Monsters & Metallurgy

 Article by, Drew Van Genderen
Strayer #1

Writer: Justin Jordan
Artist: Juan Gideon
Colors: Tamra Bonvillain
Letters: Rachel Deering
Publisher: Aftershock

Aftershock keeps throwing out hits! Their repertoire gets more impressive with each title and they have proven to have an exceptionally strong talent pool. Strayer is created by Justin Jordan of Shadowman, Spread, the Luther Strode trilogy and many more, with expert illustrations from Juan Gideon of Ghost Racers and Tomb Raider fame (check out his portfolio here).

In a peculiar technological/apocalyptic/fantasy setting, we see a cloaked woman, Mala, trying to enlist help to bring the world back to it's previous, pleasant state from a tough guy in a tavern. On the other side of the tavern, the rambunctious Strayer is selling his skills to any that will hire him, but no one will. When the woman is threatened, a large metallic creature known as a Titan awakens and approaches and these two strangers work to pacify it, Strayer with metal knuckles that morph into sword light weapons and Mala with... strongly worded commands. Will they defeat this behemoth? Will anyone hire Strayer? Who is Mala and how will she return the world to it's previous state? Read and find out!

Justin Jordan is a real triple threat in this story, giving us world history, character history, and excellent context. Right off the bat Jordan gives us the history of this planet and some hints of the people who previously held the power in a way that informs the reader and provides Mala with backstory to attempt to enlist help. Immediately we know that Mala is a mysterious woman with unique and undefined abilities. Strayer is introduced soon after and we instantly get a hold of his gruff, boisterous personality. Both characters have very efficient introductions that give the reader a chance to know just enough about them to know their intentions but not so much as to give away all of their motivations. Their dialogue is incredibly appropriate for both of them and Strayer is clearly going to be a badass protagonist as well as the comic relief. The Titan and the nature of it's being present a whole mess of questions for the reader, particularly pertaining to the state of the world. It's presence raises just as many questions about Strayer and Mala as we begin to see their abilities. The characters and the world of this story give the feeling of a fantasy story, but the flashback at the beginning hints at a technological past, all of these ingredients combine to create an enjoyable read that mixes genres and invents some instantly well fleshed out characters.

Juan Gedeon matches Jordan's action packed story very well, leading to a book that looks just as incredible as it reads. The starting town of this story and the haggard townsfolk that inhabit it set the stage for a massive battle with fast paced action panels and the sense that Strayer is truly as good as he claims to be. The Titan itself seems massive and destructive and the resulting battle cements the feeling, but has some added aesthetic with thick vines cover it's metal body. The effects used to show Mala's abilities are vibrant and unique, almost like luminescent tattoos coming off of her body, whereas Strayer's knuckles/swords seem just as threatening as they are promised. The actual character model for Strayer also benefits the image he's trying to sell. He is drawn as a hulking man with long hair and a great beard, covered in scars and constantly ready for battle. As I mentioned earlier, the history lessons hints at technologically rich environments, but this world has sense been taken over by foliage with the exception of towns that mix wild west style storefronts and mideval thrown together architexture. Suffice it to say, the book looks cool... real damn cool. A big part of that, of course, is also due to the colors of Tamra Bonvillain, who colors a relatively sepia toned world, further making Strayer and Mala pop out.

Dreaming Eagles, Replica, Insexts, Super Zero, American Monster, and now Strayer. With every title Aftershock puts out, they cement a location as one of the great independent publishers. It copuldn't go any other way with some of the names they are getting, Justin Jordan and Juan Gideon being no exception. Mixing a few different genres with some epic illustrations and an action packed story is a recipe for success, and this team has it. Strayer #1 came out this past week and can be picked up at your LCS or digitally from the Amazon link below!

Don't Question

No Wonder #1

Writer: Jeremy Hauck
Artist: Ellis Ray III
Colors: Sean Callahan

The year is 2038 (not so distant future) and the world no longer has any curiosity. Between the ease of internet connection and the question inhibiting A.T.O.M. chip linking humanity, there is simply nothing to question or even dream about. That second half of is what makes teenager Turner Lane so confused. He wakes up after a peculiar dream of a mysterious place to unfamiliar surroundings and finds himself being hunted by masked strangers. Turner swiftly discovers he isn't the only one being hunted, and after running into a particularly helpful individual, knows that the only place he will be safe is the place in his dream. Why is he being hunted? What is this mysterious dream place? Why can't he seem to remember much? Jeremy Hauck and Ellis Ray III know.

