Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Review: The Asylum of Horrors # 1

The summer is slipping by, and between my career and my family I have had precious little time to sit down and review lots of good material that I've come across the last couple months. Of course, mowing the lawn, tending the pepper plants, and wiping out vast amounts of beer while hovering over the grill has something to do with it as well. Don't let the secret out, but horror comics fans are real people with real lives, aren't we? Anyway, I'm going to try to play catch up over the next couple weeks.

From Frank Forte at Asylum Press comes the first issue of "The Asylum of Horrors," which is a MUST have! This thing is a huge anthology, with over 18 stories and vignettes from creators ranging from Tim Vigil to Billy George to Kevin Golden. Even better, it is almost entirely in color and printed on top quality slick paper. A bargain at $4.95!!! Think of the old Steve Bissette "Taboo" books if they were published by "Heavy Metal" and you'll get an inkling of what Forte has put together here. Like I said, this is simply a MUST for horror heads, and trying to elaborate beyond that would be futile. Just go get it!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Review: Evil Inside/Amour # 3

Consider this another "retro review" for Bart Thompson at Approbation Comics. As a fan of this horror genre, I don't think I can do enough for the indy publisher, but I try to give as much deserved exposure as I can!

Anyway, this was the first of the horror/romance crossover issues that Approbation did, and in my opinion the better of the two. The first story is "Mirror/Mirror," written of course by Thompson and illustrated by Ezequiel Pineda. About a guy who sees the image of a girl in a mirror throughout his life, this is possibly the best story I have ever read from Bart. The college roomate/antagonist Eddie is something of an unbelievable character, simply a vehicle used to trigger (no pun intended) a plot device, but other than that this story really stirred some interesting emotion in me and I have reflected on it (again, no intended pun) several times since reading it initially. THAT is the mark of good storytelling.

The second tale is "Love Sprouts," about your average guy who falls for the pretty new neighbor across the hall. Art is by Ezequiel Pineda again (he does all the art this issue), who is one of the stronger artists Thompson has worked with, IMO. These characters are somewhat endearing in the short time you get to know them, and you find yourself pulling for their relationship to work. The only "downfall" of the story is the hazy ending, which Bart does an admirable job of trying to explain with several narrative boxes. Still, it is something of a headscratcher, but the story holds up regardless.

Last story is "Happy Family," and it was the least enjoyable of the three yarns. Hard to explain what this one is about as the plot is a tad convuluted, but essentially there is a couple in which the man is trying to attempt to cope with the death of his previous love. That said, what follows is a series of unrealistic events (yes, I understand we are dealing with a sometimes "supernatural" theme) that I suppose are set up for no other reason than to reveal the final panel. Something of a let down. Oh well, they can't all be classics.

Anyway, overall this is one of the best Evil Inside issues of the entire series, and I'd encourage you to seek them out!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Review: Leprechaun # 1

Bluewater has picked up the comic rights to this pint sized film "icon," one that honestly I'm not much of a fan of particularly. Not that I dislike Leprechaun, I've just never been interested enough to watch the movies. I'm a fan of what the Bluewater team has done with Warlock though, so I'm hoping for a similar experience.

I've got "Cover B", but I don't know who did it because "Cover B" is credited three different ways inside. Hello, editors!

Anyway, writing credits go to Zach Hunchar, and he does a decent job in laying out an interesting plot. Basically, the Leprechaun (a king of his people) has his gold stolen by his enemies the Clurichaun who in turn give them to a coin dealer. The dealer has sold the coins across the world, and now the Leprechaun must attempt to gather them back up at apparently any cost. He somehow lands in the middle of the life of one Ethan Thomas, which is sad since Ethan is a stereotypical geek with the most annoying of dialogue. By the end of the book still, even after witnessing the Leprechaun materialize in his apartment from nowhere etc, etc, Ethan continues spouting drivel like "Seriously, who are you?" and "This makes less since than blah blah blah." He's an unbelievable cookie cutter "nerd," so it's a shame because the rest of the story flows very well.

On the art side we have Kris Carter on pencils, Thomas Torre on colors. Carter does an apt job, but I really enjoyed his "flashback" panels to the war between the Clurichaun and Leprechaun peoples. Carter makes an exceptional fantasy artist. Torre goes above and beyond with the colors, using his palate to full effect to set mood.

