Author Archives: pharoahmiles

Review: Deer Editor #1

When it comes to crime noir fiction, the private eye or the rogue detective usually gets the spotlight. As most of these stories starts with a crime and follows from there, most of the time there are twists. One of my favorite twists is when the same person who is investigating a crime gets framed for the same crime. These twists are what makes this genre so delicious to most readers, as they are usually situations that most people would try to avoid.

Sometimes in these stories, the protagonist usually has someone who helps them, sometimes a secretary, a friend, or a news reporter.   This is even more prevalent in when crime noir gets done in comics. The most memorable one being Ben Urich from Daredevil.  In Ryan K Lindsay and Sami Kivela’s seedy Deer Editor, we find one such protagonist.

We meet Bucky, a hard-nosed investigative journalist, who just so happens to be an anthropomorphic deer who gets called to the morgue about the body of a John Doe, one with some serious implications. The clues lead him to another dead body, this one with even more and with Buck finding out who the assailants are. As he gets closer to the truth, he uses his vast network of contacts to find out the main question “why?” By issue’s end, Bucky gets played as a major plot involving the mayor of the city is at the center.

Overall, a story as hardboiled as any of Patricia Cornwell’s books. The story by Lindsay, is dark, gritty and leaves readers spinning. The art by Kivela, is visceral and true to life. Altogether, a comic which will have readers looking for their copy of Brick, this comic is just as good.

Story: Ryan K Lindsay Art: Sami Kivela
Story: 10 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.5 Recommendation: Buy

Review: Cognition #2

When it comes to mythical creatures, there is none creepier than those modeled after common animals. I remember the first time I watched Clash Of The Titans, and saw Cerberus at guard, those Ray Harryhausen special effects, still holds up though not believable, makes the viewer believe for a slight second, something magical may actually exist. As this creature prevent Harry Hamlin’s character from entering Hades, the way it looked as regular dog, but with three heads, is seared into my memories from when I was four years old.

Since that time, I noticed fiction’s consistent myth making of these characters, are much in practice and always ahs been. The most prominent after that movie, is Sherlock Holmes: The Hound of the Baskervilles. Then there is the ones that Robert Johnson sang about in his songs, where he describes them as “Hellhounds On My Trail”. In the second issue of Cognition, Cal and Sigma are hot on the trial of one such creature.

Our heroes arrive in Suffolk, England where rumblings of a demonic creature haunt the countryside and where a few fatalities have been at the hands of the apparition. As they arrive, our dynamic starts feeling as if there is something even more insidious concealed, one Cal and Sigma, are itching to find out. They soon get their chance as a battle royale between the duo and Black Shuck, the demon they have been looking for, becomes their most daunting adversary. By Issue’s end, they get another recruit into B.O.S.S. In a bonus story, “Whisper into The Void”, a clairvoyant becomes proficient in her powers through dark magic.

Overall, an action-packed issue starring Cal and Sigma, one that shows our heroes in one of their toughest challenges. The story by Ken Reynolds is fascinating and shows that Reynolds writes dark humor as better than most. The art by Sam Bentley is astonishing and luminous. Altogether, this issue proves that this book can be just as light, though the subject matter may be dark.

Story: Ken Reynolds Art: Sam Bentley
Story: 9.6 Art: 9.5 Overall: 9.7 Recommendation: Buy

Review: Buck Danny Volume 7 Missing in Action

Tom Hanks is one of the most iconic actors of recent memory, who fits a type of actor, who rarely get celebrated, the character actor. Very few including Hanks com to mind other than Samuel L Jackson and Luis Guzman. All these actors blend right into heir character without any expectation for fanfare, yet that is where their star quality lies, in the life they give their characters. One of Hanks’ most memorable characters just so happens to exist in real life, Charlie Wilson.

The movie, Charlie Wilson’s War was about a sly politician who took a special interest in the war in Afghanistan, one that would have an adverse effect. The full force of that effect would not bee seen for years what was used as a weapon became the biggest reason no one has been successful against the insurgents for years to come. Much of what makes it difficult to fight in that country, is the terrain. The seventh volume of Buck Danny goes undercover in Afghanistan to rescue an agent lost behind enemy lines.

