Justice League Dark Review Trades 1-4
By Hank Van Hawkins
Elegant noir from Boom! Studios
Review covers issues #1-3
Richard Crowsong Davis
Noir and detective stories haven’t been seen much lately. At least, not by mine eyes. Most of what is put out now is a cliche of a stereotype; ‘Maltese Falcon’ rip offs that have been copied and pasted until they’re nothing but grit and smut. Cigarette butts and sticky floors. That’s why ‘Revelation’ from Author Paul Jenkins and artist Humberto Ramos is such a, well, revelation.
The story is a lightly boiled crime/suspension/supernatural mystery that focuses on the hyper-aware senses of Charlie Northern. Charlie is beyond cynical. He’s capable of far more than sardonic. There really isn’t an equal in crime or detective stories that I can compare him to. He’s somewhere between Bruce Willis in the ‘Last Boy Scout’ and Dr. House. He doesn’t like anything but smoking, and of course his desire to smoke more. He is recruited by an old friend, we believe, who has become a cardinal in Vatican city. The vinegary detective Northern joins the hunt for a killer of a vatican priest who happens to be next in line to the ‘throne’ of pope. He seemingly does it for nothing more than an excuse to moan and complain incessantly. He’s truly unique when it comes to Englishmen I’ve met and seen portrayed. He has no problem pissing off other detectives, priests and anyone that crosses his path. He’s damn near likable one moment, and nearly intolerable the next. Exactly who you would want and would expect investigating the famously secret Vatican.
The circumstances with which our victim meets his fate is suspicious at best, and traitorous at its worth. No matter what the cause, something is very wrong in Rome. Charlie Northern’s foul mouth and seeming lack of interest is a nice counter balance to Humberto Ramos’ elegant and picturesque Vatican. The art is the most interesting when it is in the dark corners of a London flat or the halls of the Vatican. Ramos is a deft hand at drawing emotion and evoking it from the landscapes and streets he creates. The dark tone of the story is carried well by Ramos’ art and lets the story breath. The grim content lends itself to melancholy and the art add a filter of innocence to us, or the characters of the story, and doesn’t let the sadness or melancholy settle in.
The only issues I had with the story, through the first 3 installments of the mini-series, is the wordiness and rushed exposition. I understand things must be revealed and long conversations must be had, but the personality of the Detective and the lack of one of his cardinal friend aren’t quite enough to make the first issues compelling. Minor nitpick, truly, as the chase and investigation are the true focus of the story.
This is a nice read, and Detective Northern is gradually growing on me. Or, I’m getting used to him. Used to him like smokers become accustomed to their own cigarette smoke. I’m going to finish off the series and write another review because there is enough here to keep going and suggest it to others. Even though Charlie Northern is grating at times, he is a different type of detective, at least on the surface, and I wold love to see more characters that try to bend their molds. So, no more blabbing and opinions of mine. There are 10 pages of preview here for you to read and decide for yourself. Remember to stop back by and go by my Twitter @rpdgame
Review of Rachel Rising: The Shadow of Death
Introduction to our new writer The Black Sparrow
So, the other day I was chatting with Richard about his blog and this comic he had recently given me for my birthday, and he had the great idea to suggest I write a review. Um, A few reasons why that is more challenging than “great” I’ll do that:
a) I’ve probably read, glanced at or purused as many comics in my life as a typically reviewer in the industry has read, digested and obsessed over in a week.
b) The last time I sat down to write something for the reading pleasure of others was when typing was accompanied by a “zip… ding!” sound. And lastly (although I am sure, during the course of this communication, you will unearth other reasons…)
c) Rachel Rising isn’t new or current or on-trend. Ok, wait, I take that back. Hot gal rising from the dead could very well be considered on-trend. But it certainly ain’t new in this world of streaming news with 2 second content updates.
So, there you have it. Still with me?
