Wednesday, 8 April 2020

Some Rabbit Detective for you?

Hopper: Detective of the Strange - The Case of the Man-eating Printing Press.

Created, Written and Illustrated by Rob Barnes.

Edited by Tom Stewart.

Published by Fair Spark Books - 24 pages - Full Colour.

Release date TBC.

The Story - A suspicious death occurs in the Daily Sentinel newspaper. One of the staff after struggling with one of the vending machines is crushed to death! But the mystery does not end there. A couple of the employees at The Sentinel claim that they saw the aforementioned vending machine follow the victim down the hallway before crushing him. And why is there a Voodoo Doll in the machine?

Luckily, Hopper is here and ready to investigate.

The Review - I find these books by Rob Barnes both an absolute joy to read and a complete breath of fresh air in this locked in and cynical world we find ourselves. His previous series out of Fair Spark books was the buddy fantasy book Gallant and Amos which I also really enjoyed. But Hopper has the edge for me in quality. This is a sharply crafted comic. It has a Hanna-Barbera meets Kolchak: The Night Stalker vibe with all the right age specific tone and fun. Mix into that a portion of Roger Rabbit and some Dick Tracy and you’ve got a great ride of a mystery story.

This is also a whodunnit and I’m purposely leaving out some of the more important plot twists so as not to ruin it for you!

The Hopper cast is slowly growing and feeling familiar in this second story. We have Gladys the gutsy cab driver who throws herself into danger at a moment’s notice and possibly might have a crush on Hopper. We also have the uniformed Patrol Officer Bull who uses his hard head and horns to crash through front doors. Throw into the mix psychic advisors and voodoo curses too.

‘I think they mighta flipped their wigs.’

Mr Barnes also throws a little nod to the older comics fans amongst us..... but I‘ll let you have a look to discover that particular name/character.

The art is also the next step up for Rob Barnes and has a clean style but never crosses that line into the computer nonsense we get in some other overly glossy cartooning elsewhere. You can also spot the love that the creator has for both this style and the characters he has created. There’s a real bounce of movement in the panels! I highly recommend you have a look for this when it comes out.

A portion of the profits of the sales of this book goes to The Little Heroes Charity helping kids in long term hospital care. You can donate by going to this link 

You can find more out about the creator at his website here or follow him on Twitter @barnz63

Head over to Fair Spark Books at their website here and follow them on Twitter @fairsparkbooks

Many thanks for reading.

Tuesday, 7 April 2020

Honest Review Months Goes Audio (Again)!

Today we are back to the audio format with a great chat between myself and the comics creator Johnny Cannon. After a small amount of confusion that I have to cough to we decided to talk about a short run on a nineties Marvel Comic called Quasar. Why did we choose this book? Because it contains the underrated art of one Mike Manley.

For those unfamiliar with Mike’s art it’s worth noting that he moved over into the field of animation for a decade or more after a good few hundred issues of art in the pencils and inky areas. He’s back drawing comics again and currently working on the Phantom newspaper strip as well as teaching illustration.

We have had a blast reliving a bygone era and the conversation goes all over the place.

You can hear it here and leave comments on this blog or find me on Twitter @Ezohyez.

You can find old JC and his comics here and find him on Twitter @Cannonhillcomics

Many thanks for listening.

Monday, 6 April 2020

In Review - ‘Kanu’s Trek issue 1.’ From King Ball Comics.

Kanu’s Trek issue 1.

Writing and Art by Justin Walker.
Colours by Nikolai Radivojev.
Cover by Teodoro Gonzalez and Justin Walker.

Published by King Ball Comics - 24 pages - Full Colour.
£1.99 on ComiXology
Released 18/9/2019.

The Story - ‘Kanu's Trek is a tale about a man who leaves his home, a crumbling Utopia, in search of a mythic forest out in the vast wastelands. He encounters an entity partly of his own making, and through their conversation, Kanu is able to reflect on his past and make tough decisions about his future.’

The Review -. This was another find on ComiXology and for a change is at a fairly reasonable price. The cover is a strange one as it doesn’t seem to reflect what is inside and also isn’t really of a design that automatically makes you click on it/reach for it. Something that shows the reader more what they are likely to get from the book would be a much better way to go in my opinion. The text also suffers from being a little illegible too. An easy fix for issue 2 I’m guessing.