No Wonder is hard sci-fi. We are talking Blade Runner level stuff here. Jeremy Hauck has created a history for this world that is not hard to believe and isn't dissimilar from what some people feel is currently happening. By removing much of the individuality of these people, he paves the way for Turner and the other hunted people to view the world that they have always known in knew and unfamiliar ways. The series of events in this first issue make for a story that can go in numerous directions, each of which are compelling and not immediately apparent to the audience. Ellis Ray III has helped form this somewhat dreary world with a set of somewhat realistic environments and character models. This adds to this believable future scenario. Typically, this art style isn't my cup of tea, however in this story it meshes with the plot in a way that really adds to the story. Not to mention Ellis can draw some incredible action and Clockwork Orange-esque villains. Especially the panels which show the hopeful past matched against the strange future.

How did No Wonder come about? A team of hard workers held a very solid Kickstarter campaign and were more than happy to talk with potential fans about the project. With issue one out and well received, I'm sure that Jeremy Hauck, Ellis Ray III, and everyone else involved are bound to continue to produce this story of an uncertain future. Keep an eye out for ways to get issue one and issue two when it come out next year! Oh, and don't be a stranger, contact No Wonder by tweeting @NoWonderComic

Integral Intervals

An Art of Intervals

If you’re a fan of comic books and art, which I’m going to go ahead and assume you are, then I’d love to bring an upcoming art show and zine fundraiser to your attention. “An Art of Intervals” is a show that will take place in Brooklyn, New York in late February, and it will feature the work of four female comic artists: Abigael Puritz, Wendy Xu, Grace Passerotti and Autumn Crossman. These ladies are using an Indiegogo (think kickstarter, or gofundme) fundraiser to help collect enough money to publish all of their new work in a zine, or small-collection of self-published work, for the art show. The money will also be used to cover various expenses for the show, and any remaining money will be split amongst the artists to cover the cost of materials.

Art by Abigael Puritz

If you’d like to know more about these ladies I’d recommend checking out their Indiegogo site, where each of the ladies has a link attached to their name that will bring you to their various websites (see how I’m pushing you to check out the fundraiser!). 

Art by Wendy Xu

The best part of donating to this great cause is the multitude of perks! Any donation over $7 will get you a printed copy of the zine. If you don’t have $7 to spare there are still lovely perks for $1 (a digital thank you note with an original doodle), $2 (a printed thank you note with an original doodle), and $4 (a digital copy of the zine) donations. If you do have some money to spare a $30 donation will get you an original drawing from one of the artists, and a $40 donation will get you an original painting, which is a hell of a deal for one of kind art!

Art by Grace Passeroti

These ladies have been working their asses off to create new work for this show, and their efforts are not only time consuming, but also expensive. Art supplies are pricey, shipping costs are through the roof and it costs around $500 to get their zine printed for the show. So anything you can spare will surely help, and don’t forget about those perks!

Art by Autumn Crossman

The art show will take place at the Tarot Society in Brooklyn, New York from February 26th to the 28th. If you’re lucky enough to live near Brooklyn, then I would highly recommend swinging by to see some of the work these ladies have created for the show. If you don't live anywhere near Brooklyn (like myself), then you can still learn about them, support them, and get your hands on some of their art by donating to their Indiegogo fundraiser: here!

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Deer Girl, Wolf Boy Team-up!

Spirit Leaves

Writer/Artist: Rossi Gifford
Publisher: Chapter House Comics

Whimsy! Some comics have it and some don't. This here book has it in spades! Spirit Leaves tells the story of Freya, a deer girl, and Skoll, a wolf boy. Both of these individuals live in a world of balance, with spirits and demons constantly fighting to make everything work. Freya's tribe, the Herd, have sensed a disruption in the balance, where the demons are starting to take more prominence. Against their wishes, Freya goes out to figure out why this shift is occurring and how to stop it. She figures this will solve everyone's problems and give her a chance to prove herself. In her travels she runs into Skoll, a wolf boy from the carnivorous tribe, the Pack, whose goals are similar to hers. The two decide to team-up to hunt down the demon known as the Beast. What the duo doesn't know, is that there are many other threats and challenges in the woods besides the Beast...

