Comic Review: Graveyard Shift

Published: February, 2019
Written by: Mark Poulton
Art by: Jon Malin, Anthony George, Eric Weathers

Haunted Pizza, 46 Pages

Review:

*The featured image is from the interior. I couldn’t find a JPG of the cover.

Man, this comic book is so ’90s! Which is a great thing for some people and a not so great thing for others. Being that I’m a fan of the ’90s, I found this mostly enjoyable.

What sold me on the project is that it was said to be like X-Men mixed with the Universal Monsters franchise. While that’s not quite the vibe I got from it, I do like the idea of there being a superhero team comprised of classic literary monsters, even if it’s not a wholly original idea.

Also, the series’ title isn’t that original, as Image Comics already had a series called Graveyard Shift just a few years ago from 2014 through 2015.

While I enjoy Malin’s art for the most part, the criticisms I had in my Jawbreakers review still apply here. The characters still look overly sleek and svelte with elongated limbs and uncomfortable looking poses. Now I’m not talking about the dynamic motion stuff, that’s all fine; I’m talking about the poses that see them just standing around. He definitely has his own anatomical style but it doesn’t always work for me. That being said, Malin is still better than what the industry standard is in 2019. Most of his women look the same though, throughout all of his work. They just have variances in hair color, hair length and skin tone.

I was also critical of how the action flowed in Richard C. Meyer’s Jawbreakers and I saw that as maybe an issue with the writing on Meyer’s part but having now read Graveyard Shift, I see similar problems. Sometimes I can’t tell what’s happened from panel to panel without having to go back and examine the previous one harder.

There is also some nonsensical stuff thrown in, which I guess is writer Mark Poulton’s sense of humor. Some of it feels odd, out of place and the gag doesn’t always work. There is one panel with a pregnant news reporter in the background with her bare belly exposed and half of her tits hanging out. In the next panel, there is a massive explosion behind her and we see her screaming as her belly bursts open, ejecting the fetus from within it. I don’t get it, man. That’s some hardcore ’90s edgy boi shit but it made me stop reading and I had to stare at it, baffled, distracted and completely dumbfounded by the whole thing. It was random as shit, added nothing to the story and hurts the book, overall. I wasn’t offended by it, I was just puzzled by it. And from a physics standpoint, it makes no sense.

Additionally, the cover for this was weak. I’m glad that Malin didn’t use the cover to promote this on Indiegogo because it’s not a true reflection of the good art inside the book. It’s just a green glowing logo on a black background. If this were on a shelf, I wouldn’t see this moving into the consumers’ hands with that cover.

Getting back to the writing, there is a ton of shit wedged into just 46 pages. A lot happens and the book jumps around in time, here and there. If you’re not paying close attention, it may be a bit confusing. But with so many characters and time shifts in this book, I don’t feel like I really got to know any of the core people other than a few surface traits. There needs to be more depth for the primary characters and this almost feels as if it was too much, too soon.

That all ties into one of my criticisms of these crowd funded indie projects. It’s as if the creators feel like they need to tell as much of the story as possible because they can only do one to two releases per year. If this was drawn out a bit more and properly paced, the story might not conclude for years. And by that point, a lot of the initial audience will move on. This is why I prefer the monthly model of mainstream comics or the idea of doing a full, proper graphic novel that tells a single, self-contained story. Most of these Comicsgate projects end with a “To Be Continued”. Well, when? Six months from now? A year from now? Oh, you have three more projects on your plate before coming back to this?

It probably sounds like I’m shitting on this and I don’t mean to. But if I can’t objectively review it and hold it to the same standard that I do every other comic, then I’m just being dishonest. I’m not Comicsgate, as the creators of this book are. But Comicsgate claims that they want better comics. Well, if they aren’t criticized and held to the same standard as mainstream comics, then they’ll never produce better comics. Those who review these books and praise them without being objective and honest, don’t actually want better comics. The criticism should be constructive, fair and honest or else it isn’t valid. I want good comics, not the Christian rock version of comics.

