Author Archives: pharoahmiles

Review: Shoplifter

It seems like ages ago, when the show, Mad Men, aired on television, as it brought back a certain sophistication to the television landscape, reminding everyone that after a certain age, every man should at least have two good suits. Don Draper, certainly had more than two, and had his own indulgences. The show had great acting and great writing going for it, where they not only showed the world the glamorous side of those yesteryears but also gave the world reality of how it was for women and minorities.

The most prominent character who embodied this struggle, was the character played by Elisabeth Moss, Peggy Olson. She was the viewer’s entry into this world and the many rules that governed who climbs the corporate ladder. Each season, showed how any woman in her position, would subvert perceptions, challenge the status quo, and elevate herself because of her talents and not what society expected of her. In Michael Cho’s brilliant Shoplifter, we meet a woman, much like Peggy, with her own set of struggles, who eventually become the hero of her own story.

In the first few pages, we meet Corinne, a millennial, who has found herself stuck in the same job for the past five years, dreaming of a world where she could have used her degree. As, she is no part of the Boys club, like Peggy Olson, she finds her vices in other places, through shoplifting, a local convenience store several times a week. She endures her day to day, through shoplifting ang socializing with her friends after work, until one day, the local shop clerk, confronts her, which makes Corinne take stock on who she is and what she needs to do move forward with her life. By book’s end, Corinne leaves her, at peace, in full breath, ready to go to the next stop in her journey.

Overall, Cho takes the reader on a journey, that feels melancholy at first, but leads to place where the protagonist is the captain of her own destiny. The story by Cho feels like a procedural, but beautifully develops into a coming of age tale. The art by Cho is gorgeous. Altogether, ultimately Cho gives the reader, a protagonist, who is a mixture of Peggy Olson and Don Draper, making her a force of will.

Story: Michael Cho Art: Michael Cho
Story: 9.5 Art: 9.4 Overall: 9.6 Recommendation: Buy

Review: Roughneck

When I was in grade school, it was the first time, history class caught my attention. I was not like most students, who gravitated towards classes like Math or gym, as I did enjoy those as well, but history was my first obsession. It was something instilled in me from an early age, as the stories I heard from both sides of my family, always triggered my need to find out more. I even remembered when I read a book about anything history related, I would eventually look up the books that are referenced in the book.

The one part of history, that got me to hate an American President, was the trail of tears.  From what I read, I could not believe an American president would subdue America’s own indigenous peoples to such a grave injustice. As I eventually found out through my research, is that he was not the only one, and America is not the only country to treat their native peoples like second class citizens. The long-term effects of this history, can be seen on their descendants, which is the story Jeff Lemire lays out in Roughneck.

In the town of Pimitamon, a county in the wilderness of Canada, mostly populated by Canada’s indigenous tribes, we meet Derek Ouelette, a former professional hockey player, who is an alcoholic with an anger problem and who feels his best days are behind, as he works as a janitor, for the local ice rink. His sister, Bethy, comes back to town, running away from an abusive boyfriend, who is a drug addict, and whose life doesn’t seem to have shaped the way she thought it was going to. As this brother and sister, deal with their own personal demons, and trying to support each other in some semblance of what they feel a family is, they eventually hide out in a cabin, as her boyfriend is getting closer to where she is. By book’s end, a fight between Derek and Bethy’s boyfriend happens, but Derek is saved by the local police before things get dire.

Overall, a tear-jerking and enthralling book that will have the reader rooting for Derek and Bethy to love each other and love themselves. The story by Lemire is powerful and heartfelt. The art by Lemire is beautiful. Altogether, a book that although the world is unfair, love still finds a way.

Story: Jeff Lemire Art: Jeff Lemire
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation : Buy

Review: Vietnamerica

Being a second generation American, is both an interesting and sometimes ostracizing place to be. There are universal to all families, no matter, the culture, or language barriers.  Then are unique to your own culture, that may seem odd or interesting in a tourist way, to outsiders. This becomes even more confusing, if you ever get to go back to places where your parents are from.

I was extremely fortunate to have grown up in two different cultures as well as to live in America, which has its own cultural idiosyncrasies.  I was also able to go to both countries, which is as far apart on the map as in they are in cultural differences, but despite this, my parents still fell in love. So when, I went back, I was not necessarily looked as their countryman, but as an American, which is hilarious and confusing. This what I identified with in GB Tran’s Vietnamerica, his family’s history intertwined with his own self-discovery.

