Thursday, 23 May 2019

‘L1MA’ by Gustaffo Vargas.




‘L1MA’

Created by Gustaffo Vargas.

A5 size (21cm x 14.8cm / 5.8inch x 8.2inch) full colour, 32 pages. 

£5.00.

Published by tacutinta Press.


The Story - ‘L1MA is a science fiction comic about Pirañas, Vultures, Robots and Mafias set in a dystopian Perú. ‘




The Review - Let’s look at the cover first. It is a gloriously gorey affair that goes to exhibit much of what you’ll find on the insides of this comic. It shows a bird like creature that is somewhere between a crow and a buzzard with creepy cybernetic attachments. You find later that these nightmarish creatures are called ‘Gallinazos’ (aka ‘Black Vultures’). This predator is chewing on a rat with an electronic headset and blood is everywhere. That’s what I want on my covers!

This is all about the aforementioned predators, who come in may forms and guises, and the people they prey upon in a city of bad dreams and violence in every street and on every roof. This bucks the curve for some newer entires in the Cyberpunk genre in that it really takes the people, in this case some thieving street kids, as the heart of the story. They run and chase and escape horrific fates yet still scrabble and steal to survive.



The book opens on one of these crimes and if you can get past the eye-searingly bad spelling mistake shouted out as both shock and exposition this starts quite the rollercoaster of a story. The story takes you all over the future city of Lima with a population of 14.8m that is crammed into decrepit housing and dirty streets. This extreme poverty is counterpointed with the almost disease like cybernetic attachments at every turn. Even the poorest of the poor exhibit minimal enhancements and luminous tattoo like features. These sci-fi and cultural visual notes add texture and plot in this amazingly detailed comic. Street scenes show mood and action simultaneously.




The embattled street urchins find a cybernetically changed squid that may of may not contain ‘Unicorn porn’ and the world then begins to crash even further around their ears. Death is brutal and sudden and remorseless. The bullets burst though walls and through bodies and leave blood red trails. I found this to be a beautifully visual treat to read in every panel.

Vargas takes stylistic chances all over the shop and in my opinion they all pay off. He goes from action in the bright baking sun where you can see the veins in the bloodshot eyes of the ghastly and crazy creatures to moments in pure silhouette. He also never scrimps on crowd scenes or background details. Every page is full to the brim.

My only question is why I have never read this before?!?!?

Highly recommended.




Find a copy at https://gustaffovargas.bigcartel.com/product/l1ma or follow the creator on Twitter @GustaffoVargas or on Instagram @gustaffovargastataje 



Many thanks for reading.

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

In Preview - ‘Frenemies issue 1’ from Monty Nero and Yishan Li.




’Frenemies issue 1’ 

Written by Monty Nero.

Art by Yishan Li.

Letters by Monty Nero and Yishan Li.

Coming to Kickstarter on May 28th 2019.


I got an email from the writer of this new series Monty Nero wondering if I’d like to do a review on the first twelve pages of this book that he will be Kickstarting soon. Here’s what he had to say about the new project in that email.

‘Yishan Li and I have a new sci-fi fantasy comic coming out, updating the best of classic films like Star Wars, 2001, and Raiders with strong LGBTQ and straight characters from around the world. It's stuffed full of original plotting, incredible characters, and vivid dialogue allied to Yishan's brilliant storytelling and character design. A treat for sci-fi fans everywhere.’

This should be amazing.

Let’s see.

The Story - ‘Students at Camford University lives are transformed by a mysterious alien artefact uncovered within the ancient halls. This triggers the hunt for a LEGENDARY PLANET  which once dominated our solar system, the site of incredible knowledge which could save our world - or destroy it.

Only one character can succeed and inherit the alien's knowledge and riches - but their rivalry increases when they're telepathically bound together. Given the wealth of alien and human adversaries trying to kill them, they're forced to cooperate to ensure one of them succeeds. But who will it be?’




The Review - This review is based only on what I have seen so far, the first twelve pages to be exact. In his email Monty  tells me that the whole issue is done and ready to go. This is always something that a Kickstarter pledger of some experience likes to hear. There’ll hopefully be no waiting around if this particular project hits it’s total. Monty is an old hand at the crowdfunding shizzle and has always come through when I have backed his projects historically.

The cover is bright and eye-catching and makes for the sort of design that someone might reach for on impulse in a comic shop or at a convention. It’s got a couple of plain whit sections that are prone to get grubby so get that floppy in a bag asap!

