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.