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: 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: Graveyard Shift, Volume I

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.