“When Magic rules the worlds, a lucky few are born with great power.

The rest of us… have to steal it!


Issue 1

Writer: Rich Douek

Penciller/Inker: Brett Barkley

Colorist: Jules Rivera

Publisher: IDW

“This was easier than I thought it would be… didn’t even have to pick the lock.”

“Well, that’s the thing with these wizards… they spend a fortune warding themselves against every spell in creation… then forget something as mundane as locking a window.”

In a not-so-distant future New York City, Cinder’s having a bad day.  After raiding a wizard’s stash, he’s got the last piece of a spell that could fix his connection to magic… only as a non-magic-user, he can’t cast it.  And just when he and his goblin friend Blacktooth figure out a plan, they run afoul of the The Morgue, who has sent the pint-sized Shiver and her hired muscle, the Ghost Boys, to bring Cinder in, dead or… well…

Gutter Magic is one of those rare books that gets it right, right out of the gate:  part Fantasy, part noir, it weaves elements of both in and out with nimble ease.   Cinder dresses like a steampunk hero, while Blacktooth sports a classic Sam Spade trenchcoat, a barmaid tells Cinder to forget his tab cause dead men can’t pay their bills, and it all comes down to who can outspend the others.

Writer Rich Douek has built his fantasy world on the bones of the world we know, and dropped just enough tantalizing clues as to how it got that way to keep readers enticed for more.  Imp and demon inhabited markets huddle in the shadow of the floating top of the decapitated Chrysler Building, and the Ghost Boys are right out of something dreamed up for Gangs of New York.

Douek’s story serves as a smart blueprint for artist Brett Barkley’s deft pencils and inks, filling the foregrounds and backgrounds with clever and interesting details that only add to the completeness of this world with a cinematic grace.  Colorist Jules Rivera wields his steampunk palette with great aplomb, adding a lushness to Barkley’s pencils and inks that most books sorely lack.  With their combined efforts, this book comes off as a fully-realized three-dimensional world (Check out their stellar depictions of battle magic early in the book!)

Smart.  Original.  Entertaining.  With only four issues, you’re going to have to savor this book for a while, but you won’t regret ponying up the cover price.  You’re getting in on the ground floor of what looks to be a great tale!

“Time to settle up.  Again.”

“We’re off to the Market.  Just tell Mary to put I on our tab.”

“You don’t have a tab, anymore.  New policy.  Absolutely no credit for people who are going to be dead before the week’s out.

VERDICT:       FIVE  Stolen Wizard’s Scrolls out of FIVE

This review was first published at Check out their site and if you like it, check out their podcasts or sign up for their newsletter (a daily highlight of the best in geek news). 

REVIEW: Welcome to Showside – Issue 1


Creator/Writer/Artist:  Ian McGinty
Publisher:              Z2 Comics

“And that’s the tru-for-real story of why weeping willows don’t grow in Showside.”
“Kit, dude, there no way that story’s even based on something real – much less the reason some crybaby tree doesn’t grow in town… If you believe that I got an island to sell you in outer space.”
“I’m not falling for that again, Belle!”

Writer-Creator-Artist Ian McGinty premieres his new original tale, Welcome to Showside with an ambitious opening.

Warring for centuries, two great armies battle on and on, with a secret in their midst: the daughter of the Yellow King has fallen in love with the son of the Yellow King. But because of their loyalty, they battled each other as enemies, save for the one night they came together as lovers… until they were discovered by the Yellow King.

Or so we’re told by the precocious demon-kid Kit to Belle and Moon, his best friends in the whole wide world of Showside, a bright and colorful Saturday morning TV show of a dream. Combining disparate elements as disparate as German heroic legends and a world referencing the giddy daffiness of SpongeBob SquarePants Bikini Bottom, McGinty gives us a new kind of hero in the green-skinned, puce-haired Kit, dedicated to keeping the town of Showside safe from the monsters and demons that attack it.

But Kit is hiding a secret, one directly related to the legends of old, and one that may wreak havoc on everyone is this wild candy-colored town.

