All Winner Society

19543_142036bAll Winner Society

Staff: Rodney Lockett, Joe DeSantos, Lawrenz Lano

Overview:

Generic characters, doing generic things, spouting generic lines, for generic reasons.

Review:

So today I got my teeth on the “All Winners Society” by Iron Gate Comics. I like superhero stories and I dig team ups. So the name of this comic reminded me of All-Winners Squad, an obscure comic team made in the late 40s so I figured I’d give it a read. The cover looks schlocky and a little low budget so I’m expecting great and/or terrible things from this one so I’m going in excited for one of those two.

Art:

So let’s get this out of the way- the art is on the low end. It’s decent enough, but the graphic design work on this comic is just downright terrible. The cover has difference clouds rendered by Photoshop for the background, the names of characters are hard to read over stuff, generic fonts are used, and everything looks like it was laid out by a 1st year graphic design student. I don’t normally comment on coloring in particular but they just decided to slap one color on characters and add shading via their lines. Not a single use of complex colors is in this comic and they make liberal use of high contrast primaries- which is just ugly looking. Heck- on page 9 they just have a character who is entirely colored one color (and later color them more complexly).

I’m also not entirely convinced some of these images were not just traced. The poses seem stilted, expressions awkward, and nothing seems to cohesively bind a scene together. And that’s unfortunate- because some panels are much better set up. This comic is obviously a throwback to golden age comics but it’s really not picking from the best parts of it. I don’t think the low-budget art was a “design choice” but a matter forced on them. There are issues with perspective (page 12 is a good example), with consistent proportions, backgrounds, the sequence of actions, and a whole host of other things. Most of the character designs are clearly just pastiches of other mainstream characters or just uninspired. I really went into this comic expecting good things but it was just a nightmare.
The lettering is as bad as the artwork. It’s cramped, small-texted, and shoved right up against the edges. You’d think the letterer had never heard of smallcaps for their text layout and every dialogue balloon is laid out using the rounded corner shape creator from Illustrator.

Writing / Story:

Our setup is as generic as the artwork. We get a hefty dump of exposition dropped on us on the first page. It is 1944, the NAZIs have time travel, it is being testing, team has to stop them. The dialogue is painful, most spoken dialogue is expolistional, you can predict every action, the attempts at character development are superficial, and it all just falls flat.

The problem with a team-up book is that you don’t get a chance to connect with characters. You have over a dozen characters running around with little or no  introduction (mostly the latter). They are generic characters, doing generic things, spouting generic lines, for generic reasons. It lacks any sense of subtlety or complexity- even by Golden Aged standards .

The overall plot is really just one big fight scene- the generic good guys vs the generic bad guys. (We don’t know WHY one group is evil. Just that they decided it was) That might have been interesting but we don’t know (and are not told) what the character’s powers are thus we have no idea of the stakes. If one character can take bullets to the chest (like we see on page 13), should we be scared when someone else is shot at? Hell- by the end of it I wasn’t even sure who was on what team. The scenes just flip between timelines with no heads up and with so many characters you just met- you just have to try to keep track of who is doing what to who is what timeline. Sometimes they remember to mark it (see page 4 and 20) but other times they just skip it entirely (like why wasn’t it on page 7 during the establishing shot of the “modern” team. Only learned the date on page 23) It’s a total mess.
I will note that it was a nice touch to see some characters from other publishers (changed enough for legal reasons) on page 21. Always a fan of Black Terror for some reason. Not sure it adds much here- it’s a bizarre choice to have a “Ga! I know that guy! He is supposed to be Cat Man!” moment during a somber scene. Kind of a tonal disconnect.

Overall:

The end of this comic notes that “This project started out as a bunch of strangers playing Cities of Heroes and having a common interest in golden age heroes.” and that REALLY shows. It’s a super-generic slugfest with characters we have no emotional attachment to that someone REALLY wanted to make. This comic suffers from the all too common “generic hero comic” syndrome. They think putting together the same tropes that they see in superhero comics makes it a good comic and it always lacks it. At least superhero comics like iHero TRY to do something new (even if they totally fail at doing it). Now I’ve reviewed comics that use this premise and have a lot of fun with it. One of my favorite comics like this was The Misadventures of Electrolyte and The Justice Purveyors and you can DO the campy pulp-era aesthetic well, even if your art isn’t outstanding (see Crunch: Revenge) so long as you know what you are doing. This is an amature effort- a novice playing with concepts they’ve seen rather than inherently understand. The creative process has to generate these tropes- the tropes should not dictate the creative process.