We catchup with our heroes, back stateside, as they enjoy being back home and keeping up their flight qualifications. They get pulled into the base commander’s office to take on a n undercover mission, one that would test their skills and their humanity. Tumb becomes embedded in another part of the country, not knowing the very person the crew was looking for was right beside him all along. By book’s end, Buck uncovers secret double agent and the CIA agent is recovered.

Overall, both a fun and fast paced installment to this underrated series about fighter pilots. The story by Francis Bergese is action packed and entertaining. The art by Bergese is joy to look at. Altogether, so far, the best book in the series, as Bergese shows his expertise as both the artist and writer of this book.

Story: Francis Bergese Art: Francis Bergese
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy

Review: The Accelerators #6

As a cinephile, I always root for the protagonist to come out on top. Sometimes, those same protagonists are not as black ad white as some movies tend to show, sometimes these characters operate in the gray area. One of the best examples I can think of is the Shawshank Redemption, a movie which has many running themes. This movie is also about friendship between two men who are prisoners, which is an oversimplification.

The core of the story is that it is about men who finally understand that redemption is achieved through common acts of decency. As a cinephile, the scene that probably was the most memorable was when Andy Dufresne finds a way out, and he had been digging his way out for years. Out of the all-time escape scenes in movies, this ranks up there with the best. In the sixth installment of The Accelerators, we find our heroes reunited and looking for a way out.

In the first few panels, the reader gets a peek behind just how each gladiator gets transported to the arena, as the newest addition just so happens to be a Tyrannosaurus Rex. Major uses this unique competitor to make his escape along with fellow gladiators, leaving some of the spectators as chum for the dinosaur.  Lexi and Major become reunited and Spat outsmarts Bob and becomes free of the Hub. By issue’s end, our heroes have escaped this world but to where, only time will tell.

Overall, a pulse pounding issue that is wall to wall action. The story by PRFI Porto is fun, fast paced and gives the readers more thane enough Easter eggs to know what is coming. The art by Gavin P Smith is striking and vivid. Altogether, an issue that gives wish fulfillment to anyone who has been giving this book love thus far.

Story: RFI Porto Art: Gavin P Smith
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy

Jason Porath Talks Tough Mothers and Rejected Princesses

With the blogosphere on fire and the news media following the trends set, the past year has shown that strong women, are prominent in the world and they are everywhere and has always been. This truth has only become more relevant with #MeToo Movement, and the recent array of books which showcase the talents of many female creatives, only shows their staying power. As this movement grows, its allies include those who seek to spotlight the unknown, underrepresented, the under told heroes of our past. One such author who aims to bring this to the forefront is Jason Porath. He started the Rejected Princesses blog a few years back to highlight forgotten female heroes. Since then, he has put out a collection named after the blog and recently released another volume, this one dedicated to matriarchs who possesses ferocity and grace, entitled Tough Mothers: Amazing Stories of History’s Mightiest Matriarchs. I recently got a chance to interview this “truth-teller “and found a humble author.

Graphic Policy: What was your inspiration for your Rejected Princesses blog?

Jason Porath: My mom. She’s an utterly brilliant, tenacious badass –  but she felt like an aberration growing up. She was born in Kentucky in the 40s, and was constantly told boys didn’t like smart women. She never had a connection to this endless line of brilliant, bold women, and felt like something was wrong with her because she was different. I can’t go back in time and give this book to her then, but I can give it to kids who maybe feel the same as she did.

GP: How was the research? Anything you were more than surprised to find out about?

JP: It was difficult – I think there’s 200-some-odd citations at the back of the second book, and more than 300 in the first one?  Very time consuming.

One of the things that really surprised me when writing about (Armenian Genocide survivor) Pailadzo Captanian was how few first-hand accounts of the Genocide were written in the immediate aftermath of it. She had written one of the only ones, and it was never translated to English. I ended up finding a copy of it, photographing every page, using software to turn those pictures into (very rough) text, and then getting two dozen bilingual readers to each take a chunk of the book and translate it. They’re finishing the last parts up now. I plan on donating the translation to Armenian groups. The copyright on it is a bit baffling but hopefully they can find a way to use it.

GP: Has your research lead you to travel to different countries just to find out more? If so, any personal stories you can share?

JP: Not yet – the life of a writer is not a lucrative one! I am heading to the UK later this year for a convention, though, and I hope to visit a couple sites while there – castles defended by rad women, that sort of thing.  There’s a statue of Boudica in particular that I’d love to see in person.

