Comic Review: Earthbound: Between Two Breaths On Earth

Published: 2019
Written by: Narwhal
Art by: Narwhal

Narwhal Books, 148 Pages

Review:

I’ve backed a lot of crowdfunded comics over the last few years but this was one that I didn’t initially support. But after hearing a lot of praise for it, I figured I’d grab a copy after the initial batch had already been sold and sent out.

For the most part, this was pretty enjoyable and it’s hard not to be impressed with anyone who writes and does the art for their own creation.

While the story didn’t fully connect with me, I didn’t find it boring and actually thought it was interesting and I could see why so many people were fans of it.

Granted, this is the first of two parts and I don’t want to be too harsh as the overall narrative is still incomplete. But as its own standalone release, it builds up without a real satisfying payoff.

Additionally, the art is competent but it’s not my cup of tea. I did really like the coloring, however, and it gave this a very unique aesthetic that enriched the total experience.

I guess my biggest takeaway from this is that it is a good start but it needs more refinement. That should come with time, as long as Narwhal, this trade paperback’s creator, keeps plugging away at his craft.

It does leave me fairly enthusiastic about whatever else he could do in the future.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other recent indie sci-fi comics like Downcast, Gods & Gears, Eden, Exilium, and Feast or Famine.

Comic Review: Iron Sights: 2 Psychos

Published: May, 2020
Written by: Richard C. Meyer, Carlos I. Silva
Art by: Ibai Canales, Kelsey Shannon (cover)

Splatto Comics, 100 Pages

Review:

I really dug the first Iron Sights, which upset some of the sensitive, snowflake types that are out to “cancel” Richard C. Meyer just because he criticized a dying comic book industry full of talentless shitheads.

Anyway, I’m happy to say that I enjoyed this sequel even more. Meyer had a few issues with his writing in his earliest books but he’s definitely improved quite a bit in the less than two years since he’s been publishing his own comics on a regular basis.

That being said, unlike his detractors, Meyer listens to criticism and learns from it, which is apparent after seeing how he’s improved over his last two releases.

Overall, I enjoyed this story a lot, even more so than the first and it has some interesting surprises that makes me enthused about the eventual third book. I don’t want to spoil any of the plot details but if you are a fan of neo-western films of the last decade or two, this will most assuredly be your cup of tea.

Additionally, the artist, Ibai Canales received a lot of criticism over the first Iron Sights. While his style wasn’t for everyone, I liked it. However, in this second story, the guy has vastly improved over his previous work. It gives me hope for the future, as I see the guy only getting better, as he keeps working at his craft. Seriously, he’s made really noticeable improvement here and I’m glad that Meyer kept him on and gave him the opportunity to keep working on this series.

At it’s core, this is a hard-edged, action packed crime saga that goes for the gusto and succeeds at building off of what came before it while keeping the reader excited about what could be next.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: it’s predecessor, as well as Richard C. Meyer’s Jawbreakers comics.

Talking Pulp: Rest In Peace – DC Comics – 1934-2020?

I’m glad I’m no longer a customer of AT&T. I left them behind a few years ago and I have been really happy not giving them my money anymore. But since buying Time Warner, they’ve been going through everything with a fine tooth comb and shutting down divisions that they don’t deem as profitable enough.

I was first directly affected by this back in November of 2018 when they pulled the plug on FilmStruck, a streaming service that was a joint effort by Turner Classic Movies and the Criterion Collection to present classic and historically significant motion pictures from all eras. It was also, by far, my favorite streaming service out of them all. In fact, I wrote about that dark day here.

When FilmStruck was struck down, I knew that it was only a matter of time before AT&T took the ax to other divisions within their entertainment sectors. Looking across the board, it was easy to ascertain that DC Comics’ days were most assuredly numbered.

The writing has been on the wall forever and not just for DC but for Marvel and the entire comic book industry, as a whole. Sales are terrible, comics are too expensive and most importantly, above all else, the creative side of the equation is mostly deplorable.

The comic book industry (like the rest of the entertainment industry) has had an agenda-driven ax to grind for several years now. It’s turned people away, as has the behavior of many of these “creators” on social media.