McGinty’s all-ages/horror, one-stop shop of a book manages to both entice and delight readers, and he captures the daffy ping-pong attention short-attention span conversations of his little trio with amazing verisimilitude. Deep conversations are cut short by the need for a Beef N Dog Waffle Taco. Combat skills are gleaned from a hand-held video game. A magic portal is admired just before things “get monstery.”

Creator McGinty makes no secret that he wants everyone to feel free to play in his sandbox. The opening 5 pages of the book, detailing the battle of the two armies is lushly drawn by S.M Vidaurri, and provides a cunning counterpoint to the pop-candy world to follow.

With an animated cartoon series in the works, Welcome to Showside #1 is a brilliant entry into the mind of a creator obviously just raring to make a huge splash in the all-ages market, and this is a great start.

Moon: “Wouldn’t it be so awesome if it was a true story, though?”
Kit: “Hm?”
Moon: “Yeah, I mean not so much a mad demon king bent on destruction, but a whole ‘nother world of magical people in it, like The Light! You know, beautiful and noble. But strong and rad, that sort of thing. Like that girl from the stor-“

Verdict: FOUR Candy-Colored Dark Inheritances out of FIVE.

This review was first published at Check out their site and if you like it, check out their podcasts or sign up for their newsletter (a daily highlight of the best in geek news). 



Angela is my second name, not my middle name, my SECOND name. I don’t know what my real name was, or if I ever had one. I wish I knew what my real mother’s name was,I wish I knew if she had given me a name…

There are SO MANY THINGS I don’t know.”

Starting life as a twice-weekly online comic, Oh Hell has collected it’s first five chapters into one volume, entitled “Chyrsalides.”

Abandoned at birth in a dumpster, 15-year old blue-haired punkette Angela is a nightmare to her adoptive parents, causing trouble in whatever situation she ends up in.  But in their last-ditch effort to rescue her, her parents send her to the Academy, an elite boarding school for troubled teens…

… not knowing it’s actually the gateway to Hell and all the cast-off students are being trained to reap souls for Lucifer.  Their lesson?  Reap souls or be cast into the Pit.

Think Harry Potter with Hell standing in for Hogwarts.  Think Narnia for where Caspian hunts down and eats the Pevensie children, one by one.  Think Beverly Hills, 90210 with… well, just think Beverly Hills, 90210.

While a lot of people think high school is Hell, creator George Wassil has made it literal.  His cast of lost souls, condemned (sometimes unwittingly) are trying making the best of a bad situation.  Under the careful cruel tutelage of Mr. Ezel, a shapeshifting demon determined to bring out the worst in them, Hell stands in for high school quite nicely.

And, similar to high school, some students excel more than others at being evil.  While Angela strives to keep out of the pit, blonde busty Allesse uses all her Queen-bee manipulative skills to make life Hell for her and her crush, the stoic Zipper.  A field trip to reap a soul shows Angela just how out of her depth she really is, and makes you wonder… is she too good for Hell?

Owing to its online roots, “Chyrsalides” moves at a fast clip, pulling the reader along with the characters, making us learn as they do, and if a little confusing in some instances, the richness of Dave Hamann’s inks and pencils, combined with Michael Birkhoffer’s rich colors quickly overrides any of that.  Angela comes off as a very believable fifteen-year old girl and the supporting characters give off an air of authenticity (what teen isn’t full of conflict and angst?), and her growing but seemingly doomed relationship with Zipper only becomes more poignant with each chapter.

It will be interesting to see just how far down Wassil and Co. will take their heroine… deserved or not.

VERDICT:       FOUR   Hungry FireBrands out of FIVE

This review was first published at Check out their site and if you like it, check out their podcasts or sign up for their newsletter (a daily highlight of the best in geek news). 

REVIEW: Empty Quiver: Tales of the Crimson Son


“Empty Quiver (n) – A U.S. Military reporting term to identify and report the seizure, theft, or loss of a nuclear weapon.”

Following up his initial success with the YA/superhero mashup, Crimson Son, writer Russ Linton ( has achieved a remarkable hat trick with his follow-up novella, Empty Quiver, a quintet of tales that span from the dawn of the Augment age, long before the events of his prior novel, to near modern days, complete with sly references to Central American politics that still ring true.

