Showing posts with label Indie Comics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Indie Comics. Show all posts

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Review - The Shepherd: Apokatastasis

The Shepherd: Apokatastasis
Written by: Andrea Lorenzo Molinari & Roberto Xavier Molinari
Art by: Ryan Showers
Colours by: Heather Breckel
Letters & Logo Design by: Jacob Bascle
Published by: Caliber Comics

Written by the father-son team of Andrea Lorenzo Molinari and Roberto Xavier Molinari, The Shepherd is a supernatural comic series that tells the story of a grief-stricken father as he makes the ultimate sacrifice in order to rescue the lost soul of his recently departed son. The series itself was borne out of a nightmare that Andrea had, which haunted the writer until he was able to put it to the page with the help of his son, Roberto, and artist, Ryan Showers. With an unusual muse behind the series’ origins, it’s clear to see why this story feels so raw and real, with Andrea’s experience helping bring those feelings of grief and loss to life in such an effective manner. The initial installment, which covers the death of the protagonist’s young son, is depicted with chilling normalcy and everyday realism that the character’s drastic decision to end his own life feels like the natural end to his journey. Except, it isn't…

The remainder of this introductory storyline manages to channel the same energy and flavour seen in other supernatural redemptive stories such as, Spawn and Ghost Rider. Lawrence Miller is an interesting and complex protagonist, both before and after he becomes ‘The Shepherd’, dealing with his anger and grief in ways that most people are unable to do, by getting revenge on those individuals who caused his the death of his son. Armed with a staff of truth which has powers that resemble Ghost Rider's own penance stare, Miller seeks out the drug dealers responsible for his son's death and unleashing pure and unbridled truth onto them, causing them to react in different ways. Both Andrea and Roberto do a fantastic job at capturing the lead character’s personality, placing his grief over his son at the heart of the book with a strong narrative voice evident throughout the series. I was blown away by the strength of the writing on display here, not only do the Molinari’s manage to get under the skin of grief, but they do a excellent job at exploring the grieving process through the voice of a fictional character.

Man's Best Friend?

The series’ artist Ryan Showers brings a wonderful tone to the book, whilst its colorist, Heather Breckel effortlessly conjures up the right mood with her choices, using a more muted “everyday” colour palette used to depict the living world of the first issue, before indulging in darker hues and a sickly green shade as Miller finds himself stuck between the two worlds of life and death. Supplementary materials at the back of the collected edition reveal that the Showers was brought in when the original artist Josh Barker was unable to complete the series due to family illness – some of Barker's pages are showcased in this section and I have to agree with Andreas' decision to go with Showers' more emotional take on the story as opposed to the darker, grittier feel that came from Barker's artwork. Showers' artwork certainly ensured that the emotional core of the story resonated deeply with me and was the ideal companion to the Molinaris' script, managing to balance family melodrama and supernatural horror in equal measures.

The Shepherd: Apokatastasis is an absolutely fantastic example of independent comics, and several times I found myself thinking that this could easily have been published by Image or Top Cow – it has that gritty supernatural feel to the storyline that makes it an ideal fit for those publishers. The story had me gripped from the start and I eagerly devoured all five chapters in the space of an evening – enjoying Lawrence Miller's journey through the afterlife as he searches for the soul of his son, and retribution for his death. The writing was absolutely sublime, adding a real human element to a story of revenge from beyond the grave, whilst the artwork excelled at communicating the emotional core of the storyline. Fans of Spawn, Ghost Rider and The Crow should definitely check this series out – and the characters themselves should step aside because there's a brand-new spirit of vengeance in town!


Score - 9.4 out of 10

The Shepherd: Apokatastasis is available to buy from Amazon.com and digitally from DriveThruComics.com and Comixology.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Review - Bob: Non-Union Psychic # 0

Bob: Non-Union Psychic # 0
Created and Written by: Lance Lucero
Scripted and Edited by: Adam Volle
Art by: Francisco Resendiz
Published by: Warehouse 9 Productions

Continuing my foray into the world of Indie Comics, I was recently offered the chance to review a quirky horror-comedy series from an independent publisher, Warehouse 9 Productions, called Bob: Non-Union Psychic. The central premise at the heart of this comic is brilliantly imaginative, featuring a young hairdresser who also moonlights as a private investigator, egged on by his great-grandfather. With its blend of the mundane and the supernatural, the series certainly manages to ‘channel the spirit’ of the original Ghostbusters movie into its witty script.