That being said, this has promise. It’s a cool concept and it looks great for the most part. I’m interested in seeing where this can go but I’m also not going to care two years from now.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: Other recent Comicsgate books like Richard C. Meyer’s Jawbreakers, which Malin also worked on.

Comic Review: Lonestar: Heart of the Hero

Published: February, 2019
Written by: Mike S. Miller
Art by: Mike S. Miller, Kyle Ritter (color on covers)

Blacklist Universe, 48 Pages

Review:

If I’m being honest, I can’t say that Lonestar was the Comicsgate associated book that I was most looking forward to. I bought it just to see how it was and to review it. But with that being said, it is the best Comicsgate related comic that has made it to my mailbox, thus far.

I didn’t know much about Mike S. Miller until I saw him enter Ethan Van Sciver’s orbit. But as I got to know him through YouTube and Twitter, I was made aware of more of his past work and I do own a lot of the stuff he’s worked on and find his art to be really good.

Now at first glance, one might see Lonestar as a mash up of Captain America and vigilante heroes like Daredevil, the Punisher, Deathstroke (on good days) or the Vigilante. And one might think, “Do we need another vigilante superhero?”

Lonestar is pretty interesting though, as he isn’t just a street level vigilante but he works on a special black ops team that fights supernatural threats like vampires. So there is almost an element of G.I. Joe and classic horror also thrown into the mix. Since these are all things that I love, I found this pretty damn fun to read. And it is also well-balanced between all of these various elements.

This release is 48 pages and the story will be continued in a future volume. But there is enough here to really make you understand the hero, as well as this comic title. Miller did a solid job with the plotting as he gave this character depth, personality and purpose all within this first release. He also established a real threat for our hero to face down the road. The pacing of the story was good and a lot happens in a limited space. I’m not too keen on the dialogue, however. It’s not terrible but it’s also not very good. I think it’s an indicator that these Comnicsgate titles need an editor. I felt the same way after reading Jawbreakers. There just needs to be an extra step where these things can be fine tuned better.

In the end, I like this character and that’s the most important factor in selling me on the idea of supporting future releases.

Mike S. Miller’s art is also the best that I’ve seen from the Comicsgate camp. I think that Ethan Van Sciver’s Cyberfrog will take the cake, once it’s released, but Miller is an accomplished artist with decades worth of experience working for major publishers and his level of craftsmanship is made very apparent just from the first page of Lonestar. His style might not work for everyone but art is subjective and people have different tastes. But this looks like a top book from a top publisher and boasts more artistic skill than a lot of what Marvel and DC Comics are putting out in 2019. That’s not to say that every panel was great. There were a few spots where I didn’t like the perspective or the anatomy.

If I’m being honest, the primary cover of the book didn’t make me want to buy it. The variants were much better. The picture used in this review is of the second cover, which is the one I purchased.

Lonestar: Heart of the Hero surprised me. It really caught me off guard and that’s not a knock against what I think of Miller, it just didn’t immediately resonate with me at the same level as other comic books I’ve backed over the last year on Indiegogo or Kickstarter. But I am happy that I supported it and I will continue to keep an eye out for Miller’s future campaigns.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: I’m sure future Lonestar and Mike S. Miller releases, as well as other recent Comicsgate books like Richard C. Meyer’s Jawbreakers.

Comic Review: Jawbreakers – Lost Souls

Published: February, 2019
Written by: Richard C. Meyer
Art by: Jon Malin, Brett R. Smith, Eric Weathers, Simon Bennett (Book One), Kelsey Shannon (Book Two), Ethan Van Sciver (cover), Kyle Ritter (cover)

Splatto Comics, 120 Pages

Review:

Well, after a very long wait, Richard C. Meyer’s Jawbreakers – Lost Souls has finally arrived. It took awhile to come out but Meyer has kept people clued in every step of the way due to all the roadblocks and challenges that popped up during this comic’s creation to it finally getting in the consumers’ hands.

I’m glad that I finally got it, as I’ve wanted to review it for a long time.

Full disclosure, I’m not a Comicsgater but I get lumped into that label by people who don’t like those of us who question things or criticize the comic book industry. Also, when I reviewed Meyer’s Iron Sights, I upset a lot of those who lean in a direction opposite of Meyer and most of his supporters. But I liked Iron Sights, despite its issues, and gave that one a 6.75 out of 10.

