Comic Review: USAssassin, Book I: Old Habits…

Published: June, 2020
Written by: Mark Poulton
Art by: Mike McMahon

Haunted Pizza, 80 Pages

Review:

I probably wouldn’t have backed this on Indiegogo but after getting a copy for free with Graveyard Shift: Volume II and digging the hell out of it, I’ll most likely back the followup volume.

In fact, I enjoyed this more than Mark Poulton’s Graveyard Shift comics, as it channels the same sort of vibe as the two most recent runs on DC Comics’ Deathstroke, which have been some of my favorite comic book titles of the last five-to-ten years.

With the inclusion of the elite soldier squad that turn out to be bad guys, this also had notes of Suicide Squad, which just worked for me. I guess in some sense, it felt like the team we’re introduced to is like a fucked up G.I. Joe where the main character isn’t willing to cross a certain line and thus, draws the ire of his team and its leader.

This was a quick but awesome read and the 80 pages just flew by. I liked the story, I got invested in this new character and I’m optimistic about where this could be headed in the future.

Additionally, I really liked Mike McMahon’s art and this felt like a top notch comic book akin to the better DC Comics titles of the last few years.

This had cool characters, cool character design, a simple but solid story and it’s just my cup of tea.

I already want a refill.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: Mark Poulton’s Graveyard Shift, as well as the modern runs on Deathstroke, Suicide Squad and Red Hood and the Outlaws.

Comic Review: Pro Wrestling’s True Facts

Published: 1993
Written by: Tom Burke, Dan Pettiglio
Art by: Dan Pettiglio

36 Pages

Review:

I kind of just came across this randomly on eBay. I’m always looking for unique comics, as well as wrestling memorabilia. This actually checks both boxes and I thought it was a neat concept worth checking out.

This is about the history of professional wrestling told in comic book form. It puts a lot of emphasis on the old school era of the wrestling business and it’s just cool as hell for those who love that stuff, as well as history in general.

The likenesses of the wrestlers are fantastic and every page is incredible to look at and a lot of fun to read.

From what I can tell, this is a pretty rare comic as I couldn’t finds much outside info on it but it’s certainly worth adding to your collection if you’re into this sort of stuff or if you just like picking up odd and unknown comics.

The seller may still throw them on eBay every now and again but I’m assuming it had a really low print run and it won’t be the easiest comic to find as more time passes.

Rating: 7.5/10

Comic Review: Adam Post’s College of the Dead 2: Graduation Day

Published: June, 2020
Written by: Stefan Petrucha
Art by: Javier Aranda

Adam Post Media Group, 48 Pages

Review:

I just recently read and reviewed the first College of the Dead. I got both volumes at the same time, so I didn’t want to wait too long before jumping into this one.

To start, I like it better than the first. Also, this one is colored and the color work is pretty good. It gives the book a lot of life even though I kind of like black and white horror comics.

I felt more engaged by this story as well. It has some layers to it and it explores some things within the main character’s personal life while the zombie apocalypse is happening all around him.

I don’t want to get into too many plot details and spoil them, I’d rather people just pick this up and give it a shot, assuming you can still find copies.

My only real complaint about the book is one of the complaints I had about the first one.

Both of these volumes only tell the story in simple landscape panels. However, where the first book gave you two panels per page, this one gives you six. From page-to-page, it’s just dull to look at and the book should just be more dynamic, visually.

Maybe this is just the personal choice of the writer or the artist. Or maybe the artist is limited by what they can do and can only draw in this format. Regardless, I’d like to see them experiment more with the layout. And like with the previous book, there seems to be a lot of wasted space with the large margins.

In the end, though, this was an entertaining comic book that served up some solid escapism and that’s what I want my comics to be: an escape from the bullshit of the world outside.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: its predecessor and other indie zombie comics of the modern era.

Comic Review: Graveyard Shift, Volume II

Published: June, 2020
Written by: Mark Poulton
Art by: Jon Malin, Anthony George

Haunted Pizza, 48 Pages

Review:

It’s been awhile since the first Graveyard Shift came out but these crowdfunded comics take time.

While I mostly liked the original, I was expecting more out of this one, after the setup. However, I also wasn’t expecting this to be the end of the story, as I know more volumes are planned.