At the end of the day this isn't a title I'd be chomping at the bit for just yet when held up to other current "horror" offerings, but with a little dialogue tuning I think it would be a contender.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Review: Tomb of Bloke

From Virus Comix comes Tomb of Bloke, which originally appeared as an online comic on Myspace. The print version has been reworked and expanded for your reading pleasure.

This book is an indy labor of love by artist Ju Gomez and writer Jason "Bloke" Crawley. ToB features a color cover and B&W interior, and the book is priced affordably at a measly $2.99 a shot. How can you pass that up?!

As for content, ToB is your basic "zombies take over the world" concept. The twist presented to us in this book, is that we see much of the action from the perspective of "Bloke," a recently reanimated zombie who retains some human thought process and emotions. I found the idea to be refreshing. As for nuts and bolts writing, Crawley does a good job at keeping the flow of the story going, and I for one GREATLY appreciate his use of narrative text panels to help tell the story. I think with further practice and polish, he has potential to be a very good horror comic author.

Concerning the art, Ju Gomez is quite good. His work is much better than many, many indy illustrators out there. I don't think you can find any faults with his approach. Really, the only downside on the visuals was that Ju uses lots of heavy darkness in his linework (not a problem - I like "heavy/dark") and somewhere along the production line it tended to translate poorly in a couple panels, blurring detail or making it hard to follow certain actions. Looks more like a process problem, and overall does not take much away from this book.

I say, if you want to support good, horror-loving indy creators like these guys, then you had better not let this one slip passed...

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Review: Vincent Price Presents # 5

Another top notch book from Bluewater Comics. I'm not sure which style of anthology title I prefer more: the traditional 3 or so short stories style packed into a single issue, or the single story per issue version that Bluewater is using for VP. Guess it doesn't matter, I like both styles at the end of the day.

This issue is a story called "Here to There," with writing credits to Scott Davis. I don't know what other writing credentials Mr. Davis has, but this is certainly a fantastic story, much more intellectual and thought provoking than most "horror" fare. One gets the feel that this was first a text short story that had possibly shopped around the world od literati before finding a home in comics. It's a character study of a "once-was" author who is living a life of self exile as a cabbie, and the strange events that unfold in his life during his daily grind. I won't give anything away other than to say you actually feel like you are READING a book rather than breezing through a comic. It's brain food and it's satisfying. I hope Scott Davis writes more for VPP.

Cover and intro/outro art is by Joel Robinson and his cool computer aided style. Interior art is all Rey Armenteros and each panel looks like a dreamlike painting. The only problem I had was that the hazy quality really makes it hard to follow the action in a few panels, and then a couple recurring characters are not really illustrated the same in a couple places, which makes you ask yourself "who is this?" for a moment until you figure out it's a guy from the previous panel.

Overall, the issue is a must read for horror comics fans. GO GET IT!!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Review: Amour/The Evil Inside Antholgy # 6

So, I believe this is actually The Evil Inside # 6 (with an illustrated cover, no less!) with an Amour tie-in. Amour being a romance anthology from Approbation, not a character ( I think! ). Therefore, I guess these stories are supposed to have a "romance" theme to them.

First up is "Submerged" and (as always witht his series) is written by publisher Bart Thompson. This has a nice twist end to it, and I guess because it appears to take place on a singles cruise (although that is never stated) and there is a "connection" between our leading female and male characters, I suppose there is a romance vibe going. Main downfall here is the art by Paco Zarco. Not that he is "bad," because he certainly isn't, but the action on pages 2 and 4 is so muddied that it is hard to say what exactly is going on. Maybe Bart could have helped him by adding a couple narrative boxes here and there.

Next is "Promiscuous" with art by Kevin Richardson. Witty dialogue and unique plot are the highlights here. Art is crisp and clear with no flow problems. Much better story overall than the opener.

Lastly is "Barhopper" with art by Ezquiel Pineda. Creepy little tale with probably the best art of the book. Pineda's "wife" is eeriely crafted. Good gross-out ending, and like I said, just plain creepy.

All in all, another good effort from Bart Thompson and Approbation. I wish he'd keep publishing the Evil Inside books, but I think he's done with them after this one. So, check it while you can!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Review: Warlock # 1

Looks like Bluewater Comics has acquired the comic rights to Warlock from Lionsgate Films and are launching an ongoing series here. Sweet!