That being said, Jawbreakers is a step up from Iron Sights but I still have some issues with it, overall.

For the most part, the art in the Lost Souls story is pretty good. Jon Malin is talented but I’m not always a fan of his characters. Everything looks very sleek and his characters seem a bit slender and elongated in certain poses. Still, he’s much better than the average bear and he’s only getting better with more high profile projects under his belt. I’m pretty excited about his Graveyard Shift comic, which are now hitting mailboxes.

Brett R. Smith’s colors are absolutely fantastic though. I also love the cover by Ethan Van Sciver and Kyle Ritter.

This release also features two “remastered” versions of older Jawbreakers stories. One is drawn by Simon Bennett while the other is done by Kelsey Shannon, who also did the Iron Sights cover. These two additions to this release don’t look as good as Malin’s work. Bennett’s parts need more refinement. Shannon’s are better but I’m not a huge fan of the style he uses here and it’s not as polished as his Iron Sights cover, which was actually stunning.

I thought the story was decent, as it is similar to a G.I. Joe story with a kaiju thrown in. I love both of those things, so mixing them is a cool idea. However, this isn’t G.I. Joe. I’d say it’s better than what IDW Publishing has done with the actual G.I. Joe franchise in the years since Chuck Dixon stopped writing it but this feels a bit thin.

If I’m being honest, I need to know something about the characters’ backstories. Here they are thrown into a situation and you just go along for the ride. Meyer needs to develop these characters a bit more but since he has plans to use these characters in the future, maybe we’ll get to know them better. Right now, they feel like generic placeholders or those G.I. Joes that would pop up into a story because they had an action figure but they weren’t popular enough to get more than a minor cameo.

This might sound harsh and I don’t mean it to be but G.I. Joe had a lot of toy companies that knocked them off with toylines like The Corps! and X-Troop. Right now, this feels more like The Corps! than G.I. Joe. It is kind of generic but again, that’s probably because these characters need more depth. I need to care about them and I don’t just off of this story.

I do like that this just gets to the action and it’s pretty much balls to the wall from start to finish. But over time, we’ll need more than that. I can excuse the lack of depth being that this is, right now, a one-off action story.

Jawbreakers is a good start to something but it will take some time to turn it into a brand. The problem with that though, is that crowdfunded comics take a long time to create and distribute. This is one of my criticisms of doing comics this way when I’ve lived in a world where my favorite heroes and teams hit my pull box on a monthly basis. It is much easier finding yourself invested in characters and stories that come out with some regularity. I don’t know if crowdfunded comic franchises in the making can succeed in that way. Plus, people lose interest in things when there’s a long wait.

But for now, I did enjoy this. I certainly don’t have any sort of buyer’s remorse. This was a cool experiment and the end product mostly delivers.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: Richard C. Meyer’s Iron Sights.

Comic Review: Flying Sparks

Published: November, 2018
Written by: Jon Del Arroz
Art by: Jethro Morales, Shannon Ho, Jaymes Reed, Jon Malin & Brett R. Smith (cover)

Dark Legion Comics, 74 Pages

Review:

I didn’t know much about Jon Del Arroz’s work before this. But the main reason I supported it on Indiegogo is because I really loved the cover by Jon Malin and Brett R. Smith and the premise sounded good. Once I also got a peek at Jethro Morales’ interior artwork, I was pretty much sold.

Del Arroz came into Comicsgate at the beginning of launching this title but then there was some drama and other things that happened and I’m not even sure where he stands with it all. I stay out of drama like that and I really didn’t care what happened as long as it doesn’t effect the book I already helped fund and as long as its story worked and wasn’t bogged down by sociopolitical shit I don’t care about in my comics.

That being said, this was a really good start for this series and this character.

This trade paperback is pretty much the length of three single issues. It does well at establishing the characters, their relationships and the world they live in.

My only real complaint is that this sort of just ends in the middle of the story arc. I went into this knowing that future volumes were planned but I would have liked it better if the first chapter of this tale had a conclusion and wasn’t left open ended on a cliffhanger.

