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Review: Pirouette #2

pir 2 covIf there can be said to be such a thing as sub-genre within comics of female clown characters, then already by this second issue has Pirouette stolen everything of use from Harley Quinn and moved on to better things.  After the first issue, we were left with some ambiguity about where this series could be headed.  Of course it was headed back to Lima, Ohio, but aside from that it was not really clear if this series was meant to be a horror, a drama, a comedy, an adventure, a crime noir or a mix of all of them.  By the end of the second issue things are moving in a more defined direction, but it is not the story that moves this so much as the instantly lovable main character, Pirouette.  In essence she channels a lot of what has made a lot of other comic book characters so popular (like most of the X-Men and Spider-Man) by being an outsider, unable to fit in, except she is doing so inside of a circus, the very place where people that can’t fit in are supposed to run away to.

The story telling here is nothing short of fantastic.  Interspersed with the crime of the clowns and the technical and historical aspects of the circus is that of Pirouette.  Seeing as she has had a small rebellion and lost in the previous issue, she figures here that it is time to get on board with the other clowns, at least until she can get what she wants.  Given the first opportunity she runs away from the circus eager to find the family that left her all those years ago, and the reader is taken along step-by-step on the journey.

There is little to complain about in this issue, nor in this series so far.  Its pace is frenetic, meeting that of the attitude of its main character, and similar to the work being done on Gotham Academy, the reader explores the world of Pirouette in an organic and logical way, through her own eyes, without it feeling forced.  There are for sure other secrets hiding within this circus, but Pirouette seems like she will have an answer for all of them and the reader will be treated to the experience.

Story: Mark L. Miller Art: Carlos Granda
Story: 9.2 Art: 8.6 Overall: 9.2 Recommendation: Buy

Black Mask provided Graphic Policy with a free copy for review.

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Review: Betty and Veronica Shopping Spree

band v shppp covSometimes I get the feeling from Archie Comics like there is some kind of great big inside joke, and that the people behind the comics are all kind of laughing at us.  Archie and his friends are after all an anachronism on numerous levels, both inside their stories and in popular culture.  They live inside of a world which is a mix of the modern with something from around the 1950s, and they are the last-romance-comic-standing from a time in comics when romance was big.  Despite all of that they find a way to be relevant and pertinent in a way that few of us would suspect.

This trade paperback featuring Betty and Veronica is an excellent example.  It is nothing more than a loosely tied together compendium of all the relevant stories from over the years about the two girls going to the mall (though focusing more on Veronica than on Betty, due to her in-story riches.)  While the volume might be labeled shopping spree, its name does not really relate to the stories inside.  Instead the stories deal with a variety of issues, some of them humorous, but others serious enough.  For instance, in one story Veronica sees a down-on-their-luck family that wants to buy a dress for their daughter’s birthday, but cannot due to the price.  After some surreptitious work with the clerk, Veronica manages to get the dress for the girl after.  Or in another, Betty uses saved-up babysitting money to go shopping, only to buy clothes for a down-on-her-luck friend, just as Veronica did.  So in a compendium where one might expect a series of goofball adventures fighting over deals and the last designer purse, instead we get a sequence of stories, half of them full of the morality of being generous and sharing, instead of being greedily interested in brand names.

The end result is a pretty fun experience.  Of course, those people that are irritated by the antics of the Riverdale gang are not going to enjoy this, but for those that look a little farther past the hijinks associated with this series, they will find a deeper message here.  And perhaps the inside joke of the Archie Comics comes out in the end in a different way after all, as a morality tale about shopping, highlighting friendship and generosity, comes out the same week as Black Friday, when we are told by corporations to act the opposite of what we see here.

Story: Dan Parent, Frank Doyle, George Gladir, Angelo DeCesare, Craig Boldman, Joe Edwards, Kathleen Webb, Mike Pellowski, Barbara Slate, Greg Cosby Art: Dan Parent, Dan DeCarlo, Tim Kennedy, Pat Kennedy, Jeff Shultz, Doug Crane   

Story: 8.6 Art: 8.0 Overall: 8.6  Recommendation: Buy

Archie Comics provided Graphic Policy with a free copy for review.