This book, I would hazard a guess, is squarely aimed at the cosplay community. A notorious bunch/community/tribe who can be difficult to get to buy a comic series at the best of times in my experience. The art by Yishan Li has a bright and an almost photo realistic quality to it’s lines but retains a modern mangaesque sensibility. It is well structured in the most part but suffers from the odd lack of coherent sequential flow (the splash page I’ve included here is a prime example). 



I’m really not completely sure about the story. It seems like a cosplay version of the comics series ‘Rising Stars’ by J M Straczynski from a decade or so ago. What this doesn’t have in common with that older series is that Frenemies seems rammed full of rather anodyne individuals with all the motivations of an Archie comic. I know that the copy I have is meant to be an introduction to the longer story but was it necessary to tirelessly go to each member of the cast and get them to say something to the camera. At least a couple of these came off as unconvincing stereotypes that border on insulting. (See below).




In his email to me Monty describes Yishan Li’s character designs as ‘brilliant’. I’m going to have to disagree with that bold assertion. They just seem like a series of skinny cosplayers who don’t look like they have the ability to throw a punch if they wanted to and have washed out dead-eyed personalities. Not sure if they’d be a threat to my Nan to be honest. The statement he makes that they are ‘updating the best of classic films like Star Wars, 2001, and Raiders’ is just plain laughable. (I’m hoping that he was being satirical and is fully aware of the severe lacking in art and storytelling present here? But I doubt it.)

Of course this is just my view, yours may vary. But seriously, who says ‘Holy Moley’ outside of Silver Age Superman Family issues?

There’s also a moment early on where there is a group shot and the narration ‘Why are we bound together’. Ok, as a reader we understand that concept but to hammer it home there are small bolts of white light literally joining all the characters together. The script is full of these really, really obvious and on the nose moments. I think that this book could seriously have done with the extra eye of a decent editor or at least a rethink.

They could also do with a serious rethink on the cover font - at first glance it reads as ‘NERD’ not ‘NERO’.

Not recommended.

(I wrote this review yesterday and whilst I stand by what I’ve said I do wonder if I am falling for some elaborate wind-up? I’ll say no more and wait to see how this plays out).


Here’s the link for the upcoming Kickstarter https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1435105183/690530403?ref=596523&token=c8814620


Many thanks for reading.

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

‘The Experts’ by Sophie Franz.




‘The Experts’

Created by Sophie Franz.

Published by Retrofit Comics.

Full Colour - 28 pages £1.99 (digital copy) $5.00 (physical copy).


The Story - ‘The Experts is a foreboding story of 3 "experts" on an isolated station, investigating the strange water creatures that live in the area, even as the investigators lose touch with their superiors and even what exactly they are doing at the base.’

‘Before the fog rolled in.’

The Review - This is some crazy fucked up shit! What kind of cheese had Sophie Franz been eating before bedtime to produce this unnerving and disturbing story.

Some of the moments in this short comic are straight out of an anxiety dream that I could now have CAUSED BY YOU RETROFIT COMICS!

Some examples;

Pens that don’t seem to have any ink and leave no mark on paper.

Fingers being bitten off by strange mutant fish.

Amphibious grinning humanoids who watch you from the ocean.

Trusting dogs to get in a rowing boat and go do the weekly shopping.

My head has turned into a fish!

Why, oh why!




What kind of makes it all too real is the clean line and straightforward art style that Sophie employs on this book. Nothing takes place at night or in the shadows. All that weird stuff is full and in your face.

This book also speaks to how loneliness can cause you to lose your mind. This so-called scientific team are unable now to know what is reality as they float helplessly in the middle of the sea surrounded by strangeness and with mostly Baby Food to eat.

‘I’ve either lost something or I’m lost.’

This was a sinister and possibly prophetic read. I really enjoyed that stories like this take chances and for the most part pull off that mood and tone. I think what had put me off reading this initially, a fact I now regret and wish I’d jumped in earlier, was the slightly under-rendered cover. It seems neither iconic and mondo nor detailed and scary. A small matter nonetheless.

Highly recommended.




I’ve had this for a while to review and keep meaning to get round to looking at it. I may have made the mistake of reading it whilst on a bout of jet lag induced insomnia sitting in a hotel lounge at 2am.

I am also currently very eerily near the sea. I’ll be back in a minute...........


Whilst you are waiting for me to return to my towel and clothes why not pop over to https://retrofit.storenvy.com/collections/936408-retrofit-comics-print/?page=2 and buy yourself a copy.

