Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Blue Hand Mojo

Story and Art by John L. Jennings
Rosarium Publishing

This is a great time to be a comic book fan. With the internet and cheaper and more efficient ways to publish, many talented writers and artists who were seemingly locked out of the comic book industry, have several ways to meet their audience. There are so many great comic books out there now put out by independent artists that it's difficult to keep up. Quite a few deserve Eisner awards on so many levels.

If you don't know who John L. Jennings is, you should do a google search. Jennings is an extremely talented artist and scholar who has put in the work around the country. So when I heard he was doing a comic book where he wrote, drew, and colored, it was something I had to cop. This is no easy task. Oftentimes, a creator is good on one side of comic book story telling but bad in another. Jennings ventures away from just the bubbles, he narrates the story and places the text on the right hand side of the page. This really makes the quality of the story better and adds a more artful approach to it.

It all works. Jennings' lettering is perfect. He mixes history and fiction well when focusing on the the area of Chicago called Bronzeville during the post WWII period. His artwork is superb. Jennings introduces the reader to Frank “Half Dead” Johnson, a well known practioner of magic who does most of his work in the criminal underground of Chicago during the time of Al Capone.

The reader will immediately love the character of Half Dead Johnson. He is fearless and has no problems navigating Bronzeville and the outside white world. An old buddy who works for Capone, Mac the Shark, comes to request aid from Johnson. Just that dialogue between the both of them demonstrates how Johnson pretty much strong armed his way into his position. He speaks to Mac the Shark with an indifference that tells the reader that Johnson is not to be messed with. While Jennings gives little hints as to Mac the Shark and Johnson's history, but it's enough to know that no one messes with Johnson.

The best part is when Johnson goes to help Mac the Shark, he learns that he is already over his head. The contrast between his invulnerability to his fear is very interesting and what makes readers read a particular comic book. Jennings does a wonderful job building that up. Jennings knocks it out the park as both writer and artist.

Rosarium Publishing continues to put out quality work and Blue Hand Mojo is a prime example of this. I can't wait to cop the second issue of this work by John L. Jennings. As usual, Jennings continues to impress and put out dope work.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Captain America: Sam Wilson Issues 1 & 2

Written by Nick Spencer
Pencils by Daniel Acuna

I am a big fan of Rick Remender but I was not too happy with his take on Sam Wilson as the new Captain America. The artwork was dope and I enjoyed Wilson's approached to the mantle, but I don't think Remender handled it well. I think Nick Spencer is a good writer, but he never wrote anything that I felt another comic book reader had to copped. I love Daniel Acuna's pencils. Acuna's work on Uncanny Avengers was amazing. Acuna was the main reason I picked up this series.

Wilson really moves away from the Steve Rogers' approach to the stars and stripes along with the shield. Wilson takes more of a stance on certain hot button issues and takes a cue from Luke Cage and creates a hotline. He is no longer a member of S.H.I.E.L.D. And has no ties to the US government. Along with Dennis Dunphy aka D-Man and Misty Knight, Wilson keeps it as bare bones as possible.
On his first mission, Wilson heads to the border to help undocumented workers who are being kidnapped.

So far, it's really working. While Wilson is trying to figure out his footing, Spencer adds more issues to the mix. Dunphy adds comic relief while Misty keeps Wilson grounded. The appearances of Maria Hill who casts a large shadow over Wilson, adds more tension. Initially, I didn't see why Steve Rogers had to play a role but in issue 2, Spencer puts it all together. Even Armadillo makes an appearance in issue 2 to exact revenge on a broken promise.

For those who are expecting spoilers from Secret Wars, you won't find any here. There is a mention of the incursions in issue 2. We also learn about “Kobik,” a secret government program in which authorities can change the very fabric of reality using cosmic cubes. This is very interesting and I hope this ties into the ending of Secret Wars.

Acuna does a dope job with the breakdowns. I enjoy the fact that he does not exaggerate the physiques of the superheroes. What really stands out are the colors by Acuna. All of the flashbacks are highlighted by reds. In issue two on the first page, there is a panel with a twitter discussion between Wilson and some tweeps. It is hilarious. These added touches really do it for me.