Comic Pros Ponder Comic Con Safety After Online Threats

Since the decision at Ferguson, tensions and emotions have rode high, especially on social networks where the power to posts one’s thoughts with just the tapping of a few keys has allowed everyone to vent. One of those is Bill in San diego @BillntwrkBill (identified as Bill Purcell by Bleeding Cool) who has since gone off on threatening and misogynistic rants geared towards individuals and society at large. Bill describes himself as:

U. S . Navy Vet. Comic Con Regular Committee member. Married to wonderful woman. My tweets are my own. Go to CCI official website for factual information.

 

The Comic Con in question is San Diego Comic-Con, the mecha of geek conventions that brings hundreds of thousands to San Diego each year and generates millions of dollars. Bill is a volunteer at the convention who numerous times tweeted his connections to the show, even hinting at working as security and offering access to the show for favors.

Why this matters isn’t that Bill is racist or a misogynist, lots of assholes volunteer or attend conventions. Why this matters, and we’re covering it, is Bill aimed threats at numerous creators who attend the show (and in general shows a penchant for violence), in fact Bill showed anger towards Hollywood as a whole (and makes me wonder why someone who hates Hollywood attends a convention like this).

Here’s some of his tweets including some of the threats (just check his Twitter feed for more, there’s only so much we can stomach):

The abuse and threats hurled by Bill by those in the industry got enough folks talking that they felt in danger if Bill attended the convention in 2015, and calls to ban Bill from the show have risen over the days.

We reached out to Comic-Con for a statement, and one was released to other sites:

There is no excuse for offensive or threatening behavior. The fact that it comes from a purported member of our committee is clearly upsetting. Even though we cannot control what an individual says, we can address issues that have a direct effect on our organization or persons affiliated with our organization. We would also like to mention this individual no longer holds a volunteer position with our association. We encourage any individual who feels threatened by these comments or others to seek assistance from law enforcement.

 

While we agree the convention can’t control what individuals say, they do control who can volunteer and attend the show. With so many feeling unsafe, and especially in the light of two high profile incidents last year, the convention needs to go a step further and outright ban Bill from this coming year’s and future conventions

We Talk Supergirl with Ema Lupacchino

Ema Lupacchino is a relative newcomer to the comic book industry, but she has already made her mark.  With over 100 issue credits to her name, she has already worked on a lot of iconic comic characters including Thor, Vampirella and Lois Lane.  Since issue #30 of Supergirl she has been the series’ regular illustrator.  We got a chance to talk with her about her work on the title, designing battle armours, and choosing the right colour of nail polish.

Graphic Policy: How did you get the chance to draw this iconic character?

karaEma Lupacchino: From what I remember, It happened in just three seconds – Eddie Berganza asked me if I’d  have liked to work on Supergirl and I said “YES”. I was really happy when he named “Supergirl” as the title I could have been working on, I love this character.

GP:  Supergirl is fairly iconic in terms of her costume and her design,  What do you do to put your own personal touch on this character?

EL: What I think is that the costume is not really important in order to define a character – the key is the attitude I give to her. I feel this responsibility every time I have to feature a specific character with the acting, the gesture, the expressions – it’s what describes him or her the most, the costume is just an outfit. This is what I try to give to her, a very specific temper and attitude. It can be a look, a way to move, a feeling. I want her to be as “real” as possible.

GP:  Along with Wonder Woman,  Supergirl is one of  two major DC Comics heroes who are both very strong and very feminine.  How do you find the balance between the two?

EL: Easily – she’s very feminine outside, in her movements, her make up, the way she smiles, these kind of  things. And she’s strong in both her head and heart. Of course she’s Kryptonian and she’s got some extraordinary superpowers, she’s almost invincible, but the real force is in her will. The hardest part of my  work is to communicate all this with drawings … I hope I’m doing it well :)

supergirl - blue nailsGP:  In the most recent issue (#36), Kara is wearing Supergirl-blue nail polish, which is a nice touch for the character.  Did you have any input into that?  

EL:  YES! It was me, I confess! I love blue nails, and since it’s more modern that the classic red one I thought it could be a smart way to show she’s living our timeline.