Gifford writes a fantastical world that is just as vast as it is mysterious. With a quick description page at the beginning giving us a little preview of what we are going to get, we get thrust into the story. The story works at a great pace to give us the information we need before showing the team up of the two main characters, which fleshes out the world enough to suck the reader in before the main adventure. This is a world of animal/human tribes, good, and evil, all being encapsulated by the enjoyably naive team of Skoll and Freya. This team has a fun amount of depth as both of these individuals had very different upbringings, both of which give into the idea that this is an environment that is constantly working in balance. Skoll and Freya both have their own unique personalities furthering the individuality between the characters. Skoll is more abrasive whereas Freya is more peaceful, just like the animals they represent. With those two diverse personalities in this mythical world, we are witnessing the beginning of a very enjoyable quest.

The art in this book is what really caught my eye. Looking at Rossi Gifford's art style (you can too at her WordPress) you can tell that she has incredible sense of layout and concept. From cover to cover this comic is exploding with style. On each page, traditional paneling is replaced with overlapping story moments, getting the most detail as possible onto each page, and those overlapping moments are all drawn with varying shapes and figures. The character models are fable-esque and combine human/animal combinations that don't venture too far to either side of the spectrum. The character that really stands out is Freya. With piercing red eyes and white skin that stand outs very well against the increasingly dark environments, everything from her reactions to her action sequences has a great uniqueness to it. There's a clear level of graphic design prowess to to this whole story, and the resulting product is stunning. I mean... good god look at the covers!

Spirit Leaves is a type of story that I've never quite seen before from a creator which I will now make sure to follow. From illustration craftsmanship to overall execution, Rossi Gifford has a lot of great stuff at play here! Again, if you want to see more of her work, check out her WordPress. Spirit Leaves #1 came out this past week for only $3.99!

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Here There Be Dragons!

Four Eyes: Hearts of Fire #1

Writer: Joe Kelly
Artist: Max Fiumara
Letters/Design: Thomas Mauer
Publisher: Image Comics

It is important to note that this issue is the second arc in the story created by Joe Kelly and Max Fiumara. The first arc (Four Eyes) came out between 2008-2010 and although Four Eyes: Hearts of Fire can easily stand alone, I highly recommend picking up the first arc before giving this one a read. Joe Kelly and Max Fiumara have created a spectacular story and I’m happy I wasn’t a comic book enthusiast in 08’ because eight years is quite a long time to wait for a sequel! If you’re a comic noob like myself, then you may not have heard of Joe Kelly, but he seriously has his paws all over everything in the comic world. He is one of the creators of Man of Action Entertainment, a quartet of writers who have worked on some of the biggest franchise characters like Superman, Deadpool, and Spider-Man. Kelly also co-wrote Ben 10, and is the writer of I Kill Giants. Max Fiumara is equally as busy in the comic world. He has worked for Avatar Press, Marvel, DC, and Dark horse and is currently working on B.P.R.D and occasionally helps his brother with Abe Sapien (check out his blog).

Four Eyes: Hearts of Fire is the continuation of a story about a boy named Enrico, who is seeking revenge for his father’s death. The story is set in New York during the depression era with one smallish twist, underground dragon fighting is all the rage. In the first arc of Four Eyes you find out how Enrico’s father dies and what he must do to obtain his illegal baby dragon. This issue explores a few of the obstacles Enrico will face when it comes to owning, raising, and training an illegal dragon. Enrico is quite young, and is eager to learn about dragon training, but he discovers that the methods used by the “professional” trainers aren’t exactly kind. Future issues will tell us a lot about the path Enrico will choose, and they will eventually lead to him and Four Eyes participating in their first dragon fight. 

