The Dredger

dredger-coverThe Dredger

Staff: Jeremy Wilfinger, Crizam Zamora, Natalia Marques

Overview:

The Dredger is a well-written, well-illustrated, clearly-loved, comic that fails to excite with its premise.

Review:

Hey guys, ready for the next round of reviews? We’ve got two new writers (Kayla and Thomas) coming on board soon at Indie Comic Review (in addition to yours truly) so get excited for that! Anyway today we’ve got “The Dredger” so let’s jump on in!

Art:

Art looks downright professional grade, but not on like the “high art” end of the spectrum. Looks like a typical comics circa 2000-2010 in terms of style. A brighter palette and while things are not perfect- they are a cut above the rest. There are some really nice little bits of details that bring the world to life. This is particularly true when you see some of Ben’s photographs near the end and it’s a really solid use of the visual medium of comics.

Lettering, the hallmark of a professional comic, is on point. I could see a handful of instances where the text was probably too close to the edge of the balloons but only a critic would notice such things (see the lower right panel of page 25 for an example).

Writing / Story:

Linguistically I don’t know if heavy accents were the right choice. On the one hand they do add to the notion of diverse people thrown together into a common situation but, on the other hand, it makes it a little hard to read sometimes. There were a few well delivered lines that made me chuckle, which is a sign that the writer knows what they were doing.

In terms of plot it’s an authoritarian future where a weaponized virus has been released into a major population center. I gotta say- I get where they are going with a comic like this but… it’s honestly kind of boring. Like I kept finding myself waiting for the “big reveal” and it never came. It was kind of a let down. We have some really big build up and decent writing for what amounts to a “the government is kinda evil” story. I was getting a bit of a 28 days later vibe from it towards the middle but the premise just didn’t grab me. Maybe it picks up and evolves into something more interesting later but right now? I don’t think I’d read issue two to find out what it was.

Overall:

Ultimately this is a well-written, well-illustrated, clearly-loved, comic that was written as a message (see the Frederick Douglass quote up front if you somehow missed it). However, it fails to excite. It is one of those slow build comics that never really builds to anything groundbreaking. Now, never every comic needs to be high-octane action packed into every panel (I’ve liked some slow) but this one just kind of never gets anywhere. Sure things happens and the story progresses but I didn’t feel engaged by the premise. Like I said- it’s got all the right ingredients other than the premises’ engagement to me personally- so give it a read. Maybe it’ll have a profound impact on you.

Metrics:

Art: 7/10 [Pro level]

Lettering: 6/10 [Decent]

Plot: 5/10 [Solid dialogue]

Novelty: 3/10 [Just didn’t grab me at all.]

Overall: 5.25/10

Link to Website

Adamant

7df7888f16cbde1ceca544dc734da085-_sx360_ql80_ttd_Adamant

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

Link to Product

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

Link to Product

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

Link to Product

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

Link to Product

The Not So Golden Age

The Not So Golden Age

Staff: Phil Buck and Joseph Freistuhler

Overview:

Golden aged, public domain, goodness on a whole new level.

Review:

For those of you who don’t know- I’m a huge proponent of the public domain. Short version: creators should maintain a hold on their work for a while then be subject to the market. Forcing DC to write better Batman series (yes- he would be in the public domain were it not for Mickey Mouse and Sonny Bono) because others are writing good stories too is not a bad idea.

 

Anyway, the reason I bring this up is that “The Not So Golden Age” uses a number of public domain superheroes in it and shows us why it’s such a positive thing. The comic opens on a trailer park in Reno where 2 heroes and 1 villain, all retired, are living together. Honestly- that’s what got me. Love the golden age, love the setup, love the subversion.

 

The comic also REEKS of nostalgia- fake cheesy toy ads in the front of the book, those golden aged yellow and black narration boxes, that off-white color of the page *sniffle sniffle*, sorry but it’s just so perfect. My inner comic hipster is crying with joy.
But seriously. The tone established in this comic is top notch. I’ve never seen it does anywhere else and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. A lot of the shortcomings of this comic can be forgiven due to its total commitment to the aesthetic. Like the lettering is a little cramped… but that is kind of how they did it back in the day.

