The Kings of the Wasteland #1 (Hound Comics)

KIngs of Wasteland

CREDIT: Hound Comics

Rating: 3/5 – Anthropomorphic Animals in an Apocalyptic Atmosphere.
by ComicSpectrum senior reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

The Kings of the Wasteland is written, penciled and inked by Delbert Hewitt Jr. It follows the story about an anthropomorphic dog named Jacob, who’s on a mission to have his revenge on the one he holds responsible for the death of his family. I was pleasantly surprised reading this first issue as you can see the potential talent from Hewitt Jr., even though some of the themes involved have been seen plenty of times before. The first issue can be found at houndcomics.com or amusedom.com and is a solid premiere, despite having some opportunities for improvement.

On art, Hewitt Jr. has a great handle on the main character Jacob. His animations are smooth in both the storytelling and the action scenes, and the closeups are especially strong. Hewitt Jr. uses some creative panels to tell the story, whether it’s Jacobs snout sticking out from underneath his hood to sniff out a stalker, or some solid sequentials when it comes to a lengthy action scene. The lettering could have been better throughout though as the font is extremely generic and similar, which gives all the characters the same “voice”. Not only that, but some of the sound effects use the same font as the dialogue, which feels cheap in its production quality.

The story is set in an apocalyptic future where animals have gained the ability to speak, use tools and interact with one another after a referenced explosion that we still don’t know much about. The animals have increased their size to that of humans, so picture Ninja Turtles as a reference. Jacob is on the prowl for Hunter the Tiger, a “King of the Wasteland” who Jacob feels is responsible for the deaths of his family mentioned above. It’s pretty straight forward and although I did feel a connection to Jacob, the supporting cast don’t feel as fleshed out. Despite its issues, Kings of the Wasteland is a decent first issue from a new talent, and that is always fun to see.

Reviewed by: Shawn Hoklas
(shawn@comicspectrum.com
)
https://comicspectrum.com/ Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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House Party (Great Beast/Comixology)

HouseParty

CREDIT: Rachael Smith

Rating: 4/5 – Wonderful Slice-of-Life, I Couldn’t Stop Once I Started.
by ComicSpectrum EiC Bob Bretall

I got House Party as part of Comixology’s SXSW ’15 “Submit Pack” (good through 3/16/2015).  They do this for the South by Southwest festival each year where they offer a huge bundle of comics for a dime a piece.  This year it was 30 comics for $2.99.  Quite a deal.  That said, the normal price on this 75-page gem is $1.99 and I think it is worth every penny of the full $1.99 price.  Actually, there are 10 pin-=up pages on top of the 75-page story, so you’re getting a lot for that $1.99.

I had not experienced Rachael Smith’s work before and now I’m going to be keeping my eye out for her.  She has an art style that reminds me a bit of Brooke Allen (Lumberjanes) or Natasha Allegri (Bee & Puppycat) while actually not being really like either one, if that makes any sense.  Let’s say it evokes a similar feeling in me as a reader when I see the works of these artists.  The art style doesn’t have the same level of ‘polish’ as some other artists may have, but that’s all part of the charm of it.  You’re either going to like it or you’re not, like with any art.  You can see Smith’s art on her web-site.

This particular comic, like the name implies, is the story of some flat-mates who decide to recapture their college days by throwing an epic house party.  Smith is British, and there is a lot of slang in this, so be warned if that is something you are not a fan of.  For my own part, I love that kind of thing, so it added a whole extra dimension to the whole thing.

Rachael Smith has a wonderful ability to create a set of characters who came across to me as immediately likeable and by a few pages in felt real to me.  This is such an important element for me when reading a slice-of-life story.  If I am not ‘buying’ the characters as real then I can’t become immersed in the story.  For me, this was a real page turner.  Once I started reading it I couldn’t stop until I had finished it, and it was a nice long read.  If you’re curious, check out the first few pages over on the Comixology site for free.  According to her Blog, she has a new GN called ‘The Rabbit’ coming out in August, I’m going to have to be keeping my eyes open for it!