Metrics:

Art: 3/10 [Not good.]

Lettering: 4/10 [Legible.]

Plot: 2/10 [Generic, uninteresting, slugfest.]

Novelty: 1/10 [Everything is generic.]

Overall: 2.25/10

Link to Product

A More Colorful Review – Kim & Kim

Reviewed by JustKay

Overview

Ladies kicking major butt, space chases and adventures, weird villains, shape shifting octopuses. What else do you need?

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Review

Next on the docket for the ‘A More Colorful Review’ column is “Kim & Kim” written by Magdalene Visaggio, art by Eva Cabrera, published by Black Mask Studios. Now that I’ve settled you in lets jump right into the good stuff.

Writing

To say the writing and plot is a little disjointed and jarring would be an understatement. Its definitely unique, action packed and fast paced but it comes across more like a hyper kid with a fully realized story that they dropped into a blender. There are micro stories within an over arching plot that also has its own little off shoot arches. The quality of writing is pretty up there as far as fleshed out characters, fully realized motivations, and a real handle on this ridiculously expansive universe (technically multiverses and multi-dimensions) . But I feel like it was put together in a drug induced state as I made my way through it.

kim-kim-1-11Our two main characters are freaking awesome though, despite the short comings of the story telling. One packs what I guess is the series’ version of an AK-47 and the other bashes people with fists and an electric guitar. Not only that but we even see how fleshed out each of them are throughout the shit storm that is the plot of Issues #1-4. They are both out on their own trying to make it without the support of their family for various reasons, both stemming from not fitting the mold their parents want them to. These two are rich and deep if you pay attention to the small things that are said and shown. So much potential for so many amazing moments as long as the action cyclone doesn’t obscure it all.

Art

The art style for the series very much fits the zany insane things that tends to happen. It lends itself very well to the story and brings to life the ridiculous situations these two end up in without coming off as super cartoony. My biggest complaint is that at least in my print edition some of the pages came off as very slightly distorted in that sense that they blew up a smaller image of the page to fit a standard A4 size. The shading and highlighting is a little funky in that they don’t actually seem to add any depth to the pictures, otherwise the color is gorgeous.

Lettering is definitely professional and I appreciate the little touch of adding intonation to what the characters are saying by bolding the words that they are putting emphasis on. It adds a whole lot more sass and sarcasm then you realize until its presented to you. This creates an even more filled out sense of the characters as well as they all have their own way of speaking that isn’t forced to be shown through some visual butchering of a dialect. Still it is in that most basic of comic book fonts that you find everywhere but I guess tried and true works sometimes.

Diversitykimandkim01_15_rgb-01-600x928

**NOTE THIS SECTION CONTAINS AT LEAST ONE SPOILER**

I mean this comic series hits alot of high points as far as diversity. The main and sub characters are almost 50/50 split on white to POC, one sub character is gay while one main character is Bi, the other man character is trans. It talks about platonic relationships without sex but doesn’t hide that its alright to want and talk about those things as well. The only dig I can really see against the series is that everyone seems to be the same body type. That kind of standard ‘every story character ever is fit’ universe with the only exception being background characters and the occasional villain.

Overall

If you love interesting characters, zaney action packed adventure, and whirlwind stories then you’ll love this series. The art and lettering work well to help convey and move the story along while providing you with extra insight into the characters themselves. And the writer uses the artist’s ability to tell a crazy story, that while sometimes hard to follow, is a fun read none the less.

