FTLI #50- The 90's, Tiny Horror, Lady Justice

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Written & drawn by, Tara O'Connor
Published by, Oni Press

Written by, Sharon Shinn
Published by, First Second

Written by, David Gaffney
Drawn by, Dan Berry
Published by, Top Shelf

Written & drawn by, Jason Little
Published by Beekeeper/Top Shelf
Buy Jack's Luck Runs Out

Written & drawn by, Matthew Bogart

Written by, Fabien Vehlmann
Drawn by, Kerascoet
Published by, Drawn & Quarterly
Buy Beautiful Darkness

Written by, Shad Clark & Kristen Schwarz
Drawn by, Ari Syahrazad
Published by, Shwarkhaus
Buy The Black Dahlias

Written & drawn by, Matt Sheehan & Malachi Ward
Published in Image Comics
Buy Island
Buy Ancestor

Releases on January 31st, 2018

Prepare For Adventure!

An article by, Aaron Burton

        Life is the all time best role-playing game. I say this in jest as role-playing games attempt to recreate the variables found in real life. Our successes and struggles are represented as experience points. Our material possessions are translated into gear and loot. The giant boss monster is our mother-in-law (sorry Karen). Though all of the facets of role-playing games are available to us in real life, there is nothing like leaving the world behind to delve into a realm of fantasy. Sometimes escape is exactly what we need when it comes to avoiding the boring and mundane.

Dungeon Quest is created by Joe Daly. The book is an action-comedy full of fantasy and surrealism. There are three volumes of the book spanning twenty-six issues. Dungeon Quest premiered in May of 2010 and ran through July of 2012. The comic is published by Fantagraphics.

Millennium Boy is a small megalocephalic child. After getting fed up with his homework he decides to break up the monotony of his life by going on a fantastic adventure. Treating the world like a role-playing game, Millennium  Boy takes off to assemble his perfect party. Soon enough he finds himself on a journey filled with gear, loot, mythology, and friendship. Dungeon Quest contains all of the crude and raunchy humor we have grown to love from Joe Daly. There is no shortage of over the top jokes and gross imagery. This style of humor blends well with the fantastic and mythological themes of the book.

Daly's art style in Dungeon Quest is reminiscent of the pulp Underground Comix of the past. The inking shows heavy lines and a lot of hatch shading. The whole aesthetic reminds me of the classic comic styles of Harvey Kurtzman and R. Crumb. As we have seen in the past, this art style is often paired with dirty and offbeat humor. This book does a great job of pairing the two while putting a fresh spin on the style.

One interesting aspect of Dungeon Quest is the book's balance between fantasy and real life. When the journey begins, Millennium Boy is essentially running around his neighborhood in his underwear while wielding a crowbar. As the series progresses the plot falls deeper and deeper into fantasy. The group goes from fighting street thugs to battling hordes of humanoid moles and regenerating skeletons. The fine line between fact and fiction creates an interesting dynamic in the plot. Is the group really stumbling upon ancient secrets? Or is their imagination allowing them to be violent against people in their surrounding community?

Another great part of Dungeon Quest is the attention to detail regarding the aspects of role playing games. Whenever the characters find or trade loot, readers are shown a Dungeons and Dragons style character sheet. We always know what armor and weapons the crew is wearing during their adventure. This also adds a layer to the book's humor as many items are renamed and re-purposed. A dumbbell is now a powerful melee weapon. A book of poetry is seen as an ancient book of spells.

Dungeon Quest was a fun read. It is definitely what I needed on a slow Friday afternoon. It had all of the dirty jokes and nerdy references I needed to get through the day. I have read other works by Joe Daly and they never seem to disappoint. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys comics influenced by the Underground Comix movement, such as Derf Backderf.  Dungeon Quest is available through Comixology as well as Fantagraphics.

Coping, with Comics

An article by, Kaila Streichert

Increased heartbeat, sweaty palms, shortness of breath. That was me trying to work out a topic for this article. The menagerie of metaphors! The verbs and adverbs alone were dizzying.

Frankly, it gave me anxiety.

Which is when I saw the sign like an Ace of Bass song; how have graphic novels helped me with my mental illness? Now, I don't mean how they helped me view my situation from a different perspective, nor how they provided a much needed distraction. I'm talking about the specific way certain writers and artists have melded storylines, artistry, speech bubbles, and panels to make me feel less alone and truly understood.

As you may have surmised, either by perusing through my social media accounts,hearing me on the podcast, or by knowing me personally, I struggle. Regularly. What you also may have noticed is my usage of song lyrics, manga panels, and snippets of words by authors long dead to describe my mood. That is no coincidence. I've always loved to read and I grew up surrounded by music. What made me fall deeply and truly in love with graphic novels was the melding of art, vocabulary, and a kind of visual lyricism. Instead of seeking each on it's own, I was able to see it all in front of me, in one drawing, in one panel. It was akin to being held in an embrace, being told "you're not alone in how you feel." That, for anyone, let alone someone with mental illness, can sometimes be the separating factor between drinking the proverbial hemlock and getting out of bed.

Comics and graphic novels aren't a cure all, not by any means. But finding anything that can make you feel validated is no small feat. So, go out, find those books, and tell me which ones have made you feel understood and safe. I can't wait to read them.

