Monday, July 22, 2013

Black of Heart - Assailant Comics

Noir fiction at its best.

Okay, I admit it, this is a rather fast turnaround for another review of an Assailant Comics book but Gawd-a-Mighty these boys are cranking out some great reading.  Black of Heart, chapter one; Last Cab in Brooklyn was a stunner from page one to the cliffhanger on the final panel of the story.  Writer Chris Charlton has created a piece of Noir fiction the likes of which I haven't seen since Ed Brubaker's Criminal series.  Masterfully illustrated by David Hollenbach and smartly lettered by Brant W. Fowler this book proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that there's something going on over at this company well worth keeping an eye on.

Black of Heart is a dark and visceral tale about a serial killer stalking the streets of Brooklyn and the detective trying to hunt him down and put an end to his reign of terror.  Writer Chris Charlton continues to display a real talent for using classic elements of any particular genre without falling into the quagmire of using overworked and tired cliches.  The man just knows how to tell a good story.  I liked Binary Gray, but I loved Black of Heart.  Chris just seems to be gaining confidence with each and every story he's writing and I'm quickly becoming a real fan of his work.

The illustrations of David Hollenbach border on absolute brilliance producing some truly goose-bump and hair-raising panels without going into the extremes of excessive blood and gore.  Don't get me wrong, David ain't afraid of walking on the wild side and he does some things with point of view perspective that will draw you into a world not meant for the squeamish or faint of heart. He nails it folks, he just flat out nails it.  And lest I forget it, Bryant W. Fowler does a great job with the lettering.  I know it seems like a minor point to some but quality lettering can sometimes make or break a book and in this instance Mr. Fowler puts the perfect cherry on top of the Noir sundae.

I don't care what everyone else might be reading over the next few months, but as for me and my house, we're gonna be glued to Black of Heart.  I have a feeling this is going to be one of the sleepers of the summer and I don't plan on missing a single episode of what promises to be a great story.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Serial Squad - Bad Place Productions

"Nazis and Martian Tripod Walkers? Oh my!"

Although their heyday had long come and gone by the time I began reading pulps in the mid sixties, characters like Doc Savage, The Green Hornet, The Shadow and The Phantom still managed to reach out from the nineteen-thirties and forties to capture the attention of a young boy and keep me spellbound with the tales of their adventures.  Sure I loved characters like Superman and Spider Man, but in my mind, the pulp heroes and their two-fisted tales of fighting Nazis, mobsters and thugs, from the dark streets of Chicago, to the deepest-darkest-wilds of the Amazon jungle, never took a backseat to anyone, no matter how super-powered they might be.

Serial Squad pays homage to those bygone days of the great pulp characters with a storyline taken right out of the pages of yesteryear.  Of course there are Nazis.  And there's a group of actors who suddenly find themselves faced with the choice of fighting for the good old American way and freedom, or turning tail and running away from danger like cowardly dogs.  Oh yeah, there's a dame too.  Tough as nails, trained in judo and able to hold her own against any tough guy.  And she's got a trained tiger too.  And if that isn't enough to whet your appetite, there's a science fiction twist that is literally out of this world.

Not only has creator Paul E. Shultz written a quality story, he's also illustrated the book with some of the finest black and white panels I've seen in years.  His use of negative spacing is simply breathtaking.  Seriously, the book is a must have for any artist seeking to learn how to do a black and white book the right way.  Truly this is a comic book I'll treasure for years to come, before someday passing it on to my son.  He's gonna love it as much I do too.

As if all this goodness isn't enough already, hold on to your hats boys and girls, because there's even more!  On the inside of the back cover is a secret message for all members of the Jr. Serial Squad, that can only be decoded using the Official Glow-In-The-Dark Secret Decoder Ring!  Yeah, you heard me right, and its only available by joining the the Jr. Serial Squad!  Now, I'm not about to sink ships with loose lips, but I will tell you this, the message has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with Ovaltine.

Now I suggest you get your freedom-loving-patriotic butts over to Bad Place Productions right this very minute and do your patriotic part to defend America from the dark forces of evil lurking around every corner.  Lady Liberty needs you boys and girls!  Don't let her down!

Oh, and don't forget to buy bonds...

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Tether - Tether Comics

 "Humor on stun, Mr. Sulu."

Hands down, without a doubt, the best book I brought home from the local Kentucky artists who displayed their wares at the Derby City Comic Book Convention last weekend, has to be a wonderful little book called Tether.  Folks, these people were all about fun from the moment they marched into the convention hall and began setting up their display table.  Their entire group was costumed as characters in the book and they were hamming it up for anyone and everyone who wanted a picture with them. (see picture below)

Well of course anyone having that much fun caught my attention right away and I couldn't help but walk over to their booth to investigate just what the heck all the commotion was about.  Boy am I glad I did because the book they put in my hands turned out to be about the most fun I've had with a comic book in some time. 

Now the first thing I do when I set out to review a comic book is to go out to the supporting website to see what the creators are all about and what they have to say about their book.  Good thing I did too or I'd have missed the three rocking music tracks designed to be listened to as you read each section of the book.  I strongly suggest you surf out to their website before you read the book, download the three tracks, and then follow the instructions on when you should play each one as you read the book.  I also suggest you put on some quality headphones too because the combined effect of the tunes and comic book are a multimedia entertainment package you're going to enjoy the daylights out of experiencing.

The only thing missing was a red suit guy.

