Monthly Archives: March 2015

REVIEW: SHAPER – Issue #1

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“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!

VERDICT:       FIVE MINT TOR AJAX CARDS out of FIVE

This review was first published at Fanboycomics.net. 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). 

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REVIEW: 1957 Issue #1

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“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 Fanboycomics.net. 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

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“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 www.decoderringtheatre.com/books.

“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 Fanboycomics.net. 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).