I really enjoy what Nick Spencer is doing. Acuna always brings the pain. The covers, the background, the plot, and everything fits. This is definitely a new Captain America with a new look and a new approach. It definitely works.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Geek/Parent Hat

While I have been a geek much longer than I have been a parent, there are moments when I have to remind myself that I am a parent. While I have a ready list of comic books to suggest to parents, there are times when someone might ask for a recommendation and then I give them a few and then they tell me that it's for their 12 year old nephew.

I read a large amount of independent titles along with Image. Most of these titles are edgy and for mature readers. While I enjoy these titles so much, I am careful to recommend them. They are not for the faint of heart. My oldest son, who is now 21, has never lived with us. He was raised by his pentacostal mother who at times could be very strict but then be much more liberal than I could ever be. So while my son had strict curfews, she allowed him to run the gamut when it came to entertainment.

I remember one evening on the phone when he was about 14, he recommended “Preacher.” I assumed that I have read everything from the Vertigo line, but somehow “Preacher” missed my radar, so I was a late comer to that story. I loved it. As an atheist, it was right up my alley but I will admit that it was borderline blasphemous (I am honestly shocked that they are planning to make this into a movie). At that moment I had forgotten my parent hat. Wait, what was my 14 yeard old doing reading “Preacher?” On top of that, did his mother approve of this? This is the time of the internet and oftentimes, children will have access to things that we parents might never even know about.

In our day, no matter how well we hid our secret stash, ma dukes would find it. They were physical and tangible objects that took up space. We were bound to get caught since we only had to slip one time. Nowadays, a porn stash and hentai books can fit in a thumb drive that we would need a password to hack into it. So if he got away with it, shout out to the young G. Still, “Preacher” deals with some heavy themes.

I am a huge fan of Octavia Butler, but I am hesitant to recommend it for children. Butler dealt with difficult themes along with intersectionality. Her work bites hard and is revolutionary on every conceivable level. I want my children to be readers of her. At that moment with my oldest, I felt it was time for me to introduce him to her. He taught me a valuable lesson that day.

The first is that each parent knows his or her child. I know my children. I know what they like and what they are ready for. So while I might recommend some dope comics for them, they might not dig it and really enjoy something else. My middle son enjoys manga. That's how he gets down. That is totally outside of my lane so I should seek ideas from manga readers.

Second is that no parents are created equal. Some parents really engage their children when it comes to pop culture. Some might be in the middle. Others might just let their children roll how they want. My mother had no clue what I was doing reading comics but she saw that it kept me off the streets, so she supported my comic book habit. She had no clue what I was talking about when my brother and I would geek out. Every parent gets down differently. That is also okay.

Finally, we have to give our children the benefit of the doubt. As a parent, mentor, and educator, I have learned that children surpass every standard we set for them. They will get concepts that are completely over our heads. We have to stop assuming that they might not get something.

I hope this post helps. It's something that's been on my mind for the last few days. Today was the opportunity for me to put it out. You know your child better than anyone else. You know their perks and what they dig. You know how they get down. So while a comic might have that Mature rating, one never knows how they will grow from that.  

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Nelson Beats the Odds

written by Ronnie Sidney II, MSW
illustrated by Traci Van Wagoner

There is so much to be said about the Public Education system in the United States. Working in and out of this system, I have witnessed some stories that makes one want to torch the entire thing. In many cases, our children are being smashed and discarded on so many levels. In several parts of the country, the Public Education system serves as a primer to the prison industrial complex. In those areas, children are just warehoused and then channeled into prison. In “Nelson Beats the Odds,” Ronnie Sidney gives the reader a ride through the public education system in the U.S.

Nelson is a student who has issues while in school. He is “diagnosed” with ADHD and placed on medication. The rest of the story shows Nelson trying to mask his issues and getting into more trouble. Soon Nelson meets a teacher who really cares and helps him overcome his issues. Sidney demonstrates how Nelson's entire community stood up to help him. Despite how the system treated Nelson, he triumphs and surpasses his goals with the help of family and friends.

Sidney does a wonderful job at explaining how for many our children there are systemic and human roadblocks to their growth and development. Sidney also demonstrates how sometimes we impede the path of our children in subtle ways. Sidney does not lay blame on any one institution, instead he points out how deep the problems are. He also explains how the solution has to be multi faceted. He is clear that it does take a community to help a child reach his or her goals. Sidney's simple story telling allows this book to be read by almost any level while leaving the discussion to the readers. The happy ending is needed since we see so many stories like Nelson's go in a completely different direction.