 

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:

The writing however is glorious. A lot of pop culture references you immediately get, some genuine chuckles now and then where you laugh along with the characters, etc. Wasn’t psyched at the use of some chatspeak (WTF) but there was a 4th wall breaking joke I kinda of chuckled at. The reveal at the midpoint is pretty hilarious and the writer did a great job characterizing each trailer park tenant with only a few lines or a single scene (something professional writers often fail at).

There is a second story (the first story being titled A Golden Aged Murder)called “Not Another Death in the Family” (a reference to the infamous Batman “Death in the Family” storyline). It gets a little more parody-ish than the first, which I was not a big fan of. It basically does every sidekick trope out there, does a few parodies of batman poses and lines, and a few parodies of famous covers. I honestly wasn’t as big of a fan of this one as the first. It was a bit shorter and thought I cracked a smile, I didn’t get the same joy from this one as I did the first (too reliant on comic book meta I think).

 

Overall:

So all and all… read the shit out of this book. It’s got charm, laughs, a brain in a robot, and a lady with 47 cats who drinks box wine. What more could you want? Honestly though, this was a lot of fun to read. As a comic fan, I really loved a lot of the throw backs and in jokes (even when they got a little too thinly veiled) and the overall presentation was nothing short of fantastic. Give it a read.

 

Metrics:

Art: 6/10 [Liked it, didn’t love it]

Lettering: 6/10 [Very “golden aged” but had some golden age drawbacks too]

Plot: 7/10 [Genuine laughs. Relied a bit heavily on meta at time.]

Novelty: 10/10 [I loved the premise and presentation. Read for this alone if you must.]

Overall: 7.25/10

Link to Product

Rok of the Reds

Rok of the Reds

Staff: John Wagner, Alan Grant, Dan Cornwell, Abby Bulmer, Jim Campbell

 

Overview:

Aliens, soccer, piss-drunk celebrities. In that order.

 

Review:

Today’s comic is Rok of the Reds. It’s got some pedigree behind it but I’m kind of setting that aside while I review it (I’ll talk about it at the end). I’m mostly just reviewing it because the first few pages had aliens, colliding planets, and soccer. (Note: I’m American so I’ll be calling what everyone else calls “football”, “soccer”)

 

Art:

Top class. This is a full color one with a lot of love put into every image. From the facial images to the color pallet it’s a gem. I won’t talk too much on this, I normally only do that when there is something wrong, but suffice it to say that it is nothing shy of professional grade. There is a lot of individual characterization put into the face of each person, giving us some real insight visually into characters. They do well with the bigger scenes too- showing a real knowledge of scope and perspective in some key shots that I really enjoyed.
There were a few things I didn’t like. Minor things. A few instances of some more deformed/cartoony proportions pop out of nowhere with human characters (it’s something with some of the eyes I think), some minor proportional issues, and the way they portray lights is a little weird. Nothing that ruins the comic by any stretch- just minor things that bothered me.

 

Lettering / Layout:

These guys know how to layout a page. There is good use of page space and the flow between panels is visually stimulating and befitting the scenes they are in. They had drawn in onomatopoeia, which I like (when the typesetter does it it always looks forced and out of place) and didn’t just do standard page divisions.

 

Writing / Story:

There is some good dialogue here and there. None of the normal nit-picky things. I’m personally not as big of a fan of the pacing. The intro picks up steam but then the next scene kind of drags on bit a bit without a solid connection to the intro. It wraps itself up nicely at the second act but until it gets there it feels rather slow. I suppose it’s meant to be there to give us some characterization for the protagonist, which it does well but I felt it kind of dawdled there. The end feels a little rushed pacing wise but sets up for a good continuing series. This is a comic I wish I had the 2nd issue of because it kind of feels like I have half of a story. It kind of introduces the characters and sets the stage but the plot doesn’t really go anywhere until the last 5 pages or so.

