Author Archives: pharoahmiles

Review: (H)Afrocentric Volume 3

Big cities all over the country has gone through change, on an almost daily basis, but a force that was briefly talked about on Netflix’s Luke Cage, is gentrification. This was a major issue in the movie, Do the Right Thing, as that neighborhood struggled with the racial, economic, and political differences. Gentrification became more apparent, when Jimmy Kimmel, last year decided to bring his show back to his hometown of Brooklyn, New York, the same borough where the legendary movie took place, and did a parody of how much a hipster paradise it had become. I know my neighborhood in Queens, New York, also has changed, due to gentrification, as it changes the racial and economic makeup of these neighborhoods, as most cannot afford to live there any longer.

There has been resistance to this change as well, as it has been known that a great many house owners, don’t sell their houses no matter how much developers offer to pay. This often leaves those who are resilient to change, alienating to their new neighbors, who tend to be of the same age/economic makeup. Gentrification brings with it, retail giants and as explored in one of The Sopranos final episodes, when some of Tony’s made men, try to shake down the local Starbucks, they fail, as even the Mob feels its outcome. This is what makes “our heroes” Naima and her crew, agents of change, as they are trying to stop gentrification in Aztlan.

In this “episode” the crew is still organizing their block party, as they are trying to figure how to lock down a block for a day for the MyDiaspora.com party. They also encounter Mrs. Wilderson, a homeowner, who has lived in the same neighborhood, for decades, and a prime example of who housing developers target, through either /and paying them to buy their homes/ intimidating through house ordinances. As with many of these events, the local police have been known to become overzealous in their efforts to control the crowd, but as shown in this volume, the essence of the event was to organize people who were affected, and not create chaos. Ultimately the crew, makes their stand against gentrification but loses a beloved character in the process.

Overall, this volume depicts how these events are organized and how even they are policed, as I have seen personally the same things depicted. The story by Jewels is funny and probably the best depiction of a community coming together. The art by Ronald Nelson, is simply beautiful as he makes the jokes jump off the pages. Altogether, another strong addition to this series, as it gets better with each volume, as Naima and her crew knows now that they can affect change.

Story: Jewels Art: Ronald Nelson
Story:10 Art:10 Overall:10 Recommendation: Buy

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Friday Flashback Review: Habibi

With most of the world powers at odds today with their citizens, the ugly head of “nationalism”, has creeped its way into most of the world’s conscience. As it has become increasingly more difficult, to tell whether a person’s good intentions can be separated from their political ideology, the world now mostly has ignored those less fortunate. Where once the world’s most powerful countries, were asked more often, whether they should intervene, most earliest in anyone’s mind who is living now, is America was going to intervene in World War II, it was never a question, “if”, but a question “when”.  The harsh truth is that world lacks the most basic of human characteristics, empathy.

The current xenophobia plaguing the ecosphere truly disregards the words left under the feet of the Statue of Liberty and attempts to invalidate immigrants and their descendants. It also leaves those who are refugees that have been persecuted, hunted, maligned and invalidated by the countries they came from, as now most of the Western world, is no longer a place for safe harbor. This is the very reason, why especially the Western world, should at least try and understand why people leave their homeland and why those flee when living there becomes unbearable. So, when I heard about Craig Thompson‘s epic story of two former slaves, Habibi, I was not only drawn to the art and premise but found it to be necessary reading into today day ad time.

In this story, we meet Dodola and Zam, two refugee child slaves, in a world stuck in time, where harems still exist, slavery is a common as buying stocks and anyone who is a woman or who possesses melanin, are devalued and considered less than a man. We follow these characters from toddlers to young adults, as the suffer and fight through a life of hurt for both. When the world becomes too much, they find comfort in each other, alleviating each other’s pain and sacrificing for each other, at times, to their own detriment, for shelter and sustenance. By the end of this epic, your heart more than embraces these characters, you wish for their prosperity, as the life they have lived would break most people, but makes these two stronger.