I have to admit that after taking a random and blind punt on a comic this was an interesting/intriguing surprise. It is a slow character driven narrative that basically revolves about an older man in a desert talking to a pile of rocks. It shows a meditative reverence to the situation that this man named Kanu and the world around him has fallen hard into. In fact many of the panels are focused on the lined and bearded face of Kanu who quietly utters his lines whilst unsure if he is going mad. But he remains an attention grabbing study. He is also at moments both spiritually contemplative and prone to acts of sudden violence.

A warning though is relevant here too. There isn’t much that happens in this launch issue. It also takes a while to figure out what is going on and why .... but that is kind of why I enjoyed it so much. If you are in the right mood this will stretch your investigative process and be pleasing with some fresh panels layouts and a great digitally coloured set palette.

A plague has hit the planet. But what is the source of this plague. Could it be a plague of consumerism? Or war? Or anger? Or greed? This place is called ‘Utolp’ been seems a long way from a Utopia. This harsh reality clashes in this slowly told but never boring exploration of where we might go next as a race. 

The art is strong and colourful with a small nod to Manga and indie underground comix mixed together. It has scope and the world feels fresh and has a mysterious reality to even that talking stone circle.

This was a small little gem in a sea of ComiXology Submit that I will be checking back on.

You can find out more by visiting the King Ball publishers page on ComiXology here

Many thanks for reading.

Sunday, 5 April 2020

In Review - ‘Billionaire Island issue 1’ from Ahoy Comics.

Billionaire Island issue 1.

Written by Mark Russell.
Art by Steve Pugh.
Colours by Chris Chuckry.
Letters by Rob Steen.

Published by Ahoy Comics.
£3.99 (ComiXology) - Full Colour - 32 pages.

The Story - ‘Welcome to Billionaire Island, where anything goes...if you can afford it. But the island's ultra-rich inhabitants are about to learn that their ill-gotten gains come at a very high price.’

The Review - Well this was a great antidote to the current climate of very serious news reporting and social distancing. A comic that is both a funny ride but with a cheeky satirical edge. 

The cover to me is a weak Banksy rip and needs to be less of a faux political statement and more representative of the creepy and murderous humour comic that we see inside. (In fact a reverse image search brings back at least a couple of Banksy results). It does however show a little hint at the slyly performed digs at consumerism and worshipping of ‘The Rich List’ that is going on today. A sentiment that seems somehow to hit home with more impact with what is happening in the current lockdown situation we find ourselves in. One rule for the rich and one for the not so fucking rich. Who knew?

Who could central villain/asshole Rick Canto be based on I ask myself. There’s a little of the Mark Zuckerberg visually and a little more of the Sir Richard Charles Nicholas Branson about the smug island owning/show off/bellend stuff. Canto is a villain for our time that also simultaneously reflects Lex Luther and a touch of the Loki in his never giving a fuck/people are playthings attitude. ‘Freedom Unlimited’ - yeah that stinks of a shallow marketing meeting.

I’ve been a fan of Mark Russell since enjoying Exit Stag Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles. He has an idiosyncratic style that allows for action, pathos and humour all at once. There are a couple of page turn (guided view swipe) moments that genuinely surprised and interested me and I shall be keeping an eye out for the next issue - whenever that may be! (No slight on Ahoy intended here - but with the current situation who of us can be sure?)

The art has something very different about it and echoes something somewhere between Mad Magazine and a Horror comic. It is at once underground and satirical but also clearly a four colour monthly. Steve Pugh really pushes a couple of the more caricature/cartoony elements of his style to great results. There are some excellently performed moments of techie goodness and a lot of visual character traits that are very of the moment.

This is a book that I would recommend. Stop watching the press conferences on the news and download this instead.

It’s worthy of note that whilst the page count is shown as 32 pages the actual story is 22 pages and the rest is a text piece, a poem and a preview of another Ahoy Comic.

You can find more about Ahoy Comics here and follow them on Twitter @AhoyComicMags

Many thanks for reading.

Saturday, 4 April 2020

In Review - ‘Modern Godhood’ - On Kickstarter Now.

Modern Godhood issue 1.