GP:  Also in the most recent issue Kara is thrown into some Kryptonian battle armor, which looked pretty amazing.  What were your inspirations for the design?

supergirl armourEL:  I was inspired by some pretty amazing concepts, mostly by Japanese illustrators I really love, like Terada for example. Japanese are the best at conceiving sci-fi technologies and I wanted to give a sense of futuristic tech on her armor, in order to help her feel light and comfortable at the same time.

GP:  The series has generally been a mix between Earth based stories and outer-space cosmic stories.  Is there a setting between the two that you prefer?

EL:  Space, of course! On Earth, as our real world, nothing extraordinary really happens – but out there in the space, extraordinary things can be discovered: futuristic technologies, new worlds and races that are very exciting to draw.

GP:  Speaking of outer space based stories, the world which you designed for the Crucible is pretty complex and amazing, between the different environments and an awesome looking space station.  How much input did you get into the design of the planet?

supergirl crucibleEL:  The idea of the Crucible as a bracelet orbiting on two twin stars was written in the script, and I think it’s a very cool idea. I spent a lot thinking about how to design it. You know, there were many factors to consider out there – the balance it should have with the stars’ orbit, the dimension, the details, the dimension of the ships outside. At the beginning I was working on some preliminary studies that didn’t really give the sense of its size, so I asked my friend Emiliano Santalucia to help me in figuring out what wasn’t really working with it. So he suggested to me to draw a huge diameter bracelet in which we can barely see where it ends over the stars. That worked perfectly, thanks Emil!

GP:  Are there any superhero characters that you would like to get a chance to draw that you haven’t already?

EL:  Good questions, I have TONS! :D I really wouldn’t mind to draw Catwoman or Wonder Woman one day.

My Little Pony Humble Bundle

my little pony humble bundleAfter the success of the Humble Transformers Bundle, which raised over $67,000 for charity this summer, Humble Bundle, IDW Publishing and Hasbro, Inc. are working together once again to bring you the My Little Pony Humble Comics Bundle.  Customers can name their price for up to 50 issues of My Little Pony comics, all while supporting a child-focused charity.

My Little Pony: Friends Forever #1-10 and My Little Pony: Micro Series #1-5 will be available for a cost of the customers choosing. Those who pay more than the average price will also unlock My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic #1-12 and My Little Pony: Micro Series #6-10. If customers pay $15 or more, they’ll receive all the titles just mentioned, plus My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic #13-23 and My Little Pony: Animated, Vol. 1 and 2, bringing the bundle to a grand total of 50 issues.

As with all Humble Bundles, customers can choose how their purchase dollars are allocated. Buyers of the MY LITTLE PONY Humble Comics Bundle can specify the portion of the purchase price that they want to pay in support of the Hasbro Children’s Fund, which is dedicated to empowering childhood by bringing “the sparkle of Hope, the joy of Play and the power of Service” into the lives of the children who need it most.

The My Little Pony Humble Comics Bundle runs for two weeks and ends on Wednesday, December 10, 2014 at 11 a.m. PST.

Review: Critical Hit #3

Critical Hit #3In Critical Hit #3, writer Matt Miner and artist Jonathan Brandon Sawyer continue their tale of two animal rights activists who from trying to stop a hunt to becoming the hunted.

Jeanette and Sarah are locked in a thrillkill gang’s dungeon and one of them is near death, but these fan-favorite heroines have not yet begun to fight! At the climax of this horror tale, the girls will have to figure out how to rescue themselves!

In the first two volumes of Liberator, writer Matt Miner created a world that involves heroes, masks, and action, alter-egos, but skips the spandex and superpowers of the genre. A grounded story, each volume dealt with the very real world of the animal liberation movement, and were a breath of fresh air in the overcrowded capes and spandex market.

In Critical Hit, Miner takes his new formula and changes it up again, putting his protagonists in a situation that’s every bit a horror tale. Caught during their mission to destroy a hunting ground, Jeanette and Sarah are being held by sadistic hunters that feel right out of a southern terror tale. I’m waiting for the words “squeal” to be uttered. We’ve gotten hints at snuff films, and torture porn, and the Liberator world is all the better for it, as its formula has been changed just enough.

For two volumes, those that hurt animals have been generally in the background, as our heroes have attempted to thwart their plans and free animals being held for various reasons. This volume dives a bit more where those who torture the animals are front and center, and committing heinous acts to our heroines. The enemy is more present, and the story gains for that.