I have the Cover "B" version, which is a nice portrayal by Matt Bellisle. Interior art is penciled by Jacob Bear, who works in a realistic type fashion. He gets the point across well, and the reader is never left trying to decipher what is happening. He teams well with writer Nick Lyons, as the panel layouts and angles are imaginative and pull the reader in.

Lyons' script is fast paced and aptly done. In one issue we are introduced to quite a few characters without overload, and are given the basic premise of the series in a fashion that leaves the reader wanting to pour into the next issue by the last page. The gist of the series appears to be that there is a spellbook guarded closely by a small group of people, in which a spell is contained that imprisoned a group of six warlocks who had laid waste to all in the past. Somehow, there is a Warlock on the loose who seeks to destroy the book, which would free his fellow warlocks. Good stuff, and I don't see fans of the movies being dissapointed at all. Go buy it!!!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Review: The Evil Inside # 2

Consider this a "retro" review, as I think this one hit the stands in 2007. Writer/CEO of Approbation Comics Bart Thompson contacted me & wondered if I wouldn't mind giving a belated opinion on this, and of course I'm certainly happy to oblige as I'm partial to indy guys trying to get exposure for their labors of love.

I've reviewed a couple other books from the series, and this one doesn't differ much from the others in format: anthology in b&w. Yippee! I love anthologies. First up is "Identity" with art by Chris Kohler (all stories written by Thompson). Kohler has a nice look to his work, reminds of 1980's Rand Holmes for some reason. Lots of nice detailed linework. The story is decent and flows nicely, but I had the "twist" figured out immediately. I've read a ton of "twist" horror yarns, so I'm pretty good at that if I have to say so myself.

Next is "A Slight Period of Adjustment," which looks like it may have been originally titled "The Apocalypse Jumpstart" from Bart's "Blab Page" at the end of the book. Regardless, art is by Michele Buscalferri and done in a sort of "clean lines" almost cartoonish style. This story does have an original twist which I never picked up on. Nice one, Bart!

Rounding out the issue is "Was He Asking For It?" with art by Alex Massacci. The linework is a good realistic style which lends itself nicely to action sequences. The tale is a neat little "just desserts" moral play, a style that has been tried and true in horror comics since the pre-code era. Good stuff.

I'd ask all you horror heads to check out The Evil Inside series and support indy talent such as this.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

REVIEW: E.A. Poe's The Pit & the Pendulum

Another Bluewater endeavor, with top notch production values as always (I'm going to stop mentioning this in my reviews, I think. The point should be well driven home by now if you have read a couple of my reviews of their material).

Technically, to get this comic you have to purchase Wrath of the Titans: Cyclops to get the EA Poe story, which is a "Bonus Book" of an extra 22 pages of story/art on the back/flipside of the Titans issue.

Anyway, the art is taken from a (I believe, could be wrong) stop-motion animation DVD done by Marc Lougee & Susan Ma in association with Ray Harryhausen Productions. It is really cool stuff, ironically much superior to some of the comic linework being printed these days. As for the story, well you can't go wrong with Poe, can you? My only complaints are that the first page of the story is presented twice in differing layouts, which interrupted the initial flow a little bit. Also, there are some typos here & there which really should have been caught by somebody. Other than that, another solid effort from Bluewater, and something of a "must see" for fans of Poe. Nice job!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Review: Wulf & Batsy # 4

Well, well. Bryan Baugh has struck again. The saga of Wulf & Batsy continues with this issue from Crypt Logic Comics, which contains the second chapter of the "Bizarre Experiments" storyline. Nice cover illo. by Josh Howard, who has something of a decent cult following, but dare I say Baugh's own piece on the back cover is superior?

The illuminated horror fan should appreciate Baugh's razor sharp humor contained in both the dialogue and art. Always a hidden laugh somewhere in here, for those in the know. These characters and Baugh's style have become favorites of mine in a short matter of time, as the material never takes itself too seriously and always provides what a good comic should no matter the genre: entertainment.

Now, if my order from Captain Bloodclot would finally get here...

Monday, May 18, 2009

Review: Plan 9 From Outer Space Strikes Again!