The illustrations by Traci Van Wagoner are great. Wagoner does a wonderful job at moving the story. The paneling works well and the segue's are not confusing. Nelson's constant frustration is evident through Wagoners breakdowns and coloring. Wagoner seems to work well with Sidney. The paneling is top notch and easy to follow. This is not something I see often with new artists.

If anyone is looking to see where comic books and social justice can intersect, books such as “Nelson Beats the Odds” are perfect. For those on the college level who teach future educators, this book is also recommended. It can be used as a tool to discuss the importance of empowering students as we educate them. As a parent, this book is empowering and helpful. Sidney provides tidbits of information that can help parents make decisions for the future of their children. I am sure educators can use this tool in clas to find students who feel exactly how Nelson did. Finally, Sidney explains how educators are crucial in the role of facilitators. For many students, it can be that one teacher who makes or breaks them. Through many of the characters, Sidney introduces the reader to many of Nelson's detractors and his motivators.  

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

The Little Red Fish

Written by James Moffitt
Illustrated by Bizhan Khodabandeh

As a historian, I have always found that the Iranian Revolution to be one of the most interesting turning points of the 20th century. This revolution was influential on how Middle Eastern politics functions and how the rest of the world reacts to it in particular with how U.S. Foreign policy was shaped after WWII. As a part time educator, my dilemma was trying to convey this event to my younger students with boring them. Through Rosarium Publishing, the reader is introduced to “The Little Red Fish” by James Moffitt.

Moffitt tells the story of an aquatic reef where the fish are harshly governed by heron. There is constant surveillance of the fish by their masters. The fish swim about in an atmosphere thick with fear. It seems as if every facet of their lives is controlled and monitored. It seems all hope is lost until Manuchehr the Hawk arrives. As Manuchehr interacts with the fish, the Heron scheme.

The reader learns that Manuchehr was once a fish. The fish openly discuss revolution with him around. Manuchehr inspires them. Although he warns them that they have to change before revolting against the heron, the fish still speak openly. Soon the heron attack Manuchehr in a fight to the death.

While the story is very abstract, the basic elements that made the backdrop of the Iranian revolution are there. The opening scene takes place at a local market. In many countries like Iran, the market is a place where everyone gets to exchange information and interact with one another. I enjoyed the fact that Moffitt jumped right into the story without the need to narrate the background. This added much mystery to the story and allowed the reader to become a part of the community. The concept of community is found throughout the story as we see the fish act together when making a decision.

The illustrations by Bizhan Khodabandeh are amazing. The details are vivid right down to the barnacles found on the rafters where the fish live. When Manuchehr shows up, Khodabandeh wastes nothing to protray how his presence easily inspires his compatriots. The reader cannot help to quickly see Manuchehr as the warrior he truly is.

I thoroughly enjoyed this story so much that I read it over and over. For any social studies teacher, this book would be ideal to introduce the story of the Iranian revolution. I think any avid comic book fan would enjoy the story even if they knew nothing about that part of history. As a parent, I can see this as a tool to bring one's children into the discussion. I find that “The Little Red Fish” has something for everybody. Rosarium Publishing picked another winner.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Gods And Monsters: Superman

Gods And Monsters: Superman
Written by J.M. DeMatteis and Bruce Timm
Artwork by Moritat

I never been a fan of Superman. I enjoyed the latest reboot of the Man of Steel but overall, I think his character is shallow and boring. I think John Byrne's retcon of him in the late eighties was awesome but it's because it was Byrne. So picking up this version of Superman was a huge risk for me. Let me say that I enjoyed it thoroughly.

This time, the man of steel is Hernan Guerra. He was raised by Mexican migrant workers. He learns about economic exploitation and racism very early. His worldview is much different than Clark Kent's. I have always felt that even though Kent was raised by farmers, there was too much privilege in his character. Guerra enjoys none of that. At the same time, the Guerra family did not allow Hernan to display his powers but he did anyway. This is much more realistic to me then the Kents. Children are children and they are going to test the waters as much as they can. Hernan does so as much as possible especially when it meant helping his community.