Stories written by Frank Martin and Braiden Cox.

Art by Kieran Squires and Alex Perez

Colours by Matt Van Gorkom, Lorenzo Stello and Rifan.

Cover by Chinedu Campbell.

26 pages - Full Colour.

The Kickstarter is running until the 1st of May and you can find out about it here

The Story - ‘Once stripped of his immortality and banished to earth, the Roman God Jupiter ventured on a quest to reclaim his GODHOOD. Now, with his powers restored, he listens for prayers of mortals in need, helping wherever he can. It's a dangerous MODERN world filled with many supernatural threats. Someone has to protect humanity and Lord Jupiter is more than up to the challenge...’

‘This 32 page one-shot is a crossover of RECLAIMING GODHOOD and MODERN TESTAMENT. It contains three never-before-seen short stories of mythological fantasy and action as Jupiter faces new and dangerous threats:

Lady of the Night -  After visiting a brothel run by a mysterious woman named Lilith, Jupiter is convinced someone is in need of his help. On the surface everything appears normal, but looks can be deceiving. 

Mark of the Beast - Jupiter follows an endless trail of prayers for help to a dimension being ravaged by the legendary Beast of Revelation. It's the end of the world. Jupiter vs. the Beast in a slugfest with the fate of humanity at stake.

Judgement - Armageddon has begun! The Horsemen of the Apocalypse ride on. Only Jupiter stands in their way. But which of the Four Horsemen will rise to face him?’

The Review - This came in on a link to the Awesome Comics Podcast for the Kickstarter that is currently running on this first issue. So far I haven’t seen the aforementioned ‘Reclaiming Godhood’. And this is in fact two and a half stories as ‘Judgement’ is dependant on a vote from the pledgers as to who Jupiter faces in combat. That’s quite a neat twist that’s a fun added extra for this Kickstarter campaign.

The cover is one of the better ones to come out of the small press comics world recently and has a great dramatic moment featuring Jupiter and terrors who are just out of reach. When I first saw it I presumed it had been done by Bart Sears or someone with a similar style. The artist wasn’t so far credited in this preview copy I received so I contacted one of the writers and found out it is by Chinedu Campbell who has a couple of books for sale on ComiXology. I’ll keep an eye out for him in the future.

I appreciate that the third story isn’t finished but you can see that this is a pretty solid small press fantasy comic. The always helmeted Jupiter has the profile and stature of a stoic force of nature. It is simply told and with drama and action. It has an adult eye on the myths and there are a couple of funny moments in the ‘Brothel sequence’ in the first story that keep your interest. Some of the figure drawing could do with some work but it’s forgivable due to the obvious fun the creators are having.

I enjoyed the action in ‘Mark of the Beast’ the most of all and it is kept at a brutal pace with a 360 degree view of what is happening. The titular beast is a nice design that puts Jupiter in danger significantly enough for you to wonder at the outcome. It’s got a nicely rounded denouement after such a blockbuster of a battle.

Of all the three stories it was the third that didn’t rock my boat. It is also the one that remains purposely unfinished. The fault for me lays in that most difficult of artistic tasks ....Horses! Maybe this can be rectified by the time the book hits everyone’s mailboxes and inboxes. I suppose that is a regular problem when facing the mythology of The Four ‘Horsemen”.

A small niggle would be that I’m not that keen visually on the font that they have chosen for when Jupiter is speaking. It suffers from being a little unreadable and breaks up the sequential flow. The rest of the lettering is more than competent - I’d say that just with that little point they need to consider alternatives.

Overall this is a fun book and you can tell that the creators are having a blast with the material. Some of the art and the lettering could do with some changes but I’d happily see this as a series.

Many thanks for reading.

New Podcast - Dissecting the Black Crown Universe with Cliff Cumber.

On Episode 4 of the Never Iron Anything Comics Review Podcast I was joined by artist and all round bounder Cliff Cumber.

We go through the publishing history of Black Crown - this short-lived but burned brightly imprint at IDW. We dissect the highs and the lows of the books that they published and also ponder on why this model didn’t find the success it hoped for in the modern comics market.