 

Overall:

Art is 1st rate, story suffers from “first issue” syndrome, but it’s saved by a very cool premise.  John Wagner and Alan Grant are the minds behind this (Judge Dredd) and their skill as writers show. They have a real solid grasp of the mechanics of the crafts and I’d like to have seen how the first narrative arc played out before I really give any criticism to the pacing of the comic (again- I only do first issues so I see this a lot and get it). Aliens, soccer, piss-drunk celebrities- it’s going to be a wild ride. Give it a read.

 

Metrics:

Art: 8/10 [Professional]

Lettering: 7/10 [Professional and makes creative use of some elements.]

Plot: 6/10 [Good dialogue, has “First Issue Syndrome” when it comes to pacing]

Novelty: 8/10 [Aliens, soccer, and piss-drunk celebrities. Need I say more?]

Overall: 7.25/10

Link to Product

Bram the Yacoi

Bram the Yacoi

Staff: Jose Pallares and Muguel Caceres

 

Overview:

So today we have some straight up barbarian porn (like… schlocky barbarian stuff, not actual porn) from Jose Pallares and Muguel Caceres in the form of “Bram the Yacoi”. This part is subtitled “The Last Eden”. This is the first issue (as I only do first issues) and it kind of stood out from the cesspool of “gritty, dark, horror comics” I keep getting (hence why there hasn’t be a review in a bit) so I’m going to give it a shot. Let’s see how it pans out.
Note: This comic is not PG-13. Probably a decent R (lots of blood, little nudity, etc). Nothing you wouldn’t see on late night TV though.

Art:

The art is nothing shy of awesome. Miguel, the artist, uses a monochromatic (black, white, and a single color) color scheme to great effect. Even on the first page of the comic we have a fantastic display of his ability to convey motion and create dynamic poses as well as establish a good use of panel structure for artist purposes. And the detail this guy puts into stuff! Hot damn! There is also the matter of him giving very distinctive character designs. In the midst of a brawl, I can tell characters apart thanks to his very easily identifiable character designs. That is to say, no two characters look the same, even at a distance. And that’s a very hard thing to do with people who you want to visually share similar elements (like a culture, team, or other group). Still, he manages to pull it off.

 

Writing / Story:

Jose’s writing matches Miguel’s art in tone. The narration panels are very poetic, dramatic, and grandiose while the choice of dialogue is much more guttural and concise. It reads like a good Hyborian adventure comic (Conan the Barbarian and borrows more than a little from it. It borrows a lot from it, maybe more than it should. Bram might as well be Conan and is largely interchangeable with any number of generic barbarians. I didn’t get a lot of characterization from him other than “is really good at fighting” and “will take revenge”. He uses the plot to give us set pieces however and that’s not a terrible way to use it. That having been said… Jose does a fantastic job of capturing that tone/style of character and I really enjoyed it. He is one of the few writers who I’ve run across whose mastery of languages improves upon the narrative rather than hinders it. In fact, the plot is largely pretty generic and ignorable (guy betrays guy, guy gets revenge) but his dialogue is so good you kind of don’t notice.

 

Layout:

As I mentioned in the art section of this book, Miguel uses the panel layout to his advantage artistically. He lets things protrude from them, chances the shape of overlay panels to accentuate the action. That is the hallmark of real skill and a creative use of them that helps create a cohesive aesthetic. There are a few times where this works against it however (see page 5 of the PDF) when artistic liberties with the panel placement makes it a little difficult to tell what action is happening first (but it looks quite sexy…).

