Adamant

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Staff: Mike Exner III, D.C. Stuelpner, Ian Waryanto, Josh Jensen, Micah Myers

Overview:

A beautiful, hilarious, superhero comic that does it all right.

Review:

The next course on our indie comic buffet is “Adamant”, a comic from Loophole Comics. The author described it to me as his love letter to the superhero comics he grew up with as a kid. Cover caught my eye- real bizarre and had some interesting color choice so I’m going to give it a read.

Art:

First things first the art top notch art- seriously best in the business. Something that didn’t sit super well with me off the bat was that there was an artist listed for page 1-7 and an entirely separate one listed for 8-20. I wasn’t really sure what to make of that but seems hinky at first. After reading it however- it’s apparent why they did this and it’s actually pretty clever. I only bring this up because it means I have to review the art twice.

The first 7 pages or so are they very stylized, thick-stroked, cartoonish, style that bring to mind some Disney stuff. Post page 8 we have a more 80s influenced comic style that keeps a similar color pallet. Both are just beautiful. This is straight up some of the best artwork I’ve come across as of late and that’ saying something. Very polished and a very good use of color across the entire thing. I wish the big publisher would put this much love into their products.

Other than that, the lettering is a little weird- the dialogue balloons are fine but some of the font choices for the narration/information boxes are a little weird. The robot dialogue font is a little hard to read at times. Overall it was readable and did it’s job.

Writing / Story:

So- this review contains a minor spoiler (it’s kind of the premise) so you’ve been warned. A few pages in the main character, a superhero named Adamant, gets thrown through time into the future (hence the artist switch). It goes from a very super-cheesy, stock, campy, superhero story (complete with a monocled evil genius villain) to a comedy set in the future. It’s kind of great and I absolutely love it. The campy hero is faced with lingo and situations commonplace in the future but it’s world he’s comically lost in. I laughed more than once reading it and I think Pogo is bloody hilarious (he’s a frog man who has all sorts of froggy lingo- kind of genius). The plot is accented nicely with some great line delivery, courtesy of a skilled writer.

Overall:

Overall… I liked it. It’s a great little comic, introduced a lot of the good stuff and has some great art. It’s a fun revitalization of a golden age character and EXACTLY the sort of thing the public domain was intended for. The comic can be a little slow at time and I’m still not sold on the main character’s boy scout personality (to the point even superman would call him too altruistic and clean) but it’s damn well worth a read!

Metrics:

Art: 10/10 [Best in the business- TWICE]

Lettering: 4/10 [Decent with a few minor missteps]

Plot: 7/10 [Damn good. Great dialogue/premise.]

Novelty: 7/10 [Uses cliches to make a very new and interesting plot.]

Overall: 7/10

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Atomic Thunderbolt (TJ Comics)

at_covercolor_txtless-662x1024Atomic Thunderbolt

Staff: Kevin Powers, Matt Gaudio, Donna Gregory

Overview:

A golden-age revival for the ages!

Review:

Today we’re reading the Atomic Thunderbolt by TJ comic. Cover’s super gold age retro and I know exactly why! The Atomic Thunderbolt is a 1946 comic character published by the Regor Company and, unless I’m wildly off base, this comic is a revitalization of him! See, a lot of characters have fallen into the public domain (Check out the Public Domain Superhero Wiki for more on that) and creators can do their own take on them. There was a beautiful effort done by Dynamite Entertainment back in 2008 called “Project Superpowers” with gorgeous art by Alex Ross himself. I am a huge proponent of the Public Domain (and trying to solve all the issues it has) so I jumped at the chance to review this comic. The cover itself is a straight up homage to the original cover, though some with modern sensibilities. I’ll be honest- I am super jealous, I’ve wanted to do something like this for years. Let’s see how it worked out for them!

Art:

So TJ Comics kept the character design of William ‘Willy the Wharf Rat’ Burns and it’s a design HEAVILY steeped in golden aged sensibilities and I kind of dig that. Internally the art is damn impressive. It’s something I’d expect to see in a major publisher’s release. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting that. The credit page left a lot to be desired and I thought I was in for a stinker. Just a weird jump in quality. Anyway, it’s full color and beautifully rendered. There are a few times I would have chosen a different texture or something but that doesn’t detract from the art of this comic. There are some excellent uses of perspective and visual movement cues. There are occasional anatomy/scaling issues and the occasional odd facial expression, but nothing distracting (and still better than some mainstreams). See the top of page 27 for what I’m talking about.

If there is a weakness in this comic’s visuals it’s the lettering. The dialogue balloons are fine but the narration boxes occasionally are a bit crowded and the choice to go with some vibrant, stock, colors as backgrounds for them in a few scenes where most things are super desaturated while in flashback is really out of place. Otherwise it’s fine.

Writing / Story:

It was a bold choice for the comic to set itself in the late 1940s (post WWII) like the original Atomic Thunderbolt. It’s a bit of a double edge sword for this comic because it is a very fun time period/aesthetic to play with but it also means they are re-treading a lot of the original Atomic Thunderbolt material (not that anyone read it).

