Author Archives: pharoahmiles

Review: Blake and Mortimer Volume 1: The Yellow M

If you have read a newspaper, or an article, or watched the news, somewhere along the line, you may have heard the name “Banksy.” The mysterious person is known for their artwork exhibited around the world. Their pieces are lauded, and their appearances are more “slight of hand,” making the proximity to the art a unique experience. This is not the first time the world has been fascinated with someone anonymous.

Jack The Ripper and the Zodiac Killer are two other examples and multi-media has provided audiences the ability to follow the clues of those attempting to unmask these individuals. Its created an industry on its own it seems. Media has helped the world became even more fascinated with mysterious figures and the world seems to always gravitate to their public actions, no matter how disgusting they may be.

I always wondered how someone like Banksy would do if he alerted the police before he committed one of his masterpieces? This is what Edgar Jacobs looks to uncover in the first volume of Blake and Mortimer Volume 1: The Yellow M.

We are taken to London, where the royal guard go about their rounds, when they hear a laughter off in the distance, it is the Yellow Mark, and he has the stolen the royal Crown. This is where we meet the retired police captain, Francis Blake and his genius partner, Professor Philip Mortimer, who catches the ire of the Yellow Mark as he taunts the duo as he taunts the establishment. This doesn’t deter the two from stopping this mysterious figure from hurting anyone, each crime, comes with even more dire consequences each time. Professor Mortimer eventually finds out exactly who is the man behind the Yellow Mark, but gets imprisoned by the person in question.  By book’s end, Blake has come to the rescue of his partner as the end the criminal enterprise of the Yellow Mark.

Overall, a fun graphic novel, that at first reminds of Benedict Cumberbatch’s portrayal in Sherlock, but both characters are forces of nature. The story by Jacobs is layered, intense, and action packed. Altogether, a story that is more contemporary than one might believe at first glance.

Story: Edgar P. Jacobs Art: Edgar P. Jacobs
Story: 9.5 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.2 Recommendation: Buy

Review: New Super-Man Vol. 2 Coming to America

As I remember growing up we relied on our parent and other relatives to show us what to do. This extended to our lives in school, as some of us may remember that one teacher who you connected to, and you thought knew everything about life. Eventually, as you leave school and away from the trappings of family and friends, the search for guidance becomes more difficult. For those of us in the military, we followed our superiors, but sometimes we meet someone, as I did, who guided us along and told you what things you must do to move on up the ladder. My relationship with that person extends to today, and I always liken to how Yoda thought Luke the ways of the force. That theme extends to comics, like DC ComicsNew Super-Man. In the second volume of New Super-Man, Kong Kenna struggles with new found powers and the mystery of his mother’s death, as these issues will eventually collide.

We find Lex Luthor in Shanghai introducing the Justice League of China, as not only Kong struggles with the spotlight, so does the rest of the JLC. As Kong stills struggles with his powers, he seeks the help of Master I -Ching, a powerful master, who is at first, reluctant to help the young upstart. Meanwhile, Wonder Woman uncovers and thwarts a plot by the Alpaca, the Chinese Joker and the actual brother of the Chinese Batman.  As Lex Luthor usually has an ulterior motive, he brings the JLC to the USA, and brings Superman to face off against China White Triad a new supervillain team in Metropolis. Among all this, Superman arrives and tries to neutralize the skirmish between the two groups, as an army of demons is unleashed on the city, and the JLC and Superman are the only ones who can save it. Wonder Woman, also uncovers that someone whom everyone thought was dead, is still alive, but may not be themselves. As they come back to China, they face off against a Kaiju from the sea, while at the same time, fighting off against a powerful Man Of Steel clone, known as Superman Zero. By book’s end, one member of the JLC has an secret power and a person Kong trusted, turns to be a person he longer for.