First thing I did after Richard suggested I write this review was wait several days, then I remembered I gave myself a week’s deadline, and so next I looked up the artist Terry Moore, who I have some history with when I read his ‘Strangers in Paradise’ series some years ago. [Ahem. I’m sincerely hoping my Editor will fix my “that should be bold not quoted, underlined not italicized” errors. Hint Hint.] Editor’s note: I did indeed “fix” it with the thingies that are close to quotation marks. We use our own methods and writing style here at ‘Fear and Gaming in New Vegas.’ We use italics to indicate when there is an editor’s note. 🙂 Back to the review.
Actually, if memory serves, I devoured that particular series when freshly out of the house & toying with a somewhat-difficult-to-label relationship. Flash forward almost 20 years and I find myself in a comic shop with my dude, a fan and the aforementioned writer, editor & bloggerer. (shhh, I’m sure that is a word somewhere.) Editors note: That is not a word, but allowed just the same. I see Rachel Rising. I like it. I don’t buy it. Not unusual for me, but that’s something to discuss in a different forum- Perhaps a sofa. Anyway. Flash forward again to one Year Later… and I have ‘Rachel Rising: The Shadow of Death‘ in hand.
First off, and you will see this is any review ever written of Terry Moore, the man knows how to draw a gal. It is immediately apparent that these gals have (gasp!) not spent their short well-drawn lives waist-training in torture corsets. They have hips, thighs, arms, and adorable button noses. They have stomachs. Not teeny rib bones that can miraculously lift up size 36EE boobs in a single bound, but stomachs that seem like they belong on bodies not Q-tips. And boobs that have encountered gravity without the secret weapon of female comic art everywhere: the magic-conic bra that forms breasts into perfect pert parts of unattainable glory. This alone makes me praise the art, however Moore’s talent doesn’t rely on body-positive realism alone. For me, his art was user-friendly with a ridiculous attention to detail that complimented the story vs. confusing it.
However, who am I to review a comic’s artwork or story arch? A layman. A person with absolutely zero “geek” cred, aside from my Marvel undershirt I wear to make my guy think I look hot. So that’s my slant. A comic for the uninitiated. A comic for your partner that doesn’t really “get” it but appreciates you for it. A comic for your friend that likes your fandom posts or ‘lols’ your superhero memes, but shares yoga grrrl links more than IGN. (Not to say this comic isn’t for die-hard fans… even in my limited research, I saw plenty of raves from those in the know!) He or she will dig the characters, the simplicity in the drawing and the storyline that blurs zombie-esque undead with real world problems of bourgeois b.s. in the bathroom. They may miss the nuisance of textures, the brilliance of not overdrawing the scene in every panel and the organized structure that progresses-not just that immediate scene, but also the overall story. But it won’t matter. Because chances are, they will be hooked and you’ll get to claim another convert-notch on your belt.
-The BS (That’s Ms. Sparrow to you)
Print Release Date
Digital Release Date
‘Delayed reaction’ Moon Knight #1-3
Including a five page preview of #1
Moon Knight has a mixed and manic past as a comic character. Bi-polar even. He’s been penned and drawn by some comicbook heavyweights and rookies. He’s taken on the biggest and most powerful characters, and been tasked with chasing down street punks. He’s even held the head of Ultron and was haunted by Captain America, Spider-Man and Wolverine. Moon Knight’s unintentionally erratic past as a comicbook property mirrors the character’s different personalities in several ways. For some reason, hopefully other than Marvel’s need to renew the copyright, Marvel gives him another series. The last limited run by Brian Michael Bendis was a great series, with a different take on Moon Knight’s mental illness that saw him move to Los Angeles. Thankfully, the new series sees him return to New York.
The latest iteration of Moon Knight has, or had, by now, Warren Ellis as word and story-smith, and in many ways, redefines Moon Knight. Redefining is probably the wrong way to describe it. Marvel and Ellis strip away a lot of the veneer and trappings of Moon Knight: the costume, the at times overbearing focus on Khonshu and his past, the guest appearances and focus on his mental illness. The Warren Ellis Moon Knight starts as a singular vision and personality. A professional. He’s almost a force of nature.