This introductory “zero issue” is dense and full of content, effectively presenting the character and his unique status-quo to the audience. There are some great twists and turns in the narrative, and despite being an “origin story”, the issue flows really well and develops the character organically. While the easiest comparison to make is with Ghostbusters, the series is still its own beast and features its own comedic style, separate from the 1984 horror-comedy, although it is clearly an influence. Lance Lucero and Adam Volle work well together to develop a surprisingly complex narrative that doesn’t patronize its audience, forcing them to figure out some of the plot twists for themselves. There are also some great moments of banter between Bob and his grandfather that helps “grease the narrative wheels” and keep the exposition from feeling too perfunctory.


The other major draw to this series is Francisco Rensendiz’s absolutely fantastic artwork. It’s certainly a distinctive visual style, but has a self-assured confidence that is rare in independent comics and even some mainstream ones! I really enjoyed the glossy animated style that Rensendiz’s work brings to the comic, emphasising the comedic elements of the script. With such a distinctive style, it’s hard to think of mainstream comparisons, but there were some very slight echoes of Humberto Ramos’ style at times. Aside from wonderful character designs, Rensendiz also manages to capture a sense of momentum in his panels, ensuring that the more action-orientated sequences flow nicely.

Overall, I found myself very impressed with this debut issue of Bob: Non-Union Psychic – it struck the perfect balance between humour and horror, with a distinctive artist that helps the comic stand out from the crowd for all the right reasons. Fans of fantasy genre TV shows, such as Supernatural and Buffy the Vampire Slayer will find plenty to enjoy here, whereas Ghostbusters fans will enjoy this more subdued look at the supernatural. It's a great example of independent comics and as the foundations of a new comic book series, Bob: Non-Union Psychic excels in setting the scene with a group of wonderful characters, and I look forward to reading about Bob’s next adventure into the spiritual world.


Score - 9.3 out of 10

Bob: Non-Union Psychic # 0 is available to buy digitally from the Warehouse 9 Productions web-store for $3.99. Check out a video trailer for the comic here. The creative team for this issue can be found on Twitter, so give them a follow and shout-out my review!

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Review - Papercuts and Inkstains # 1

Papercuts and Inkstains # 1
Written by: Rob Jones
Art by: Nick Gonzo, Kevin Pospisil, Mike Smith and Dan Butcher
Published by: Madius Comics

Much like my food diet, my comic-reading habits aren't necessarily the healthiest – I tend to stick to the superhero genre (especially Marvel) picking up the biggest-selling titles and event storylines, barely casting my eye over the independent comics scene. I hear rave reviews about series' such as Saga, Sex Criminals and East of West, but I've been very slow in actually getting around to reading them. Even my non-Marvel books, 2000AD and Titan Comics' Doctor Who range, are fairly mainstream in terms of content – so when I was invited to review Madius Comics' anthology series, Papercuts & Inkstains, I was was keen to step outside my comfort-zone and read some independent comics.

Madius Comics is an independent comics publisher, formed of a small group of writers and artists based around Leeds. Their content encompasses a range of genres such as horror, science fiction, action, drama and comedy, aimed at all ages. Papercuts & Inkstains is the brand's flagship anthology, influenced by 2000AD's Future Shocks short story format to deliver bite-size excursions into a range of weird and wacky scenarios. This first issue contains three stories, all written by Rob Jones, and with art from a trio of up-and-coming artists. Considering my proclivities towards 2000AD, I was intrigued to see an indie title's approach to the same formula.

Instantly, I was greeted by the lush and colourful front cover artwork from Dan Butcher, which instantly gave a positive first impression and imbues the comic with a healthy dose of professionalism. I also quite liked the Madius Comics' logo in the top corner - once again, it helped present the comics as official and real, rather than a disposable fanzine or vanity project. It was only after reading the whole comic that I realised that the cover art was an amalgamation of all three stories, which was a nice touch. Before opening a page, I was already impressed – the team were off to a great start.

The first story, “No” written by Rob Jones, with art from Nick Gonzo, features a lovely juxtaposition between the fantastical and the mundane, which seems to be a theme for this particular anthology. Jones' script takes a back-seat here to Gonzo's artwork, which conveys the frenzied chaos as various creatures from different time periods are brought together to fight. Ultimately, it does feel a little too chaotic in places with some overcrowded panels, but the punchline is well crafted. It reminds me of that famous anecdote where President Kennedy asked a janitor sweeping the floors at NASA what he was doing and the man replied, “helping put a man on the moon”. I wonder if that was an influence on this story.