 

Overall:

So I’m a sucker for 80s pulpy stuff (as you guys know). This comic scratches that itch in a big way. It is pulpy, schlocky, barbarian-flavored wonderfulness. The dialogue is great but the protagonist’s characterization and overall plot leave something to be desired. That being said- it is backed up by one of the best indy artist’s I’ve reviewed- a guy who GETS what it means to establish and maintain a cohesive aesthetic. So my verdict? If conan style stuff is your bag- buy it even if it costs you the blood from your arm to do so. If not, it is still something you should pick up for the fun it brings and the art (seriously- I would love an artbook of Miguel’s work).

 

Metrics:

Art: 9/10 [Marvel, DC- eat your hearts out]

Lettering/Layout: 8/10 [Creative use of layout]

Plot: 8/10 [Set piece driven plot but outstanding use of language]

Novelty: 5/10 [It’s schlock Conan stuff. Does just enough new to avoid  being stale]

Overall: 7.5/10

Link to Product

Little Black Girl (Mature)

12804830_1059802127414722_4453787998125208531_nLittle Black Girl

Staff: James McCulloch, Pedro Mendes

Overview:

So today I’m gonna look at Little Black Girl. Full disclosure- I’ve worked with the artist Pedro Mendes on one of my own comics (Good Samaritans Issue #2) and I heard about the comic through him. I have an advanced copy so the link at the bottom of this review will be to their Facebook page. My copy also has a missing cover, so I won’t be talking about that. The comic warns it is for mature readers so- yeah, keep that in mind. Anyway, let’s take a look at Little Black Girl by ComicHaus!

Art:

So, as I’ve mentioned before- I’m a little biased on the artwork. I hired Pedro so take what I say with a grain of salt. He has a very noir, crosshatch heavy style, with an emphasis on shadows. Sometimes his proportions slip a bit but he makes up for it with his use of angles. He always adds nice little elements to the background and does excellent work overall. Give him a few years more practice and he’ll be professional grade, particularly if he works on his perspective a bit more. His shadow-heavy style matches the comic’s tone excellently and he has a mastery of dynamic motion that I envy. While not Marvel or DC level- it is an asset to the comic rather than a detriment.

Layout:

I will only touch briefly on the lettering. It’s solid and that’s how it needs to be. Nothing stands out as amazingly unique but it’s legible and, for comics, that is high praise. Those people who try to reinvent the wheel with lettering fail 9/10 times. While comics are both a visual and literary medium, lettering needs to allow the words to be unobtrusive while still conveying the necessary message. This comic does just that. Kudos.

Writing / Story:

The story is a bit shocking. It is definitely for a mature audience. Without spoiling anything it’s about a businessman by day who comes home to a house full of slaves he abuses. He is, unapologetically, a monster. Unfortunately, you can see him as human but… damn. He is a piece of trash. There are a lot of subjects in here that the average reader will not be comfortable with (child abuse, implied rape, slavery, use of some very triggering words) and I’m not normally one to endorse the use of these themes… but in this case it is acceptable as it goes towards making the antagonist more monstrous. If any of the stuff I mentioned triggers you- don’t read this comic. Stay the heck away. However, it DOES set a rather profoundly disturbing psychological stage. I got the personalities of a lot of the characters (the slaves mostly) and, for a first issue, that’s really what I want. A good setup, good characterization, an establishment of motives, etc.

Overall:

In summary- this is DEFINITELY a mature comic. But, unlike some others I have reviewed, it uses the mature rating to DO something- to tell a very raw and gritty story in a way I wouldn’t have otherwise enjoyed. The main antagonist is the lowest slime on the planet- a junk yard dog so deranged he NEEDS to be put down. I just wish I reviewed the entire series so I could see him get what he is owed. However, as mentioned before, this comic has LOTS of triggers. Rape, child abuse, slavery, racial slurs galore, torture, violence towards women, etc. If these things do bother you- avoid this comic. However, I am going to recommend it for the writing and art. It goes to a dark place but does so for a reason. Give it a read when it comes out in July!