GP: I read in your blog, you have over 2,000 different women you have yet to illustrate, how do you choose who goes into the next book?

JP: I keep a massive spreadsheet that tracks a lot of different things about each potential entry – era, maturity rating, geographic location, religion, and other representations like LGBT and  disabilities. I then have a column that shows the totals. I aim for maximum diversity, without having stories that are too much an echo of one another.  I’m not always successful, but I do try really hard.

GP: Which one of these heroines—within either of your books: Rejected Princesses or Tough Mothers— do you think would make a great movie (just like along the lines of Wonder Woman or Black Panther etc.)

JP: I think most of them would be great movies! In terms of ones that audiences would go wild for, it’s hard to top Julie d’Aubigny, the bisexual sword-slinging opera singer from 17th century France. WW2 spy Noor Inayat Khan deserves a movie  more than almost anyone I’ve ever written about, but given how her story ends, it wouldn’t be the feel-good hit of the summer.

GP: On your website, you offer prizes to readers if they catch an error in any of your entries. Can you tell me about the first prize you gave and why?

JP: The first official prize I gave out was for a correction on (hideously evil Merovingian queen) Fredegund, where a reader asked about how she could have sought sanctuary in Notre Dame before Notre Dame was built (answer: there was a church there prior to Notre Dame) . It wasn’t the first corrections I’d made though! The first twelve entries I put on the site were sourced purely from Wikipedia and riddled with errors. I made a huge batch of corrections after that. I’ve come a long way since then as regards research.

GP: What can you tell me about the women of Tough Mothers?

JP: I think our society tends to picture mothers as kind of just support systems for families, lacking in other pursuits or interests. The women I write about were far more than that – doctors, musicians, politicians, even pirates. I really try to show all the good, bad, and ugly of their personalities, and bring them to life as actual people, instead of just “person X’s mom.”

GP: Since we just celebrated Mother’s Day, what is one intangible you can credit your mother for giving to you?

JP: Man, what didn’t my mom give me? I’d credit her with giving me her temperament, her curiosity, her perfectionism, and her unstoppable work ethic.

GP: The importance of your two books underscore your belief in equality of women, so would you consider yourself a feminist?

JP: I’d be happy to say so, but I believe that’s a title you earn, not a hat you decide to start wearing. There’s  nothing fishier than a self-described male feminist. If others would like to describe me as a feminist, nothing would make me happier.

GP: With the rising of the #MeToo movement, do you think your work has become even more important?

JP: I’d hesitate to use the word “important,” but maybe “resonant.” There are a great many women reckoning with some very heavy struggles – to the extent that I can give inspiration in the form of heralding historical women who also struggled but came out victorious, I’m happy to.

GP: What do you want readers to take away from your books?

JP: That not only can women do anything, they already have. That we’ve been systematically cut off from a shared history that should be everyone’s birthright. That those who don’t fit the mold aren’t alone, and never have been.

GP: What are you working on next?

JP: I continue posting new entries online all the time! I am looking into collaborating with librarians and academia, making more of my research publicly available, and collecting my comics into school-usable formats. I’m also percolating various fiction concepts and seeing where they go. After four-plus years of nonstop historical research, it’s a much-appreciated break!

Review: Vietnamese Memories Book 1: Leaving Saigon

“Courage” is an understated attribute that most immigrants possess but rarely were given credit for, even before our current presidential administration. As most of this xenophobia, has been going on for years, and yet they still came to our shores, which included my family. The fact that you leave the place you have known your whole life, to go somewhere else, to begin anew. To do all that and bring your family with you or to start a family after that, these actions are not what everyone has in them, these actions require fortitude and courage.

This truth rings even louder for those, who consider themselves refugees, as their search for sanctuary leads to them places where they never imagined being including America. Life can be so complicated and comforts like our First World problems becomes nonsense when you realize the problems they have. Thousands of their stories have been told, each one as interesting as the next and ones that should be told repeatedly. In Clement Baloup’s Vietnamese Memories Book 1: Leaving Saigon, the acclaimed author seeks to tell the stories of one family across different time periods as they leave their homeland.

The book begins as a primer for readers as Baloup surveys what he believes they know from popular culture but then quickly does a deep dive into Vietnam’s history. As one family member tells the family history through the cooking of prawn, which shows the power of exposition and the connection food has to one’s family. Each member unveils what their life was during that time and each gives a reason why they left the country of their birth. By book’s end, each family member shows to their family through their stories why love will always lead the way.