We Meet GB and his parents, on a plane trip back to Vietnam, as his grandparents on both sides of the family pass away. As his mother tells him part of the family history, which could be told to total strangers, it is what is painful and what makes his parents cringe, is what interests him. As he starts to visit the places where his family grew up, he stats learning parts of his parents’ past, especially his father would rather not talk about. By book’s end, GB gets a better understanding of his parents and the rest of his family, and suddenly his own struggles seem somewhat minuscule to theirs.

Overall, a moving portrait of a family who will do anything and everything for each other. The story by Tran is another fine addition in what it is to be second generation Asian American, right alongside The Namesake and The Joy Luck Club. The art by Tran is as affecting as the stories told in it, as he the way he draws his family, the reader feels the love he has for them. Altogether, a memoir that will take you on a journey, which will  make you understand the true meaning of  family secrets and the love of a family.

Story: GB Tran Art: GB Tran
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

Review: Lizard Men #1

Many movies over the years have taken swipes at people in power, either in dramas or comedies.  They are even more ridiculous, when they’re comedies, as they rarely pull no punches. Who can forget Jack Nicholson’s superb performance as President Jack Dale in Mars Attacks. Then there is Kevin James portrayal as both a relatable but strong president in Pixels.

There is Kevin Kline’s excellent work as doppelganger to an actual president alongside Sigourney Weaver in Dave. Then there is my favorite movie, which draw some real-life parallels to some existing oligarchies, Moon Over Parador, starring Richard Dreyfuss and immortal Raul Julia, where Dreyfuss occupies a similar doppelganger situation but is humorously controlled by Julia’s iron-fisted chief of staff. The line between reality and these films, are becoming ever increasingly slimmer, as the current political climate looks more like a schoolyard.  This is why the debut issue of Lizard Men, was almost too real to read, as certain reactions of the protagonist reminded so much of a certain orange colored glutton.

We are introduced to Dylan Zamani, a washed up former rock star, who seems to be always on the right side of luck.   As he becomes the Prime Minster of Great Britain, a race he could not believe that he would have won. As he takes office, he soon realizes that many of things that comes with the new job, are not what they seem. By the end of the issue, the power he thought came with the job, comes from somewhere more insidious.

Overall, a excellent first installment which combines, melodrama, with comedy and science fiction, into something highly enjoyable. The story by Steven Horry is hilarious and surreal. The art by the Catia Fantini, Chiara Bonacini, and Ken Reynolds is visceral, smooth and gorgeous. Altogether, a good debut for a miniseries, which will make you wonder, can any of this be real?

Story: Steven Horry Art: Catia Fantini, Chiara Bonacini, Ken Reynolds
Story: 9.0 Art: 9 Overall: 9.2 Recommendation: Buy

Review: Anne Bonnie #2

I can say that when it comes to the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, II have a love/ hate relationship with them. I loved the first movie, and my disdain with the series increased with every movie since. Most filmgoers love these movies simply, because of Johnny Depp’s performance as Jack Sparrow. Then, there is the chemistry between Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, and Keira Knightley, who don’t all appear in all the movies, but they make for some memorable scenes.

I initially watched the movies because of the Disney World attraction, it was my favorite, every time me and my family would go there. Even within the attraction, there was magical elements to the ride, as you were transported to a world where anything can happen. The one thing that the movies did well, was the melding the supernatural elements with the many legends associated with seafaring. In the second issue of Anne Bonnie, our heroine, finds out exactly how supernatural the Crimson Dawn really is.

We catch up with Ariana, as the Crimson Dawn is in a firefight with the Royal Navy, out maneuvering the two ships, leaving the naval vessels in ruins. She eventually pulls in to a port, which is an evil plot is unfurling, and the Crimson Dawn’s arrival may be the difference. Ariana, also recruits her first crew member, a runaway slave. By issue’s end, an old friend shows up, and her world is about to get a little more complicated.

Overall, an excellent installment to a series that opens this world to all walks of life, as this book shows what inclusivity is. The story by Tim Yates is pure fun. The art by Tim Yates and Tony Vassallo feels like an animated feature. Altogether, an issue that never lets off that gas, making this a book that is all adventure.

Story: Tim Yates Art: Tim Yates and Tony Vassallo
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

Review: The Big Book of Bisexual Trials and Errors

In the present political climate, a constant target for politicians when they look for support and degradation is the LGBTQ community. They rarely look to represent the actual issues affecting this demographic and rarely do they enact any laws which would support them. This brings me to the fact, that even in the 21st century, much of this community still seems taboo, to the public. There are usually a variety of questions that come with encountering someone from this community, mostly of curiosity and not out of actual understanding.