Metrics:

Art: 6/10 [Better than average]

Lettering/Layout: 6/10 [Does it’s job well]

Plot: 5/10 [Antagonist is a monster- shown by use of ]

Novelty: 5/10 [Owns its mature rating in shocking ways]

Overall: 5.5/10

Link to Facebook

RoboCatz vs ThunderDogs

RoboCatz vs ThunderDogsRoboCatz vs ThunderDogs

Staff: Justin “Spanky” Cermak, Donovan Goertzen, Fabian Cobos

Overview:

Crazy fun premise, good art, but painful dialogue.

Review:

So today I have before me “RoboCatz vs Thunder Dogs”. With a name like that- how the hell could I possibly turn it down? I mean it’s got explosion and a robot battle cat fighting a dog with guns on it’s shoulders. No way I’m missing this party.

Art:

Let’s talk art. So overall it’s competently done. It properly uses dynamic posing, has an understanding of how to draw a form in perspective (maintains proportions), has good framing and image composition, and the color pallet is professionally done. I really like some of the posing on the comic and angles the artist chose- it shows a real dedication to this comic and a love for it. I really dug the art. The style is rather cartoony and it fits with the kind of “out there” premise of this comic. I’ll note here that my promotional copy has a little bit of artifacting from compression but even if they have it in the final it’s not bad.

Layout:

Like I’ve said in previous reviews- if it’s unobtrusive and has no issues then it’s really good lettering. There is an instance on page 9 where there is a dialogue balloon almost entirely covered by another one. And, like you might have guessed, the lettering is on point. I also didn’t notice any major issues with layout either but no great risks were taken. I do like the inclusion of a particularly detailed map at one point as well.

Writing / Story:

The main premise is that dogs and cats have been fighting since the dawn of time and are fated to do so. What starts out as “oh ha-ha, a cat and dog fighting each other- look they even indicated saber tooth tigers and wolves fought” quickly turns into battle dogs with shells and cats with conical hats and spears fighting each other. I was about to write a line about “I don’t think there was much overlap between dire tigers and…” but then I realized that this is a total party comic where they kind of throw logic out the window in favor of bulldogs with giant spiny shells fighting cat warriors. Yep- it’s THAT kind of comic and I love it. Eventually this conflict results in cat vs dog mecha gladiator tournaments and it’s as awesome as that sounds. So while the premise is totally bonkers I have a feeling that it’s geared for, perhaps, a younger audience than me. I could be wrong because I was taken in too.

Let’s talk dialogue however. it is downright PAINFUL to read. he humor, or attempt at it, is rather juvenile and relies mostly on cat and dog puns. I can’t say I wasn’t expecting that, but it’s not really all that engaging. I’ve always had issues with comedy comics- they really fall flat far too often and this one doesn’t break the mold in that respect. This comic takes EVER dog and cat pun or joke out there and parades it around like it’s a lab with a big stick and NONE of them work. I would give you guys some examples but I can’t bring myself to type them out.

Pacing wise it is very competent. It sets up the premise, it establishes the characters, it gives us some highs, it shows our heroes at their worst, then gives us a clever little climax. It’s basically “the brave little corgi that could” but with giant mecha… and that’s kind cool.

Overall:

So this is a hard one. The premise is insane and fun, the art is good, the lettering is on point, the pacing and premise were well done, but the dialogue is painfully bad. Ultimately… I’d say give it a read. Just kind of accept the terrible puns and (for the most part just ignore the dialogue actually) and it’s a damn good comic.

PS: The corgi sitting with his head on my lap for the majority of this review in no way influenced my review of this comic.

Metrics:

Art: 6/10 [Better than average]

Lettering/Layout: 6/10 [Does it’s job well]

Plot: 4/10 [Decent pacing and premise but terrible dialogue]

Novelty: 8/10 [… it’s “RoboCatz vs Thunder Dogs”]

Overall: 6/10

Link to Kickstarter

(Please note that the link above goes to their Kickstarter for this comic. It will be replaced by a link to their sales venue when it goes on sale.)