It’s also available on ComiXology here https://www.comixology.co.uk/The-Experts/digital-comic/381925?ref=c2VyaWVzL3ZpZXcvdGFibGV0L2dyaWRMaXN0L09uZVNob3Rz

You can follow this company on Twitter @Retrofitcomics 

You can also find the creator Sophie Franz on Twitter failing to tweet @sophie_franz (I’m a little concerned she’s taken a boat trip.)


Many thanks for reading.

Monday, 20 May 2019

‘The Solitary Divide’ by Lisa Nguyen.




‘The Solitary Divide: Prologue 1’

Art and Story by Lisa Nguyen.

Full Colour - 29 pages.

(Originally presented as a webcomic at  http://solitarydivide.com ).

The Story - ‘Alex woke up from one nightmare only to be involuntarily thrown into another. The dead are now roaming the Earth, and she has lost everything and everyone close to her. While others insist that there is strength in numbers, she believes differently. Alex must now learn how to live in the new world and how to utilize survival skills and prepping techniques while coming to terms with her former self.’

The Review - I came across this on the Comichaus tablet application. It’s a recent addition to the Small Press Comics library that sponsors the podcast I’m on with Vince Hunt and Dan Butcher. As part of the community that is building up around this comics delivery system the Comichaus app encourage reviews. So here we go.

This is a comic that has it’s origins in an ongoing webcomic. The webcomic has been running since last year and is now into the second ‘Prologue’.

From a design point of view I would say that the multiple uses of the cover image on the following two interior pages was a stylistic and design mistake. It makes for quite a boring series of pages where other newer pieces of art could easily have been used. It also feels like there is an element of padding going on?




I don’t think anyone would disagree with me when I say that ‘The Solitary Divide’ is a very short read. I have to be honest that I didn’t find the characters engaging (yet) and found that they lacked depth to the point where even in the most extreme circumstances I found them boring to read about. An example would be the explanation given for Alex and the Officer Murphy character joining forces later in the book seemed totally unconvincing and rather sudden. 




As I carried on through the 29 pages of comic I began to wonder when the personalities where going to start emerging. Don’t get me wrong there are quite a few big events in this comic including the deaths of parents and children but they are dealt with quickly and without resonance.  There is an attempt at this on one page which does show Alex sitting on a hill on a splash page that seemed there (again) just to pad the issue out and is one of the least rendered pages I have seen in a long time. But everyone has so little to say and is drawn in exactly the same way from page to page I have zero interest in who they are and what subsequently happens to them.




On to the art. There are far too few panels to flesh the action out and those that are there seem unconnected and create sudden changes in mood, direction and narrative intention. There are also many of these pages that have zero background. Sure that may be a stylistic choice but a background can add significantly to the story by adding a sense of place and mood. Many of the faces seem to be the same face with a couple of tweaks. Officer Murphy would look exactly like our heroine Alex if you gave him a wig and lipstick. Some effort preparing character design sheets might assist in this. (They are so similar that I wondered if I was missing a story beat where we find they are clones or siblings).

The dialogue really doesn’t flow at all and is stiff and often just merely explanatory. I think the creator could do with fleshing out each element of the story much, much more and add to conversation, setting, visuals and designs. There is really not enough here at all. It has a feeling of what it is I suppose, an amateur webcomic transferred into a comic book style format.

This webcomic has been running since September 2018 and I can see that in the more recent pages there has been an improvement. I’m not a fan of the re-do but maybe this should be the exception. Go back and add what you’ve worked out to the earlier pages.

Not recommended.

You can find more about this webcomic at http://solitarydivide.com/comic/prologue02/prologue-chapter-02-page-14/ and follow the creator on Twitter @siroria


Many thanks for reading.

Sunday, 19 May 2019

‘One Fall’ from Solid Comix.




‘One Fall’

Written by David F Walker.

Art by Brett Weldele.

Back up feature writer - Ted Pirro.

Creative Consultants - Ted Pirro and Donald Cleveland.

Published by Solid Comix.

35 Pages - Full Colour.

The Story - ‘Professional wrestling is real. So are werewolves, vampires, and really greedy promoters that will stop at nothing to make a dollar.  

Jimmy “Resurrecter” King, is a third generation wrestler dealing with the curse of his family – every time he is killed in the ring, he comes back to life. As if that wasn’t bad enough, now the Resurrecter must fight not only for his life, but also for his family, as he is forced to compete in the deadly Continental Gauntlet.’