What a trip! I'm a fan of Ed Wood and his films, so I was a pleasantly surprised to see this title. If you are also a fan of the Plan 9 movie, you'll probably find this issue a treat. Don't expect a dead-on (no pun intended, really.) rehash of the film. As the title clearly states, it is essentially a Bluewater Comics "sequel," for lack of a better term.

Being a Bluewater publication, you are getting top notch production values. Full color, slick paper, et. all. I've said this all before in other reviews, but I may as well restate it for the uninitiated.

Giovanni Timpano does very well on the interior art. I appreciate his craft more each time I see it. He's much better than some of the stuff being put in print these days. I suppose he did the cover also, but I didn't see any cover credits anywhere. Alex Sollazzo is the colorist, and he brings out the proper mood for this story with his work.

Darren Davis & Chad Helder are credited as writers. They basically run with the concept of "what if it happened again" and have fun with it. This time though, it would appear a murky branch of the government is trying to lure the aliens of Eros back to Earth in order to capture technology. Mayhem ensues. We are treated to cameos of all the old familiar Plan 9 characters in one form or another amidst the fast paced chaos. Yes, there's much going on, and you may find the plot slightly askew, in the best of Ed Wood tradition. Personally, I found page four to be worthy of a chuckle and grin, and if you buy this book I'm sure you will, too.

The book ends on such an unusual Woodish-note, that I have no idea if this is intended as a series or a one shot. Either way, it was a fast and fun read.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Review: DUSK Vol. One

Dusk is the brainchild of writer David Doub and promises a different take on the world of vampires. Volume One is a four chapter black & white graphic novel, although I couldn't find a page count and I'm far too lazy to attempt one, hehe. Anyway, production value is pretty standard with the highlight being nice cover stock featuring a superbly moody work by Brett Middleton.

The interior art varies from chapter to chapter. Credits go to Maki Naro, Jerry Gonzales, and Franc Czuba. Obviously each has their own style, but all seem influenced to various degrees by manga and underground comix. Workmanlike efforts, unfortunately there were a couple scattered panels that were hard to follow.

The heart and soul of this work is the writing of Doub. Both plot and dialogue are above par, and one becomes immediately intrigued by his creations. The chapters mostly revolve around the female character of Eve, who is something of a mortal "enforcer" for the vampire Ash. They are somehow involved in what could be construed as a vampire "justice" group, although the specifics are never made clear in this volume. To loosely paraphrase Henry Hill, they seem to be "a police department for vampires." Strangely enough, I was reading the chapter in whence a vampire is "arrested" for collaborating with the National Socialists, just as Cleveland resident John Demyanyuk (sp?) was being extradited from the US to Germany for accussations of war crimes. Weird.
A plea to ALL aspiring comic writers: use NARRATIVE PANELS! They go a long way in giving the lowdown to the reader. Also, if you are working with underdeveloped artistic talent, I would shy away from panel after panel of action w/out text.
Oh, here is a much deserved bit of praise to whoever (the letterer?) laid out the dialogue balloons in this book. Great job! I see WAY too often in indy comics word balloons with horrible placement, in which you end up reading out of sequence. Not the case here. Kudos!

Regardless, it certainly is a different look at the world of vampirism, and with the interesting characters laid out within, this reader can hardly wait to get the scoop on unanswered questions (and there are MANY items not adequately addressed) when Volume Two comes around.


Friday, May 15, 2009

On with the show...

Hey, Creeps!! Been a little while since my last entry. I intentionally did not post in the remainder of February as a "homage" to the late Lux Interior. March and April? Well, I got sidetracked with home renovations, etc.

So, I want to thank anyone who submitted material for review and have been waiting patiently to see your work detailed here. Reviews are again on the way! See you all soon...

Thursday, February 5, 2009

RIP: Lux Interior

"Life is short, and its filled with stuff,
So let me know baby, when you had enough." - Lux Interior

Some of you know that I deal with death every night as a part of my job, so when a "celeb" dies I'm not normally very phased. That wasn't the case when I heard last night of the February 4th passing of Cramps frontman Lux Interior. I was shocked. I even teared up. The Cramps were a formative part of my teenage years during the 1980's, so it felt like a little piece of my past had suddenly been ripped from me.