My main issue with comic books growing up was that I felt they didn’t have enough words. As a child who loved the written word, I had heavy doubts about their ability to create the same depth as a novel or other piece of literature. What I didn’t consider was how amazing it is that comic book writers could do just that: create unimaginable depth with so few words, and Joe Kelly is a master at this. His writing is just the right amount of funny, dark and expressive and his dialogue fits so perfectly with Fiumara’s illustrations that I can hear not only the words, but their tones as well. The language used fits the era, and Kelly successfully dodged any anachronistic expressions or jokes. There really isn’t much more that can be said about Kelly’s writing, he’s a master, let’s just leave it at that.

Fiumara successfully captures the 1930s depression era with his gritty, slightly cartoonish style, as if paying homage to a horror noir. Somehow, he manages to make dragons fit perfectly into this era as if they were always meant to be there. What I really love about this comic is that it is almost entirely in black and white. Ordinarily I would be disappointed by this, but its deliberateness and the minimalistic color used in many of the illustrations makes it work. Washed-out reds can be found throughout the issue highlighting characters and amplifying text. Fiumara has truly mastered the art of capturing expressions and Enrico has the expressive face of a child who simply cannot mask his emotions. In addition to Enrico’s expressiveness, we are also shown some very creative depictions of different species of dragons (Four Eyes wasn’t very cleverly named, but children aren’t the greatest at naming things). I can’t wait to see more from Fiumara as this series progresses, and as Four Eyes becomes a fully grown lethal fighting machine!

What I love most about this story is that it completely caught me off guard. I didn’t find the setting particularly interesting until suddenly there were dragons involved! As far as I know this hasn’t been done before and the duo handle it quite well. This isn’t your everyday revenge tale; it will likely become a story where a boy must question everything he believes in order to make changes in his life. Four Eyes: Hearts of Fire was published on January 6th, 2016, and can be purchased in print or digitally for the very reasonable price of $2.99!

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Don't Be Cross

Crossed: Badlands #91

Writer: Max Bemis
Artists: German Erramouspe
Colors: Digikore Studios
Letters: Jaymes Reed
Publisher: Avatar

Crossed and I have a history. It started and I loved it, and there have been hills and valleys along the way but at the end of the day it remains a daring and often crassly fun series of comics that I don't typically keep up with. I discovered this recent [2 issue] story arc after hearing about it on the 11 O'clock Comics podcast. The story is written by Say Anything singer/songwriter Max Bemis of the enjoyably peculiar story, Oh Killstrike, as well as Evil Empire and Polarity. Art duties are performed by German Erramouspe who has more than proven he's got the chops for horror with titles such as of Night of the Living Dead, Disenchanted, Dark Gods, and God is Dead.

For those of you who don't know, Crossed is a world where a plague broke out that stripped everyone down to their base pleasures, instincts, and desires. This typically results in rape, grotesque violence, and bad language. Oh, and all of those inflicted with this virus have scarring across their nose and between their eyes, forming a cross. This story revolves around four comic book shop employees and the comic artist/writer, Leigha, who they "rescued". Leigha was at the shop doing a signing when the virus hit. The folks who worked at the shop kicked everyone out and ran to the back room with Leigha to hole themselves up. Weeks have passed and the virus is still raging outside. Inside however, the men are alright, but Leigha is in a living hell. Still locked in the back room, she is forced to relieve the men's sexual frustrations at every request, wearing nothing but a large t shirt. As time goes on, the "gentleman" find themselves bored with Leigha as well as with the comic stories they surround themselves with. They know none of these comics will ever see their conclusion which bums them out. With a comic writer/artist in residence, the crew has Leigha draw a new serial for them to enjoy in exchange for new, humane privileges and thus the superhero, Anti-Crossed, is born. The men all love it, but what they don't realize is that what they consider to be fun may be giving Leigha her righteous, well deserved chance at retaliation.