The story is told through the eyes of his big sister, Valentina. They are very close and their bond is evident. An accident that causes Valentina to be confined to a wheelchair has a tremendous impact on young Hernan since he feels he is the cause of it. From that point on, Hernan is troubled. After being harassed by a white mob, Hernan takes matters into his own hands. This was the point of no return. Hernan leaves his family and travels the world helping people as he sees fit.

This reimagining of Superman is a move violent one. I would not say “darker,” because despite how he becomes, it's clear that he loved his family who took great care of him. His mother was a faithful and optimistic woman as is his sister. Hernan just didn't see eye to eye with them. He sees injustice and feels that it should be dealt with swiftly and harshly. There are moments where we see Superman being hugged by children and consistently seeing his sister in the victims he saves.

The artwork by Moritat is dope. I am unfamiliar with Moritat and hope to see more of him in the future. I enjoy the emotion the artwork captures: the angry flashes, the loving eyes, etc. I think the best detail is when we see Superman use his heat vision. It is so precise and clean. Overall, the story is fresh and interesting. I do plan on reading this and the other Gods and Monsters story. I want to see how this Superman interacts with other super beings.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Infinity Gauntlet (Secret Wars) Issues 1 to 3

The Infinity Gauntlet (Secret Wars) Issues 1 to 3
Written by Gerry Duggan and Dustin Weaver
Art by Dustin Weaver

Like many of the Battleworld stories being published, the titles are very misleading. While Marvel was never clear about what they would be putting out, they did promote each storyline with the lettering from those great crossovers. There are some great storylines in the Battleworld universe, but many readers have come away dissappointed. Many of these readers, myself included, expected stories from those crossovers. While many of them have nothing to do with those crossovers, there are a few that stand out. Infinity Gauntlet is one of those.

The story centers around a family, the Bakians, that consist of a dad, two daughters, granddad, and even a dog. In this part of Battleworld, giant bugs have invaded Earth and killed most of the population. The mother of the Bakian clan, Eve, is off fighting the bugs with an atrophied Nova Corps. This provides tension within the family. While Anwen, the eldest child, is resentful that her mother went off to fight, while the youngest, Fayne believes that her mother is right around the corner. Menzin Bakian, the father is ambivalent about her return. Some moments he is hopeful and in others, he becomes fatalistic. Issue one does a great job of introducing the entire clan.

Issue number two comes right into the action as the Eve Bakian returns to save her family and bring them into the Nova Corps. This is my favorite part of the series so far. The Bakian battles hordes upon hordes of bugs. At one point, Eve uses the Infinity gems she possesses to defeat their opponents. This issue also introduces Gamora and Peter Quill (Star Lord) who are also in search of the Infinity gems. Finally, the reader is introduced to Thanos and his scheme to acquire the Gauntlet.

The third issue dials back the action a bit. Thanos is continuously defeated when trying to acquire the Infinity Gauntlet from a yet unnamed Nova. He jumps back in time to try again. This time, he decides to take a more diplomatic approach by befriending the Bakian clan before they reunite with Eve Bakian. Thanos gains their trust and watches as they find more gems and meet up with Gamora and Peter Quill.

Readers might wonder why members of the Guardians of the Galaxy are teaming up with Thanos. It seems that in this Battleworld reality, no one knows about this version of Thanos. It also seems that in this region of Battleworld, the humans are used to interacting with beings from other planets.

Again, I must point out that this Infinity Gauntlet storyline is completely different from its predecessor. So if you are looking to see your favorite heroes and villains battling for control of the Gauntlet, it's not going to happen. Instead we are introduced to a new family, particularly one of color. Dustin Weaver's artwork does a beautiful job of fleshing out the Bakian clan.

I think any parent can relate to this story. The stakes are high. Eve Bakian is not just fighting off an international menace or two, she is fighting to keep her family together. While the foreshadowing isn't clear, it looks like Thanos will be facing off Anwen. Black girls are magic.

I haven't seen anything that states that any of the Bakian clan will be returning with their own series or part of a superhero group. This is dissappointing. This story, like many other Battleworld stories, is compelling and one can't helped but be attached to the characters. Hopefully, they will pop up in future stories as guests.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Fantastic Four

I went to watch this movie despite the torrent of horrible reviews given by almost everyone. I only know one person out of thousands who stated it was okay. I understood that much of the source material was going to come from the Ultimate Fantastic Four series, and being a fan of the Ultimate universe, I wanted to give it a shot.