Overall, a story that affected me in the heartfelt of ways, as living in today’s climate, and being the son of immigrants, I hope and have been taught to be empathetic to those less fortunate, but as the book shows me, there is definite room for improvement. The story by Craig Thompson is masterfully told, meticulously detailed, and well-researched in Islam and Third world culture. The art by Craig Thompson is too much for words, as his sequential art is both beautiful and surreal, as there are times when it feels like a dream. Altogether, a book that proves necessary reading when love for your fellow man has become a rarity.

Story: Craig Thompson Art: Craig Thompson
Story: 10 Art:10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy NOW!!!

Review: I Killed Adolf Hitler

Time travel is one of those subjects that has been one of those subjects that normally has an oversaturation. Such as Zombies, when The Walking Dead came out, it pretty much inspired every auteur to come out of the of the woodworks, and for every major studio, to invest into their own properties, reviving properties like Zombieland and propping World War Z, in record time. At the end of the day, AMC and SyFy has two shows each just about zombies, which proves subjects like these are and have and continue to grab the public’s interest. Which brings me back to time travel, and just how certain actions yield certain consequences.

That is what the Butterfly Effect movies, delve into, as they show how dangerous or how prosperous a certain decision can make your life. The other time travel story, that is probably the most ripped off, and actually works on the concept of the “butterfly effect”, is Star Trek: The original Series episode” City on The Edge of Forever” where Kirk and Spock have to time travel to 1930s New York, to set a course of history right. This exact story has been copied numerous times, and nowhere near the mastery that Harlan Ellison wrote it back then. That is until I read I Killed Adolf Hitler, which takes readers on a wild ride and does it in the spirit of Harlan Ellison.

In this story, we, meet a hitman, in a world where being hitman is as common as being an insurance salesman, as our main character deal with office politics, and unsure girlfriends. He meets an older client, who offers him a strange job, one where he gets to time travel and as the title suggest, kill the vilest man of the 20th century. What follows, is Hitler time traveling to the future, where the Hitman must find him. By story’s end, the implications of time travel, much like Ellison’s tale, can merely a matter of inches.

Overall, a funny and perplexing story, that engages the reader, brings the along a very familiar path and then a throws a monkey wrench in the works. The art by Jason, is lively and realistic at some points. The story by Jason, is more than your typical time travel story, as it gives new dimensions to the morality tale. Altogether, a fun ride of a story, that will surprise you at every turn, as it turns what could have been a mundane often told story into a hidden love story.

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

One More Take on Netflix and Marvel’s Iron Fist Season 1

When Netflix start working in the Marvel Universe, the plan for how they would be attacking certain characters, and it just so happens characters resided in New York. I have never been a fan of Daredevil, in fact, the only run of his, which grabbed by attention is the Matt Fraction run and at certain parts, Kevin Smith’s run as well. I only just knew of Jessica Jones, and how it was pretty much the first comic book series to target adults. Luke Cage and Iron Fist, on the other hand, these guys I grew up on.

I remember picking up Heroes for Hire, and being swept up in their adventures, in fact it was my Dad’s Power Man and Iron Fist #54, that brought me into their world. So, when I found out that they were bringing those guys on in their own shows, I was geeking out. The show, Luke Cage, was more than the typical Marvel show, it elevated itself amongst its predecessors, as it had excellent storytelling and in many ways, not modernized the character for today’s age, but also breathed in fresh life, as it has spawned the new David Walker written series. So, when I found out that they were bringing Iron Fist, to Netflix, I thought like many nerds of color, that they would take this opportunity to re-write the “yellow peril” narrative that has plagued the western world, since World War II.

Marvel Studios had no problem casting Idris Elba as Heimdall and Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie, which are major victories in diversity. Again, I was a fan growing up reading these books, not possessing a full understanding of “cultural appropriation”, and how characters like David Carradine’s Kwai Change Caine were offensive, and which I later found out was Bruce Lee’s original idea. This is what I found wrong with, them keeping in step with the canon. In many ways, and not also as well, it is the same arguments as the Native Americans fight with the use of their likeness on sports mascots, as both have been wrong since their inception. A nice concession, would have been to have more than one Asian superhero (I know there is Colleen Wing in the show, who I will get to in a minute) like they could have included Shang Chi, Master of Kung Fu (who has more than passing resemblance to Bruce Lee) who has been a problematic hero I, but one that would complement Danny Rand.