Overall, this volume is a game changing new chapter to this already superior story. It feels like one which pushes boundaries, challenges tropes, and proves that we need more diversity. The story by Gene Luen Yang is exciting, complicated, and intelligent. The art by Billy Tan and Viktor Bogdanovic is gorgeous. Altogether, one of the best series that DC has ever put together.

Story: Gene Luen Yang Art: Billy Tan and Viktor Bogdanovic
Story: 10 Art: 9.6 Overall: 9.8 Recommendation: Buy

Review: Hand-Drying in America and Other Stories

For those of us who grew up in cities, skyscrapers were our trees and city blocks were our forests. With the streets as our rivers and streams we went exploring. The public transportation, like the commuter trains me and my cousins took everywhere, were our boats to get where we are going.   That is why in New York, you can normally tell who the tourists are and what they are used to. Their eyes open wide as they take in the city, and usually smile, when most native New Yorkers would not care to make eye contact.

The thing that is most fascinating about out-of-towners is how much they know about our city that most New Yorkers won’t. We rarely get to “smell the flowers,” as most people on their commute are focused about getting to their destination. Now being out of the city myself, I understand the fascination. In Ben Katchor’s Hand Drying In America he tells a few stories about the city and some things all people take for granted.

In “The Faulty Switch,” he gives a concise history of the light switch through the market research conducted to enhance its evolution. In “One The Human Lap,” he takes us on a historical and psychological dive into how the phrase “the lap of Luxury” came to be. In “Chapter 713, Sec. 51a: PEEPHOLES,” he dissects the irrepressible obsession of how they work and how it gains at least one on the other end, a sense of privacy. In “Riot Gate Style,” he ponders what re big cities obsession with having these types of gates on storefronts. In “The Current Occupant,” we get a story about an elderly apartment dweller, who becomes unruly and eventually is taken to a detention center. In “The American Coin Wash Co.,” he examines humans fixations on fountains and peoples need to drop coins in them, as one such company makes a profit of it every night in this one tale. In the titular story, he dives in the psychology of hand dryers and the almost OCD need to feel dry hands. In the last story I will highlight, “The Tragic History of the Oversized Magazine,” he looks at how magazines went form large print size to an almost handbook size it is now.

Overall, the graphic novel is an excellent collection of the history and stories that surround all cities. Katchor digs into what makes up our surroundings, something every reader can relate to. The stories and histories as told by Katchor are both interesting and illuminating. The art by Katchor is simple yet elegant. Altogether, a graphic novel which should be added to everyone’s list.

Story: Ben Katchor Art: Ben Katchor
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy

Review: The Invention of EJ Whitaker #1

The SyFy Network has had some great shows over the years, and although many did not survive long on the air, their re-watchability only increases over time. One such show is Warehouse 13 which had two government agents who worked for an agency which house powerful artifacts that had magical/supernatural elements. One of the story arcs throughout the series that stayed with me was the appearance of HG Wells. In this storyline, HG Wells was two people. One is the writer and the other is the actual adventurer, his sister. The show touched upon the idea that a woman would not be taken seriously an antiquated concept persists today.

Another similar topic, which was covered in the recent documentary Vintage Tomorrows, is the lack of persons of color in steampunk fiction. The movie highlights the major issue which extends into the world of steampunk cosplay.

Reality is that women and persons of color are both heroic and smart. Though this exists in the real world, it’s rarely reflected in fiction or even comics. In Shawnee and Shawnelle Gibbs and Mark Hernandez’s The Invention of EJ Whitaker, we meet one such heroine whose bravado and intelligence makes her a force to be reckoned with in 18th century America.

We are taken to Texas at the turn of the 20th century, as two men are being chased by the local gang for what they consider “snake oil”.  We are also taken to Tuskegee, Alabama, where a young lady, Ada Turner, is testing out her flying machine, the first of its kind, with her robot, Jesse, and has failed miserably for the third time. Then one day, a man from the corporation building a railroad comes looking for EJ Whitaker, expecting to find a man, but secretly it is Ada’s only way to patent her devices, as women could not at the time. As Ada goes about her day as a student at Tuskegee University, as she the only woman in a completely male class minus her, where they learned physics.  Eventually the two men come looking for Ada’s alter ego, as they follow her and Jessie, to where the flying machine is located. By Book’s end, Ada knew that the men would follow her, and for this she destroyed the one thing whose attention could bring more unwanted company into hers and her family’s lives.