Metric Breakdown

Art: 7/10 [Lends itself to story, some blurred mishaps]

Lettering: 8/10 [Shows intonation, well done]

Writing: 7/10 [Enjoyable, but confusing at times]

Diversity: 8/10 [Awesome rep, lacking body types]

Overall: 7.5/10

The Ultimate Alliance

The Ultimate Alliance

Staff: Joey Haas and Megan Rosa

Overview:

I got to use the line, “The writing reminds me of a fart joke.” in this review.

Review:

Ever sit around with your friend and make stupid jokes that only you find funny but laugh yourself silly over? That’s pretty much what we’ve got today- except someone took the time and effort to draw it out as a comic. Love it or hate it- it’ll be an interesting ride. So strap in kiddies we are jumping into “The Ultimate Alliance” by JH Publishing.

Art:

So let’s get this out of the way- this art could have been drawn by a talented 7 year old. It’s not good and I get the idea that it’s not trying to be good. This is a fun passion project and I can’t give them shit over the fact that they are not professional artists. Hell- I don’t know if having professional quality art would have improved it. If anything it kind of accents the kind of low-budget schlock-comic ascetic. Intentional or not, it kind of works. It almost approaches the level of being “so bad it’s good” but I can’t bestow that moniker to it because I’m only like 75% sure that’s really what they were going for.

 

One thing of note for this is that, while the artwork is not great- I’m never confused about what is going on. It’s simple, gets the point across, and ties into the written aspect of the comic. Sure the artist might have a boiling hatred for the art of correct perspective, proportions, and consistency but at least I knew what the hell was going on. Some comics, particularly more artsy ones, often have dark and confusing scenes in them.

 

It’s a full color comic and it’s light and cartoony and the lettering matches. The dialogue boxes are rough squares with vibrant stock colors behind them. While it never gets to the point where it’s hard to read it’s not exactly stellar. However, see the above paragraph for my thoughts on the quality of artistic elements of this comic.

 

Writing / Story:

The writing reminds me of a fart joke. Everyone considers it really crude, laughs in their head about it, but is too polite to laugh out loud. Is it good? Not really. Is it entertaining? Sure, why not. I mean we’ve all got that stupid idea bounding around our head that when you tell your friend about it they laugh. Does that mean it should go into a comic for widestream consumption? Probably not. The comic is filled with in-jokes you probably won’t get, simplistic (even crude) humor, and a complete detachment from the expectations you have about a good comic. It kind of reminds me of those little golden-age humor comics that were basically all about slapstick humor and bawdy jokes.  I’ll admit- I chuckled once or twice but I wouldn’t call it ‘good’ per se.

 

I will give it some points however. It does some things right that a lot of indie comics don’t. Obviously there is the tone- a lot of indie superhero comics straddle the line between wanting to be serious and wanting to make fun of comics. When that happens it kind of ends up in this weird middle ground where it’s not funny and it’s not really serious either. This comic commits the to “screw it- let’s just make bad puns and fly around in an ox-copter” end of the spectrum and I can respect that. However clumsily it does it, it also does something kind of brilliant with its pacing. It takes a few pages to set up the characters (in their civilian identity) than just does straight up “information” page on them once they become their alter egos. It works better than you’d think. I mean they are one note characters, but at least they introduce them right. None of this “EXPOSITION DUMP” that a lot of indie hero comics are so fond of putting in their comics. Short, sweet, and to the point- even if handled like a mad ape.

 

Overall:

Ultimately this is a weird, very personally motivated, in-joke of a humor comic. It’s one of those things that I couldn’t avoid reviewing- it brings me back to my roots. I LIKE to review comics with bad elements to them and shout about the good parts. This one was a perfect fit. It is REALLY dumb and has pretty solidly bad art but it was clearly a labor of love and it knew what it wanted to be. I’m not going to recommend it or give it high praise but, you know what, it’s better than you’ll think it is when you look at the first page.

 

Metrics:

Art: 2/10 [Let’s say it’s not great]

Lettering: 4/10 [I mean it’s legible.]

Plot: 5/10 [Honestly? Not bad for humor comic.]

Novelty: 6/10 [It’s half in jokes but at least it tried]

Overall: 4.25/10

Link to Website

A More Colorful Review – Faith

Reviewed by JustKay

Overview

“Faith” has great art, a safe but well written storyline that falls into a few too many tropes, and a handle on diversity that has some growing yet to do.