Then when I read the not so spectacular reviews of the show I could not help but wonder if their apparent neglect of the problems of how the story was borne out of whitewashing in a world where minorities such as myself demanded to be counted as we have been painted invisible for so many years, is the reason for its failure. So, when I sat down to watch it, I was pleasantly surprised to find an entertaining series.

I had my issues with it, but let me talk about first, what I found great about it. Miss Colleen Wing, one half of the Daughters of the Dagon, is introduced as a local owner of a dojo, who teaches street kids how to fight, Jessica Henwick’s portrayal was immense, as she says more with eyes than many actors do, as I have a been a fan of hers since Game of Thrones. Then there is Lewis Tan’s portrayal of Zhou Cheng, which is rich with hate and regret and it just so happens his style of Kung Fu was a nod to Jackie Chan’s masterpiece, Drunken Master. Then there is Sacha Dhawan’s portrayal of Davos which clearly shines through the episodes he is in, as his portrayal of Danny’s best friend/ eventual enemy, is as complex as one would encounter in real life.

Ok now on to the bad, and I will keep the worst for last, the biggest part of Iron Fist’s mythos, is Shou Lou The Undying, which was never alluded to, I was hoping that there would be some interactions like the BBC show, Merlin which had Merlin talking to a dragon.The fight scenes were subpar, considering the two seasons of Daredevil, had fight scenes which deployed many styles of martial arts., and you would figure that they would get better, especially since this centers around a martial arts expert, but there are nods to The Raid and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon which are well intentioned, but are “meh”, in comparison. The next issue is the inclusion of Bride of Nine Spiders, who in the comics is a formidable foe, but in this TV show, she seems a bit neutered. As Jane Kim portrayals

The next issue is the inclusion of Bride of Nine Spiders, who in the comics is a formidable foe, but in this TV show, she seems a bit neutered. As Jane Kim portrayals was more than fine, but the lack of special effects, left much to be desired as one would have love to see a scene like this. The last and probably irredeemable part of the whole show is the casting of Finn jones as Danny Rand, As his portrayal of Danny

The last and probably irredeemable part of the whole show is the casting of Finn Jones as Danny Rand. His portrayal of Danny Rand, many times throughout the show, had me laughing as it comes off in a similar way as Taimak’s portrayal of Bruce Leroy in the Last Dragon.

Hopefully, this show gets tighter and smarter in a second season, as it has promise. But I do agree with most critics amongst the four Netflix Marvel shows, it is the worst. With that being said, it still is an entertaining show, with plenty of stories they can explore, as this character’s canon is wide-ranging, and most of his story centers on the fact he is an outsider, a fact that the showrunners should capitalize on, moving forward.

Review: (H)Afrocentric Volume 2

In a world where being politically conscious and is the norm, never has social issues been more mainstream. No one can turn on the television, listen to the radio, stream online, without someone discussing the current administration, the long history of misogyny and devaluation of women, and the societal ills which lead to the Black Lives Matter movement.  I remember a time in popular culture when people who brought up these same issues, were constantly being labeled as “conspiracy theorists”, often dismissing their claims, and often in TV shows and movies, being portrayed as some crazy hobo from the Reagan era. I remember growing up, especially when I was in high school, I read books, played bon the school’s basketball team and listened to hip hop, and if I said anything, that sounded “woke”, my classmates used to call me, “Elijah Muhammad”, because it told a truth that only their parents would say and also the movie, Malcolm X was popular at the time.

The closest person I saw at the time that resembled what me and my conscious friends talked about, was Freddie, from a Different World. She was beautiful, smart, had “knowledge of self” and wanted to educate her brothers and sisters. Her evolution on the show mirrored mines and my friends, as we read even more books (i.e. The People’s History of The United States, Behold a Pale Horse), gained an understanding of code-switching and became as most individuals, complex and well-read adults. Since that show, ended not too many forms of entertainment, comes close to showing the realities pf being socially conscious, except for Chappelle Show and Key and Peele.