Reviewed by: Bob Bretall
(bob@comicspectrum.com
)
https://comicspectrum.com/ Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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Piledriver! #1

Piledriver1

Rating: 3.5/5 – Self-Published Anthology With Comedy, Surrealism, and Detectives.
by ComicSpectrum EiC Bob Bretall.

I had a feeling that I was in for a fun ride when I hit the title page with the credits to Lance Danger Coleman and Alan “Ooh-Ahh” Masingill with quotes about the comic from the likes of James Fenimore Cooper and ‘The Man Who Killed Osama Bin Laden’.  We even get the quote “I’d Buy That For a Dollar!” attributed to “If you don’t get this reference I don’t even want you to read my comic book”.  Well, I got the reference, Lance, so I read on.

What I got was 15 pages of “He Parkours Through Time And Fights What He Sees”, pirates, a guy whose super-power is being able to tell on sight if someone would like the songs of Billy Joel, and Velociraptor Frat House.  This is followed by a 10 page surrealistic silent story ‘Little Boy’ written by Alan King and illustrated by Masingill, and then a 7 page Heavy Metal Detectives that reminded me  bit of early Bob Burden Flaming Carrot or Mystery Men.  Masingill’s art is about standard for a self published comic and the reader should go into this comics with that expectation, you’re not getting one of the big name artists from one of the major publishers, you’re getting an offering from a journeyman creator working on their craft and as such, it’s a good effort.   The art is serviceable and tells the story and that’s what I needed.

My main critical advice on this issue: It felt schizophrenic, the comedic beginning didn’t mesh with the back half.  I can appreciate that this is a factor that plays into a lot of anthology type comics, but keeping to a main tone/theme may work better.  I’d have preferred to a full issue of the zany comedy I got in the beginning, but that’s just me, another reader may prefer the other stories but I fear that people who are attracted to the cover and title page I mentioned in my opening paragraph are going to lean more in the direction of the crazy action-packed comedy.  People who would really dig King’s ‘Little Boy’ story or the Detectives may never find them because they’re buried behind material that is so far removed in tone.  Do multiple issues, one focusing on the crazy, one on the more surreal, and flesh out each with some additional material that complements what is already there.  This is also a strength of digital.  No lost printing fees, this stuff can be repackaged in different ways with relative ease.

The best part about this comic was the obvious enthusiasm for making their own comic that the creators put into it.  This self-published comic follows the “pay what you want” model, so you can toss the creators $3, $1, a quarter, or nothing at all and then download/read what they’ve got to offer as a PDF.  I love the fact that the internet and digital distribution allow creators to put together a passion project and get it out in front of people like this.  This isn’t a comic that is going to land in the Previews catalog with national distribution, but I’m glad I was able to read it thanks to the internet.  If you like the self-published  comics you find in Artist’s Alley at your local con or at APE or SPX, give Piledriver! a try.  You can find Piledriver! at: https://gumroad.com/piledrivercomix

Reviewed by: Bob Bretall
(bob@comicspectrum.com
)
https://comicspectrum.com/ Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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Milk For The Ugly (Madefire/DeviantArt)

MilkForUgly
CREDIT: Madefire/DeviantArt

Rating: 4.5/5 – Combo of Motion & Sound Enhance a Great Underlying Story.
by ComicSpectrum EiC Bob Bretall.