The second story, “By 'Eck on Earth” again written by Rob Jones but with art from Kevin Pospisil, is an improvement on the first story. Pospisil's greyscale artwork is great and suits the post-apocalyptic zombie landscape. Once again there's a wonderful clash of two worlds as Jones puts a Northern spin on the well-worn Zombie genre – if I had to describe it in four words it would be “Coronation Street meets Zombies”. It's an inspired mish-mash of styles and Pospisil's artwork really does the script justice. There's some great one-liners in the dialogue and narrative that will certainly raise a smile – fans of Shaun of the Dead will definitely enjoy this strip.

The third and final story, “Profits of Doom” also written by Rob Jones, this time features artwork from Mike Smith. Again, blending the mundane with the supernatural, this short story feels like something that could easily appear in The Viz, with its satirical swipe at a group of geeky middle-class cultists attempting to summon a Lovecraftian creature to help them rule the world. Smith's artwork is really strong and his panel placement and layouts really help sell the jokes, especially the final punchline.

As an aspiring (but lazy) writer myself, I really have to commend Rob Jones and his artists for creating a great anthology comic, with such high production values and professional standards.  It clearly must have taken a lot of hard work to bring it all together, but it shows. This is obviously a labour of love for all involved, and really deserves to get wider recognition. On the strength of this comic, Madius Comics is certainly an independent publisher I'll be keeping an eye out for in the future.


Score - 8.5 out of 10

Papercuts and Inkstains # 1 is available to buy digitally from Madius Comics' web-store.

The creative team for this issue can be found on Twitter:

Rob Jones - (@RobJonesWrites)
Nick Gonzo - (@Nick_Gonzo)
Mike Smith - (@DeadCertMike)
Kevin Pospisil - (@AriseToDarkness)
Dan Butcher - (@VanguardComic)

Friday, 9 January 2015

Review - Space Captain # 1: Captain of Space

Space Captain # 1 - Captain of Space
Written by: Michael Park and Chris Baldie
Art by: Chris Baldie
Additional Art and Story by: Dave Morrow
Published by: Never Ever Press

I like to think of myself as a comic-book fan, but I am surprisingly insular and only really tend to read mainstream superhero comics from the big two publishers: Marvel and DC. I have tried to remedy this, through my regular 2000AD reviews and picking up some of the more critically-acclaimed independent series (such as The Walking Dead) but it still felt that there was a lot of interesting work out there passing me by. So, in an effort to broaden my comic-book horizons and discover some hidden gems, I have taken to periodically checking Kickstarter and helping fund comic-book projects. It’s a fantastic resource for creators to fund their books and there is such a wide range of ideas out there begging for an audience. It was on one of my trawls through the comic section that I came against the listing for Space Captain # 1: Captain of Space, and instantly my interest was piqued.

The first thing that leapt out to me was Chris Baldie’s amazing artwork. It is very much reminiscent of European comics with the lead character’s design evoking memories of Tintin’s Captain Haddock crossed with Shunsaku Ban from Osamu Tezuka’s Metropolis. The professional quality of the artwork just blew me away – it was leaps and bounds above any other independent comic I've seen. Another apt comparison would be to Jeff Smith’s Bone, as Baldie’s deceptively simple cartoon art style manages to capture the sense of naivety and child-like wonder seen in Smith’s iconic series. Partnered with Michael Park’s script, this series really has a lot of charm and heart to it, tackling the familiar concept of the last human alive with a fresh approach.


The issue itself has a slightly larger page count than a standard US comic, allowing this opening chapter to tell the story at its own pace. Looking at the interior pages, it is clear that the European comic influences also extend to the panel layout, which crams in plenty of panels that helps give the story a cinematic feel. Both artist and writer adhere to one of the biggest rules in storytelling, which is “show, don’t tell” as they let the artwork tell the story here. It would be tempting to over-write this tale and include narration boxes and interior monologues from the protagonist, but instead this more visual approach helps establish the universe in which the Space Captain has awoken to far better than reams of descriptive text ever could. Without wanting to rush into yet another comparison, the lack of authorial voice in those opening pages reminds me heavily of Wall-E, which also let its dynamic visuals trump exposition in order establish the emotional heart of its tale.