Seriously guys, this isn't just a clever comic book, its a darn clever artistic presentation.  Now, I'm not gonna say anything about the story, the artwork, (both of which I loved) or offer up a single spoiler to whet your curiosity enough to buy this book; I'm just gonna tell you straight up, go online and spend your five dollars on something guaranteed to put a smile on your face and a song in your ears.  Trust me, you won't be disappointed.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Space Dwarf - Space Dwarf Studios

Back to the Dwarfing Board...

As an older individual I've learned there are times I just don't understand why some particular item in popular cultural is considered hip, cool, funny or even socially relevant.  For instance, I don't understand why either of the Justins are considered to be so hot; either Bieber or Timberlake.  I certainly don't understand the popularity of Fox News as a news source.  Sadly, among those things I just don't understand, Space Dwarf has just moved up to number five on the list.

Now as anyone who reads my reviews knows, I got nothing but love for the small indie companies.  I've even got love for the micro-indie companies.  Hell, let a kid hand me a couple of pieces of paper stapled together with pencil drawings on them and I'm gonna give his/her book a good review if it is at all in my power to do so.  Sometimes however, all the love in the world just isn't enough to make something good when it isn't, and unfortunately that's the case with Space Dwarf.

This book could have been funny, maybe even should have been funny, but in the end it was so poorly written, terribly punctuated and dreadfully edited that it just fell flatter than a souffle baking in an oven during a Metallica drum solo.  Sorry Marcus, but this one needs to go back to the Dwarfing Board.  Better luck next time...

Thursday, July 4, 2013

The Powers That Be: The Origin of Buxom Blonde - Old World Comics

Double D-cups of fun!

Among the best moments I enjoyed at the Derby City Comic Book Convention in Louisville, Kentucky was sitting down with Todd Goodman and Cory Butler from Old World Comics and talking about the need to put the fun back in comic books.  Eventually I was handed a book to review, The Powers That Be; The Origin of Buxom Blonde.  They asked only one thing from me in return for the book, an honest review.  Well, they asked for it, so here it goes.

Once upon a time there were small press books with names like Captain Guts, Mr. Natural and The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers.  The illustrations in these books weren't like anything in the Marvel and DC comic books of the day and neither were the stories they contained.  If you were looking for tales of good triumphing over evil or teams of super powered mutants rescuing the planet from alien invaders you weren't going to find them them in these books.  What you were going to find was lots of humor and generous helpings of belly laughs.

We called them funny books.  Because that's what they were, funny books.  The Powers That Be; The Origin of Buxom Blonde is a funny book.  Written by Todd Goodman and illustrated by Cory Butler the book comes together perfectly and is a joy to read.  Todd has written a clever story peppered with zany characters like President Duke Wayne, Dr. Erectenstein and of course, our sweet heroine Toni Daily. 

The whimsical illustrations of Cory Butler combine perfectly with Todd's story to produce a book that is as much fun to view as it is to read.  I've become a fan of Cory's work and would like to see more of it in the future.  Together Todd and Cory have created a very funny book and one that I'll be more than glad to add to my humble collection of what I consider to be Dirk's Comic Book Corner worthy. 
The Powers That Be; The Origin of Buxom Blonde is a perfect example of why I find myself reading more and more indie press books on a weekly basis than I do the Marvel and DC "Skittles" books where the only creative direction seems to be creating a rainbow of Arrows, Lanterns and Hulks.  There's nothing but drama in the big houses and I've grown bored with the same old rainbow soap operas.  I want my comic books to be fun again, and thanks to the good folks at Old World Comics I've found a good place to start making that a reality instead of a frustrated fantasy.  Thanks guys!  And yes, I'd very much like to read the first couple of books in the series.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Derby City Comic Book Convention - 2013

A celebration of comic books and those of us who love them.

I can't remember the last time I enjoyed a comic book convention as much as I did the Derby City Comic Book Convention.  Upstairs, downstairs, inside and outside on the sprawling steps leading up and into the Kentucky International Convention Center it was a celebration of the industry and those of us who love it as passionately as we do.  It was small press friendly, it was cosplay friendly, it was fan friendly and as a result the overall atmosphere of the con was one of warmth, intimacy and comraderie.

My favorite moments of the con?  Sitting down with Chris Charlton of Assailant Comics and talking about Binary Gray and their new book Black of Heart.  (Which I loved. Best Noir fiction story I've read since Brubaker's Criminal.)  Meeting Jon Hodges of Bad Place Productions and talking about everything comics and then having him hand me a copy of Woodboy to read was something special.  Quite frankly, if the con hadn't ended the two of us would still be sitting outside the convention center drinking cups of coffee and talking about everything comics.  The man has a passion for the damn things that's just infectious.

That's what made this con so special for me.  I may have walked up to tables looking for items to purchase, but the next thing I knew I was sitting down with yet one more individual who loves comic books as much as I do and talking like we were old friends from childhood.  And of course some of these folks like Todd Goodman and Cory Butler from Old World Comics became instant buds I can't wait to spend some time getting to know better.

And I know this was Chuck Moore's first year at the helm, but if what I saw is any indication at all the Derby City Comic Book Convention is in loving and capable hands.  The man was a whirlwind of promotion and it was a rare moment I didn't see him smiling, shaking a hand and talking about what great things are in store for this annual event.  And the best news he kept delivering again and again?  Next year this love fest is going be a two day event!  Man, I'm so excited I'd time travel to next year if I knew anyone with a time machine.

You can find photos here.  I hope they inspire you to put this con on your list of must attend events for next year.  You won't be disappointed.