Straddling the line between comic book heroics and dark revisionist history, Linton imagines a world where the Fat Man and Little Boy dropped on the cities of Japan were not nuclear devices, but Augmented beings, created to end the war.  But, like the events of Alan Moore’s Watchmen, not all Augments are welcome, and most are forced underground to continue doing their work at the behest of a government that is losing control of their creations.

But, Linton’s strength doesn’t come from the great tableau he’s building up in these tales.  It’s the small brush strokes that make these stories sing.  In an inspired twist, he’s managed to make his world do much bigger by going smaller.  A Hiroshima survivor tells what really happened on that day in August.  A ghetto child grown-up returns home to confront the secret his family hides.  A young girl’s idolization of a female Augment has deeper significance than she knows.  Linton has drawn his epic world best in the reflections of those impacted by it, be they Augment or human. Like an origami creation, he builds his tales in subtle layers, crisp folds of storytelling that make a shape far different than first expected.

You don’t have to have read Crimson Son to enjoy these tales, but the “guest appearances” and subtle hints of the darker future to come make it that much richer, and you’re probably gonna wanna pony up the couple of buck to get that, too.  And, you know what?

You won’t regret it.

“A damn kid, like Little Boy had been.  But, this one was scared s–tless, unlike Little Boy.  Joy had burned in that pint-sized monster’s eyes as the city burned to ash around them.  A terrible fire consuming something inside of him, fueling him, eating him alive.  Eldon understood the hate and anger.  The kid had been God’s own righteous fire that night, whipped into a frenzy by Hurricane’s winds, but Eldon had always felt that kid would have scorched every inch of the planet if given the go-ahead.”

Available now at

VERDICT:       FIVE Crimson Mask Alpha Injections out of FIVE

This review was first published at Check out their site and if you like it, check out their podcasts or sign up for their newsletter (a daily highlight of the best in geek news). 



“Spry, I know this is hard for you.  I’m going to give you some good advice, but it may sound terrible.  So, bear with me.”
“Eighteen years is a long time to wait for anything. It’s your whole life. But, for my people – for other races – it’s the blink of an eye.”
“It may take you a little longer than your classmates to figure out where you go from here, but your path will be revealed soon.  I know this. And, I’m rooting for you, as always.”
“You’re not alone.”

Eighteen-year-old Spry has no place in the universe.  A boarding school refugee from a broken home with a dead-end job and no prospects, his only refuge is the card game “Heroes of the Caliphate” (in which Armored Hoplite soldiers seek to capture shape-shifting aliens called Shapers), and his only real friend is a teacher named Niva.

But, that’s all about to change as the revelations pile up around him, and he learns that those around him may be more than they seem and the game may be more than just that.  And, he’ll have to embark on a desperate quest with little training and no clear direction; he’s going to have to rely on the last person he can: himself.

Drawing from a rich genre of lost and outcast youth, writer Eric Heisserer [The Thing (2011), Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)] imbues his lead, the stubborn, loner, underdog Spry, with an arrogance that counterpoints the deep yearning inside him.  The dialogue is crisp and the storytelling tight and fast, layering subtle nuances in both word and silence.  Artist Felipe Massafera ramps up the excitement, moving capably and briskly from small, intimate scenes to wild battles with cinematic grace and style, letting his lush lines set up a fully realized world, with Wes Dzioba’s deft coloring bringing it all to life.

Heisserer has made a career on solid, seat-of-the-pants scare films, but as evidenced in his afterword and the pages of this issue, his real love is the space opera. Originally conceived as a spec script, the studios ignorantly passed.  The reason?  Basically, it was too original.

For the studios, maybe.  But, luckily the folks at Dark Horse were smarter and gave it a perfect home.  And, luckily for us, too, because this is the kind of rollicking, original, and exciting comic that people are constantly looking for, that feels familiar and fun and new all at the same time.  The kind you want to buy multiple copies of and give out to your friends when they complain about the lack of good storytelling out there and say, “Shut up and read this!”