In fact, many of these big entertainment juggernauts actually don’t do anything to stop the despicable behavior of those they employ. They’ve even brushed this shit off, claiming that they’re just independent contractors and entitled to their own opinions. I’ve written about these “creators” and companies’ bullshit before though, which you can check out here and here.

The point of this article, though, is to point out that DC Comics, in its current form, is beyond repair and that AT&T is most likely pulling the plug.

Now nothing has been officially announced, as of yet, so take this as rumor until more comes out.

However, it looks like this is possibly happening sooner rather than later, based off of some texts I got from an intermediary with an insider, who has worked at DC for over a decade. Who they are doesn’t matter but it’s not hard to see the forest for the trees.

What I’ve been told is that this was planned before COVID-19 made things a lot worse and that this viral event has actually sped up the company’s demise.

I felt that this should come as no surprise after their publisher Dan DiDio “stepped down” on February 21st of this year with no one being announced to step in and fill that void. I guess it made Jim Lee the top guy by default but what has he done since this happened? He’s done a Kickstarter for a backpack and he’s hosted art auctions.

Additionally, DC Comics’ 5G initiative has been met with severe backlash and it hasn’t even started yet. It was scheduled to kickoff this summer and it was DiDio’s newest and latest big plan to save the industry and get sales booming again.

Well, when you’ve rebooted your universe multiple times in the last decade or so, people become sick of these sort of half-assed and short-sighted shenanigans. Plus, no one really wants to see core DC characters get replaced by diversity characters. This bullshit hasn’t worked for Marvel but apparently these comic book companies can’t learn from past mistakes, have no real fresh ideas and apparently don’t care about profit.

This all boils down to profit. Especially, when you have been absorbed by a massive corporation that only cares about their bottom line, a line which DC Comics is definitely below.

The rest of the information that made its way to me says that COVID-19 was the deathblow for DC and that AT&T is planning on making an official announcement in June. They also said that it is doubtful that they will wait until June now, as the damage is quite severe. Plus, people working for DC will most likely get pissed and start leaking more information between now and then. AT&T will most likely want to stay ahead of that or they’ll do what companies do in these situations and deny it until their hand is forced to be more transparent. That’s the beauty of publicly traded companies.

The plan is for DC to release what is already in the pipeline over the next few months but there will be no new books after what is currently finished. With Diamond, the comic industry’s “monopoly” distributor, falling apart due to COVID-19, DC is looking for other distribution avenues. But this is probably just a short-term thing to get these last comics out and to try and turn some profit while they still can.

While this may feel like a punch in the gut, it doesn’t mean that characters like Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman are gone.

AT&T still owns the IPs to these characters and those IPs will most likely always be lucrative, as they will continue to produce movies, television shows and merchandise till the end of time. This really just effects the comic book division itself.

This also doesn’t mean that we will never have comic books of these characters again, either. AT&T could license these characters out to other publishers in the same way Hasbro licenses out G.I. Joe, Transformers and other IPs to IDW Publishing. Hell, all major IPs that aren’t specifically owned by DC or Marvel are mostly produced by indie companies like IDW, Dynamite, Dark Horse, Boom! and a slew of others.

Side note: Marvel has already licensed their own characters out to IDW for their kids line of comics, despite still being in business themselves.

Plus, the monthly model of people buying floppy physical issues of comics doesn’t seem to be the best model anymore. Yet, crowdfunding comics has been blowing up and creating a boom in that sector of the industry. The mainstream tries to ignore it and brush it off but just look at how well a lot of the Comicsgate creators’ books have done.

The mainstream wants to paint Comicsgate as their enemy and well, they are. They’re defying what has become the mainstream industry’s standard and are pulling fans away from failing publishers like DC and Marvel while reinvigorating comic book readers who walked away some time ago. But it’s easier for the mainstream to demonize and act catty than to just do better and look at competition as a good thing.

So while Comicsgate and other crowdfunders are the enemy of the mainstream, they’re also the savior of the comic book industry because they’re keeping it alive and growing it by bringing in new readership.