Max Bemis has a unique writing style that delicately walks the line between story within a story scenarios and meta fiction, resulting in a story that has just the right amount of brevity to keep people from feeling overly uncomfortable. Don't get me wrong, the unaffected gentleman inside the comic shop are just as monstrous as all of the folks with the virus outside, and what they do to Leigha is despicable, but Bemis clearly realizes that an overabundance of trauma and distress can ruin a story, and adjusts accordingly. Not only that but he also includes a level of satire as we get acquainted with a very sterotyped group of comic fans. A large part of this story is showing the reader that even if someone doesn't necessarily have a cross scar across their face, this situation can still drive them to be monsters. However, that shift isn't too extreme, as we see the shop employees before this apocalypse and they were miserable haters then. Leigha's arc is what this story is all about, and despite all that has happened to her she still has a tremendous amount of strength and cunning. The book takes two tones, that of the real world and that of Leigha's comic which features a foul mouthed version of Superman, essentially, that fights the perverted Crossed. In both the main story and this comic within the comic, there is a ton of harshness and devices to think about, all of which is handled masterfully.

German Erramouspe illustrates a style that is raw and showcases the sinister nature of the Crossed well. However, he doesn't overemphasize the gore in a way that will turn people off more than needed. With a set of antagonists that are soley evil, someone could really amp up the violence and gore, however, Erramouspe chose to draw the vile acts of the Crossed as tastefully as possible so that we wouldn't lose important story beats. When we finally get to see the comic which Leigha has produced, it is filtered through a much more colorful light and a much more lose shape, perfectly working with the story within a story motif. The character model for the Anti-Crossed is exactly that. Instead of missing skin on his face he is missing skin all over his body, with the exception of the area between his eyes and nose. There's a clear understanding between the writer and the artist that this story is to have a level of uncomfortable satire woven into a story of despair and escapism. What that understanding means for the reader is a great product with art perfect for the story it portrays.

As I mentioned earlier, Crossed: Badlands #91 is the first part of a two part story. Between Leigha's horrible situation and something that occurs at the end of the issue, the second half of this tale is determined to be filled with action, redemption, a few surprises, and possibly a few scars. Bemis and Erramouspe are an incredible team for a tough series that insert a small touch of social commentary and uncomfortable questions/truths into an apocalyptic world. Issue 91 costs $3.99 and #92 will be released on January 27th.

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Space Can Be Odd

Hello, everyone! It's your host, Drew! Starting with this entry I have enlisted Mariah Senecal to start writing posts with me. You will know who wrote which post by the picture at the very bottom. Enjoy!

Kaptara vol. 1: Fear Not, Tiny Alien

Writer: Chip Zdarsky
Artist: Kagan McLeod
Color Assist: Becka Kinzie
Publisher: Image Comics

What better way to start off the New Year than a review of Kaptara, a beautifully illustrated Sci-Fi adventure that definitely leans more towards fiction than science. This hilarious tale is written by bestselling writer Chip Zdarsky (Sex Criminals, Howard the Duck) and is brought to life with the creative artistry of Kagan McLeod (Infinite Kung-Fu). With impressive villains, questionable modes of transportation, and enough sarcasm to make any father proud, Kaptara will keep you glued to your seat from beginning to end.

When a mission to Mars is interrupted by an asteroid-splattered space anomaly (we should just go through it right?), the crew find themselves jettisoned into space in escape pods and landing on a planet that is definitely not in our solar system. With the crew scattered, or worse, the main character, Keith, finds himself among some of the more sentient inhabitants of the planet with a big problem; Earth is in danger and the only one who can help save the planet has no desire to return. Surrounded by strange species on an unfamiliar planet, Keith must choose between starting a new life, or fighting to save and return to his old one.

Zdarsky’s writing is a nice concoction of sarcasm, wit and vulgarity; giving his characters authenticity in their given situations. Considering nearly all of the characters in Kaptara are Alien, Zdarsky does a fantastic job portraying the subtle differences between species (not to mention the quick, but effective, explanation for why they can all speak a common tongue). Keith, the most sarcastic and lease vulgar character, is portrayed as a young man who harbors a lot of hatred for the people in his past, yet he proves to be a kind soul willing to keep an open mind about his current situation. Other fantastic characters include: the valiant warrior Manton, who is very predictably in love with his queen, Jinli, the queen who is as cunning as she is beautiful, and the queen’s spoiled son Darton, who has an odd obsession with blow-darts. Each of Zdarsky’s characters brings something new to the table, but they all share equal amounts of wit and grandeur!