Overall, a whimsical story which challenges gender norms and the unfair expectations society puts on women. The story by the Gibbs Sisters is fresh, exciting, and smart. The art by Hernandez is breathtaking and awe inspiring. Altogether, a hell of a ride with lots of action and intrigue that’ll excite readers.

Story: Shawnee Gibbs and Shawnelle Gibbs Art: Mark Hernandez
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy

Review: Djinn Vol. 7 Pipiktu

Nicole Kidman is an actress who has proved her mettle as a thespian and turned in some excellent roles including the character of Anna in the movie Birth. The movie centers on a woman who loses her husband and after some time moves on with life eventually getting engaged to be married. She gets a surprise, as a ten-year-old boy professes to be the reincarnation of her husband. It’s a lot like the Eidolons in Ancient Greece, where the dead spirits inhabits those who are living. The power of belief is at play here to the point where there is not merely faith but complete trust in what one cannot prove.

In the seventh volume of Djinn, Jade gets overtaken by one spirit, a powerful African goddess.

When someone from the search party looking for Lord Nelseon and Jade gets kidnapped, he finds Jade in an unexpected place. She’s at the head of the Orushi Tribe possessed by the goddess, Anaktu. The Afrikan nation that the Nelsons and Jade lead are in the midst of a big change as the people and the tribes are looking to take back their land and rid of foreign invaders. Meanwhile Lady Nelson consults in a local priest while finding about herself that she loves her husband… and she is obsessed with Jade. Lord Nelson on the other hand is a prisoner of the tribe Jade now commands as she has become totally possessed as the witch doctor makes her drink a potion which makes her forget every human she had. Eventually, Lord Nelson finds out a way to escape and rushes to find Jade is gone and Anaktu has sole control of her body.

Overall, an the seventh volume is an interesting installment of this ever-evolving series which takes familiar tropes and gives them a fresh coat of paint. The story by Jean Dufaux feels like one of those old swashbuckler adventures. The art by Ana Miralles is beautiful. Altogether, this comic series just gets better each installment.

Story: Jean Dufaux Art: Ana Miralles
Story: 9.6 Art: 9.4 Overall: 9.5 Recommendation: Buy

Review: Blackwax Boulevard #1

When it comes to record digging, it has become increasingly endangered art form. I remember how I used to go to the local record shop in my neighborhood, Beat Street Records, and ask for the latest music. This was when cassettes were new but everybody still bought vinyl records. I remember the very first record I bought, just because I loved the song, and still do, was Kenny Rogers “The Gambler.” Digging through the crates at Beat Street, was like digging for gold, as you may never know what you will find, as it was nothing but heaven for me and my friends. I also met fellow crate diggers who no only loved music as well but introduced to new artists every time we talked.

In Dmitri Jackson’s super relatable Blackwax Boulevard one record shop exists, with some very familiar archetypes as well as some very particular details that you can only find in record shops.

In the first few pages, we meet Marsalis, the cashier and music fan, who can’t help but recommend music to customers (and that includes one wo doesn’t like Marsalis’ taste in Steely Dan). We also meet Hardy, the store manager who scoffs at a customer’s taste and hates most of today’s music and has a greater dislike for “yacht rock.” There’s Veronika, who’s in charge of inventory and usually bosses Marsalis around.

We follow these three as they exchange banter with each client on the state of music and whose record was best as well as how much the city where the store is located has changed. The conversations within this store feels very organic. It reminds me of the conversations I have every time I talk to another music fan. People fail to realize the level of scholarly discourse that takes place within record stores, this book gets that aspect perfectly. It especially nails when it comes to how music purists view each genre and the “deities” of those genres. All three of our main characters are connected by the music and the city.