But, the story isn’t completely focused on the peril that Jeanette and Sarah are in, and the hunters who hold them. There’s also flashbacks Jeanette and Sarah’s pasts as we learn more about their lives and the issues they’ve gone through growing up, or abuse and tragedy suffered. What were caricatures of the animal rights movement are becoming fleshed out and more rounded characters.

All of this is brought to life through the art of Jonathan Brandon Sawyer who has captured each grueling moment with cringe worthy visuals. Each bloody moment is shown off with just enough detail that makes the reader uncomfortable.

I went into Critical Hit expecting a similar story to the first two volumes of Miner’s tale. Three issues in, not only has the story changed, it’s fleshed out the characters, and world, and made the Liberator universe all the more stronger for it. Those first two volumes where fresh in the comic industry, and this latest story shakes things up even more for the better.

Story: Matt Miner Art: Jonathan Brandon Sawyer
Story: 8 Art: 8 Overall: 8 Recommendation: Buy

Black Mask Studios provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Ody-C #1

odyc - covThere is a tricky balance required when adapting famous source material.  Too much liberty taken in the telling and the original source material is lost, but with too close of a telling then there is no point not just to go to the source itself.  The new series Ody-C finds itself in the middle of those two extremes somewhere, although likely closer to the former.  It tells the story of Homer’s Odyssey except retold as a space opera with all of the genders swapped between the characters, heroes and gods alike.  Odysseus is replaced with Odyssia, a spacefaring captain on her way home after the long battle to vanquish Troiia.  After deciding to head back for home, the gods confer about her, and as in the historical epic, deciding to send her across the heavens before she can return home.

The result is a bit of a mixed bag in terms of how it all comes together.  Matt Fraction is the inspiration behind this idea, and he highlights the trickiness of such an endeavour, and he seems to have fallen a bit too far on the side of a liberal interpretation.  Of course, some things would need to change for such a story, but it leaves the reader a bit confused as to what is going on at times, both between the changed setting and the changed genders.  For those that are not familiar with the story of the Odyssey (or at least those that haven’t seen Troy), this is likely to be even more confusing.  At the same time, the artwork by Christian Ward is so mind-blowing in this setting, that the story takes on the truest aspects of the space opera, an almost psychedelic rendering of another place and time.

The entire experience ends up being enjoyable though not particularly memorable.  With a bit more balance in the writing, there would have been a better story to be told, including for the flow of the artwork.  It is evident that the creative team has something grand in mind behind the concept for this series, it only seems as though that this first issue was not the best showcase for those ideas.

Story: Matt Fraction Art: Christian Ward
Story: 7.8 Art: 8.5 Overall: 7.8 Recommendation: Read

Image provided Graphic Policy with a free copy for review.

Review: Tales From Oz #4

oz - covIn the broad roll-out of all of the four realms of Grimm Fairy Tales, that of Oz lagged far behind.  For a long time there was no direction at all, as it was spoken of, but as the adventures in the kingdom were undocumented.  After the introduction of the stories it might have been wise to wait even longer to create something solid like the stories from Wonderland versus what is on hand at the moment.  Tales from Oz tells stories based on the secondary characters in the kingdom, hoping to build the background for characters and the relevance of bigger story plots.  This issue focuses on the story of Glinda, the good witch, and her attempts to save Zamora, the victim of a plot by the Dark One.

First of all, this does not feel like Oz as Wonderland and even Neverland from Grimm Fairy Tales feel like those actual realms from literature.  While this is an inherent problem with the series, the story could have been saved by an adequate control of the characters, but it doesn’t work either.  The most entertaining parts of this story are those which focus on things which are not relevant to the plot overall.  In one scene Glinda and her companion are afflicted by hex magic, which turns them into the form of how Zamora perceives them.  Glinda in the process gets a larger bust and skimpier clothing, in what is maybe an unnecessary attempt to explain the proportions of comic book heroines and their clothing.  In another scene, the two engage in a series of adventures while trying to retrieve the components of a potion.  Unfortunately although this could have been a fun part of the story, it is reduced to a montage leaving the reader wondering why they are reading through this maze of inanity while the writer conceived of something more interesting.