Milk For The Ugly was a unique experience for me in a web-comic.  It’s built using Madefire’s cloud-based Motion Book Tool and uses a mildly interactive storytelling technique that enhanced the tale of a woman providing a very unique service to the world, all the while unknown and unappreciated by the mass of society.  Check this out for yourself here:  http://vesner.deviantart.com/art/Milk-for-the-Ugly-469943768

The story uses zooms and pans to make the story come to life in a limited way.  It blurs the line between comics and limited animation but it stayed on the ‘comics’ side of that line for me.  There was also an ability to do some limited ‘exploration’ by pivoting the scene every now and again, but I didn’t find that to be particularly interesting so stopped taking advantage of it after the first few opportunities. The art itself had an animated feel

The thing that got me the most was the story itself by Kate Redesiuk and Anna Podedworna.  The sudden change-up about mid way through the story.  I thought it was going to be one thing and then I got hit with a shift that skewed my perception from where I had started and by the end it had flipped 180 degrees.  Sound effects enhanced the story for me but the music didn’t; I found it a bit overpowering and distracting at times, but that’s just me.

The real strength here is the story and the art, both of which I found to be superb.  The motion comic experience was cool, but was secondary to the underlying story, which I thought was a really good thing.  Without a strong core story you just have flashy wrappings.  Milk For The Ugly had the prize of a great story inside the motion wrappings and should be experienced to be appreciated.  It’s free, so what are you waiting for?

Reviewed by: Bob Bretall
(bob@comicspectrum.com
)
https://comicspectrum.com/ Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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Head Lopper #1 (Andrew R MacLean/Comixology)

Head Lopper #1

Rating: 4/5 – Heads Are Indeed Lopped Off, But That’s Not All!
by ComicSpectrum EiC Bob Bretall.

Comixology is making it easier for self-published works like this to get to readers via their Submit program that is free to the creators.  Comixology makes money if the creator makes money, seems fair.  What I do know is that I can browse through a LOT of creator-owned fare on Comixology that I’d likely not see under other circumstances (where a creator first needs to convince Diamond to carry their book and then hope/pray some progressive comic shops will order something without the logo of a big publisher on it), so bravo to Comixology and creators everywhere!  You can find the comic here: https://www.comixology.com/Head-Lopper-1/digital-comic/118411

Back to Head Lopper!  Andrew R. MacLean writes and draws this fun fantasy comic starring the head lopper himself (but you’d better call him Norgal).  Norgal is your standard bad-ass with a sword and he has come to the Isle of Barra in this debut issue at the behest of the locals, they have some monster trouble that needs looking into and sometimes you just need some heads lopped off so why not call an expert?  McLean’s art  is crisp and clean with an animated feel, by that I refer to both the simple lines as well as the panel-to-panel story flow that gave me the feeling of motion during the battle scene.  Lest I forget, the art is augmented beautifully by Mike Spicer’s colors that really makes the action pop in the action scenes and sets a nice mood in the story-building scenes.

Head Lopper #1 was a great first issue, introducing us to the Head Lopper Norgal and his world.  There are a lot of troubles in the world, and Norgal is the right guy for solving problems that can be handled with a bit of strategic head lopping.  Fortunately, when the problem is monsters, head lopping will usually solve the problem.  But not always, it seems.  Some of the problems to be faced in this series are being carried around with Norgal in his sack, which is a plot point that will play out in future issues I’m sure.  This comic is fun-filled fantasy at it’s best.  If you like swords, monsters, and a creator building a new mythology/world, this is definitely worth checking out.  Issue #2 “The Wolves of Barra” was successfully funded in November 2013 on Kickstarter, so hopefully we’ll be seeing it on Comixology soon!

Reviewed by: Bob Bretall
(bob@comicspectrum.com
)
https://comicspectrum.com/ Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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The Agency #1 (Alterna Comics/Comixology)

The Agency1
CREDIT: Alterna Comics

Rating: 3/5 – A Government “Agency” Preventing the Misuse of Magic.
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

The Agency number one, a digital comic released by Comixology is a new series that follows a government sponsored group of mages as they protect the world from those that seek to use magic for more nefarious purposes. It’s an interesting take on the world of magic as the creative team involved is clearly positioning this as a team book with a large, but manageable group of characters introduced in this first issue, available here:
https://www.comixology.com/The-Agency-1/digital-comic/103769