While I am not a fan of labels, I am a fan of prosperity, success and in regards to the comic book medium, quality. It’s that quality thing that the mainstream publishers are having a hard time with, as they flood the shelves with comics people don’t want by “creators” who wouldn’t have been allowed anywhere near the industry just a decade ago. And that’s not to say that all Comicsgate books are great but the cream of the crop is much better than anything Marvel or DC has put out in quite awhile. Excluding Sean Gordon Murphy’s Batman stuff, though, as his White Knight comics are, by far, the best things put out by the mainstream in years.

Again, take this information as rumor but with everything that’s happened just in the last few months, DC Comics, in its current form, is probably not going to be here by year’s end.

Update:

Apparently, IDW Publishing started laying people off just minutes after I posted this article. It’s not looking good, folks.

Update #2:

I was told by someone close to the situation, that some sort of official decision will be made following the July 4th weekend.

Comic Review: Ravage – Kill All Men!!, Issue #1

Published: 2019
Written by: Chuck Dixon, Benjamin L. Henderson, Mike Baron
Art by: Jimbo Salgado, Bryan Arfel Magnaye, Eric Weathers

Cautionary Comics, 36 Pages

Review:

Ravage – Kill All Men!! is one of the first comic book projects that I backed on Indiegogo, a few years ago. I was excited to get my hands on it, as I’m a fan of Chuck Dixon and Mike Baron’s work and because the art looked great from the sample pages I saw.

Unfortunately, there were problems with the physical copies I ordered and after a lot of back and forth with the publisher and emails about the book being on its way to me, I never actually got it. I did get a refund and a digital copy but I really wanted to own the physical copy and never got one in my hands.

I downloaded the digital file and had it on my computer for awhile before reading this. I realized that I hadn’t reviewed it, so I decided to give it a re-read to freshen my memory and give it a proper critique.

Overall, this was fun and Dixon’s writing reminded me of his G.I. Joe work, as he conveyed great camaraderie between the two main characters and also gave us a tale of high adventure in a beautiful and exotic setting. Plus, his ability to write action has always been top notch and this just has a good flow and a good balance between developing the characters and setting up the story.

This really is just a single issue, though, so it ends very abruptly without any real conclusion. I’m not sure how many issues this was going to stretch over but based off of everything at Cautionary Comics kind of falling apart, as several others didn’t get their comic as well, I’m not even sure if this is going to continue on or if this is it for the story.

If more came out, I wouldn’t back them based off of my experience with this campaign. While I did get a refund, I didn’t back it to keep my money; I backed it to support the campaign, the comic, the creators and this new company, who looked to be putting out some cool stuff.

I’d like to be able to finish the story and review it as a total body of work but the future of Ravage doesn’t look good. If I did get a future release, at this point, I’d rather just get the whole story in a larger trade paperback.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other adventure comics that emphasize sex appeal like Jungle Comics.

Comic Review: Cyberfrog: Amphibionix

Published: September, 2019
Written by: Ethan Van Sciver
Art by: Ethan Van Sciver, Kyle Ritter

All Caps Comics, 20 Pages

Review:

I really dug Cyberfrog: Bloodhoney and I also thought that the Cyberfrog 1998 ashcan was well done, if not slightly better in how it bridged a long gap and showed an improvement in overall storytelling. So I obviously went into this second ashcan with great enthusiasm.

Out of the three modern Cyberfrog releases, thus far, this one was my least favorite. That being said, it’s still really damn good and it’s still pretty consistent with the vibe, style and quality of the other two.

This one is kind of a side story from back in the day, before Cyberfrog went into a multiple decades hibernation. It follows him and his bestie, Heather Swain, before shit really hits the fan with the alien invasion that wrecked the planet.

In this short, one-off story, Cyberfrog has an evil nun impostor stuck to his shoulder blades. What follows is a series of comedic events, as he attempts to get the corpse off of him.

I like Ethan Van Sciver’s humor and it really shines here. In fact, that’s something that this book does better than the others.

Furthermore, Van Sciver once again shows why he is one of the best comic book artists of our time, as this just looks incredible, visually. I also have to give credit to colorist Kyle Ritter, who only gets better and better with every project he works on. I’m really looking forward to his Starblades comic book.

Cyberfrog: Amphibionix was a blast! While I am eager to continue on in the main story, as new installments come out, I hope that Van Sciver does find time to throw in some one-off stories like this one. Plus, I’m kind of a junkie for ashcans and mini-comics.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: Ethan’s Green Lantern and Flash stuff, as well as the original Cyberfrog run at Harris Comics.