This lack of understanding is even crazier knowing that there were shows like The L Word back in 2004 and the recently renewed Transparent on Amazon, which highlights these lifestyles, and show the world the struggles they got through daily. In the recently released Thor: Ragnarok, Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie, plays a bisexual bounty hunter, which has been downplayed by most of social media. Within the comics medium, there have been a handful of characters which represents this spectrum, but rarely do they are given justice, the most prominent, being Midnighter, at DC. Elizabeth Beier’s The Big Book Of Bisexual Trials and Errors offers a thorough examination of what the term “bisexual “means through her experiences.

In the opening pages, we meet Elizabeth, as a struggling adolescent, struggling of finding who she is and eventually how the identity also shaped her sexuality. She realizes and mostly lives as a lesbian, as she finds herself mostly attracted to women, which is until she meets a man, by the name of James. At this very moment, the way she feels about her sexuality, as with all of us, is connected to her self-confidence, the way she feels about her body, realizing her own self-worth but eventually coming to some semblance of acceptance of feeling she could be loved and loving herself. By book’s end, she feels just like everyone else, a work in progress, but one that feels “confident and complete”.

Overall, a compendium full of heartbreaks, self-discoveries and truly a lesson in learning how to be building one’s self confidence. The stories by Beier are funny, sad, beautiful, and intriguing. The art by Beier could be museum paintings, as each panel seems to be given much care. Altogether, you will feel for Beier’s journey in this memoir, as the journey to “you” has never been told so eloquently.

Story: Elizabeth Beier Art: Elizabeth Beier
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

Northwest Press provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Early Review: Yellow Negroes and Other Imaginary Creatures

Living in America, we tend to be caught up in our own bubble, to plainly say, we only concern ourselves with what is going on in the USA. The news media is good for contriving this narrative, as they usually push the fact that America is a superpower. For the most part, this narrative is very much true, as our influence not only politically but culturally can’t be felt in places most American have never traversed. We also believe, in general, that we face unique problems, once that people not form America would not understand.

Take the issue of race, which Americans tend to largely ignore or avoid talking about for fear of reprisal or holding a unpopular opinion. The truth is there are several nuances to how Americans even talk about the issue of race that are unique to our history. The sad truth is we rarely are honest about it, unlike countries such as Germany and France who have whole curriculum mandated by their government to expose their youth to their history. In all its beauty and ugliness. France, has their own issues with race, but their anticolonial legacy, is still part of their lifeblood. In Yvan Alagbe’s outstanding Yellow Negroes and Other Imaginary Creatures, the creator tackles these issue head on.

We meet a mixed-race couple, Claire, a young French woman and Alain, a young Balinese man and an illegal immigrant, who are madly in love but each other families do not support the relationship. We also meet Sam, an artist documenting what is going on, as well as Mario, a former police officer when he lived in Algeria, who constantly torments the other three for a false sense of authority form being prior law enforcement. Each of the characters deal with being outcasts, in one form or the other as France is not their home especially Alain, Sam and Mario, and to some extent, Claire. The other stories in this book, shows Alagbe’s awareness of the current political climate, as he also revisits how race affects him in France. By books end, the reader gets a view of how the world sees race, specially France, who has along complicated history with the subject, much like us, but not one they shy away from.

Overall, an excellent book, which confronts, racism, ageism, sexism, xenophobia, nationalism and through these characters, we see firsthand, how these elements weigh on people like them. The story by Alagbe, is brilliant, harrowing, and endearing. The art by Alagbe, feels like a Basquiat painting, Altogether, an interesting study in human behavior, and all the different baggage each of us carried with it.

Yellow Negroes and Other Imaginary Creatures will be published April 3, 2018.

Story: Yvan Alagbe Art: Yvan Alagbe
Story: 10 Art:10 Overall:10 Recommendation: Buy

Review: The Mercenary Volume 1 The Cult of the Sacred Fire

Seven Samurai is one of those films that both film snobs and general film fans both agree is a classic. It sounds simple enough of a premise, as a band of mercenaries are hired to protect a village from invaders. What usually gets lost in people’s description of the movie, is the powerful performances by the seven men who inhabit the key protagonists. Each of their motivations, are different at the beginning but become singular at the very end.