Comics like Kid Lobotomy from Pete Milligan and Angry Tess Fowler, Punks Not Dead from Dave Barnett and Martin Simmonds, Marilyn Mansion from Magdalene Visaggio and Marley Zarcone and more get examined under the microscope of hindsight. There’s a lot of love and a little bit of WTF opinions here on the show.

This is also not for the faint of heart as there is a short discussion about the merits of dogging during the Virus Lockdown.

Let me know in the comments what you think. (And yes I know I get the episode number wrong in the first two minutes of the episode!)

Do you have a graphic novel, series or single issue you’d like to discuss during these lockdown days? Leave a comment below.

Many thanks for listening.

Friday, 3 April 2020

In Review - ‘Marilyn Manor isle 1’ from Black Crown/IDW.

Marilyn Manor - issue 1.

Writer - Magdalene Visaggio.

Art - Marley Zarcone.

Cover Colours - Tamra Bonvillain.

Interior Colours - Irma Kniivila.

Letters - Jane Heir.

Edited by Shelly Bond

21 pages - £2.99 - 21 pages 

Here is what ComiXology enthusiastically tells us about this issue;

 ‘Where were you in ’81? When the White House goes dark for 17 days in August, the president’s spoiled daughter and her best friend Abe—who claims to be possessed by the spirit of Abe Lincoln—throw a rager at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, unearthing long dead historical figures and government secrets that are better off buried. Sex, drugs, rock 'n' roll séances, and secret passageways lead to time-bending mystical romps where past and present collide. But at what cost to Marilyn Kelleher, the world at large, and music television? Uniting the red-hot Eisner-nominated talents of writer Magdalene Visaggio (Eternity Girl, Kim and Kim) and artist Marley Zarcone (Shade, the Changing Girl; Effigy) for the first time, MARILYN MANOR explores identity, classism, appropriation, and friendship. It’s a rollicking, neon party gone out of bounds when we need it most—set just in time for the greatest pop cultural marriage to date: MTV.’

A quote from Visaggio at the time of release said; “We've been trying to capture the feel, the excitement, the energy of the rise of the New Romantics, of the decade that embraced excess and excitement in hugely over-the-top ways, and filled it with chaos and insanity. This is the weirdest thing I've ever written in the best way possible, like an apocalypse directed by John Hughes."

The Review - I’ve seen this issue reviewed like it is the second coming on a certain unreliable comics news site that I’m sure we have all heard about. I was lucky as I went in knowing that this was the first issue of a series that was quickly cancelled and many would not know this. To be fair the cancellation wasn’t due to the quality of the book but rather that the imprint was quite suddenly closed. This is however on a number of levels in art and storytelling an unconvincing and apparently rushed issue. I also lived through the era of the New Romantics that Visaggio mentions - she did not and that really shows. Nothing at all rings true and it’s an exercise in creating something I suppose, I’m just not sure what exactly.

The story shows the rebellious daughter of the president and her plans to host a party in the White House. She discovers a secret underground passage and then it all starts. Marilyn dreams of Madonna and Monroe and they discover an underground sex room. And that is pretty much it. 

The dialogue echoes nothing of the era and not a single person comes off as real. It’s like someone watched a Hallmark movie and decided to do their version of the New Romantic movement and a rebellious princess story. The New Romantic element seems to be just just about mentioning that ‘Adam Ant’ and ‘Billy Idol’ are at the party with some clothes copied out of an issue of Smash Hits they had laying around. There’s none of the danger or edge that at least some of the movement in the early days exhibited. 

I actually find the following almost too embarrassing to write about but...... The Sid Vicious analogue character (who barely does anything at all) is even called ‘Harry Sykes’ - god help us! Who wrote this? Twelve year olds?

The art lacks detail and any kind of personality. With books like Eve Stranger, Punks Not Dead and Euthanauts the Black Crown line has had some real artistic high points. This is just under drawn and I suspect rushed out as the creators may have suspected the second issue would not be forthcoming. The colour also suffers from being flat and dull and genuinely uninteresting.

The question should also be asked of IDW that if you knew going into the release of this book that there wouldn’t be any more - why, oh why was it released at all? It’s worth noting at this point that although this comic is listed on the Black Crown page on ComiXology the actual cover shows it as an IDW comic.

No links - don’t bother looking for it.

Many thanks for reading.