However, I still enjoyed this enough to most likely pick up the second volume, which I assume will drop sometime next year but hopefully not too far out. This built some good, strong momentum but that can fade away if the break is too long.

But props to Del Arroz and Morales. This was a good start and I hope to see more of this character and this world.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: other recent Comicsgate related releases.

Comic Review: Blue Mamba, Issue #1

Published: October, 2018
Written by: Jim Healis
Art by: Alé Garza, Jen Broomall, Marat Mychaels, Sorah Suhng, Mike DeBalfo

Spotted Jackal Writers, 24 Pages

Review:

I’ve been supporting a lot of indie comics on Indiegogo and Kickstarter over the past year. Some have been Comicsgate stuff and some have not. This one does fall under the Comicsgate banner, somewhat, and it is the third Comicsgate related project to reach my mailbox.

I was really excited to get this one in my hands, as I backed it when it was on Kickstarter, where it didn’t get funded. Once it moved to Indiegogo, which has been the best platform for Comicsgate creators, I backed it again and it got funded pretty quickly.

Now I don’t care whether this is Comicsgate or not, I liked the premise and the art is what most definitely lured me in. There is nothing wrong with admiring the ideal form in art and entertainment, even though a lot of people would try and force you to see things differently. This comic looked to go for the gusto and was unapologetic about it, which was refreshing in this day and age where the Big Two comic book companies are deliberately drawing women less sexy because of body diversity and that toxic male gaze or whatever.

Blue Mamba was really enjoyable if you are into femme fatales and the spy thriller genre. Our main character here is an assassin but also in a real world relationship where she has to keep her job secret. It’s all about the balancing act between her killer career, pun intended, and her killer girlfriend.

So yes, this is an LGBTQ+ story with lesbian characters that feel more organic and real than Marvel’s recent attempts at trying to write LGBTQ+ material. Cassandra feels more natural in having a relationship with a woman than most of what I see out there in the comic book medium.

Now, this does play things up a lot and gets really saucy in regards to its mature content but it doesn’t come off as classless or cheap parlor tricks to get horny dudes to fork out cash. Sure, sex most definitely does sell and this project knows that but there is more here than just tits, ass and naked lesbian tomfoolery.

This was a solid, well produced issue, which has me looking forward to the next chapter in the series. The art is incredible, the variant covers are all awesome and the story was straightforward, coherent and self-contained within the issue. In regards to the writing, the positives of this book are things that are surprisingly hard to find in modern comics from the Big Two: Marvel and DC.

Kudos to Jim Healis and his artists for making something really cool.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other cool female assassin/spy comics and movies. Although, this one is most definitely for mature readers.

Comic Review: Iron Sights

Published: September, 2018
Written by: Richard C. Meyer, Carlos Ivan Silva
Art by: Ibai Canales, Kelsey Shannon (cover)

Splatto Comics, 120 Pages

Review:

This wasn’t the first of Richard C. Meyer’s projects that I backed but it was the first to be released. I’m still looking forward to getting his graphic novel Jawbreakers – Lost Souls, which should be out shortly.

This project was done as a sort of test for Meyer to best figure out how to print and fulfill these projects. In the end, unlike many other crowdfunded creators out there, Meyer delivered and this is the proof.

Iron Sights was exactly as Meyer described it on it’s Indiegogo page:

…a hard-boiled action drama set on the border…told in the trashy tone and fun style of a 1990s Straight-To-Video DVD!

If you like Quentin Tarantino crime flicks, John Woo Heroic Bloodshed movies or modern films like NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, HELL AND HIGH WATER or SICARIO, then you’ll love IRON SIGHTS!

This book was overloaded with testosterone to the point that even the lightest of feminists would be foaming at the mouth over this massive level of “toxic masculinity”. This isn’t for the cutesy “safe” fellow that asks, “Could you please pass the almond milk?” This is for the guy that demands, “Pass me that fucking hammer!”

You see, this is the type of badass shit that is missing in comic books in 2018. Comics are escapism and entertainment, they’re not real. And they certainly don’t need to be some sort of medium that’s bastardized for political and social statements that most normal people think are exhausting.

