For The Love of Indie #37- Tongues, Murders, Horror Tapes

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Comic Releases on September 27th, 2017

Revenge, the Noir Way

An article by, Aaron Burton

Though it is often used for ironic or nostalgic purposes, noir-style media is a popular choice amongst artists and producers. A lot of us may remember the fictitious noir movie Filthy Souls seen within the movie Home Alone. We often see episodes of our favorite cartoons where the characters temporarily don the apparel of the old-school detective. It is hard to forget the femme fatale known as Jessica Rabbit.

Noir was a style of movies that were predominantly made in the 1940s and 50s. Noir filmmakers used German Expressionist cinematography when making noir films. German Expressionist art is typically known for its use of piercing angles and deep shadows. A classic example of this can be seen in the 1955 film The Night of the Hunter. Noir films are typically crime dramas. Think of the iconic image of the gumshoe sitting in his dark office as a beautiful woman walks in with a new case.

Comics books are no stranger to the noir way of doing things. The 1970s and 80s was a turning point in comic books. The once-campy heroes were now showing their darker and more serious side. When I think of noir comics my mind instantly goes to Alan Moore’s run of Batman and Frank Miller’s run of Daredevil.  The latter was so iconic that influenced a noir-parody featuring four adolescent terrapins.

Old Wounds is a noir crime mystery written by Russell Lissau. The artwork is done by John Bivens with lettering by Josh Southall and Steve Wallace. The book is published by Pop! Goes the Icon. There are currently four issues of the comic book. They can be purchased individually or in a single trade paperback. The book premiered in April of 2015.

Lissau spins a familiar tale of people bringing up the past to enact vengeance. Michael Lane used to be a masked vigilante but has since retired. He is forced to revisit his past after his ex-wife, who also fought crime, was murdered. The story spirals as more and more of Lane’s former accomplices are murdered. While teaming up with a local detective, Lane is sent on an adventure to find out who is enacting revenge on his friends and loved ones.

Bivens’ art is amazing to say the least. There are many aspects to the artwork in Old Wounds that are both creative and innovative. The book is completely black and white, but finds itself holding many different layers of style. The artwork can be abstract at times and often uses many different forms of shading in a seemingly chaotic manner.

The first thing that caught my eye was the creative use of Ben-Day dots. There are panels where Ben-Day dots are overlapping traditional shading. The dots even seem to appear on top of the art, sometimes blocking some of the details from view. This was an interesting departure from the classic pop-art style Ben-Day dots are most known for.

The depth and range of Bivens’ art style lends itself to Old Wounds’ gritty pulp style. Black and white comics pair well with noir-style stories as they are reminiscent of black and white noir movies. Bivens seems to take this a step further by finding creative ways to draw shadows and darkness.

I thought Old Wounds was an entertaining detective story. As the list of suspects began to narrow I began to get more and more excited to find out who the culprit was. I found myself spending a lot of time studying the panels. Each panel seemed to take on its own personality and style. I would recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of gumshoe detective stories and interesting art styles.

Old Wounds is available for digital download on Comixology. It can also be purchased though Pop! Goes the Icon’s website at

The Undefeated Villain

An article by, Aaron Burton

The mark of a hero is their ability to overcome adversity with impressive feats of strength and intellect. This is typically accomplished by, you guessed it, defeating the bad guys. This story is as old as writing itself dating back to ancient stories such as The Odyssey and The Epic of Gilgamesh. Humans have always loved stories of triumph.

The hero needs to come out on top in order to validate their journey. Batman's history would not pack as much of a punch if the Joker consistently got the best of him. Peter Parker's radioactive spider abilities would not be as meaningful if he were constantly put down by The Green Goblin. What happens when the villain goes undefeated?

Bastard's Waltz is a comic book written by Mark Bertolini, author of books such as Broken and Old Ghost. Giovanni Guida provides the artwork for the book. There are currently two issues of Bastard's Waltz. The first issue was released August 14th of 2017. The first volume of the trade paperback is scheduled to be released on September 27th of 2017. The book was released on Darby Pop Publishing.

John the Bastard may be the most prolific villain in comic book history. He has been able to avoid capture by the police. He has defeated every hero that has had the nerve to challenge him. Everything is going fine for John until a new villain named Nero gives him a run for his money.

Fearing defeat and backed into a corner, John the Bastard turns himself into police custody for protection. This is when he meets Ezekiel Sweet, the Secret Service agent tasked with protecting his life. If gangster movies have taught us anything it is that working with the police is an unforgivable sin. This puts John and Ezekiel in the cross hairs of every criminal force in their city.

Guida's art is raw and biting. This is a perfect fit for a violent and abrasive story. The art utilizes shades of pale yellow for much of the panel's backgrounds and lighting. Flashbacks are colored with a palette of pale blues. This sets a choice backdrop for other colors to be used as emphasis. Important characters pop off the page with the colors used in their outfits. The most notable use of this are the reds used in background objects, action text, and of course the bloodshed.

