpa, and (some of my favorite covers) Loki: Ragnarok and Roll. He also helped contribute to the Imaginary Drugs compilation book. Fabian Rangel Jr. has written some pretty cool out and there series, including Extinct (which you should check out, it's pretty cool), Los Muertos, and Doc Unknown. He has a writing style that is totally his own, and has also contributed to the Imaginary Drugs anthology.

Captain Peligro... oh sorry, Capitan Peligro (sort of a Han Solo character) captains a skull-shaped starship called the Santa Muerte for an interstellar army known as the E.I.S.F. After being wounded and removed from a battle, he is relieved of duty for one year. In that year he becomes a cranky, unfulfilled individual relying on a bar tab for meaning... until he meets his peculiar new  crew (the particulars of which I won't spoil) and returns to the Mad Max-esque frontlines of space.

Rangel Jr. provides an immediate introduction to Pilegro that cements his general attitude toward battle and those that try to interact with him. We also catch a glance of Peligro's dicey dynamic with his new crew. As the trip into the stars commences, we begin to see that it is a lawless place with ne'er-do-wells and dangerous forces constantly threatening Peligro and his crew. Rangel Jr.'s characterization shows the believable brashness of the crew and the "do anything to survive" mentality needed to make it in the harshness of space. Even with the violence and bleakness of the characters, Rangel Jr. still manages to provide a fast paced, high level of fun to the book.

Ziritt gives this story an unparalleled level of visual detail. Scenes in space are occupied by spaceships, planets, stars, junk, humanoids, clouds of who knows what, it's amazing. Each depiction is full of energy and gives the sense that there is action constantly going on. The characters range from humans to androids to anthropomorphic animals to menacing aliens, each of which decked out in their own unique suit of armor and ready to fight. The action sequences are violent, with blood and motions that let the reader truly feel the impact. Color wise everything is vibrant and almost fluorescent, the best example of which being the threatening Santa Muerte. Ziritt is constantly proving his versatility with an ever changing hue.

Yes, friends, Space Riders #1 is a hit. The writing and art are obviously great, but the book itself is designed with slightly yellowed/aged looking pages that give the feeling that the title is kind of an underground grindhouse or indie title (which, thinking about it, it totally is). Rangel Jr. and Zirittt team up and provide a series that begins an enjoyable sci-fi epic. No matter where the characters end up, it's going to be a blast. Get this issue while it's hot! The first issue came out on 4/1 and it costs $3.99.