If you were any sort of "punk" rocker worth your salt in the 80's, you listened to the Cramps & you listened hard. You probably slapped down a 12" vinyl slab of "Gravest Hits" on your turntable after school so you could slither around to "Human Fly" in the seclusion of your bedroom. Maybe you strutted down the halls of your high school draped in your faded yellow "Bad Music for Bad People" shirt. Who knows exactly what you did back then, but if you were a punk, the Cramps had some role somewhere in there.

Those days are gone, and sadly so is Lux. The memories will linger, kinda like the ringing in your ears after listening to some Cramps tunes.

"There's nothin' on the radio when you're dead
There's nothin' at the movie show when you're dead
There's nowhere left for you to go when you're dead..."

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Vincent Price Presents # 2

Anyone who has read this blog should be aware of my praise for the quality of Blue Water Comics production values, so let's get right to the point and give this issue a look, shall we?

Chad Helder continues to be the writer for this book, and this issue features "Orok the Neanderthal." The dialogue in the framing sequences feels a bit flowery, but somehow I can hear VP actually uttering the words in my mind. As for the interior story, there is minimal dialogue and several panels without any text whatsoever. This wouldn't be a problem, except there are times when the flow gets a little murky, leaving the reader to work out what exactly is happening. A few strategically placed narrative boxes would have been appropriate. The end of the tale has a "twist" ending that actually worked pretty well until a couple lines of dialogue make the reader second guess what has just transpired. Sadly, I'm still trying to figure out exactly what happened, and that is too bad because overall the plot was pretty good.

As for the art, you'll find it professional as always. Joel Robinson continues to use a cool technique on the covers and framing sequences which captures the look of VP perfectly. Giovanni Timpano handles the story, and it looks good. No complaints whatsoever in this area. Special mention should go to Jesse Heagy, who does an amazing job on color duties.

Overall: good book. I'm a fan of this title and it is a must for horror anthology buffs and Vincent Price fans alike.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

In Flesh and Spirit

I've never heard of the Goth-Metal band called Vasaria or its frontman, Baron Misuraca. In fact, I haven't really listened to any "horror rock" since I hung my Misfits fanboy hat up many, many years ago. That said, I can enjoy this comic strictly from the point of view of a horror comic addict, sans outside influences.

The aforementioned Baron Misuraca is responsible for the concept and writing of In Flesh & Spirit, a tale of a 14th century musician -turned- vampire, who finds himself on a quest for redemption in modern New York. I honestly was expecting a cliche filled comic, but I was quite taken by both the Barons prose and plot. Elegant writing! Should Misuraca desire to quit music, I'm certain he'd have no problem getting a new gig as a full-time comic writer.

The cover art is by Alex Horley, and is a beautiful piece of work. See the scan! The interior is B&W on slick paper and rendered by David G. Williams. Really nice work, Williams art takes me back to the heyday of Bronze horror comics. The lines and detail in some of these panels are simply jaw dropping. Sweet!

Anyway, at $3.50 cover price you shouldn't let this pass you by. This book has GREAT promise so far, and I can't wait to see where this title goes!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Bartholomew of the Scissors

First review of 2009!!! Allow me to be blunt & let you know that Bluewater Comics have top rate production values. You will never feel cheated of your cash in the physical materials department with this company if they continue with their high standards of full color & slick paper. All for just $3.99?? A deal!!

Anyway, I'm jumping new into this series with issue #2, never having read the opener. Chad Helder, who has been writing the VINCENT PRICE books, is at the scripting helm for this title as well. This plot appears to have more layers than an onion, and the subject matter should appeal to fans of paranormal phenomena. Frankly speaking, I would suggest picking up the first issue instead of trying to start elsewhere the series like myself, or you may just find yourself very confused at times about what exactly is unfolding. Fortunately, there is an entire page of text, "From the Journals of Gordon Watt," at the back of the book which helps the reader a great deal as to understanding the characters, concepts, and events. This is a meaty, detailed plot. Not your standard light horror fare.

Daniel Crosier is the artist. He has a unique style which periodically reminds me of wood etchings. The coloring is done in almost monotone yellowish hues throughout the book, which is neat but at times makes it very hard to discern what is going on in the panel. I grew used to it by the end, but did find it frustrating a couple times.

Overall, I can't wait to see what happens with this title. Try it out! Go Bluewater!!!