The character of John the Bastard embodies the spirit of a worn and seasoned villain. His attention to detail and sheer courage truly shows how he has been able to remain successful in his criminal career. He always seems to make the right move, even when those around him are fearing for his life. Underneath John's hard exterior we see an old man who is tired. Nothing lasts forever, and John seems to be cognizant of this sentiment. His cooperation with the Secret Service shows his vulnerability, but he is not quite ready to throw in the towel.

I found Bastard's Waltz to be gripping. It is interesting to see the story from the villain's perspective. With thousands of books showing hero defeating their villains, it was refreshing to read a comic where all bets are off. As the panels went on I caught myself cheering on John the Bastard as winds down his criminal career. Guida's art is rough in the best way possible. I found his style to be reminiscent of artists such as Jeff Lemire. If you are a fan of gritty crime dramas, or just rooting for the heel, then Bastard's Waltz is for you.

The first trade paperback can be pre-ordered through Darby Pop's store ( The issues are also available on Comixology.

Cognitive Dissonance in Shrinkage

An article by, Aaron Burton

When attempting to prove a point one of the most valuable qualities to have is consistency. An inconsistent argument will fall apart faster than a Nature Valley granola bar. Americans are currently living in a hyper-politicized time where every cause and trend is vying for national attention. Add this onto the left/right split of American’s electoral system and we can begin to see the problem. The issues presented in the modern political realm are often more complex than picking a side.  Assigning opinions to one party or the other is often a messy process. It is nearly impossible to align yourself with one of the two main political parties while still having an internally consistent set of views. America is just too complex at this point.

Cognitive dissonance is the psychological term for the stress felt when holding inconsistent beliefs and values. Since the advent of the internet American politics seems to be generating a lot of this stress. We want to package our beliefs into a neat and tidy box. Sadly, this a too idealistic goal to accomplish. We see pro-lifers who also favor the death penalty. We see folks who want both inclusiveness and cultural retention. The pious are often the strongest advocates for war.

The attempts to bifurcate multi-faceted issues and ideals is nothing more than a testament to the human condition. We often want simplicity where there is complexity, and order where there is chaos. The difference between the two is often the cause of strife, especially in highly-politicized country. A lot of us are constantly at odd with each other while simultaneously at odds with our own brains.

Shrinkage is a book written by five-time Emmy Award winning Rob Kutner. Kutner was previously a writer for television late-night shows such as The Daily Show and Conan. The artwork is done by John Lucas of Marvel fame. The book is published on Farrago Comics and has four issues at the time of this article. Shrinkage was crowd-funded through both Indiegogo and Kickstarter. Kutner describes the book as “a comedic sci-fi action tale about how the most unknowable battleground we face is the one within our own craniums.”

Shrinkage tells the story of the events surrounding President Dullard, the leader of the United States. After a peculiar brain tumor causes the President to act erratically, the government enlists the help of two strong yet very different characters. Dr. Percy is a spinster neuroscientist trying to make a name for herself. General McCrain is an angry hard-headed soldier who is constantly looking for a battle to be won. Together, the two get shrunk down and go on a journey through President Dullard’s mind to eradicate the force acting upon his brain.

Dr. Percy and General McCrain are inside President Dullard’s mind, both literally and figuratively. It seems that both characters are representing two very different viewpoints acting upon President Dullards mind. Kutner and Lucas have a very interesting way of presenting this allegory to the readers. As Percy and McCrain make their way through President Dullard’s brain they are constantly arguing. The arguments cause the team to slip and make some wrong moves. The effects of these mishaps are directly reflected in President Dullard’s behavior. One bump into the wrong neuron sends the leader of the nation into a nonsensical flurry of words and ideas.

The plot of Shrinkage seems to serve as a literary telling of cognitive dissonance. The President is victim to two struggling ideologies which exist within his own mind. On one side, you have a character which represents females, science, and a lack of confidence/stability. On the other side, you have a character which represents males, military and over-confident brute force. Both characters work as satirical caricatures of differing opinions. At the same time, they serve as prime examples of a person holding two contradicting opinions in their head.

Lucas does a great job of using his art style to enhance Kutner’s humorous writing. The character’s faces are often twisted and misshapen in a way which plays to their unique personalities. There are also many subtle jokes put into the artwork. The inside of President Dullard’s brain and neural network is painted in bright colors. This is very aesthetically pleasing as bright colors and intricate patterns seem to go hand in hand.

When I saw that Rob Guillory of Chew drew the first cover I knew that I had to give this book a go. Shrinkage was a fun read. I have always been a fan of both social and political satire. The book does a great job of balancing humor with social commentary. It makes you laugh as much as it makes you think. Shrinkage is a light-hearted and silly tale which is refreshing in a time where political views are squaring off on a daily basis. I hope to see more issues of this comic book in the future as well as the future works of Kutner and Lucas.