Reviewfaith_001_cover-a_djurdjevic-640x984

Hi Indie Comic Review readers, I’m Kayla one of the new writers! Most of you probably know me on the web by JustKay or some variation of that moniker. One of the things I’ll be tackling for ICR is bringing in a hard look at comics that claim some sort of title for diverse characters or story plot to let you know which ones are worth the dough and which are flops to be avoided.

The first comic for my new ‘A More Colorful Review’ column is “Faith” written by Jody Houser, art by Pere Perez and Marguerite Sauvage, published by Valiant Entertainment. Now that I’ve settled you in let’s jump right into the good stuff.

Writing

Plot wise the series has some growing to do. The definitely have the zany villains thing covered, I believe I actually said WTF out loud when the bad guy was finally named. But the story itself let things to be desired. To start off with I felt a little out of the loop not having read “The Renegades” first since they do reference the previous villain and what feel like major plot points that affect our hero’s, Faith’s, demeanor and how she tackles crime fighting. I also felt that when we finally found out what this horrible thing that happened was that it seemed to roll off of her back just a little too much. Something like that would effect a normal person, much less someone with powers, but what we see is a few panels of sad prose followed by a few more of her talking (if you can call it that) to her ex-superhero boyfriend about it. Having read comics since I was a little kid a lot of the story line will be familiar to the rest of you comic junkies out there, and easy to follow once you get into it. That said I do hope that “Faith” can use the great cast of characters they’ve set themselves up with to really grow into their own instead of remaining what now amounts to a spin-off series.

faith-1-1I do really feel like we are given a great deal of time to really come to love not only the main character but her growing, and fresh, relationships with those tied into her story. The cast is made of hacker, an archer, a movie star, the ex-boyfriend, and a rag tag group of coworkers all of which come in various races and sizes for the most part. Though both the ex-boyfriend and the archer, who is hinted at being the new love interest quite a bit, does fit the ‘white guy with blonde hair oh and is super hot’ trope which is a bit of a let down. Faith though is given just enough internet blogger goodness and super hero badass butt kicking that I believe she will become a source of inspiration for a lot of young girls out there just starting to read comics. Given how hard finding even that is sometimes I’ll take the win. But as with all good reviews the characters are all roses. Unfortunately the interactions between characters fell flat and unbelievable sometimes, and some parts of the plot felt like they were merely there to try and force some sort of awkward forced development which seemed to fail or completely be forgotten about in the next panel.

Art

The art in the series is high quality and generally very pretty. I do appreciate how the separated what was actually happening in the story vs Faith’s imaginings but slightly shifting the art style into more of an Adventure Time cartoon style. The coloring in the issues I’ve read so far (#1-4) are superbly done. I would have been greatly disappointed otherwise since this series is supported by a larger publisher, Valiant. The style really helps the plot flow together and adds that occasional wacky and funny moment to help liven up what can sometimes be a dark superhero business.images

As for lettering, it was easy to read though its in that very standard of fonts that every comic series seems to be using now a days. And the imagination scenes can get a little weird to read but you are provided with helpful built in arrows to direct you. The printing of the issues I read do in fact contain a few spelling and grammar errors, but hopefully those will get shorted out in the next round. They kept things very stylized and cohesive as far as a formatting for lettering depending on who was talking, thoughts, imaginings, and what was being spoken which helped to make the whole thing a lot less confusing to read then it had the potential to be.

(Little review nugget for those that go one to read it: On a side note WTF was the helmet on? It was nowhere and then poof she rips it off? Was it invisibly on his hat or something?)

Diversity

**NOTE THIS SECTION DOES HAVE AT LEAST ONE SPOILER PROCEED WITH CAUTION**

So what this comic has going for it in the diversity column: female lead, larger girl lead, at least some POC representation in what might be a growing team. What it has marked against it: main character and 2 out of 4 support characters (not counting coworkers) and blonde white people, a POC who is actually an alien, and another POC that you don’t really see or interact much except through text and phone calls. While this comic has a bold bigger female superhero it kind of feels like it limits itself to painting a monochromatic comic to try and ‘not be too edgy’. Though I doubt all the big girls out there in love with the idea of being able to cosplay a superhero just like them care too much about that, I challenge “Faith” to step it up a notch in the coming issues. We are watching you.