The first issue starts with a very different Moon Knight. Dressed in all white with black complimentary colors, he makes his way to a crime scene in the Moon Knight version of the Google self-driving car. He is dressed like an assassin with a mask and 4-piece suit with magician’s gloves. He’s clinical with little pretense. He uses his intelligence and experience and little else. He inhabits and traverses a very dark section of New York City like an alley cat through, well, an alley.
Moon Knight picks up the trail of a killer that is waylaying well-built travelers and must track the killer because, of course, the detective and police department can’t find him. One of my pet peeves with the Marvel universe is that the police, government and those in positions of authority are utterly helpless without the help of superheros. Another thing I don’t like is Marvel’s over-reliance on S.H.I.E.L.D. They are all-powerful and seem to be connected to everything. Moving on.
The Warren Ellis Moon Knight lives in a sparsely populated New York. There is still a dull energy that ebbs and thumps underneath, and it somehow reminds me of a bygone comic era. Ellis doesn’t take himself too seriously though, and in issue 3, even pokes fun at an old comic standby;the punk-rock bad guy. Even when using the trope and peering through the 4th wall, Ellis cleverly adds in his own slants.
As you move through issue #2, another aspect of Moon Knight reveals itself in a more traditional Moon Knight. The Moon Knight that has been heavily criticized as a Batman knock-off. He uses detective skills and an intimidating and over the top fear factor to get information. He’s rich and uses gadgets, and even has a dark and traumatic past. I can see the differences in Moon Knight from Batman of course, but I can also acknowledge the similarities. While we’re discussing that, it does also remind me that comics seem to rely on a few archetypes. The rich-playboy Tony Stark/ Marc Spector/ Bruce Wayne type, and the nerdy scientist good guys and villians.
So, the old-school Moon Knight shows up to chase down an assassin, who in turn is stalked by an assassin. The comic is glaringly stark with its choice of colors and the lack of sound. The comic uses that lack of sound, or sound-effects expertly and the panels that Ellis chooses give a phenomenal sense of space and drama. Issue #2, like every other issue leaves many questions. But like every issue, is a sufficient self-contained story.
Issue #3 explores the parts of New York that can only be done properly in comicbook form. That barely lit and nearly empty part of New York that if lighted properly, would reveal things that should not be, and show evidence left behind that we would rather not know was there. Issue #3 starts just on the edge of that part of New York, where that line blurs and things start to get lighter. This is where Moon Knight encounters his first obstacle, and must lean on Khonshu and his vast stores of information and experience. The previously mentioned punk-rockers are much more dangerous than they appear, and Moon Knight must explore a different side of himself.
Throughout issues 1-3, Moon Knight is being rebuilt. Warren Ellis and Declan Shalvey and team creatively reveal his background through conversations and encounters, and it never really feels like it’s going on. Shalvey is subtle in his approach and when Moon Knight jumps into action, it is explosive. Faces are expressive and the way he pulls attention towards the focal point of every panel is perfect for Ellis’ writing.
Moon Knight is broken down and rebuilt, and he even dwells in a dusty mansion with a few chairs and cobwebs fit for a Boris Karloff set, with colors that seem weary. Khonshu’s appearances are powerful, although appear subdued. Whenever the demi-god appears, it seems as though he is finally fed-up with Moon Knight and will devour his soul whole. Knonshu never does though. He keeps giving Moon Knight another chance, just like Marvel and I do.
The new Moon Knight is one of my favorite comic runs ever. I read through Moon Knight via my Marvel Unlimited subscription (which I can view on my iPad, iPhone and Mac. The browser version sucks quite frankly.) and the preview and images were provided by Marvel.