One thing I enjoyed about the Ultimate Fantastic Four is that it made the entire team relevant. In Earth 616 Fantastic Four, Reed Richards is the brain and Ben Grimm is comic relief. In Ultimate Fantastic Four, Richards, Susan and Johnny Storm are all geniuses. All of them are significant when it comes to putting things together. I felt that Earth 616 Fantastic Four, at that time, was stale so the Ultimate story line did it for me (Jonathan Hickman's run was probably the best Fantastic Four written since John Byrne's 80's run).

This reboot of the Fantastic Four did the same thing. Susan Storm wasn't the damsel in distress who had no clue about what Richards talked about. In this version, Susan Storm and Richards have much in common. To be honest, the best part about this movie is the dialogue. I think that part of the problem is that people expected a huge battle just like in the Avengers. While this movie wasn't great and you could wait for it to show up on DVD, it didn't entirely suck.

First, we have to admit that Avengers is a game changing movie. It set a huge standard for super hero movies. If its not an epic battle, audiences will fall asleep. We also have to remember that Avengers had a nice build up with the movies of the individual members of the team. So dialogue didn't have to drive the movie. Second, this is the Fantastic Four. They are considered the first super hero family (after Captain Marvel and his Marvel crew). So what made the comic book so good for so long is that dynamic. This is something difficult to convey in a superhero movie.

I still think the dialogue between the members was well written. We got to learn about everyone and why they were scientists. Ben Grimm could have used more writing but I see how they wanted to treat him like the outcast of the group. This was a RetCon move by John Byrne in the late eighties where the other three members saw Grimm as something no one wanted around. We also see the guilt Richards has for getting him into the mess that created The Thing.

I did enjoy the fact that they moved the story a year later and allowed everyone to learn how to use their powers. I know these is a minute detail but it's crucial. They should not be able to fully utilize their powers as soon as they woke up. I think the way they got their powers also made sense. I especially loved how they developed Susan Storm's powers.

Franklin Storm was another thing I enjoyed. Here is a person who sees that children are key to our future. He created a crew of young people who would make scientific breakthroughs that would change the world. He saw them as children that he had to take care of and he adopted a few of them. He even called Richards and Doom “sons.” Reg Cathey did a good job as Papa Storm.

My biggest gripe was how they created Dr. Doom. I enjoyed the tension between him and Richards but his motivation to become evil was lackluster. It didn't sell me. Dr. Doom is my favorite villain because of his arrogance and this guy was far from it. I mean Dr. Doom throwing up a middle finger? Who wrote this? He was pretty much the Beyonder with his power set.

Overall, the movie felt like a rough draft. After the battle with Dr. Doom, I thought there were more scenes but it seemed to be over very fast. There was one huge plot hole that really frustrated me. Parts of the movie worked and parts of it didn't seem right. Again the movie wasn't great but not something you have to watch. 

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Secret Wars 2015: The view so far 
(all images from Marvel.Com)

Omi's Note: Usually I don't post spoiler alerts. If you read about comic books on line, there are spoilers galore. Quite honesty, I come to expect spoilers. However, I do feel that in this case I should warn the reader. I will give many spoilers but if you haven't be reading Marvel Comics in say, the last 30 years, you won't get half this stuff anyway.

I would be the first to admit that with the Incursion Events in Marvel under Jonathan Hickman, I was hoping that the heroes of Earth 616, in particular the Illuminati, would figure it out and save the universe. I really did. Even when every Avenger title demonstrated that nothing they could do or anyone in another reality could fix it. Most of the solutions were temporary and involved destroying an entire universe. So not only were those solutions difficult, they were ethically immoral. When the rumor mill began to spin the story of the destruction of the Marvel multiverses, I was really mad about this. I could understand if Marvel got rid of a few of these multiverses. Sometimes, writing stories that include characters from these alternate universes can be confusing.

I believed that this new Secret Wars storyline would be the dumbest thing ever. I have never been wrong (and I have been eating crow with every release of the series). I just put down issue # 4 as of July 30th. I have to mention that the stories based on this new Secret Wars “crossover” are very good. I mean some are awesome. Half way in, I will say Marvel has hit it out the park.