Overall, an excellent comic which gives readers a day in the life of a record shop, kind of like High Fidelity, but cooler and much more relatable. The story by Jackson is smart, funny, relevant, and entertaining. The art by Jackson is gorgeous and captivating. Altogether, this comic will wish you still had a record shop where you lived, if they all could be like Blackwax Boulevard.

Story: Dmitri Jackson Art: Dmitri Jackson
Story: 9.5 Art: 9.4 Overall: 9.6 Recommendation: Buy

Review: In the Shadow of No Towers

I recently a watched a movie on Netflix called Come Sunday starring Chewitel Ejitofor, Condola Rashad, Danny Glover and Jason Segal.  In the movie, Ejitofr’s character questioned the existence of hell. This created a firestorm in his life which showed him his enemies from his friends. Eventually he would lose everything and truly look to understand why God put him in that position, which is something many Christians often paraphrase “God only gives you what you can handle.”

This very axiom is what most Christians use for every bad thing that comes their way including disasters and devastating life events. Every tragedy or difficult work situations challenge people and this is where many turn to religion while others respond by action or through outlets like art.

In comics, both DC and Marvel created tribute books to help with charities supporting victims of the attacks on 9/11, while other artists responded in kind. One of those artists, who is considered a legend, Art Spiegelman, was so moved he chronicled his own life and outrage within the pages of In The Shadows Of No Towers.

Spiegelman, within the first few panels, takes us through “The New Normal”, as people all over the world had to get used to what were seeing before our eyes, from words like “Taliban” to seeing smoke form the top of the Twin Towers. We also follow Spiegelman, as he looks for his daughter, soon after the Towers came down, which relives the panic of everyone that day, looking out for the welfare of the family. Eventually, he starts looking at the root causes of this disaster, in what he labels” The Ostrich Party”, where politicians from both parties make no progress are from their 19th century and the many bad decisions by the many administrators, have left these situations in the Middle East to exacerbate. By book’s end, Spiegelman, does what good creators do, ask the questions we all wonder and say the things we wish we could say.

Overall, one artist’s exploration of the world before and after 9/11, and how we get here. The stories as told by Spiegelman, is intense, funny, irreverent, thought provoking and brilliant. The art by Spiegelman, is alluring, evocative and vivid. Altogether, a book which both challenges and entertains in ways which our politically correct world tends to course correct before the point is made.

Story: Art Spiegelman Art: Art Spiegelman
Story: 10 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.6 Recommendation: Buy

Review: Box of Bones Chapter One The Troubles I’ve Seen

When I was a teenager in high school I delved into “knowledge of self.” I wanted to learn more than what I learned in school. One of my uncles stoked that fire in me, when he gifted me a copy of The Autobiography of Malcolm X for my birthday. Before I read that book, I only knew of Malcolm X from what the media said about him decades after his death. They always portrayed his ideals as incendiary compared to Martin Luther King Jr.

This lead to my reading even more books and my being exposed to the evils of colonialism, the marginalization of indigenous peoples, and misleading values of assimilation. Which is also why when I watched Haile Gerima’s Sankofa, it made me look at how if we don’t know our own history we are doomed to repeat it.

In Ayize Jama-Everett and John JenningsBox Of Bones, a young graduate student discovers a box that is more trouble than she expected.

We meet Lyndsey, a grad student who is getting her degree in African American Studies. She does her dissertation on the Night Doctors, a set of demonic creatures from Afrika folklore. They’ve been seen in certain key moments in history and through a mysterious box. As she begins her research, the people she interviews are distraught with the memories the box brings with. Strange things start occurring everywhere. The first one being her grandfather who tells her about when a gang raped his sister and beat him half dead which prompted them to use the box of bones on the people who attacked them. But as is expected in this type of stroy, the use of the box comes with a cost, more than they could have bargained for. It’s a story that shows the evils of racism in the Antebellum South mixed with a tinge of the supernatural.