Then through an article on another website I found about (H)afrocentric, it was described on that website as “a female version of Boondocks”, which after reading this volume, I feel minimized its description, and just how impactful this book was on me. When you meet Naima and her friends, it appears they were just a bunch of friends hanging out, that’s until you starting reading into their dialogue, which is the main attraction of this book, as it delves into the issues affecting them, their neighborhood, and their community. We catch up with our characters as they, begin a movement, creating a website, called mydiaspora.com, where that connects people over the gentrification of their neighborhoods. We end the book, as our “heroes” organizing an event the same day as another event.

This book by far, resonated with me in ways that, satisfied my love of comics and love of seeing positive portrayals of people of color. The story and dialogue by Jewels, is funny, relatable, and conscious. The art by Jewels, is vibrant and I have never seen an artist make the most of every panel, like she does, as in like your favorite movie, the best jokes are hidden in the scene. Overall, an excellent book, for anyone who loves comics like Love and Rockets, television shows like The Boondocks and movies like Get Out.

Story: Jewels Art: Ronald Nelson
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall:10 Recommendation: Buy

Review: Giallo Gumbo #0

Hip hop and anime, have flirted with each other for years, often leaving fans who loved both genres to wonder if there would ever be a creation that showed both. I remember when I first got into anime, the genre first mesmerized me with entries like Voltron and Robotech. I still felt out of touch, as I got older, my interest faded away, from that genre. My attention re-focused on hip hop, and the place where I found people who loved it just as much, and more than I did, was Japan.

By this time, the genre had invaded American shores, so when I found out Ghost in The Shell, Akira and Ranma ½, it had been a few years old, by the time I was stationed in Yokosuka. This is where I found the beauty of import CDs, where I picked up the import cd of Ice Cube’s Death Certificate, which had bonus tracks, that weren’t available on the American version. This is also where I found anime which spoke to me like Samurai Champloo which used breakbeats by the late great DJ Nujabes and Cowboy Bebop, which had a hip-hop attitude throughout. Years later, it is being not as hidden when shows like The Boondocks and Black Dynamite, had combined these two genres perfectly.

This is where Giallo Gumbo, brings the genre’s full on filtration in focus, as this story/collection, elevates these two in some ways which had not been seen until now. The book unfolds like a movie, with opening trailers and an introduction of each character. As the story goes, we get to see each character’s power in full effect, as we slowly find a certain character’s hidden powers by the end of the issue. As the art is the most alluring, there is a collection at least 20 pages long, at the end, that grabs you.

Overall, a fun book which grabs the reader with the art and keeps them with the interesting narrative. The story is funny, and if not for the fantastical elements, can be a page from real life. The art is amazing, as it deftly blends anime and realistic portrayals into beautiful sequential art. Altogether, a fun book that is worth everyone’s time, as it gives voice and perspective to a growing collective of artists in the South.

Story: Jahni Brooks Art: Nommo, Philip Johnson, Mikhail Sebastian, KC Bailey, Luis Figuerido, Chase Conley, Tovio Rogers
Story: 9 Art: 12 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

Review: Eartha OGN

What fiction allows readers and writers to do with their imaginations, is both remarkable and limitless. When the world becomes too tough to deal with, the comfort of escape a good book can provide, is always redemptive. Books like The Princess Bride and The Earthsea Trilogy takes us places that resemble our world but is fantastical enough that we know it is fantasy. Comic books like DMZ and Phonogram shows us our world can be more than what it cares to reveal in all its beautiful and ugly dimensions and shapes.

Movies where imagination gets stretched in its most obtuse directions, often challenge us, and make us uncomfortable much like how the Matrix, made every thinking person question the mundane and boring. Then there is the Adjustment Bureau, where every decision, illuminates the direction one would have taken and how forces beyond your control, push your destiny. All these books and movies, leave the reader/viewer, enthralled in their spectacle, often making their audience, question, “what if?” This is the same question that Eartha, asks the reader, doing as the great KRS-One called “edutaining”.