I enjoy the fact that the Marvel editorial team picked up on Dr. Doom's long term goals from the original Secret Wars. If you recall, at that point Dr. Doom was able to steal away the Beyonder's power. Since that time, Doom continued to believe that only he could retain that much power and rule the universe. While he continued to be a nuisance to the Marvel universe, all of his schemes were not the endgame. We finally see Dr. Doom see an opportunity to find that endgame and sit himself on the throne of the known universe.

Despite it's complexity, Battleworld is amazing. Again, the Marvel creative team took it's cues from the original story line where the Beyonder took pieces of different universes and put them all on one planet. It's understandable why Dr. Doom did it this way. Every piece of Battleworld with the exception of a handful, are ruled by Barons put in place by Dr. Doom. It seems like Dr. Doom thought this was a good idea to create Battleworld in this order to keep the population in check. All of the barons seem to have rebellions in all of their fiefdoms and are too busy fighting them off to unite against Dr. Doom. Some of the Barons include Apocalypse, Maestro, Mr. Sinister, and Hyperion to name a few. These barons are powerful enough in their own right but together could probably stand a chance to defeat Doom if they united but they remain too busy dealing with their own squabbles. Hickman has even figured out how to put in the Marvel Zombies universe into the story without it being corny. It's a place where Doom banishes all of the rebels throughout Battleworld.

The Thor Corps is really what keeps me ready to read each chapter. Here we have a corps of police enforcers who unquestionably follow Doom and wield hammers that are similar to that of the original Thor from Earth 616. All of the Thors come from different parts of Battleworld. Doom did this so that he didn't have to do any of the work himself. He can just send a squad of Thors to do it for him.

I never been a huge fan of Dr. Strange. All that magic stuff doesn't do it for me. However in this instance, Hickman writes him well. Dr. Strange is the only other person besides Doom who remembers how the universe was before the Incursions. Everyone else believes that Battleworld is something that has always existed. We learn in issue 3 that Dr. Strange had the opportunity to received the power of the Beyonders but refused and accepted the idea that Doom could wield that power better than he could. This part of the story is very, very interesting.

Esad Ribic's breakdowns have always been fascinating. I think this story really allows him to push the boundaries of his creativity. Even if the writing was boring, I would still collect the issues because of his pencils.

The Bad

While Battleworld is like a buffet, there is just too much stuff out there. While some of the heroes we know and love from the Marvel multiverse are rehashed and remixed in clever ways and there is something for everybody, it is just too much to digest. Pretty much in a span of a few weeks, Marvel has launched several new titles. With some good there is bound to be some bad. Planet Hulk is not actually Planet Hulk. Star Lord and Kitty Pride is over the top. Age of Ultron vs. Marvel Zombies is lackluster. I can go on and on.

Many of the stories are great, but we know in the end, Marvel is not going to continue them. There is a Thors title with the Thor Corps. We all know that's not going to last. Civil War and Old Man Logan? Outta here. So why tease us like this, Marvel? I mean we know why, but we want to hear you guys and gals say it.

Most, if not all, of the crossover titles have no bearing on the actual storyline. Sure The Thors series gives the reader insight on how the Thor Corps functions and demonstrates how the idea that the Battleworld has always been there, none of what the characters a reader might end up enjoying will affect the overall series. This has been a problem with previous crossovers. In a way, if you want to save money this works but if the reader becomes invested in characters that will be discarded anyway, what is the use?

Some of the stories are rehashed but are not like their namesakes. The best example is Planet Hulk. Another on is the Infinity Gauntlet. While I enjoy the story of the Infinity Gauntlet, I did expect a series that dealt with several heroes and villains like the original story. This might be difficult to do, but if Thanos is central to the Secret Wars storyline, things might get a bit confusing.

Overall, I think the series is worth it. Purchasing the crossover titles is not necessary. I am sure that most of the stories will be memorable and will allow other artists and writers to get a little shine. I do look forward to the conclusion of the story since Hickman continues to ask more questions as it progresses.   