The story by Jama-Everett is smart, captivating, and unnerving. The art by Jennings is alluring. It is both scary and intriguing. The comic is a frighteningly penetrating story that gets the reader at their core leaving you in pieces.

Story: Ayize Jama-Everett Art: John Jennings
Story: 10 Art: 9.6 Overall: 9.4 Recommendation: Buy

Review: Ghost Stories

Everybody deals with loss differently. When most people think of loss they usually associate that with death of a loved one, which is probably one of the most significant experiences a person will ever feel in their lives. I remember when my uncle, died, I was still in the Navy, and deployed into he Arabian Gulf. One of my supervisors woke me up and wanted me to show up to or office where my division officer held the letter from the Red Cross. I knew, but did not want to know, as he had been sick for months. Euphoria set in. Between being dead asleep form a long day of work and to hear the shocking news, my eyes just filled up with tears both at the thought and realization. He was the first person me or any of my cousins were close to who died. That feeling was one of the hardest thins for anyone to get used to in life. This was a feeling that would revisit with the loss of colleagues, friends, and family, the most recent being my own mother. Life is about changes, and loss is just a part of it.

In Ghost Stories, Whit Taylor explores loss in its many shades, including death, and much more.

In “Ghost,” Taylor goes on a journey much like Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol. In it, she gets to visit the three people whom she consider her idols where she spends a day with each asking the questions she always wanted to ask them. In the end she finds out more about herself and what it really mean to “follow your bliss.” In “Wallpaper,” a child narrates the changes to a house and how each change coincides with a specific memory in her mind. In “Makers,” we follow two friends from adolescence to adulthood as they grow together. Despite their differences, their relationship evolves through rocky ups and downs. By book’s end, Taylor weaves together these three different stories, which at their core, exemplify the power of loss.

Overall, an outstanding collection by Taylor which showcases her talents as a storyteller. The stories by Taylo, are funny, melancholy, and moving. The art by Taylor is gorgeous. Altogether, a graphic novel which gets readers entrenched in the experiences and gets the reader to fall in love with the characters.

Story: Whit Taylor Art: Whit Taylor
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

Review: The Jag #1

Destiny is one of those things in your life that pushes you to do things that is out of your control. It’s an invisible force that pushes you in certain directions. When portrayed in fiction, it’s thrilling when done right.

The Lord Of The Rings portrays the concept in a epic odyssey during which a band of heroes traverse Middle Earth to destroy a ring which has brought nothing but trouble. The fact that Bilbo Baggins didn’t even know or want anything to do with the ring, but he knew he had to do the right thing, gets lost on people.

Another story which tackles destiny in a great way, is Teen Wolf. Not the Michael Fox or Jason Bateman star vehicles of the 1980s. Instead I am talking about the darker television version which mined more of the horror genre with a pinch of superhero tropes. In comic books, destiny is probably one of the most used devices but that doesn’t mean it can’t still feel fresh when different creators employ it. In Bob Bridges, Jr. and DeShawn Nixon’s The Jag, we meet another hero who finds out who he really is on his 25th birthday.

In Jag #1, we meet Devonte, a young man, who on his way to class, finds out as a car almost hits him, that he Is strong enough to stop a car from moving, which he barely recognizes. He also runs to an old girlfriend, Leah, who just so happens to be a tutor at the same college he goes to. Soon he realizes that there are people following him and he cannot figure out why, but it seems his mother does.  By issue’s end, a woman gets kidnapped by some mysterious men, someone close to Devonte.

Jag #1 is an interesting origin story, that leaves the reader wanting to know more about this incredible superhero. The story by Bridges is layered and intriguing. The art by Nixon is captivating. Altogether, a fascinating origin story, that will have readers wanting to see this superhero in action.

Story: Bob Bridges Jr. Art: DeShawn Nixon
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy

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