Author Archives: pharoahmiles

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

Review: Upgrade Soul: The Complete Collection

screenshot2016-09-26at3-15-56pmThe world has always been obsessed with the “fountain of youth”, and as technology improves one can only believe it is a matter of time before we can stop or eve reverse it. Popular culture and science fiction have explored it in various incarnations. One of the most interesting versions of this, was the recent “Age of Adaline”, which speaks off the struggles of getting old without your body showing the visible ravages of time. Then there is the reverse version of fountain of youth, like in “Big”, where he gets to find out how it is to be older while still possessing the mind and spirit of an adolescent. One of my personal favorites is the Black Mirror episode of “San Junipero”, which technically doesn’t age them, but lets the main characters live a younger version of themselves.

The movies I remember from my youth are the “Cocoon” movies, which dealt with senior citizens being rejuvenated by aliens. Not since those movies, have senior citizens and their adventures with the fountain of youth not so much been revisited since then. That is until I had the good fortune about finding out about Upgrade Soul, which just so happened to have won the Dwayne McDuffie Award for Diversity at the Long Beach Comic Expo. The description alone was more than worth the look:

UPGRADE SOUL is the story of an elderly couple who become the guinea pigs of a visionary procedure that aims to revivify them by filtering toxins from their bodies on a molecular level. When the procedure experiences a fatal complication, the couple is faced with severely disfigured, though intellectually superior duplicates of themselves. Soon, it becomes clear that only one version of each individual can survive, and the psychological battle for dominance begins.” From the first panel, the story immerses you into the world of Molly and Hank.

When they are told about this experiential procedure, they are more than hopeful for the positive gains it would bring such as living up to 200 years and really didn’t consider the possible negative residual effects. The story flips between before the procedure and after the procedure, as to follow a non-linear way of telling the story but even more compelling. As we meet the other couple who have gone through the procedure, the reader gets challenged with traditional beauty standards, what their idea of it is and what they consider inner beauty. By the end of the book, our main characters’ intellect and senses get heightened and much like “Lucy “and “Limitless”, they have truly become better versions of themselves.

This book, much like one of my favorite movies, and maybe because they remind me of family members makes you fall in love with the characters, just like “Bubba Hotep.” The sequential art feels like portraits at times and really makes the reader feel at home. The story is smart and more immersive than most fountain of youth stories, it gives you feels at the most unexpected moments. Overall, a powerhouse book that feeds the mind as much as it rejuvenates the spirit.

Story: Ezra Claytan Daniels Art: Ezra Claytan Daniels
Story: 10 Art:10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

Review: Spirit Wars #1

spirit-wars-1Comics have a way of reaching people when other forms of storytelling cannot. I have mentioned before in previous reviews of how my father got me into reading comics and how I have used the medium to get my daughters to read as well. This seems true for most people, not only here in America, but all around the world. As comics fans, all around the globe fell in love with DC and Marvel, they also were inspired by them.

In the 70s, Marvel reached out in Great Britain, first as reprints of some of their ongoing titles and then with original titles like Captain Britain Weekly and Knights of Pendragon. The other direction Marvel reached was north of the border, with the much-touted Alpha Flight. DC, on the other hand, the closest they ever came to is Earth One’s version of Batman and Robin and Justice League Europe being based in London, but their line, Vertigo, had a deeper run with League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and The Invincibles. The one thing both companies have not done, is to reach out to the rest of the world despite this fact, the rest of the globe still has embraced the ethos of the superhero.

Case and point, the emergence of Vortex Comics, from Nigeria, who have a series of titles, which not only embraced the superhero genre but also embraced other genres while not alienating its core audience, by including characters who look like them. In the debut issue of Spirit Wars, we are introduced to Bolaji, whose secret superhero identity is Strike Guard, but has since lost his powers until a friend who has long passed has brought him back to life, by permission of Death himself. The bargain his friend made was to kill as many angels as Death would require, a penance that would literally bring about reverberations in Heaven and Hell. By the end of the first issue, one thing is certain, war is coming.