I thought it was a clever little detail that they brought up Archie Masters, the American Crusader, at one point- he was another golden age (now public domain) superhero. I looked into TJ comics and found that they actually had not only a modern reboot of the American Crusader but also a modern equivalent to the Atomic Thunderbolt in their “ExtraOrdinary” comic line. That, honestly, take a little of the “umph” out of this comic for me but it’s also kind of nice to know that they are really dedicated to the premise so it evens out in the end.

The comic’s laid out in a few thoughtful way- we have people talking about the Atomic Flash for a large part of the comic and, other than the cover, we don’t see him in a good clear shot for a long time. There is a lot of thinly veiled exposition dumps in the beginning but it’s actually set up in a fun enough way, even being aware of it, it didn’t detract from it. Some of the dialogue, couched in a very 1940s style, is a bit heavy on the lingo- even more so than before (like “We was workin’ a job fer the chief. Guy broke da boss’ jaw and send him up tha river.”). It’s not super distracting and if I didn’t get at least a little of that in a 1940s comic I think I’d have been disappointed but it’s something that caught my eye once or twice.

As a side note, I always find it funny when publishers of superhero comics come up with words to describe them other than “suphero” or “superhuman”. I get there are trademarks on metahuman and stuff but I’ve come across like ubermensch and whatnot. Today’s new verity of it is “extrahuman”. What, did god give them two scoops of human when they were born?

The pacing is a bit off honestly. The beginning was very fast paced but then I had to slog though a just painful stretch of dialogue between two men talking about the Atomic Lightning’s background in excruciating detail. It should have probably been summed up in about a page, but instead we get about 4 text heavy pages where we are told (rather than shown) the protagonist’s personality and background.

Once the plot gets going it’s pretty solid. I’m not in love with the Atomic Thunderbolt’s ridiculously corny, straight-out-of-a-comic-book, ultra altruistic, dialogue/personality. I get they are trying to subvert it but no one acts like that- not even in comics. That was bad writing back in the golden age and it’s bad writing here. They do kind of use it to a good end plot wise but it just seems like he is supposed to be this perfect mimicry of a golden age hero and it’s a little distracting.

As a fun aside- this comic includes two high res (or as high resolution as they could get) comics at the end; the only two actual Atomic Thunderbolt comics ever made. After reading them I realized they slipped the two bumbling doctors and their raven into the main comic as a flashback and chuckled a bit at it- pretty clever.

Overall:

Overall… I liked it. It’s a great little comic, introduced a lot of the good stuff and has some great art. It’s a fun revitalization of a golden age character and EXACTLY the sort of thing the public domain was intended for. The comic can be a little slow at time and I’m still not sold on the main character’s boy scout personality (to the point even superman would call him too altruistic and clean) but it’s damn well worth a read!

Metrics:

Art: 8/10 [Professional grade]

Lettering: 4/10 [Decent with a few minor missteps]

Plot: 6/10 [Good introduction]

Novelty: 6/10 [Great use of public domain and setting, relies too heavily on existing plot elements to be really unique]

Overall: 6/10

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Midnight Task Force

mid-night-taskforce-1Midnight Task Force

Staff: Joshua Metzger, Grzegorz Pawlak, Ryan Burt, E.T Dollman, Marcell Mitchell-Hicks

Overview:

A clever cyberpunk/scifi detective comic you need to read.

Review:

So on today’s plate is “Midnight Task Force” by Mad Cave Studio. To be honest- they sent me 3 comics and just one look at the cover and art style of this and I knew I had to review it. Very high tech and weird. Anyway- let’s dive right in!

 

Art:

So first off- this comic is full color and does great things with it. It doesn’t half ass it- it is fully committed to that and uses it well. If I was judging this comic sheerly by the art on the first few pages it’d get full marks just for that. There are a few awkward panels, like on the top left of page 5 where it looks like someone went a bit crazy with the clone-stamp tool. However overall there are a few awkward poses but not enough to offset the glorious (and I don’t use that word sparingly) demonstration of the mastery of emotion and movement the artist shows. There is a straight up BRUTAL opening scene where a murder happens and I felt every punch VISUALLY. That’s saying something- a great use a angels and dynamic postures really makes it feel alive.

The lettering is on point and the onomatopoeia work well at invoking the sound they are attempting to make. They als do a very interesting with their panel edges. I’m sure it’s just a photoshop brush but I’ll be damned if it isn’t cool. It’s a stroked border like an ink brush and it fits nicely with the art style and crime/horror tone of the comic. There is some minor readability issues with some of the neon text and following some of the conversations gets a bit confusing for the readers at time. Still, I’ll give them credit- they tried something new and it didn’t come off as terrible, just as not gangbusters.