This fantastic Sci-fi story is filled with beasts that are as disgusting as they are intriguing (I do mean that in a good way). From beautiful half-bird half-humanistic flying beasts to grotesque blobs aptly called Glomps (with mouths dirtier than their Glompy bodies), this series gets an A+ for creativity. I am especially fond of the various methods of transportation that include a strange convoy of dog-tanks, large centipede critters, and something that definitely looks like an old man on all fours. I have never been more impressed, or grossed out, by imaginative art! In addition to the wonderful fauna, the flora on this planet is equally as mystifying. I would advise that when reading Kaptara, you give a lot of attention to the finer details, because they are quite beautiful.

What’s not to like about this fantastic piece of work? It makes you think, it makes you laugh, and it does so while sneaking in little gems of motivational advice. In addition to the art, which I think is brilliantly grotesque, Kaptara is shaping up to be a fantastic coming-of-age story set within pretty impossible circumstances, which gives it that necessary kick when it comes to capturing the attention of today’s readers. It’ll hit bookstores on January 5th, and was available in comic book stores on December 23rd for only $9.99! Overall, Kaptara is a great read to start off the New Year!

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A World of Life

Niobe: She Is Life #1

Writer: Amandla Stenberg & Sebastian A. Jones
Art: Ashley A. Woods
Layouts: Darrel May
Publisher: Stranger Comics

Stranger Comics is a new publisher that is creating a whole new world called Asunda. This is a mythical world with a ton of fantastical characters, many of which first appeared in the series The Untamed. Also premiering in that series was the title character of this book, Niobe. This book is written by actress Amandla Stenberg (Hunger Games, Rio 2, Sleepy Hollow) as well as Stranger Comics president, Sebastian A. Jones. The art duties go to Ashley A. Woods, who proves her chops on her website by drawing all manor of character. See more of her work here!

Niobe wishes to escape her merciless tyrant of a father, and in her quest for freedom no one will assist her but the life goddess Arnuminel. Hunting her are members of the king's guard, led by the vampiric Essessa. While running, Niobe finds herself trapped, with her pursuers in one direction and a waterfall at her back. Obviously she chooses to descend down the waterfall, and finds herself in a strange but vibrant land with a peculiar group of individuals, lead by Bragnar Steelnose and worshiping a strange god named Powisienne. Tension mounts quickly, as Niobe must deal with the tensions of the untrusting group as well as the possibility that she is still being searched for.

Stenberg and Jones have weaved a very mythical tapestry as Niobe travels in a world that she finds familiar and surprising all at the same time. Niobe is my first foray into the world of Asunda, but from what I can see it gives a great representation of what the line has to offer. The exposition in this book is not overpowering but manages to provide a lot of the background leading up to this story as well as providing a good sense of what has occurred before. Not only that, but the mysteries surrounding the character of Niobe as well as what the future holds for her were brilliantly executed to effortlessly draw in new readers. The world building finds a very stable footing as we get introduced to gods and entities that influence the actions of the characters to push the story in an intriguing direction.

Artist Ashley Woods proves with every panel that she is a master of lush environments and beautiful character models. Primarily taking place in natural environments, each panel explodes with life as Niobe and the rest of the cast interact with an uninterrupted world. From the tree filled above world to the solid movement in the waterfall to the hellish subterranean area the water fall leads to, every panel is absolutely stunning. Adorning these panels while also bringing necessary momentum to the story are each of the characters. The characters each have their own look and are illustrated with a smooth and steady hand. Unique hair and facial patterns promote clear characterization, allowing a very understandable set of characters to go with the dialogue. My personal favorite character model is Essessa, who is drawn to look angelic while simultaneously appearing sinister. On all fronts this is an artistically stunning book.

Stranger Comics has a clear plan for the world they are building, and the efforts of Stenberg, Jones, and Woods are extremely beneficial to that. This is a beautiful story that is building a rich history, and a great portrayal of this fresh creative teams' talents. Niobe: She is Life #1 (of 9) came out in November but can still be bought off along with issue 2!