FTLI #49- Monster Gangs, Eerie Attics, Ice Cream

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Written/drawn by, Dave Baker
Check out Action Hospital
Back the Kickstarter

Published by, Pleasure Pie

Written by, Mark L. Miller
Art by, James Whynot
Published by, Black Mask
Download Pirouette #1

Written & drawn by, Celine Loup
Buy The Man Who Came 
Down the Attic Stairs 

Written by, Ales Kot
Drawn by, Danijel Zezelj
Published by, Image Comics

Edited by, Laura Lannes
Get Bad Boyfriends physically or digitally

Written by, W. Maxwell Prince
Drawn by, Chris O'Halloran
Published by, Image Comics

Written/drawn by, Dilraj Mann
Published by, Nobrow Press

Written by, Ryan K. Lindsay
Drawn by, Sami Kivelä
Published by, Black Mask

Comic releases for January 24th, 2018

Unboxing and Unmasking

An article by, Aaron Burton

Theory crafting is one of my favorite aspects of entertainment media. I often have more fun browsing message boards than I do consuming the content itself. For me, this started off when I started watching week-to-week dramas while they were airing. Waiting an entire week in suspense just wasn't enough. I began to speculate about monthly comic titles, or cryptic messages in video games. If there is a clue to be had, I'll be there.

When I heard Jon Chad was releasing a large multimedia comic project, I knew I had to jump in and take a look. I didn't know much about the large box labeled "Bad Mask". When I told social media I had purchased the set Chad simply replied "I hope you're ready for a lot of robots". It was at that point I knew I was in good hands.

The mail arrived, and my fiance asked if I had ordered us a new board game. I began to wonder the same thing as I opened the large heavy box. This was like no comic book I had ever read before. My mind was blown as I found myself in possession of trading cards, memos, documents and periodicals all telling one cohesive story.

Chad pulls all of these materials together to tell the tale of the struggles between heroic robot Metal Metro and the terrorist organization known as Bad Mask. Readers take on the role of Brasso Mask, a low-ranking Bad Mask agent. The box of goods is sent to Brasso by high ranking Diode Mask. All of the pieces serve as Diode's argument to prove the truth about Metal Metro.

The plot of the story itself is simple. Metal Metro is an all-in-one crime fighting machine capable of taking on the greatest of threats. Bad Mask is an organization bent on overthrowing Metal Metro's authoritarian enforcement. A wrench is thrown into this classic "good vs. evil" scenario as we begin to look beneath the surface.

This is where perspective comes into play. Society in Bad Mask looks very similar to modern American society. From this perspective Metal Metro can be seen as a heroic protector of justice. On the other hand, Metal Metro may be an oppressive force that only serves to protect citizens residing within mainstream culture. Since the package is being sent to us by Bad Mask, we as readers to subject to a world viewed through the lens of the "bad guys". Is Bad Mask really a terrorist organization? Or are they fighting for individual freedom in a world guarded by a superhero robot?

I took my introduction letter from Diode Mask very seriously. Bad Mask was attempting to prove their point to me, and I was ready to make sure their logic was sound. Who am I to be so easily swayed by a group of radical revolutionaries? With a cup of coffee and a notebook, I was ready to dig in.

The amount of information found in Bad Mask is overwhelming in a good way. This serves as a testament to Chad's stunning world-building skills. By the time I was done digesting the first few items I already had over three full pages of notes along with a four page chronological timeline. Every aspect of the items were soaked in information about the Bad Mask universe.

I found myself writing down bar code numbers. I was finding secret messages in sudoku puzzles. This wasn't my proudest moment, but even I lifted up the plastic insert in the box to make sure there was nothing hidden underneath. I was finding connections in even the most minute details, and my research seemed like it was paying off. Sure, I had my questions and theories, but all of the details seemed to be forming one coherent story.

One of the most amazing aspects of Bad Mask is the work's ability to drive the plot through the items. The introduction letter tells us the order in which to review all of the objects in the box. At first I questioned this importance, but as I made my way through the items I realized how crucial this was to the storytelling. The order of the items supplied information in a manner that progressed the narrative and set up plot twists and developments.

Two of the most impressive items in Bad Mask are the newspaper and the magazine. Both items contain many articles that are not related to the main plot. These writings give an excellent overview of
society in Bad Mask. Many of these articles serve as commentary for political/cultural issues that are present in modern America. This is part of what makes Bad Mask so special. The plot may be about robots and super villains, but the cultural setting of the work hits close to home.

The quality of the items in Bad Mask is nothing short of exemplary. Every piece looks and feels like they should. The magazine cover is shiny and glossy. The meeting notes come in a plastic presentation binder. Case files can be found in the manilla folder. It really felt like I were receiving objects from another universe.  By the end of the story the theory I had been working on had been proven wrong. However the ending exceeded anything that could be found in my notes and I am happy about that. Bad Mask is easily the most immersive comic book experience I have ever had. I know I haven't unlocked every secret and Easter egg in the box. I am looking forward to finding these in future rereads.

I wanted to keep this review as spoiler-free as possible. I want everyone to have the same experience with this book that I did. If you have read Bad Mask and would like to discuss the story, please feel free to reach out to me on social media.

Bad Mask is a comic created by Jon Chad. It is published by Boom! Studios. The book was released in December of 2017. It can be purchased on Amazon or through Boom! Studios directly.

FTLI #48- Talking Weapons, Da Vinci, Space Gods

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Written by, James Smith
Back the Kickstarter

Written by, Pete James Ford
Drawn by, Jed Dougherty 
Published by, Resolution Independent Comics

Written & drawn by, Pat Aulisio
Published by, Hic & Hoc

Written by, Justin Jordan
Drawn by, Eleonora Carnili
Published by, Aftershock Comics

Written & drawn by, Kate Leth
Listen to Kate's podcast Less Than Live
Check out the webcomc Kate or Die
Get this comic by joining Kate's Patreon

Written by, Paul Allor
Drawn by, Chris Evenhuis
Published by, Aftershock Comics

Written & drawn by, 

Written by, Sarah Vaughn
Drawn by, Leila Del Duca
Published by, Image Comics

Written by, Fred Van Lente
Drawn by, Stephen Segovia
Published by, Valiant Comics

Releases on January 17th, 2018