Overall, an engaging set of stories that both feel intimate but is universal to every person whose family immigrated over the last century. The stories as told by Clement Baloup are lovely, visceral and enthralling. The art by Baloup is beautiful. Altogether, a great book that pushes the boundaries of storytelling and remembers that true stories are sometimes more interesting than fiction.

Story: Clement Baloup Art: Clement Baloup
Story: 9.6 Art: 9.3 Overall: 9.7 Recommendation: Buy

Review: Tough Mothers: Amazing Stories of History’s Mightiest Matriarchs

Mothers are the first gatekeepers to the world that most of us know. They are the ones who we hold close to us when we are first born and who we miss most soon after they leave this earth. We usually celebrate them on their birthday and today, Mother’s Day, but the truth is , what they do is really superhuman. The fact that most women who work, are also mothers and wives, and excel in all three areas, without blinking.

In Jason Porath’s sequel to his acclaimed Rejected Princesses, the appropriately named Tough Mothers: Amazing Stories of History’s Mightiest Matriarchs, he introduces readers to real life heroes that some may have heard but most should know. In “the Mother Who Bought Back her Country”, we meet Labotsibeni Gwamile La Mdluli, a shrewd regent whose negotiation skills lead her winning her country, Swaziland from England through measured indifference. In “The Mother of Modern Mastectomy”, we meet Vera Peters, a doctor who previously shown that Hodgkin’s lymphoma is treatable but then through the misogynistic “boys club” that occupied medicine then, that there was a more humane surgical procedure to treat women. In “The Mom Who Went to Washington”, we meet Bella Abzug, a woman who pushed through legislation in the US Congress, for the fair treatment of women in education and banks, bills for child care and LGBT rights, and was one of the frontrunners in ending the war in Vietnam and asking for President Nixon’s impeachment, a firebrand whose legacy runs deep in Washington D.C.

As infamous the name of Hannibal is, there was once a ruler named Anamirenas, as some would know as “The Mother Who Invaded Rome”, the fierce one eyed queen of Kush, who did not cower despite Rome’s defeat of Egypt, but instead rose to the occasion, and whose tactics proved too much for Augustus as it lead him to reach out for permanent peace. In “The Mother Who Made Her Own Fortune”. We meet Madame CJ Walker, a child of ex-slaves, who rose from poverty to become one of America’s first millionaires. In “The Mom Who Became Shogun,” we meet Masako Hojo, a woman who did not take any of her husband’s cheating antic slightly, and when her son proved to be an equally incompetent ruler, she became shogunate, quickly bringing order to a messy government. In the last heroine I will highlight, titled “The Mothers who Toppled a Dictatorship” we meet the Mirabel Sisters, as the advances of a deranged ruler in the Dominican Republic, became a living nightmare for one family, but their story helped turned a nation against the tyranny.

Overall, an essential book in everyone’s personal library, as it shows that women have been more than equals to men, they are superior in many ways. The stories by Paroth are each brilliant, well written and sprinkled with modern colloquialisms . The art by Paroth is gorgeous, as each panel captures these women in action, in the most gorgeous colors and vivid light. Altogether, a great book that will have the reader looking up these heroes, as all these women should be celebrated.

Story: Jason Porath Art: Jason Porath
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

Review: Young Frances

In the immortal words of Whodini “Friends, how many of us have them?”  It is considered one of the all time hip hop classics, but as with all songs back then, they sought to teach their listeners. As I heard the song play in my car, the other day, I paid attention to the lyrics, and the second line in the bridge caught” How many of them(friends) can you depend on?” That line actually gave me pause, as  it made me consider those people who I consider “friends.”

There are people who I have not talked to in years, but when we see each other, it was like we never stopped talking. Then there are users in your life, and only seek you when they need something, but when you need them, they are nowhere to be found.  Of course, when you are young, it takes time, sometimes years, before you see people for who they really are. In Hartley Lin’s brilliant Young Frances, the reader gets a front row seat of two friends on wholly different paths but can’t do without the other.

We meet Frances, a hot upstart lawyer who seems to be on the fast track, as her firm is in disarray, much like her personal life. We meet her friend, Vickie, an aspiring actress and the one-person Frances mostly can’t say no to. As both friends navigate their respective professions, Frances begins to feel overworked, swimming around office politics but climbs regardless while Vickie, steadily rises to fame, which takes her to Los Angeles, which has all the pitfalls. By book’s end, though Frances seemed like she would not be anymore than her station, she became a shining light for all her peers to follow.