The Review - Solid Comix was set up by David Walker as a small comics publisher that will allow him to create and release projects close to his heart and you can see that enthusiasm here on the page in One Fall. As a story it starts out as what you might expect or believe is a straightforward tale of wrestling and corrupt businessmen and promoters and then just takes off in about three other directions that I did not expect at all.

‘Eventually Rex’s bloodlust will get the better of him...’

This is the first issue in a proposed five issue mini series that recently (easily) met its funding amount on Kickstarter. The project almost doubled it’s money and I backed it based on my previous enjoyment on work by Walker on books like Power man and Iron Fist, Luke Cage and Cyborg. As with previous projects Walker projects a cool vibe into his scripts and then twists your preconceptions by adding serious jeopardy to the participants. This book is no exception and pulls the rug away from you time and time again.


Although this is still only the first issue there are some great characters on show. Not least of all Jimmy King, the central protagonist, who has that world weary attitude that you get in some of the better boxing and wrestling movies of years gone by. He shows that there is not only a depth to his complicated (mystical?) back story but also it builds a social drama with his family and their attitudes to his involvement in the sport. Also, who can ignore the fact that there is a a werewolf called Lycannus Rex who he has to wrestle!

The art is solid and suits the set-up well. I’d previously seen Brett Weldele’s art on his series from a decade or so ago called The Surrogates (yes, that Bruce Willis movie) and feel that he’s really growing especially in the areas of movement/combat and the melodramas of the fight scenes. I’m usually not a fan of the use of flare effects in comics but here they fit perfectly. There are a couple of moments that I thought were a little bit under rendered in the opening pages but it soon gets going.




There’s also some fun back matter with some faked genre specific adverts and a piece about a historical fight between Hillbilly Humphrey and Jonathon King that’s written by Ted Pirro.

It’ll be interesting to see where this goes and I’ll be looking out for the release of issue 2. I’m also keen to find out if all the issues will be Kickstarted as that’s a model that some people are moving to and using the crowd-funding platform as a way to promote and preorder a series. It’ll be interesting to see how that goes with the more common mainstream drop-off after an issue one problem from a sales perspective on the crowd funding platform. I’m guessing that this one will gain momentum and followers as it runs.

Now I’m of to Drop Kick myself in the face for not pledging at a level that would get me the Jim Mahfood print as well as the comic!



(Poster by Jim Mahfood!)

Watch this space. 

You can find out more about David F Walker’s projects by following him on Twitter @DavidWalker1201 or heading to his website at https://davidfwalker.com/solid-comix/

You can find some more art from Brett Weldele at https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/brettweldele or follow him on Twitter @BrettWeldele


Many thanks for reading.

Saturday, 18 May 2019

‘The Bugle Boy’ by Alexandre Clérisse.




‘The Bugle Boy’.

Created by Alexandre Clérisse.

Published by Europe Comics digitally - 72 pages - £3.99.

The Story - ‘Eighty-five-year-old Marcel lives alone with his memories of World War II — his short-lived days as a soldier before his capture and imprisonment by the Germans. He's got one thing left to do before he dies: find the bugle he buried by the Maginot Line. When his granddaughter Andrea stops by with her burgeoning rural taxi business, he hops a ride to the site of his regiment's defeat... only to find things have changed. This is Alexandre Clérisse's fierce, tender, and timely rumination on the horrors of war and the lies we tell ourselves.’



The Review - Taking this review in reverse for a second I think that it’s worthy of mentioning up front that this is inspired by ‘Marcel, whose bugle is still waiting for him somewhere out there’. This is noted on the acknowledgements page at the end of this digital volume. I’m not afraid to admit that these words formed a lump in my throat! 

The story itself skips backwards and forwards from the present day to the events in the Second World War leading up to Marcel ‘losing’ his bugle. They transition well and you can follow both the story and themes on show in each section.


This is a book full of heart and personality. Marcel is absolutely the best comics character you will follow around the page this year. He is a man with only his nostalgia and memories of his past, a grumpy, sometimes angry, single-minded, impatient man who doesn’t take well to the superfluous or stupid.  His eccentricities border on the bitter but he retains a sense of purpose, in that he is on a quest to find his bugle, and a little twinkle in his eye that there’s still life in the old dog yet.

And set out on a quest Marcel most certainly does in the tradition of all good classic literature. The bugle is his Golden Hind or his Arthur’s sword. He jumps aboard Andrea’s taxi service unprepared practically but still with a will that pushes him into quite the eventful adventure - just wait until you read the last twenty pages!