Iron Sights isn’t for those that hold their Moscow mules with both hands, it’s for those of us that snort Wild Turkey 101 through both nostrils. Those of us that can hit the bullseye with a dart while blindfolded. Those of us that think we could take down Chuck Norris if we got in a lucky shot. Those of us that know what an Allen key is. Those of us that wear a king cobra as a fucking belt.

Okay, okay… I’m being overly sarcastic. And I’m only pointing that out because no one has a sense of humor or the ability to laugh at themselves anymore.

But all that being said, how does this actually measure up?

It’s entertaining. Meyer and Silva crafted a solid crime story that feels like a balls to the wall neo-western.

I liked the characters, I liked their camaraderie and their banter. I also liked the character of Esme but I don’t want to spoil anything in regards to her. But chances are, if you bought this, you already read it at this point. So I’ll just point out that I like when the damsel in distress trope is really just a red herring.

Meyer has come under a lot of criticism by his haters over his writing. To be frank, this is better than I thought it would be, as I’m skeptical of anyone that’s really new to the medium.

Ibai Canales has also faced a lot of criticism over his art. While this isn’t what I would call “the big league standard”, it looks okay for what this project is. It’s supposed to be raw, gritty and not overly refined. This isn’t the type of story that needs the art style of a maestro. Iron Sights was a good opportunity for Canales to expand on his talent and to work on something that fits his style. He hits the tone in the right way even if I feel like he still needs to get better and work on his craft, especially character design. If I’m being completely honest, he may not have been ready for this big of a project but I didn’t find his style or lack of refinement to be distracting.

I’ve also got to point out that the cover art by Kelsey Shannon is a perfect marriage between badass and beautiful. I don’t give a shit about posters or anything like that but I’d hang it on my wall.

Anyway, Meyer should be proud of this book and those of us that backed it should be pleased with the end result. Richard C. Meyer delivered on his project unlike so many other comic book pros that have taken money from fans and haven’t delivered on crowd funded projects from years ago.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: the films Meyer used to describe this and I’m assuming his upcoming Jawbreakers comic.

Comic Review: Stardust

Published: September, 2018
Written by: Nasser Rabadi
Art by: Shawn Langley

Secret Comics, 28 Pages

Review:

Out of all the Comicsgate related projects that I backed on Indiegogo, this was the first to reach my door. Initially, I wasn’t going to support this one but Nasser Rabadi eventually won me over after appearing on multiple live streams on YouTube. He conveyed his passion for the project well and with such a low price point when compared to other Comicsgate offerings, I jumped on board.

For the most part, I liked this comic. However, there just isn’t enough room for the story to breathe and with two shorter stories tacked on to the end of this 28 page book, the main story suffers from a lack of depth.

In a nutshell, an alien arrives on Earth, his people are slaughtered, he gets away but then kills a family living in the woods. He is distracted by the storytelling of his final victim, however. But then there is a twist at the end, which I won’t spoil.

I think Nasser had a decent story but the characters’ motivations and behavior weren’t really explored in anything more than a topical way. But this is still a good start, he just needs to develop characters more and fine tune his plotting a bit. He should find good writers in his circle of other creatives that can critique his writing when it’s still in the creative process. This is how artists get better and grow. As an artist, it’s something I do on a daily basis with colleagues.

The two shorter stories at the end were way too quick to really get a proper feel for. I’m also not a fan of comic book stories that are only a few pages. I don’t typically read anthology comics for this reason. I want to understand a story and its characters, as opposed to having a kernel of an idea that doesn’t have the room to grow and breathe.

The one thing that really stands out for me is the art. Shawn Langley did a stupendous job in that regard. I love the design of all the monsters featured within the pages of Stardust. Also, Langley’s use of a strong chiaroscuro style makes the imagery pop.

Stardust may not have fully satisfied me but it was definitely worth what I paid for four copies. It was a better experience than most of the modern horror comics that have come across my lap in the last few years.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: Alterna Comics sci-fi and horror offerings, as well as recent horror comic Peek-A-Boo.