Thursday, May 21, 2015


Written by Keith A. Miller
Art by Ian Gabriel
Published by Rosarium Publishing

Most of us like to think that only certain people go to prison. I remember talking to a student I had when I worked in a prison and she stated that when she was young she believed that only bad people went to prison until she was convicted and sent to one. She realized that just like society, prison is filled with people from all walks of life and worldviews. Many of us assume that only monsters inhabit that space. Much of the entertainment we consume informs that narrative. What Manticore does is demonstrate that the monsters are usually not the inmates.

As much as I love comic books, many of my favorite comics are the non super hero ones. As a reader, I don't know what I am getting until a few issues in. Manticore does the same. It has a slow build up and then punches you in the face in the end and sets the tone for the subsequent issues.

We are introduced to the cast of characters by a new inmate to the Pensacola Federal Prison Camp as he is walked to his cell by a correction officer. The reader is introduced to a 6 dangerous men whose origins are as complicated as anyone else.

Usually, we find that stories of prison life is filled with physical violence. Manticore demonstrates how violence doesn't have to be physical. We learn that many of the inmates are drugged against their wills. While the protagonist is threatened by the unwritten rules of the prison community, we learn that the overall system puts them in the position to enforce this code. I think this is the best part of the story. Violence can come in many forms that are not physical. Unlike other forms of entertainment that deal with prison life, Manticore does not glorify any of the violence.

Another thing I enjoy about Manticore is the artwork. I wish more comics were drawn in black and white. Like photographs, black and white comics seem to capture more emotion and detail. I am completely unfamiliar with Ian Gabriel but I am already becoming a fan. While the story is focused on dialogue, Gabriel does a great job illustrating the tension and the repression that is clear in the writing.

As I have stated Manticore has me hooked since I did not know what I was going to get. I believe any reader would feel the same. For a first issue into an unfamiliar story, Miller did a great job putting it all together. I look forward to reading the subsequent issues and learning more about the narrator and the characters in the story.

If you would like to purchase a copy, check the link...

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Chadhiyana: In the Company of Shadows

Writing/Art/Lettering by J.M. DeSantis
Published by Rosarium Publishing

I enjoy reading stories from independent companies because they can take risks with stories. For the average reader it might be a dangerous investment and this idea probably explains why many people do not support indie print. Personally, I enjoy traveling to new places with stories that might be unfamiliar with me. Even if the story isn't as good as I expect it to be, usually the time and place is enough for me to continue to read said comic. The best part is that despite what people might say, there are plenty of stories that will be new to us that need to be told.

Chadhiyana is one of those stories. I will admit the first several pages, I was completely confused as to what was going on. I was about to put it down because there was no dialogue to go along with the artwork. I realized I had to be patient. As soon as the dialogue came in, J.M. DeSantis was able to flesh out the story and give the reader enough information to explain the first half of the book.

DeSantis did a wonderful job keeping the tension during the dialogue. There was a sense of urgency between the characters that will keep the reader engaged. At the end of the story, everything was able to be put together. It is difficult to explain a story in an unfamiliar world in 35 pages. DeSantis did a great job of this. The story centers around a small group of mystics named the Tal-Ifatiir. They travel the world combating users of evil magic.

The artwork is amazing. I love how DeSantis uses the eyes to express the emotions of the characters. I really enjoy the costumes. It borrows from many cultures and makes the members of Tal-Ifatiir look both scholarly and warrior like. In the first half of the story, the members of Tal-Ifatiir fight with weapons. In the second half, there is a battle of wits. DeSantis begins the story with fast moving combat. In the later half, DeSantis slows it down and we see the Tal-Ifatiir spar verbally with a village elder who they are trying to help and later between themselves. There is inner turmoil within the Tal-Ifatiir due to a disagreement of ideologies and purpose. In the first issue, the reason is vague but the argument gets personal until the protagonist is discussed after a mission debrief.

Overall, the story draws you in and keeps you hooked. The best part is that the protagonist Chadhiyana isn't revealed until the end of the story even though she is introduced in the beginning. I thoroughly enjoyed how this was fleshed out. She is not discussed by her fellow Tal-Ifatiir until the end. As she is described by one of her team members, the reader will recall her actions from the beginning of the story. DeSantis provides just enough information to take away the mystery. I enjoy this world of Chadhiyana and the Tal-Ifatiir. While the first issue is a small glimpse of that world, what has already been revealed is just enough for the reader to pick up the subsequent issues.