In this story, we meet Eartha, as the summary says:

For a thousand years the unfinished dreams from the City Across the Sea came to Echo Fjord to live out their lives. Sex fantasies, murder plots, wishful thinking, and all manner of secrets once found sanctuary in Echo Fjord. Emerging from the soil, they took bodily form and wandered the land, gently guided by the fjord folk who treasured their brief and wondrous lives. But recently, city dreams have stopped coming to Echo Fjord, and without their ethereal tourists the fjord folk suddenly feel lost. Has their ancient way of life ended for good? Has something happened to the city? Are all the dreamers gone? One of Echo Fjord’s inhabitants wants answers: The story’s eponymous protagonist Eartha wants to visit the City Across the Sea, but how will she get to a place no one’s gone to for a thousand years? The city isn’t on any map, or in anyone’s memory. Without thought or hesitation she ventures into the limitless waters, hoping to find the City and solve the mystery.

She deals with a variety of characters who challenge her perception of everything that she grew up believing in Echo Fjord. By the end of her odyssey, she is a changed woman, unraveling not only the mystery of why the dreams stopped coming to Echo Fjord but also a mystery about her family.

Overall, a great book by Cathy Malkasian, which challenges perceptions and societal norms while allowing the reader to escape. The story by Malkasian, is a fun journey, where the character development jumps out at you and the maze of interloping storylines leaves the reader grasping for more. The art by Malkasian, is alluring yet unassuming. Altogether, a great book, which challenges the perception of fantasy and parody.

Story: Cathy Malkasian Art: Cathy Malkasian
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: BUY

Review: Dragon’s Breath and Other True Stories

As most writers and creators have throughout time, usually leave a part of themselves within their stories. Anyone who has read Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, can see through andromorphic personifications, how he subtly examines his love of fiction. Anyone who has read Grant Morrison’s The Invisibles, can see how he blended his love of outsiders, the occult and dystopia, into an awesome tale of saving the world. Then there is Kieron Gillen and Jamie McElvie’s brilliant yet highly underrated Phonogram, which combines occult elements with slice of life.

There is also my personal favorite, Hip Hop Family Tree, where Ed Piskor’s love for the genre and the culture seeps through every page and illustration. Then there are the books Gene Luen Yang, such as American Born Chinese, which tells of growing up as both American and Chinese. One of his most recent books, Boxers, and Saints, is not as personal as it speaks about the Boxer Rebellion, but many of his musings find their way into the book regardless.  The one book that I was a Kickstarter backer to, Shmuck, by the brilliant and gone too soon, Seth Kushner, showed just how much of a light he was in this world, through his sometimes-subversive humor and humanity.

As all these books spoke to me, so does the creative illuminations that MariNaomi brings with her seminal work, Dragon’s Breath and Other True Stories, which provides many of her meditations on life, through real world interactions. There are more than a few standouts in this collection of individual stories, such as “Dragon’s Breath”, where she speaks of her grandfather, who she saw in one light, but never knew the complete truth about him, until years later after his passing. Then there is “The Quits”, where speaks of the attraction to smoking that many of us whose parents smoked, remembered thinking it was cool, as she eventually falls victim to the same addiction, until someone close, meets a fatal consequence because of it. The last standout that I will mention which really grabbed my attention, was “The Song in My head”, which starts as a funny meeting of kindred spirits but ends in a beautiful yet melancholic dedication to a one close friend.

Altogether, a collection of short stories which are simple, irreverent, complicated, and soulful all at the same time. The stories by MariNaomi, are a myriad of memories from her life, which are just short enough to digest but long enough to affect you. The illustrations are always easy on the eyes, as she blends a simplistic cartoon style with a complex palette. Overall, an excellent collection, which will have the reader yearning for more.