Most “hired guns” in literature usually resemble the archetype of the anti-hero, a person whose moral compass is hard to read, the most infamous one being, Spike Spiegel, from Cowboy Bebop. I remember the first time I saw the show, it was like nothing else I have seen on television, as here was a protagonist that did not care about doing the right thing and would never get caught up committing acts of self-sacrifice. Few characters act like this, as most writers likely imbue their characters some sense of principles, as they may find readers are attracted to protagonists who act like this, but characters like Spiegel, draw interest because they are amoral.  The title character in The Mercenary Volume 1: The Cult of The Sacred Fire, a man who totally concerned about doing his job only

Within the firs few pages, we find out that he has been contracted to rescue a young woman from a dangerous cult. He finds hers danged naked from a cliff, which is a trap, as he rescues her but gets chased by a legion of interceptors, who they escape but scathed. We find the mercenary and the escapee finding alternate ways to reach back to her husband, where finds treachery and must flee to rescue another young woman, who is being imprisoned by a strange cult. By book’s end, the cut is more than it first seems, and although he saves the young woman he was contracted to save, many live are lost in the wake of his actions.

Overall, an excellent adventure book, which is classic sword and sorcery, using classic tropes within the genre to create an enjoyable tale. The story by Vicente Segrelles is wall to wall action, as the hero faces all along the way. The art by Segrelles is feel likes matte paintings as every panel is quite gorgeous. Altogether, an engaging book abbreviated enough for any reader to take a short trip.

Story: Vicente Segrelles Art: Vicente Segrelles
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

Review: The Nameless City Vol. 1

Colonization of other people’s/countries, has been human way of life since anyone can remember.  The different nations of Europe, have bene colonizing other nations/countries for centuries. In Africa, different tribes did all over the continent, the most famous being Shaka Zulu, who united several tribes under him to suppress any outside forces. The British, being once an empire, have left their imprint everywhere from the West Indies to Canada. The Spanish, as well, have several churches in mostly Muslim countries, remnants of the Crusades.

America, although not necessary colonizing, to the extent of the examples above, we have left our marks in just about every country on earth, through military bases. This is exactly the root of the extenuating circumstances affecting the island of Puerto Rico, as it exists as U.S. territory, but derives none of the benefits of a state. The one thing that literature fails to explore on any substantial level is how these invaders/colonizers affect the people who are native to these lands. In Faith Erin Hicks‘ superbly created Nameless City Volume 1, one such situation exists.

We meet Kaidu, a member of the newest occupying nation for the metropolis known as Nameless City, and Rat, one of the city’s natives, both are unclear of the other motives and are a little weary as friends don’t come easily for either. The book dives into class warfare, misogyny, identity politics, racism, cultural bias and even on some levels, cultural appropriation, as the two become fast friends, each learning about the others culture, as Kaidu, becomes empathetic to the oppression his privilege that his upbringing, sex, and culture has afforded him. The two friends eventually team up to thwart an assassination attempt on the city’s military leader, a plan created by one of his very own soldiers. By book’s end, Kaidu foiled the attempt and the friends become closer, as the city feels more united than ever.

Overall, an excellent book, that is methodical, smart, nuanced and shines the light on the value of mutual respect. The story by Hicks is funny, fast paced, and fresh. The art by Hicks gorgeous, penetrating, and vibrant. Altogether, an excellent start to this trilogy of books as it presents a world much like our ow, where our differences are ever so present, but as they do in this book, they choose those differences to unite and not divide them.

Story: Faith Erin Hicks Art: Faith Erin Hicks
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

Review: The Best We Could Do

Children of immigrants, have a quite unique upbringing than most kids. We often live in the shadows of our parents dreams and hope for our own futures.  That is why many of us usually are pushed into vocations, which are considered traditionally “safe” or “prosperous”. Rarely we question, why our parents even push us into these directions, because we feel they know better.

As we grow older, we find some of these beliefs, are often anachronistic, and this is where the clash of cultures occurs. Never do we ask how they came up with this belief system and was it the same for them growing up where they came from. Often, I find myself still thinking of how my parents came to America and what they both had to endure to get here. In Thi Bui’s The Best We Could Do, she unveils to the world what led her family to America and all the pains her family had to undergo.

In the first few pages, Thi Bui, gives a reader a glimpse of the birth of her first son, as her struggles with motherhood becomes instantly apparent. As she recovers in the hospital, she starts to ask questions of why her parents act the way they do. This is where she goes quite deep in to both her paternal and maternal family histories, which is rife with many tragedies and political implications to what was going on in Vietnam. By book’s end, Bui is very much more appreciative of her family’s journeys to find a better life in America.

Overall, an excellent memoir that gives a complex multilayered view of the worlds where immigrants come from and the circumstances that lead them to where they call home. The story by Thi Bui is intimate, harrowing, heartbreaking, and necessary. The art by Bui is graceful and pulsating. Altogether, a melancholic but ultimately inspiring book that will understand the dilemma of immigrants and refugees.

Story: Thi Bui Art: Thi Bui
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

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