As the issue opens, we see the I.A.M. (International Agency of Magic) intercepting an assassination attempt on a dignitary in Las Vegas. As this first action scene plays out we see the main characters for the first time. It’s a nicely paced opener that highlights some of the team’s powers and abilities. From there, the mysteries become a bit deeper and we’re also introduced to a younger kid who looks as though he’ll play a larger role in the series and looks as though he’ll be the character we relate to as we journey through this world. The story flows nicely in this first issue, but the dialogue and scripting at times miss the mark. The characters feel too formal in their conversations which made them seem less real. Writers Ruben and Bethany Romero, and Roger Cabrera have put together a solid story, so I’m hoping with time they’re able to make the characters dialogue seem more natural.

Eric Koda’s art is strong in his character work and action scenes, but his backgrounds could use more detail. When we first see the villains in this issue, their designs truly stand out and I’m looking forward to seeing more of them. That being said, only one of the Agency’s characters is in costume so hopefully he’ll extend that creative design sense to both sides. In regards to the backgrounds, everything feels a bit too clean and sterile. Much like the writing, hopefully over time we’ll start to see Koda’s art develop further so he can make the world around these characters more believable.

The Agency is a solid debut for this series and this new creative team. Although the writing and art didn’t blow me away in this first issue, there’s a promise of emerging talent with a solid and well paced opening issue.  If you’re a fan of new worlds being built up over the course of a series this is worth checking out.

Reviewed by: Shawn Hoklas
(shawn@comicspectrum.com
)
https://comicspectrum.com/ Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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Guardians Of The Galaxy Prequel Infinite Comic #1 (Marvel/Comixology)

GotG_Infinite_Cover

Rating 3.5/5 – Worth a Look Leading Up to this Summer’s Sci-Fi/Superhero Flick.
by ComicSpectrum Reviewer Ian Gowan.

This comic is an extended first look for Guardians following on from the after-credit scene in the movie, “Thor: The Dark World” from Marvel Studios. It’s worth you time as this is a fun but quick read. It’s decent little teaser story with some nice action thrown in for good measure. This really isn’t a standalone story and I didn’t expect one since “Prequel” is in the title of the comic. If you want to know more but don’t want to spoil anything major than you should check out this comic. The story is based around Gamora who is a gorgeous but very green and mean bounty hunter. She doesn’t think twice about taking an enemy’s limbs off. You can check it all out at: https://www.comixology.com/Marvels-Guardians-Of-The-Galaxy-Prequel-Infinite-Comic/digital-comic/85460

Long time Guardians of the Galaxy writers Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, aka DnA, kick off this story with two Asgardians Sif and Volstagg meeting up with The Collector. The Collector is an old quirky foe of the Avengers from the late 1960’s. The Asgardians have an potentially dangerous item for The Collector that they want to keep out of their worst adversary’s hands. It’s nice to see DnA back writing about the Guardians. While I enjoy the current Bendis run on The Guardians, it was DnA’s run that much of the current Guardians comic fandom is based on. It’s exciting to see how the rest of the world will react to this awesome but oddball group of sci-fi characters. Italian Artist Andrea De Vito does a nice job of rendering all the different alien creatures, space ships, and weird worlds based around this story. It’s solid story telling with a few cool effects using the swipe aspect of the tablet.

If you’re looking for more Guardians between now and August then you can check out this digital comic. It’s quick but fun little comic that raises some interesting questions in the Marvel Studios movie universe. Who is on the side of good and who is on the side of the bad guys? Then there’s the current ongoing Guardians series by writer Brian Bendis and artist Sara Pichelli. That’s a nice series but I don’t think it will have much to do with the movie coming out in August. I suggest you go back to the 2008 series by Abnett and Lanning if you really want to learn more about this sci-fi superhero team. Right now, you’ll have to read that series digitally because a new paper trade doesn’t come out until the end of July. Either way, Guardians is Marvel Cosmic at its best and I suggest you give it the attention it deserves, it’s should become much more popular after the movie comes out.

Reviewed by: Ian Gowan
ian@comicspectrum.com

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