Comic Review: Black and White – Remastered, Vol. 1

Published: December, 2019
Written by: Art Thibert, Pamela Thibert, Taylor Grosso
Art by: Art Thibert, Periya Pillai, Hack Shack Color

Image Comics/Extreme Studios (original run), Hack Shack Studios, 52 Pages

Review:

I had the old issues of Art Thibert’s Black and White back when Image published them in 1993. I barely remembered the series but I did always like Thibert’s art, especially his X-Men stuff.

So when I saw that he was crowdfunding a remastered version of that old creation of his, I figured I’d back it and get reacquainted with these characters.

Overall, this was an energetic and nice read. This version of the book looks really good and it is improved upon.

I wasn’t quite expecting it to end in the middle of the story but I also backed this awhile ago and I might have forgotten that detail. So there is a second volume coming out in the future, which will complete the story. When that happens, I’m not sure, as Thibert is currently working on another project called Chrono Mechanics.

As far as the story goes, I found it pretty interesting but it reads like a lot of the other early Image superhero stuff. It feels as if it doesn’t know where it’s going and it’s trying to find its footing. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as Todd McFarlane’s Spawn was a bit shaky in its early issues. I would definitely say that this is better than Rob Liefeld’s Youngblood, which I always thought was poorly written. So for early Image stuff, I’d say that this is somewhere in the middle.

I liked the characters but I also didn’t feel like I was given enough material to fully understand them, which doesn’t do much in generating excitement over the eventual second volume.

Still, this did a decent job of laying some groundwork for future exploration. However, I’m not sure if Thibert wants to keep this series going or if the second part will just be the actual end of it.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: other early Image and Valiant superhero comics.

Comic Review: Cyberfrog 1998: The Diary of Heather Swain

Published: September, 2019
Written by: Ethan Van Sciver
Art by: Ethan Van Sciver, Kyle Ritter

All Caps Comics, 20 Pages

Review:

Initially, I guess I didn’t back the two Cyberfrog ashcans on Indiegogo. I was anticipating getting them and then I didn’t when Cyberfrog: Bloodhoney came in the mail. Luckily, Ethan Van Sciver did a second campaign for those of us that missed out and I scooped them up. This is a review of the first of the two Cyberfrog ashcans I read.

Straight off, this pulled me right in and didn’t let go. I had to read it twice.

The story’s purpose is to fill in the blanks between the last time Cyberfrog was around (the late ’90s) up until now. He’s been relaunched for a new generation of readers and because Van Sciver still has nothing but immense love for this character he created and wasn’t able to work on for a few decades due to his commitments to DC Comics and his brief time at Marvel.

This twenty page ashcan does a stupendous job in bridging that gap, as we are brought up to speed through the words of Heather Swain, Cyberfrog’s human friend, who has had to tough it out in a post-apocalyptic world ruled by alien wasps that harvest humans for their blood. For over twenty years, her badass friend has been missing and she’s been on her own with her young daughter and a few other survivors.

Before all all these Cyberfrog books started coming out, many people wondered whether or not Van Sciver would be able to write as well as he draws. Well, now that the cat is out of the bag with three modern Cyberfrog releases, I’d say the answer is “yes”. I loved this and it really got me hyped for the future releases after Bloodhoney, which I’ve also already read and reviewed (see here).

Ultimately, these comics lived up to the hype. In fact, I feel as if they somewhat exceed it, as Van Sciver’s art has never been better and I say that as a guy that absolutely loved his Green Lantern work and credit it with getting me back into comics in the mid-’00s after taking nearly a decade off.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: Ethan’s Green Lantern and Flash stuff, as well as the original Cyberfrog run at Harris Comics.

Comic Review: Jawbreakers – GØD-K1NG

Published: December, 2019
Written by: Richard C. Meyer, Chuck Dixon
Art by: Aaron Alfeche, Charlie Snogans, Renzo Rodriguez, Ethan Van Sciver (cover), Kyle Ritter (cover)

Splatto Comics, 96 Pages

Review:

I gotta say, color me impressed over the fact that the wait for this book was minuscule compared to the wait for the first one. But first campaigns are learning experiences and Ya Boi Zack really refined how he does things.