And, I gotta get me a deck of “Heroes of the Caliphate” trading cards!


This review was first published at Check out their site and if you like it, check out their podcasts or sign up for their newsletter (a daily highlight of the best in geek news). 

REVIEW: 1957 Issue #1


“It was 1957, and life was still finding new ways to punch Bonnie in the face.  No more playing in the Southern California Orange County shorebreak.  No more walks up and down Avenida del Mar.   No more sunsets on the pier . . . Things change.  People don’t.  And, the more things change, the more they stay the same.”

Two years after the fallout from the events of Hit: 1955, Bonnie Brae thinks she’s found safety in the small, seaside town of San Clemente.  She’s wrong.  LAPD Detective Harvey Slater thinks he’s seen the last of her.  He hasn’t.  And both are finding out the ghosts of the last two years are restless.

Noir is always a rich genre to mine, and after BOOM! Studios’ 4-issue run of Hit: 1955 about an undercover LAPD wetworks squad taking down organized crime, writer Bryce Carlson has returned bearing pages of rich, bloody treasures.  In the tradition of James Ellroy and Mickey Spillane, Brian Michael Bendis and Ed Brubaker, Carlson has taken aim at the giants of the genre and proven himself worthy again.  His story burns with stale smoke and gunpowder, the sour sweat of dreams denied and potential lost in the understew of the City.

And placing it in this pivotal era of change for the LAPD only serves to give him a bigger, deeper sandbox to play in.  The fall of organized crime, the shift to Parker Center, and the looming modernization of the police force as the LAPD seems to have taken control of the chaos from before; all of these are looming over the men fighting the real fight for Los Angeles, as threats to them come from their own people and their own souls.

Perfectly capturing the noir sensibility, Russ Manning Award-winner Vanesa R. Del Rey also returns to ink this gritty tale, aptly drenching her frames in the darkness of the story, allowing the desperate faces of the characters to serve as the only flickers of dim hope.

Pick them up individually as they come out or deny yourself a great pleasure and wait for the collection.  You’ll only have yourself to blame.

VERDICT:             Five Smoking, Empty Rounds out of Five

This review was first published at Check out their site and if you like it, check out their podcasts or sign up for their newsletter (a daily highlight of the best in geek news). 

REVIEW: Night of the Red Panda. Issue #10


“Dozens of crimes committed in the last hour and who knows how many more to come.  And, do you know what was missing in all the reports?”
“A sassy sidekick punching things in the face?”
“Yes.  But, also baboons.  The Mad Monkey has his baboon army back.  But, they weren’t seen at any of the crimes.  Why?”
“And, this is what bothers you?”

With dialogue like that, it’s no wonder The Red Panda and Kit the Flying Squirrel are one of my favorite discoveries of the last few years.  And now, they’re back in another exciting adventure with Part 1 of “Monkey See, Monkey Do!”

While Doctor Sennick prepares to unveil his new invention, a device to amplify the untapped potential of the human brain, master villain The Mad Monkey has other plans for the device. Armed with his army of escaped baboons, “that sinister simian, that pernicious primate” instead intends to extend his control to mankind itself!

Artist Dean Kotz amps up the excitement with giddy glee (How can you not have fun with an army of monkeys?), washing his frames in three-color glories, making his layouts pop and sizzle, and heightening the pulpy fun of a gloriously campy story.

Monkeybrain also fills out the issue with a great article by writer Gregg Taylor, covering the creation of this issue’s villain and its vocal realization in the audio drama by actor Christopher Mott.

Also in this issue,Chapter 11 of the novel Tales of The Red Panda: The Pyramid of Peril!  And, if you’re too eager to wait for the monthly installments, the whole rollicking adventure is available in it entirety at

“Any sign of our friend?”
“I’ve got good news and bad news . . . Ah scratch that, I just got bad news.”

VERDICT:       FOUR Escaped Toronto Baboons out of FIVE

All of  my reviews are first published at Check out their site and if you like it, check out their podcasts or sign up for their newsletter (a daily highlight of the best in geek news).