By the end of the issue there is little left to discern from.  The plot as it stands could have been presented in about two pages without all the inside jokes (including two for the Princess Bride) and ridiculous conversation.  This is a series that I would like to like, but the presentation here creates a huge mess of an issue.

Story: Jeff Massey Art: Noah Salonga
Story: 4.0 Art: 7.0 Overall: 4.0 Recommendation: Pass

 

Review: Robyn Hood #4

robyn cov 004It seems to be all too often that in the build up to a series, that it will be marketed as “a great jumping on point.”  That is the case here with Robyn Hood, and the slogan actually works, only that what is being jumped onto still feels like a work in progress.  As Robyn tries to settle into a regular life, she is confronted out-of-nowhere by Britney, also known as Red Riding Hood in the Grimm Fairy Tales universe, and the two head out to battle a cult of vampires who have decided that it is that specific night that they will take to the streets.

While the story is a bit mundane, it does live up to being called a good jumping on point.  As the two heroines head out into the city they have already been established in who they are and what they have been doing and who they know.  Due to the ambiguous nature of being roommates with a lesbian witch, Britney even asks if Robyn and Marian are a couple.  In all the catching up with the characters is handled well, but the story doesn’t really match up to it.  As they end up in the battle with the vampires, things play out somewhat routinely and there are little real surprises here.

rob cov 004 aThe end result is not entirely bad, it avoids some of the overly convoluted stories of the main series which try to tie in differing plot points from fairy tales, literature, legend and mythology.  Instead this issue focuses on a slice of this universe and that helps to make it easier to enjoy, by keeping its attention where it needs to be.   The series also uses Britney Waters, who is one of the most underused characters in the Grimm Fairy Tales universe (and really deserving of her own ongoing if Robyn has one) and it employs her here not just as backup but as an equal which does her character justice.  At the same time, comic fans, and especially those outside of regular Grimm Fairy Tales readers will probably find little going on here that they haven’t seen or read before.  The characters have a decent depth, but nothing new, and the plot isn’t particularly fresh either.  This is a fine attempt to get some new fans into the Grimm Fairy Tales stories, but still a little short of the mark despite using two of its more approachable characters.

Story: Pat Shand Art: Tony Brescini
Story: 6.7 Art: 7.0 Overall: 6.7 Recommendation: Pass

Review: Wonderland #29

wonderland - covThe stories from Wonderland, as they fit into the larger Grimm Fairy Tales Universe, remain the hallmark for Zenescope about how the shared universe should be handled.  While Sela deals with a wide range of influences in her own adventures in the main Grimm Fairy Tales series, the stories surrounding the equally powerful Calie as Queen of Wonderland continue to be miles ahead in terms of quality.  In this issue Calie continues her journey through Wonderland searching for some unknown evil, while in the company of the White Rabbit and the Cheshire Cat, and also tying more closely into the sub-plot involving the deranged surgeon from Earth.

Drawing upon a wide range of material, this issue manages to weave it together in a presentable fashion without losing sight of the end goal.  There are influences from real history (the deranged experimentations of Nazi doctors) as well as though from legend (fairies) and those from literature (a child not unlike Mowgli.)  While the main series of Grimm Fairy Tales seems to always bite off more than it can chew in terms of its outlook, this series is still managing to hold together different elements without allowing them to either overwhelm of confuse the story being told.  In terms of the story, this is very different from the fifty-ish issues that got Calie through her mental anguish and to be the Queen of Wonderland, but series writer Erica J. Heflin clearly has an ongoing story in mind for the hero and has a way to accomplish it.  It is still mixing a bit of gore into the realm of Wonderland, but also doing so in a more organic way, sort of like cleaning up the house after a crazy party.

The end result is a solid well-put-together issue.  Fans of the series and characters thus far in the Wonderland saga will notice something definitely different in the previous few issues, but the end result is the same quality if slightly different in outlook.  Wonderland still remains one of the most intriguing ongoing series outside of the major publishers and deserves a look from any comic fan willing or eager to expand their reading interests.

Story: Erica J. Heflin Art: Vincenzo Riccardi
Story: 8.3 Art: 8.2 Overall: 8.3 Recommendation: Buy

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