Moon Knight 1-3 by Warren Ellis and Declan Shalvey
Richard Paul Davis
Big Trouble in Little China Comic Book review
Including 5 page preview of issue #6
Whew this is a cool title. I loved the movie as a kid and nothing excites me more than picking up where a story left off via comic book or sequel to see what became of our heroes and protagonists. Despite the dialogue being sparse in places, the artwork functions well in telling the story. I have to tell you I was exited before even opening the book. Although it took me a bit to warm up to the idea, because at first glance it appears to be a novelty to sling some comic books. However, that being said, the stories flow well and it fed my curiosity without totally satisfying my hunger for more. Also, all the characters from the movie are all still accounted for and now find themselves delving deeper and deeper into the dark side of Little China.
Obviously this is for fans of the movie. On the flip side though this title could easily convince a comic book reader to want to seek out the movie if they had never seen it before. So, its appeal works to a two pronged effect. Essentially extending the stories from where the movie left off while at the same time being a real hearty promotion for the movie itself. It is a cult classic as it is and has already proven to have a healthy shelf life. Although I had my doubts before reading it, I have to say that it feels like a well executed idea. I know I am anxious to check into the first four issues now. Not to mention I am going to keep a close eye on where they keep going with the stories and arcs. Because they still have the same enemies as in the movie, they have introduced a lot of new strange and weird characters that are both friends and foes to their cause.
I am more than pleasantly surprised by the voracity of the title to do such a thing as picking up where the movie left off or simply just exploring the world created by the movie quite a bit more. I am suggesting this as a read for fans of the movie by all means, but I am also recommending it to comic readers to check out at least an issue and take a little peek inside of this very unique and creatively built world. The main hero in the story to me is Wang, and he remains intact and still at the side of our favorite wannabe hero Jack Burton and they are both still on the run from the Lords of Death. It’s an action packed comic and sure not to disappoint you, regardless of how big a fan you are of the movie. The only other thing I want to express is that Jack Burton’s smart mouth and over the top attitude carry over from the big screen to the small page without missing a sarcastic beat.
Hank Van Hawkins
Want to know more about Big Trouble in Little China? Have click the link in the previous sentence, and read below for a 5-page preview with a couple variant covers.
Nightbreed #6 review
Admittedly I am having fun with my press pass. I am getting to read so many great comics from Boom! for free. Of course that hasn’t stopped me from actually going into my local store and buying some hard copies for myself as well. I am at my weakest on Wednesdays damn it. One free issue of a great series will always compel you to buy other issues in order to find out the whole story for your self. (The whole point to Free Comic Book Day) At least it does for me and my own buying habits.
Nightbreed in particular has been one issue I read that has prompted me to find out more about the series as a whole. Personally you can’t go wrong with anything Clive Barker has a part in. Over the many years I have been reading comic books I have never been let down by a Clive Barker title of any sort and Nightbreed continues the hot streak. Granted the issue I picked up was # 6 and it made no difference to me where the issue was in relation to the current arc because it provides just enough of what is going on along with a more than a hint at what is too come. Anytime a book explores the so called darker shadows and corners of our world the more apt I am to get into it. Obviously this fantasy but it still doesn’t prevent itself from making a social statement on issues that currently plague society as a whole. If indeed there was a entire underworld of mythical creatures who lurk in the shadows and the dark recess of the human spirit it may make more sense out of this crazy world as a whole.
I am taking it upon myself to pick up the graphic novel for this series once its available. It ended up being ten times more entertaining that I had anticipated and I highly recommend it to others despite some character similarities to Hellboy it easily stands on its own as a series and has a great and eclectic cast of characters with a deep and intriguing back story to each of them. Each is an outcast demon due to their extrasensory, supernatural, and other worldly attributes, appearances, and abilities. However they fit right in with the circus freaks without missing a beat. Yet their powers themselves struggle for relevance in the human world. So although they are demons at their simplest form they are merely humans just like the rest of us with their own set of challenges and prejudices. Obviously I suggest this as a pick up the next time you are in your comic shop looking for something new and exciting and you will see what I mean. The art is simple and direct to the point and the story flows with ease and leaves you wanting to know more about the characters and the hand that fate will play to them during this series run. Kudos to Boom Studios for putting together such a great roster of titles and writers. They are really making a mark in the world of comics if you ask me and their juggernaut shows no signs of slowing down. I know I am keeping my eyes peeled from now on.