Overall, a very strong first issue which not only delivers but introduces the reader to a world that is part Game of Thrones and part Clash Of The Titans with shadows of Infinity Gauntlet. The story by Mamode Ogbewele and Somto Ajuluchuckwu, is immersive and enlightening, while its pace can seem breakneck at times, it still is entertaining. The art by Somto Akah, Jimmy King, and Toyin Ajetunmobi, is simply beautiful, as the vibrant tones and colors accentuate the characters and backgrounds, while the way they use sepia tones, are the best I have ever seen. Altogether, an excellent debut, that leaves the reader hungry for more, which this nine issue series aims to do.

Story: Mamode Ogbewele and Somto Ajuluchuckwu
Art: Somto Akah, Jimmy King and Toyin Ajetunmobi
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

Review: Power and Magic: The Queer Witch Comics Anthology

power-and-magic-coverIn the world of the paranormal fiction, witches tend to be rather pretty centerpiece, as they play a major part, but rarely drive their own stories. Of course, there some notable exceptions, such as Charmed , Salem and Sabrina The Teenaged Witch, which are strong popular examples, but rarely does it prove to be scary. Then came Scott Snyder’s Wytches, which was not only scary as “small town with a big secret” scary, but bone chilling. In these examples, they rarely show any type of diversity.

I know the most classic example of diversity, is the constant popping up of Tituba, in historical records but throughout fiction dealing with the Salem Witch Trials, to include the soon ending Salem. As the question of diversity is constantly being redefined and reexamined, diversity not only includes race, but sexuality and disability. Because of the ever-changing definition, our fiction has reflected and refracted this in the most beautiful ways. A great example of this is the Power and Magic Anthology, which challenges every concept of what a witch is supposed to act and look like as well as the mythology, which makes this book, essential to all speculative fiction fans.

In Convolvere, characters share a secret, one that connects this group of friends in such an endearing fashion. In Your Heart is an Apple, tells a heartbreaking story of one would call a “muggle”, who falls in love with a witch, with a surprise twist. In After the Dust Settles, a grimoire is passed down from mother to daughter, and the love that connects this family women comes through their magic. In Te Perdi, the very question of what one would do for love, is challenged, as a witch goes literally through hell for her love. In Def Together, a battle between two witches takes center stage with sometimes hilarious results. In The Shop That never Stays, a witch has a pretty interesting “Quantum Leap” situation, which only infuriates her and entertains the reader.In As The Roots Undo, true love blooms when a witch leaves the walls she was taught never to leave. In The Songbird for a Vulture, a witch finds her coven after a terrible tragedy destroys her family.

Overall, a strong book that should be in everyone”s 2017 reading list, as it is not only engaging but truly some excellent storytelling. The stories contained shows exactly why every writer was chosen. The art although different in style by each artist, possess a synergy, which unearths the true magic contained within. Altogether, an excellent book that challenges societal norms of race, love, and mythology.

Story & Art: Aatmaja Pandya, Ann Xu, Arianne Hokoki, Coco Candalario, Fydbac, Gabrielle Robinson, Hannah Lazarte, Jema Salume, Joamette Gil, Juliette G. De M.Medina Lopez, Maria Llorens, Devaki Neogi, Naomi Franquiz, Natasha L. Barredo, Nivedita Sekar, Veronica Agarwal, Vexingly Yours
Story: 10 Art:10 Overall:10 Recommendation: BUY NOW!

Review: Octavia Butler’s Kindred

kindredgraphiccoverTime Travel has always been an interesting way to look at characters. This the reason why Back To The Future, is so relatable, as one decision in that story has repercussions and thereby making the right one is paramount to everything. Then there is HG Wells The Time Machine, which is a character study at its most base, where you realize man is and will always be the same good and bad. The last example, that most reverberates, is probably Dickens A Christmas Carol, whereby time travel is accomplished through paranormal means.