In conclusion, I have to say that I am very glad that I stepped out from the mainstream and picked up this book because it’s a brilliant example of independent comics and really offers something different from the norm. Having helped fund it via Kickstarter makes me feel part of the process too, providing a greater level of intimacy and ownership to the series than I would get from a mass-market superhero comic. I feel far more invested in the Space Captain’s journey and will definitely be picking up the second issue when it is released. I wholeheartedly recommend this comic to fans of Bone – its charming story is perfectly suitable for kids and really deserves a larger audience – I also suggest that comic fans wanting to seek out something new go and check out Kickstarter’s comic section as it really is a varied breeding ground for some wonderful stories.


Score - 9.6 out of 10

Even though the Kickstarter appeal for Space Captain # 1 has ended, the book is still available for purchase through its distributor, Do Gooder Comics’ website for £4.00 + £1.75 p+p. For more information about the series and any upcoming releases, the comic’s creators are available on Twitter: Michael Park (@parkmr) & Chris Baldie (@ChrisBaldie)

Friday, 2 May 2014

Review - Creepy Scarlett # 1: The Emerald of Lucifer

Creepy Scarlett & The Emerald of Lucifer
Written by: Graeme Buchan
Art by: Felipe Sanhueza
Colours / Letters by: Jessica Jimerson
Released by: Last Sunset Comics

Creepy Scarlett is an action-packed independent comic book series written and self-published by Graeme Buchan, who has been using Kickstarter to raise funds for each issue. With a strong female protagonist and supernatural elements, the series shares much in common with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, as well as an eclectic set of influences ranging from Samurai movies and brightly-coloured Carnivals.

The first issue, Creepy Scarlett and the Emerald of Lucifer, introduces the character of Scarlett, providing her with a vital quest – to protect the Emerald of Lucifer, one of many ancient artifacts, from the villainous Chinese warlord who has sought the jewel’s power for over forty years. The issue hits the ground running, giving us an insight into Scarlett’s character – she seems to possess a child-like naivety and an obsession with candy, which reminds me of Anya from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. We’re also introduced to her mysterious mentor, who gives Scarlett a quick training montage that wouldn't feel out of place in a classic 80’s action movie. And before long, a climactic battle between good and evil occurs, and this is all within twenty-eight pages, giving readers some real bang for their buck!

The story has some brilliant moments that manage to echo famous moments in pop culture, such as the training sequence, which evokes memories of Luke and Yoda on Dagobah (The Empire Strikes Back) as well as a strong Darth Vader vs. Obi Wan moment (A New Hope) during the battle with the Samurai Warlord. The dialogue is pretty strong, especially with Scarlett, who manages to make some funny one-liners in contrast with the other stern and dramatic characters in the storyline. As well a working as an introduction to the character of Creepy Scarlett (oh, and Mr Ted!), the story manages to add layers of a larger plot-line at work, with mysteries surrounding Scarlett’s death and rebirth and the mysterious Pumpkinhead.


The artwork by Felipe Sanhueza is really impressive for an independent comic book and the use of colours by Jessica Jimerson serves to really accentuate the action and mood. There are some really dynamic panel layouts that give a great sense of movement within the storyline, such as the sequence with the homemade catapult and the climatic fight sequences. There’s also a brief glimpse into the art styles utilised in future issues, with the multi-coloured mayhem of Trixie Von and the darker shadows associated with Scarlett’s recollections of her traumatic past.

Overall, this is a great example of independent comics, borrowing key themes from more mainstream media channels and bringing them to the audience in a fresh and exciting way. While some elements of this introductory chapter may be a tad cliché, there are some very intriguing elements teased towards the end that definitely warrant a second look. As mentioned before, this blend of supernatural and samurais will appeal to fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the films of Akira Kurosawa, as well as general fans of comics with action, humour and a dash of gore. The first issue is currently available as a free digital copy at DriveThruComics.com, so it is well worth a read through!


Score - 8.6 out of 10

This first issue is currently available for FREE at DriveThruComics.com, with a graphic novel collection of the first four issues also available on the site offering an affordable way to catch up. However, Last Sunset Comics are also hoping to produce the fifth issue of the series and need your help – check out their Kickstarter campaign, for the chance to support the latest issue and earn the previous issues as part of the rewards, as well as a bevy of fantastically designed treats ranging from limited-edition art prints to custom figures.
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