 

Writing / Story:

I feel like they were showing their influences a bit when they put Jet from Bebop (or someone who looks a lot like him) in one of the scenes as a bartender but it was a nice homage. Either way- that’s the tone we are getting. Very space cowboy/cyberpunk and not in the bad way. If there was an issue I had with it it’s the main character. He doesn’t quite fall into gary stue territory but he get’s close. Genius detective that solves crime the police can’t solve, dark and troubled past, wears a trenchcoat, etc. That being said- it’s a stunning mystery series. Most series with a suspense/mystery element give us a very basic “follow the clues” method that those playing at home with Dora the Explorer could just as easily do as the detective in the story- but we get a very deep look at our protagonist’s process. There is some very heavy, awkward, exposition throw in there (see page 25- no one asked for your backstory Aiden) but it’s a 1st issue so some concessions had to be made. There’s a great twist at the very end and you’ll want to go read issue #2 as soon as you hit the end of issue #1.

 

Overall:

Overall- it’s a damn fine entry. It’s got legitimate suspense and horror as well as a familiar aesthetic that’s been done before but now applied to the “forensic procedural” genre quite so well. It’s got a fun twist, interesting characters, and solid art. Seriously give this one a look.

 

Metrics:

Art: 8/10 [Damn good but for an overuse of a clone tool now and then]

Lettering: 5/10 [It works most of the time]

Plot: 7/10 [A decent mystery story]

Novelty: 6/10 [It’s a solid entry in the neo-noir cyberpunk genre]

Overall: 6.5/10

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Villain

villain001_evoluzionepublishing_peepgame_page_01-500x759Villain

Staff: Joshua Metzger, Grzegorz Pawlak, Ryan Burt, E.T Dollman, Marcell Mitchell-Hicks

Overview:

A pretty middle of the road noir superhero comic.

 

Review:

Hey guys- sorry it’s been awhile (I’m a full time graduate student finishing up my last courses). Anyway, today I’m going to give you a brief review of Villain #1 but Evoluzione Publishing Just a quick look at the cover gives us the promise of a solid superhero noir so let’s jump on in.

Sidenote: I did not review the 10 or so pages of “Mongrel” but it looks rather more interesting visually. I may get to that in a later review but it looked so different I would have done it a disservice by combining the two into one review.

 

Art:

If there is a shortcoming it’s in the art. It’s really a shame too. A lot of it is really just downright fantastic- great use of texture, shadow, perspective, and the character designs of the aging characters are really nailed in all their cheesy glory. However some of the scenes feel really awkwardly empty. A skybox left devoid of detail here, a weird visual set up there, an occasional untextured element to a scene that should totally have had texture, and a few other minor things. A lot of the exterior shots look really big and empty. Maybe that was intended to match the tone of the comic but it really just feels… I don’t know. Kind of like poser 3D artwork in that they don’t detail the entire scene- just the few characters in it. I feel like there should be something on the ground in the exterior shots that we are missing. So it’s a real hit AND miss. Like 90% of it is grade A awesome and that 10% tends to kill me now and again. This is probably because of how good the rest of it is that it stands out to me.

 

Writing / Story:

Villain tries really hard to be dark and I don’t know if it needed to try that hard- especially in the dialogue. A lot of truncated slang and harsh language that really seems a little forced to be honest. It doesn’t feel “real” like this was something the person doing the dialogue really understands (throwing in phrases like “caper” next to “amature shit”). It seems like they were trying to mimic a style/tone rather than telling a story and letting it’s style determine the aesthetic.

 

Most of the characters didn’t really grab me. We had lots of stock tropes embodied but not to any end other than for familiarity. It feels like a real tone deaf move to put such two dimensional characters like Guardian in a genre like noir where investment in characterization and emotional investment are such a key.

The comic is rife with things like this. We have a guy kill a girl at one point but he does it… “because he’s evil”? Even if he’s a serial killer, that fact alone isn’t enough to explain his actions. They are motivated by something. There is pathos behind their actions. It’s like they are fishing with no (emotional) bait on the line. It feels like things happen because that’s the way they “happen like that in a noir” (or a superhero comic) not because of good writing or intended development of a theme or message.

Gil, the central character, did grow on me. In the later third of the comic we get some character development for him and it’s damn good. His background is probably the closest thing we have to a real big idea (it’s been done before but it does it well here) and the best representation of the author’s understanding of the genre’s emotional investment requirements.

 

Overall:

Ultimately, with me, this just failed to impress. I’ve read a dozen like this and it doesn’t do anything new with either the noir setting or the characters themselves. I found myself bored by the midpoint waiting for the big ideas to hit and was kind of sad when they didn’t. It’s pretty run of the mill. There is a real lack of understanding of the genres not in terms of appreciation but in terms of implementation. Art’s about average and, while tonally appropriate, doesn’t rise above the skill of its artist. It’s not an offensively bad comic, not by any measure, but it’s not something I’d be looking to snag further issues of.

 

Metrics:

Art: 3/10 [Ok, but lacking]

Lettering: 5/10 [It works well. No issues.]

Plot: 4/10 [The characterization of Gil saves it from being a wash-out]

Novelty: 3/10 [It’s all been done before]

Overall: 3.75/10

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