The one thing that threads all these examples together, is the fact that they barely have characters which possess melanin. When they do like it in Back to the Future, is they are mostly background characters, or plot devices, like  Mayor Goldy, to illustrate what certain choices yield. Rarely, has time travel been ideal for people of color, in science fiction, as one could only believe that they may have not existed during those times, which history refutes time and time again. One example in science fiction, that comes to mind, is a 1993 movie by Haile Gerima, called Sankofa, where a model times travels to slavery times.

Enter Octavia Butler, whose is an iconoclast in the science fiction world, and though she passed in 2006, her words live on and more so, in works like these. In Kindred, as the synopsis sums up:

Dana, a modern black woman, is celebrating her twenty-sixth birthday with her new husband when she is abruptly snatched from her home in California and transported to the ante-bellum South. Rufus, the white son of a plantation owner, has summoned her across time to save him from drowning. After this first summons, she is drawn back, again and again, to protect Rufus and ensure he will grow to manhood and father the daughter who will become Dana’s ancestor. Each time she arrives in the past, Dana’s sojourns will become more and more dangerous because of Rufus’ obsessive need for her. The reader never knows whether she will survive one journey or the next. It’s only when she finally must save herself from rape by killing Rufus that she is finally freed from the pull of the past.

As I remember reading this book when I was 13, and had not picked it up since, but this adaptation, brought all those goosebumps, back all at once. By story’s end, the reader has been taken on a ride, realizing things about themselves as well as the need for empathy in the human race.

Overall, when it comes to adaptations, this more than captures the spirit, pushes it to new heights. Damian Duffy deftly gets every message Butler was conveying and gets why this book has been a cornerstone, to every Octavia Butler fan. John Jennings‘ illustrations leap off the page, tugging at the reader’s heartstrings, at the right beats and not flinching when most artists would. Altogether, a strong adaptation, which not only met expectations but makes one fall in love with story all over again.

Story: Damian Duffy Art: John Jennings
Story:10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy NOW!!!!!!

Review: Wonder Woman ’77/Bionic Woman #1

wwbw01-cov-a-staggsAs a child who was born in 1977, the television gave way for some true cultural icons. I remember my family owning a big tube TV and all of us having to compromise on what TV shows we would watch, all fifteen of us sisters, brothers, and cousins. There were some shows that one of us quite took onto like my Grandfathers’ favorite show, Hawaii Five-O. Then there were the universally loved TV shows like The Fall Guy and A-Team, it captured all our attention like a tractor beam.

Before the big blockbuster, TV shows and movies, where the superhero genre became a behemoth, all children growing up in the 70s and 80s, had to deal with cheap special effects, in our onscreen adaptations. These are for the most part, laughable now, but some of those shows, we knew and still did not care. One of those shows being Wonder Woman, with the immortal Lynda Carter, where she used to spin around to change her costume. There was also The Bionic Woman, with her super slow motion effects.

For us 70s and 80s babies, Dynamite decided to fulfill some long-imagined team-ups in most of our minds. This time around they brought together Lynda Carter’s Wonder Woman and Lindsay Wagner’s Jaime Sommers. In this story, we find a SHIELD type organization recruiting both women for a protective detail, which ends being more either bargained for. By issue’s end, a long-hidden foe is about come out of the mist.

Overall, a series that gives everyone who watched it, those nostalgic feels, even their camaraderie, which is different than most female relationship portrayals. The story by Andy Mangels, is both funny and action paced, pretty much a perfect crossover episode.The art by Judith Tondora, is a cross between realistic and art deco. Altogether, what one hope it would be and expecting the rest of the series to be more of the same.

Story: Andy Mangels Art: Judith Tondora
Story:9 Art: 9 Overall:9 Recommendation: Buy

Dynamite Entertainment provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Alex + Ada: The Complete Collection

alex-ada_hc_coverartAs the world, has enjoyed science fiction, the very existence of robots has had a powerful foothold in our imaginations. The fact that robots can do what we can do and think at a greater rate, is part of what fascinates us about them. Artificial intelligence is what makes our fascination with the robot and overall, technology so engaging. The fact that a robot can learn and then adapt to what it has learned, is what has kept business from pushing those limits, as science fiction has more than showed what would happen if we did.