However, this is the end of this story arc, which in totality, comprises about the length of four regular floppy comic book issues.

That being said, while I also enjoyed this one, the plot felt a bit rushed, as I don’t feel like we really got to know these characters well enough in the limited time we had. Add in all the action and cool stuff and the story just didn’t have enough room to breathe and properly develop.

I think that it needs more balance between developing the characters, especially this early, and the big action sequences.

Granted, I would like to read more of these and get to know these characters better. And I hope that they are explored more in the future.

Apart from the story, which I don’t want to spoil for those who haven’t read it yet, I thought that the art was a bit of a step up. Jon Malin didn’t deviate from his style but it feels more polished and refined, here. I’m not sure if he spent a little more time on this volume or if he’s just improved since last year’s release.

Ultimately, this was a fun, great looking read. It’s not my favorite series out of the crowdfunded stuff I’ve supported over the last few years but I would put it in the upper echelon. 

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: other recent Comicsgate books like Richard C. Meyer’s Jawbreakers, which Malin also worked on.

Comic Review: Cobra Kai: Johnny’s Story

Published: July 8th, 2020
Written by: Denton J. Tipton
Art by: Kagan McLeod
Based on: characters by Robert Mark Kamen

IDW Publishing, 100 Pages

Review:

I’ve gotta say, this was better than I expected it to be. However, the fourth and final issue was a bit underwhelming.

This basically tells the story of the first Karate Kid movie from the perspective of Johnny. It shows scenes we all know but with Johnny as the main character, filling in the plot with new scenes that show how he feels about Daniel swooping in and winning over Alli, as well as his home life and a bit of his childhood drama.

We also get to see more of how John Kreese came into Johnny’s life and how his toxic influence led to Johnny making some bad decisions.

In the end, we also see Kreese walking off in disgust after Johnny loses to Daniel.

The problem with this is that it can’t stand on its own and it relies on you having seen The Karate Kid. Being that it also features Johnny talking to his students from Cobra Kai, you probably need to watch that show in order to get the full context of events.

I wasn’t a fan of the art and it felt sort of rushed and half-assed. But the story more than makes up for it and once you’re reading it, the art doesn’t matter as much. It’s not bad art, it’s just not great.

I’m not sure if there are more Cobra Kai comics planned but I’d probably read them.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: the Cobra Kai television series, as well as the original Karate Kid trilogy of films.

Comic Review: Monster Hunt – One-Shot

Published: June, 2020
Written by: Mike S. Miller
Art by: Mike S. Miller. J. Nanjan Jamberi
Based on: Jawbreakers by Richard C. Meyer, Graveyard Shift by Mark Poulton, Jon Malin

Blacklist Universe, 24 Pages

Review:

I never really wanted to back the original Lonestar comic, as Mike S. Miller rubbed me the wrong way. Eventually, I relented and backed it after hearing his sob story and because it was pushed pretty heavily by Ethan Van Sciver on his YouTube show, Comic Artist Pro Secrets.

I was fairly surprised by it though and I gave it a pretty positive review. I wasn’t 100 percent sure if I’d back the second volume but I did want to back this project, as it was a crossover one-shot featuring characters from different creators within the Comicsgate circle. Well, that is until Mike S. Miller had his forty-third emotional meltdown and left the group because his grapes were sour and his neighbor had kumquats he needed to steal.

You get what you pay for, though, and I knew that this was a soulless cash grab where Mike wanted to ride on the coattails of his peers with more success. I only bought it because it used characters from these other creators. It also took an ungodly amount of time for this to reach my mailbox.

The final result, is a comic that looks good but falls flat and underwhelms. It doesn’t really add anything to any of the franchises it mashes up. It only added pity dollars and swindle duckets to Mike’s bank account.

I wanted to see beyond the disingenuous shuckster that ran this campaign and I wanted this to be as cool as my initial feelings back when Image and Valiant came out with the Deathmate crossover in the early ’90s. This ended up being more of a disappointment than that one though, as it really just throws these characters together, kind of aimlessly, sees them fight a bunch of monsters and then abruptly ends.

In all fairness, I think Mike was limited in how he could use these characters, as they’re all in their own series doing their own thing and this couldn’t really explore them as characters.