Overall, an excellent book that captures the downsides of friendship, the overzealous politics of the workplace and the value of hard work. The story by Lin captures the complexities of life, the absurdity of self-importance, and the need for self-worth. The art by Lin is vivid, elegant, and warm. Altogether, an excellent book which shows Lin is a force to be reckoned with. His deft touch to characters and portrayal of slice of life is what makes him exceptional.

Story: Hartley Lin Art: Hartley Lin
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

Review: Cognition #1

When you read a book, most readers would like to be transported. This is where many first-person narratives often fail the reader as they spend a great deal of time introducing themselves, but not to their world. Same thing goes for most television shows and movies, as the setting is the fist thing you notice before a single line is uttered. The atmosphere that the creator brings their audience to, is what can make or break how well the book is received.

I remember the first time I read Stephen King, his writing transported to a small cold town resembling Maine, where people with bad intentions live. I remember the first time I watched The Birds, the way Hitchcock used silence throughout that movie is an effect that is still used in films today, but it is the atmosphere he set, which made audiences jump out of their seats. This is even more enjoyable to read in comics, as creators like Neil Gaiman and Warren Ellis, can pull you into a story with details that most writers would overlook but make the atmosphere just as uneasy as any horror movie. In the first issue of Cognition, our heroes continue their paranormal investigations, risking life and limb at every turn.

In “Mirror, Mirror,” a grieving widower research black magic to revive his wife but instead becomes maddened by something darker, causes his death and the death of his children as well. As Cal and Sigma, starts to investigate, something seems off about the room, the soon find out that the widower had no control of his actions, as he was possessed by something otherworldly. Sigma, soon finds out that a trickster demon is at play, deceiving the widower for the souls of whole family. By issue’s end, a terrible truth about Cal may have been revealed which leaves Sigma with pause for his partner.

Overall, an excellent first issue which gets us major insight into our dynamic duo. The story by Ken Reynolds is dark, scary, and entertaining. The art by Sam Bentley is gorgeous, chilly, and realistic. Altogether, another outstanding issue in a story that feels like a spooky Sherlock Holmes.

Story: Ken Reynolds Art: Sam Bentley
Story: 9.7 Art: 9.5 Overall: 9.8 Recommendation: Buy

Review: Buck Danny Volume 6 Mystery in Antarctica

When I was in the military, one of the most interesting experiences I had a chance to do was work alongside foreign military. This happened on a few occasions where we had to pull into the that country’s military base or some other occasion. I remember when we pulled into Toulon, France, our counterparts there treated us better than if we pulled into an American base. I remember going onto their version of an aircraft carrier, a ship called Charles De Gaulle, where me and my Chief were both surprised at their hospitality, as they gave us wine to drink while eating chow on board their vessel.

It probably was one of the most unique experiences I had while on official duty, as it gave me a different world view on how these countries we visit, were not merely ports of call, but new cultures to discover. This also made me realize that we had more in common than we realized. I remembered talking to a French sailor where we bonded over our love for the music of Chubb Rock. At the end of the day if you traveled outside of your confines to another country you should be transformed. In the sixth installment of Buck Danny we find Buck and his squadron having to work with French Navy pilots to uncover the truth of some mysterious aircraft in Antarctica.

We find Buck and his crew getting some downtime onboard the USS Truman, unfortunately the ship has been redirected to Antarctica, where they have been tasked to identify some “unidentified aircraft”, alongside the French Navy. While on mission, they discover a dead man on board one of the icebergs, which leads them closer to who is in Antarctica, through the dead man’s journal, discovers what happened but not why. Buck’s aircraft gets shot down, and is stranded on an icecap, where he discovers a treasure trove of WWII gold. By book’s end, the marauders have been apprehended and the world is that much safer.

Overall, a story set in an unlikely place, which heats up around the mystery and the unlikely allies Buck and the squad finds. The story by Francis Bergese is funny and action packed. The art by Bergese as with the rest of series, just stellar. Altogether, a great story in a cold place. Most readers will pass but will be a fool. This skillful storytelling at its best.

Story: Francis Bergese Art: Francis Bergese
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy

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