Fiction’s earliest meanderings with this notion, was Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, as the scientist endeavored to create a machine who could think like man. This concept became more sophisticated throughout time, as authors such as Karel Capek, Isaac Asimov and Philip K Dick, sought to explore the parallels between human robot. Which brings as to how film and TV has explored the very idea, as Will Smith’s adaptation of I, Robot, showed the world, the dangers. Then there is Bicentennial Man, which starred the late great Robin Williams as well as Westworld and Humans, which asked these questions in several different scenarios.

So when I started reading Alex + Ada, two years ago, I was instantly enthralled as the description reads:

Alex is a young man who is depressed after his fiancée breaks up with him. Tired of seeing him unhappy, Alex’s grandmother sends him Ada, a Tanaka X-5 android which is capable of intelligent human interaction. The robot is initially incapable of self-awareness, as each android has a program that blocks any potential free thought or consciousness.

That is only the beginning, as it starts much like Her, but becomes something more though provoking and political than I believe any initial reader would have thought. As we see Alex struggle with these questions of what makes one human and what makes one robot, and eventually sees that these labels are meaningless. We follow Alex, as a jilted ex-lover reports him to the FBI because he makes Ada, sentient, and gets set free, as he and Ada face a world where though they welcome new technology, they do not want them to have power. By series end, it proves to be powerful sentiment for why discrimination in any form should not exist.

Overall, a resilient view of the future, as this undiscovered country shows the reader how good technology can be, and how human we still would be. The story by Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn more than invades the senses, it lives with the reader. The art by Jonathan Luna elevates the limits of sequential art. Altogether, as xenophobia and racism is more transparent than ever, and though this series ended last year, it still feels as if it was written yesterday.

Story: Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn Art: Jonathan Luna
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Mayday #1

mayday01_coveraThe mere existence of spies has always captured the public’s imagination. As these people who hide in the shadows do the things, that they believe are for “the greater good”. From shows like Mission Impossible to Man from UNCLE, the spy has always been glamorized as a smooth operator, who always wear a sharp suit and always a lady’s man. I would be remiss, without mentioning what the British brings to the genre, with the iconic James Bond and the long forgotten Carpetbaggers.

With the public’s growing skepticism of movie magic, both TV shows and movies started to scale back on what kept the genre both unbelievable and magical. As the standard of realism started to pervade everything that is entertainment, what would be considered entertainment in the spy genre, became a cross between hardboiled detective and analytical spies. This brought on thinking man heroes like Jack Ryan and Piper Perabo ’s character in Covert Affairs. Then FX, brought some nostalgia and good ole spy craft to the game, with The Americans, combining what everyone loves about the spy genre with some realism sprinkled as they dealt with day to day family issues and the general stress from living dual lives.

This world is recaptured in Alex De Campi’s latest effort at Image, Mayday, it is 1971, and the Cold War, has America and Russia, on edge, wondering what will be the next move of their adversaries, which may very well include sending sleeper agents. We are introduced to Felix and Rose, a deadly duo who have more than assimilated to American life, much like the main characters in The Americans. Their mission is to kill a defector, who was cooperating with the CIA, but a pair of CIA agents are hot on their trail. This is where their youthful indiscretions intrude, they find a group of hippies which get them off track and it seems it will be a matter of time before they are caught.

Overall, a strong effort by the creative team, and I can reveal that a key scene has some influences from both Gaiman and Morrison. The story from De Campi, packs a punch and makes you laugh at the same time, which shows how talented a writer Alex is. The art by Tony Parker and Blond, is striking and lucid, which definitely serves a story that takes place in the 70s. Altogether, a fresh take on a spy caper that will keep the reader yearning for more.

Story: Alex De Campi Art: Tony Parker and Blond
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

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