Overall

I would recommend this book, while predictable, it’s still an enjoyable read. It provides a strong female lead outside of what most of the entertainment industry considers a normal female body. The story doesn’t make it about her weight, or her dealing with the fact she is big at all. While the villains are creepy with hilarious names and mannerisms they are very much that hookie first villain the hero takes on, which hopefully means there will be some growth into villains that can match (and maybe even over power) the main character. I’d say skip the individual issues though and just stick to the volumes as that’s the only way to handle the truncated story line enough to take it even moderately seriously.

Metric Breakdown

Art: 8/10 [Pro Level]

Lettering: 8/10 [Pro Level]

Writing: 6/10 [Well Written, lacking imagination]

Diversity: 5/10 [Mediocre but there]

Overall: 6.75/10

 

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

“Runaways” Confirmed Canon for the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Dr. Strange recently hit theaters and has already raked in a 122.3 million in it’s opening weekend but something even larger looms on the horizon via little-reported easter egg that popped up during the third act. That’s right the seeds for the beloved and critically acclaimed “Runaways”, created by  the legendary Brian K. Vaughan (Lost, Y: The Last Man, Ex Machina, Pride of Baghdad, Saga, etc), have been sewn. I’ll try to make this as spoiler-free as possible  but there may be minor spoilers for both Runaways (read it if you haven’t) and Dr. Strange.

 

In the third act, during a scene where students at the Hong Kong Sanctum are picking up their artifacts- an asian woman picks up a rather simple looking staff. It’s just a few second shot and she’s one of a bunch of people, but she’s kind of in the center of the shot. She’s a little behind Wong (By the way Benedict Wong, who plays Kuiblai Khan on Marco Polo is one of those untapped treasures) and no attention is paid to her. This object she’s holding is the Staff of One.

 

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The Staff of One is a terribly powerful artifact in the Marvel universe. Basically it’s a staff that can cast any magic, once. Each time the user needs to use a new word or phrase to describe what is desired. They could say “Stop” and their target would stop. They could never say “Stop” again and would have to say “Freeze” (which might, if the staff choses, encase their target in ice). It’s powered by blood, each time it is used a little blood has to be offered (there’s a great scene where Nico of the Runaways uses menstruation…) with greater amounts of it being required for more powerful spells. It kind of lives in the body of the user too and a little blood has to be spilled to call it forth. In the comics it’s wielded (primarily) by Nico Minoru (who occasionally uses the name “Sister Grim”), kind of the leader of the Runaways. It was used by her mom before her.

 

So, how do we know is this THE Staff of One and not just something that looks kind of like it? Well on the IMDB page for Dr. Strange Linda Louise Duan is listed as playing  Tina Minoru, Nico’s mom and the former wielder of the staff! How cool is that?! Add to that the order for a Runaways pilot Hulu just requested in August and we’ve got a very interesting set up!

 

runawaysFor those sitting there going, “Uh- so what?”, you clearly have not read The Runaways. The Runaways was a 2003 comic series from Marvel where a group of 6 kids (mostly teens) from Malibu who were all family friends discover that their parents are actually super villains. Each of their parents kind of fill one of those typical super villain archetypes (the evil wizard, the mad scientist, the crime lord, alien invaders etc). After their kids find out and unlock their own powers- they runaway and try to make things right. The story largely rests on Brian K. Vaughan’s strength as a writer, resulting in an Eisner Award for him for his work on the series (An Eisner is like a comic Emmy. The series actually got it’s second- Jo Chen won one for her work on it in 2009). The cast has strong characters with great arcs, a lot of humor, some gut-wrenching drama, and a lot of fun set ups (time travel, double/triple crosses, life on the street, etc).

 

So- yeah, get pumped! Dr. Strange may be killing it in theaters right now but Marvel has shown that it might be willing to take that plunge with one of its less well known gems! Stay tuned!

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