This predisposition to just get on with things, even at the age of eighty-five, also leads into the other main theme in this book which is the clash of cultures. Marcel’s granddaughter Andrea is what would probably be called a ‘millennial’ these days but what Marcel might call a ‘hippy’. They disagree and argue but still love each other. He tells her about responsibilities and honour and she tells him that if there was a National Service requirement she would skip the country. It doesn’t stop there, Marcel meets a local Mayor who decides to parade this old soldier in front of a crowd in order to gain currency for an upcoming election. Marcel is too old and wise and bull-headed to fall for any of that nonsense and takes things hilariously into his own more straightforward hands. (I’m trying not to spoil that moment as you really need to experience it for yourself).

This is the world that our hero has grown old into. A world of selfishness instead of selflessness. A world of people who wouldn’t dream of fighting for others and are more interested in their own popularity and virtue signalling lives. But is it all as it seems? What really happens in the heat of a battle? I’ll leave it to you to find out. But what I will say is that war is seldom predictable.




Head over to Europe Comics here for more information http://www.europecomics.com/album/1-give-us-smile-maggy/  or follow them on Twitter @EuropeComics

This book was published in French originally by Dargaud.


Here’s a little more about the creator from the Europe Comics website.

Alexandre Clérisse was born in 1980, he first got started in comics back in 1999, fresh out of high school, by experimenting with a number of zines and self-publishing projects. After obtaining a diploma in the visual arts in 2002, he began to gain experience in the field with various illustration projects, including posters, layouts, and other artwork for festivals, cultural associations, and private companies. In 2003, he returned to comics in a big way when he began studying the craft in Angoulême. There things took off, and it wasn't long before he was collaborating on serious graphic novel projects. His first solo project came in 2007, with the engrossing Jazz Club (Dargaud, Europe Comics in English), where his characteristic style already jumps off the page. He followed this up soon thereafter with Trompe la mort, again with Dargaud (The Bugle Boy, Europe Comics). Recently, Clérisse has teamed up with scriptwriter Thierry Smolderen to produce two other spectacular and award-winning graphic novels with Dargaud, the otherworldly  Atomic Empire (IDW for the English edition, 2018) and the psychadelic Diabolical Summer (IDW, June 2019). He also has an all ages seek and find book on cinema, Now Playing (Chronicle Books, 2018).


Many thanks for reading.

Friday, 17 May 2019

‘CHLOROPHIL’ by Charles H. Raymond,




‘CHLOROPHIL’

Created by Charles H Raymond.

Full Colour - 20 pages - landscape format.


The Story - An old man leaves him home and walks into town. He’s headed for the grave of his wife and on his way he encounters small town life. This man heads off to buy some flowers and interacts with dogs and their walkers, a bus stop full of people waiting, a surprised kid and more.

There is also something else at play here that I can’t/won’t spoil. There’s more to this man than meets the eye.




The Review - This is a short book and in that Charles kept the story quiet, it is wordless, and crisply simple. I’d seen this creator’s work before but when he added colour to the mix he has really started to pop visually in my humble opinion. It is at first glance a simple walk through town by a cheerful old fella. What you get beyond that and when you inspect the panels and the pages with much more attention to detail is a story with something much more.

This is a book with a strange and original twist that adds to it’s great charm. It is simultaneously fun, insightful and heart-warming. I liked this book straightaway and have mentioned it a number of times on the Awesome Comics Podcast in glowing terms about the content and how much the artist is growing in ability and style..

In a month of being critical where needed in reviews I can’t find a whole heap to pick holes in. This is of course a short read and it is designed as such. There are no words and Charles allows the story to flow through movement, facial acting and background detail. I will say that there’s one moment where ‘Phil’ has something in his hand that felt a touch obvious and seemed like an over obvious nod to those readers who hadn’t been paying attention. Had it been me I would have left that out and allowed people to work out the subtle puzzle themselves. But I have to say that for such a short book it’s one that I’ve reread a number of times and it always makes me smile.

The art has a unique and distinctive cartoony style and uses the aforementioned colour in broad and bright blocks that suit the story. Any possible further noodling, shading or rendering is cut back to exactly what is needed. This style really suits the endearingly funny story vibe.

Watch out for ‘Dan’s Butcher’s’ and ‘J.T’s News’.

It was also this comic that pushed me into approaching Charles to collaborate on a project. He came through on that one as he did on this and you can see this artist/writer improving at every single panel created. Definitely one to watch in the future on the Small Press scene.




Find out more about Mr Raymond at http://www.notsotiny.co.uk/ You can also follow him on Twitter @not_so_tiny


Many thanks for reading.