Story: MariNaomi Art: MariNaomi
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

Review: Turning Japanese

When it comes to graphic memoirs, there are very few that grabs a reader as one where the memoirist is honest about themselves and whomever else they are writing about. I remember the first autobiographical graphic memoir I read, that moved me, was American Splendor series, as the author’s works are prolific yet his life is relatable and true. There were times reading that book that I barreled over laughing, not only at the protagonist but also at myself, for doing something similar. Another book, which had a similar effect, was the graphic memoir of rapper, MF Grimm, Sentences, which I bought off the fact, I enjoyed his music, but read as to only a fan, but a comics fan, and much like Harvey Pekar’s story, I related to MF Grimm’s as well.

The last graphic memoir series, that I found myself embroiled in, even at its most cringeworthy moments, is the Love and Rockets series, as it captured some of my life through most of my 20s through my early 30s. Although these books provided great examples of life splashed on sequential art, I am constantly in search for creators who push boundaries yet pull their readers along for their adventures. So, when I read about MariNaomi, in an interview she did for another website, I was more than intrigued and a little mad at myself for just learning about her. The book which piqued my interest was her book, Turning Japanese, which talked about her adventures living in Japan, with a boyfriend who tends to rely on her as a translator, but the real conflict that got to me, was being a stranger and a native to the country you are born to and the one your parents came from.

I have personally visited both countries that my parents came from, quite a few times , even living in Trinidad for more than a few years and never quite felt like one of their own, which I really was not but as an American, as most of us who possess melanin, especially in my age group, we used to hear, when asked “where are you from?”, I would say “Queens,” and then that question would be followed by “where are you really from?” MariNoami beautifully captures this struggle many of us children of immigrants face throughout each chapter. We first meet her at age 22 after she just broke up with a boyfriend and is looking for clarity in her life. She eventually moves to Japan to work as a hostess at a hostess bar, in Japan, where she captures every detail as it really goes down in those establishments. Her story brings back memories for myself when I was still in the military when I was a stranger in a magical land. By book’s end, the writer has uncovered revelations about the country her parents are from but also about herself and her identity as a Japanese American.

Altogether, a powerful memoir, that resonated with me a 1000 times over, not only because MariNaomi is an expert storyteller, but her story is irreverent and relatable at some of the most interesting parts. Where I found myself relating to her the most is when she talked about learning her mother’s tongue, much like I did when my mother was still alive, those conversations still resonate. Overall, a humorous and moving novel, that one will want read and read again, just to imitate a certain feeling.

Story: MariNaomi Art: MariNaomi
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

Review: Charmed #1

Witchcraft since the beginning of time has been portrayed as dark magic, and its practitioners severely disfigured or geriatric.  Recently, in the past few years, the term “witch hunt”, has been thrown around, or describe any overzealous mission, but its origin in the Salem Witch Trials remains its most eponymous. Then there are the more famous witches in popular culture, the ones that whose backstory recently updated in the excellent Toil and Trouble, the witches of Macbeth. My personal favorites are the witches, of Hocus Pocus because of the way they also highlighted the mythos, in a smart and irreverent manner.

Growing up, shows Sabrina the Teenage Witch, did not capture my attention, but Bewitched did, It was not until I started watching Charmed, that I  became, enchanted. I initially started watching the show, because I had crush on Alyssa Milano, but I kept watching because it was excellent storytelling. The show made magic fun and twisted, even when Shannen Doherty and they brought on Rose McGowan, the show actually got better. After eight seasons, they were done, and although the ending was somewhat satisfying, I still held out hope for further adventures which according to recent news, will be coming back with a 70s twist.

In the meantime, their story continues, in the new series from Dynamite which finds the Halliwell Sisters in a battle with the Underworld. We find them narrowly escaping a fight with Charon and hi astral projections, who Paige vanquishes. Meanwhile, the sisters, still are trying to balance their magical world with their normal civilian lives. By issue’s end, the Halliwells are fighting a concerted effort, and the fight from the Underworld starts to seep into their normal human life.

This was fun escaping back into this world, as I got to relive all this magical world, and dip back into the Halliwell Manson. The story by Erica Schultz has all the heart, fun, and mystery that the show had. The art by Maria Sanapo is both realistic and entrancing. Overall, a great first issue and an excellent value addition to the canon.

Story: Erica Schultz Art: Maria Sanapo
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

Dynamite Entertainment provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

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