Honestly, this just felt kind of weird and sloppily thrown together. Yes, the art is really good and it’s some of the best I’ve seen from Miller but it quickly became obvious that this was what I feared it would be and that’s just a cash grab, piggyback project by a dishonest opportunist.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: the other comics featuring Lonestar, the Jawbreakers and characters from Graveyard Shift.

Comic Review: Adam Post’s College of the Dead

Published: 2019
Written by: Stefan Petrucha
Art by: Javier Aranda

Adam Post Media Group, 140 Pages

Review:

I backed this on Indiegogo a few months back and I was glad to finally get it in my hands, even if I wasn’t sure what to expect.

The story is about a zombie outbreak that sees some college students have to try and band together to fight off the invasion.

Overall, the story was fun and action packed.

It’s pretty straightforward, although it does have some twists that happen and the ending is pretty good and really ups the ante in regards to the overall story and where this could possibly go with a future tale.

Side note: I do have the sequel, as well, and will probably review it in the very near future.

This comic is pretty thick and it’s presented in black and white, so drawing comparisons to The Walking Dead is just natural. However, this doesn’t try to replicate that more famous franchise. It does its own thing, tells its own kind of story and from a narrative standpoint, it delivers.

My only real gripe is the format of the book, which just gives you two large landscape panels per page. Each panel is the same size and the book also has pretty large margins. Page after page, the layout is becomes boring and it takes away from the overall book, as it needed to be more dynamic in presentation.

Additionally, in regards to the art, there were some photographic images used for some of the backgrounds and other things like trees. I’m not sure if that was done for budgetary reasons or to get this out quicker. It’s nothing that breaks the book or looks all that out of place but it is something that I feel like I should mention.

Still, I enjoyed College of the Dead for the most part and I’m happy to read the followup and review that one as well.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: its sequel and other indie zombie comics of the modern era.

Comic Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Vol. 6 & 7: City Fall

Published: November 20th, 2013
Written by: Kevin B. Eastman, Tom Waltz
Art by: Kevin B. Eastman, Mateus Santolouco
Based on: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by Kevin Eastman, Peter Laird

IDW Publishing, 208 Pages

Review:

Man, this was fucking good!

In fact, I’d say that this was the best story arc I’ve read out of all the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics I’ve picked up over the years. I even like it better than all the stories in all the other forms of media where the Turtles appear. This beats out all the films, as well as the cartoon episodes I’ve seen from various different series.

This is the culmination of all the build up from the five previous volumes in the IDW comics run. It’s a story where the stakes are extremely high and it does a lot to change the lives of most of the core characters.

The most interesting thing, here, is the Foot Clan’s abduction of Leonardo, which leads to him being brainwashed and turned into an evil pawn of Shredder. We end up with the three remaining good turtles having to push forward without their leader in an effort to bring him back to the light without hurting or maiming him.

There is a lot of emotional stuff in this story arc, which takes up two volumes. But it’s not just emotions with the Turtles, we also get a lot of stuff with Casey Jones and his shitty father, as well as his childhood friend trying to find her place in the world. Additionally, April O’Neil starts to realize things about herself and her feelings for Casey. Beyond that, there’s a lot of character development with Shredder’s granddaughter, as she doesn’t trust Leonardo and also wants to prove herself to her evil grandfather.

Some other characters from earlier volumes also make their return and some allegiances are formed with certain enemies. Plus, we also get the debut of Bebop & Rocksteady.

This was fantastic from top to bottom. It was a perfect balance between character development and action packed storytelling. It was also a stupendous payoff for those who have made it thus far into the series. I’m assuming that what lies ahead will also be pretty great.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: the rest of IDW’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles run.

Vids I Dig 379: Comic Tropes: Donny Cates: Writing About Addiction

From Comic Tropes’ YouTube description: Donny Cates is an up and coming young writer at Marvel Comics, writing Venom, Thor, Guardians of the Galaxy and more. This video takes a look at his history interning at Marvel, studying at the Savannah College of Art and Design, and getting his work published at Dark Horse Comics and Image Comics as he broke in. Specifically, this video analyzes the themes Donny Cates writes about which include father issues and addiction issues.

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.