But I’ve also got to say that this book was an improvement over the first one, which goes to show that Meyer listened to the criticism of his readers and used that as fuel to get better instead of having a public meltdown on Twitter like many comic book pros.

While I liked Jon Malin’s art in the first Jawbreakers, I like Aaron Alfeche’s more in this volume. He really captures these characters well and going forward, I hope that he is the regular Jawbreakers artist.

I’m not sure if I enjoyed the overall plot of this more than the first one, though, but it was still good, intense and it showed that these characters live in a universe where the dangers are real and actions come with real consequences. But I won’t spoil anything for those of you who haven’t read this yet.

Honestly, I think I like both stories about the same. The only real difference is that this one flows better, has better transitions from panel to panel and it just felt like it had more energy.

This trade paperback actually features four stories with the GØD-K1NG story taking up at least half of the book. After it, there are two extra Jawbreakers related stories and then a sneak preview of a project that Chuck Dixon is working on.

Overall, this was an improvement over the first book and I feel like the creative team that was assembled for this round were firing on all cylinders. Everything seemed to click well and this one made me excited for its eventual followup.

Side note: the bonus story with the art by Charlie Snogans looks dynamite. I love that guy’s art and I hope to see more from him in the future.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: Richard C. Meyer’s Jawbreakers – Lost Souls, as well as Iron Sights.

Top 30 Comic Series That Aren’t Marvel or DC

Marvel and DC have the comic book market pretty much on lockdown. They are the Coke and Pepsi of their industry and probably always will be. That being said, there are a ridiculous amount of great comic books out there that don’t fall under the Marvel and DC banner. This is a list of my thirty favorite comic books series put out by the smaller and more independent comic book publishers.

1. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
2. Cerebus
3. Maus
4. Hellboy
5. Bone
6. The Walking Dead
7. Love & Rockets
8. The Fade Out
9. Star Wars (the Dark Horse era)
10. Madman
11. Spawn
12. Hawaiian Dick
13. Kill Or Be Killed
14. The Wicked Righteous
15. It Came Out On a Wednesday
16. Hack/Slash
17. Fatale
18. The Umbrella Academy
19. Red Sonja
20. Wolverton: Thief of Impossible Objects
21. Vampirella
22. Scud, the Disposable Assassin
23. Jawbreakers
24. The Maxx
25. Iron Sights
26. Feast Or Famine
27. Doctor Who (IDW era)
28. Tokyo Ghost
29. Cyberfrog
30. Black Hammer

Comic Review: Battle Maiden Knuckle Bomb

Published: September, 2019
Written by: Keung Lee
Art by: Keung Lee

Murakumo Comics, 64 Pages

Review:

I first came across this crowdfunded comic when Keung Lee was introduced on an episode of Ethan Van Sciver’s Comicsgate Live YouTube show. Being a fan of the manga style, as well as tokusatsu, this definitely peaked my interest.

I didn’t back it initially, however, but I kept my eye on it for quite some time. After more art came out and Keung Lee spent more time on other people’s livestreams talking about the project, I finally decided to back it a few months after the campaign launched.

Battle Maiden Knuckle Bomb is described as manga and tokusatsu presented in the reading style western audiences prefer. It absolutely works and I dig the hell out of Lee’s art style. Everything is so polished and nice to look at.

Beyond that, this also has a sort of cyberpunk superhero feel to it. While it’s not quite as futuristic and dystopian feeling as Akira, Battle Angel Alita or Ghost In the Shell, it certainly channels those franchises in a subtle way. At least, I see similar tropes and tones. Although, this is more lighthearted and taps more into the teen manga style than those darker, more serious books.

This is the first part of a larger story arc. So this serves as the introduction to what will be a bigger world and a bigger tale. It does a good job getting you invested in the characters and their unique world. After finishing this, I wished there was already a second volume to delve into. I guess we’ll have to wait some time for that but I’m pretty sure I’ll also back the follow up.

Out of all the recent crowdfunded comics, this is certainly in the upper echelon for me. It’s got beautiful art, a cool style and it makes you care about the story you’re reading.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: future comics by Keung Lee, as well as other comics under the Murakumo imprint.