Editor’s note: please have a look below for the 5 page preview of Nightbreed #6. Also, click on Hank’s name to visit his Facebook page.
Well, I want to start off by saying I love doing reviews and I couldn’t be more excited to take part and share my take on many things creative week in and week out. I am starting off by reviewing The Green Arrow. Not necessarily a particular issue, arc, or the CW TV show. I am reviewing Green Arrow as a whole in general. That being said, the world of superheroes and comic books is an ever expanding universe and can sometimes overwhelm a newbie or first time reader. Simply sometimes by not knowing where to start or which hero to start with. As for myself ,I have many titles and arcs that speak to me and peak my interest, and they are in turn compelling me to buy the newest issues directly off of the stand every Wednesday. (Of course I will make more notes of these in the future!) So I always say/suggest to go exactly for what you like and what stokes your own curiosity. From a collector’s standpoint maybe it doesn’t have a lot of dollar value per se. But, if you enjoy the story and the art work and it respects and satisfies your curiosity then that is all that really matters, Therefore it is valuable to you and it makes it that much more easier to pass the fascination on down the line to the next generation.
That being said I am going to review some lesser known and or out of the normal heroes as a whole sometimes, if not only to discover their stories for myself but to help the general comic connoisseur to have as much information about a title/hero (without giving away spoilers of course) before simply buying it blind.
I started my Green Arrow journey by playing his character on Injustice God’s Among us and I totally enjoyed having his skill set at my disposal. I actually won a few battles. Woo hoo! That in itself kindled an interest in the character for me and low and behold, with a trip to the comic shop, I went ahead and thought there was no better place to start than with this year’s Future’s End Green Arrow one shot. I picked it up upon seeing the cool cover art and once I started reading it I was drawn in and immediately wanted more. Sure Oliver Queen follows DC’s magic formula for super heroes where they take a wealthy man who turns vigilante at night much like their greatest success Bat Man, but that is where the similarities end. It is following the formula, albeit with Green Arrow’s very own sense of identity far removed from Batman. Not to mention a whole other host of foes he ends up coming to blows with. I can never get enough of the back story of any villan/enemy/arch-nemesis. I find the bad guy’s back story is always fascinating, and The Green Arrow always delivers this in abundance.
I also love the wealth of plots and back stories that not only come along with Green Arrow, but his true identity Oliver Queen and his company Queen Industries. It is a fail safe method of always having another source of corruption or criminal influence to keep the character’s battles ongoing and constant, thus giving these characters a long running saga that can carry itself for years on end. I find it very easy to just jump right into the story line regardless of where it is at to the plot or arc as a whole. That is especially so with his TV show Arrow. Which I had never seen at all until this year and I think this is either the third or fourth season. It has been seamless. In fact, if anything, it compels me to go ahead and catch myself up on the previous seasons and episodes I have missed thus far. My fascination keeps pollinating with the more info I get. With the flashbacks and the constant building blocks of the current plot, it’s almost hard to miss the story line, much less the moral to the story. Green Arrow also relies on a staff of others who help him both on location and behind the scenes. Behind every great hero is a whole set of unheralded sidekicks there for support and help. Characters that not only add to the plot but to the legend of The Green Arrow himself. So, I say don’t be scared off by the similarities here. Embrace them if you haven’t already. Green Arrow is a bad ass and I have loved everything I have read, watched, and played so far. I will continue to do so since it has indeed touched on all the hallmarks of a super hero that appeal to me.
Hank Van Hawkins