Author Archives: pharoahmiles

Review: Cold Mountain: The Legend of Han Shan and Shih Te The Original Dharma Bums

I remember when I started to read books. Like most children, what the school assigned us to read and what we liked to read were often worlds apart. I was never in a class where they would recommend both The Great Gatsby and Fahrenheit 451. One is considered part of the great canon of American Literature while the other is considered radical in its thinking but is now considered one of he forefathers of dystopian fiction. It wasn’t until I got out of school before I read about any of the beat writers, including the oftspoken Jack Kerouac.

Kerouac’s seminal work, On The Road gives readers the best presentations of his philosophy and way of life. He’s one of the more well known writers of his decade and of this subset. Pop culture has gotten to know him from TV shows like Quantum Leap. Contrary to popular belief, this school of thought that the Beat Movement of the 1950s and 1960s, did not start with these young stallions, but with two “dharma bums.” Sean Michael Wilson, Akiko Shimojima, and J.P. Seaton’s have put together a rather ingenious take on the Chinese legend of Han Shan and Shih Te in the brilliantly told Cold Mountain: The Legend of Han Shan and Shih Te The Original Dharma Bums.

Within the first few pages, we meet Han Shan, who we come to know as “Cold Mountain.” He gives readers a brief history of who he is and his attempts at living a rather ordinary life. He’s a young man seemingly failing at everything from being a scholar, to a soldier, to a farmer, and even being married. This is until he receives an epiphany and finds the courage to stand up to authority, religious and secular, and to fight social injustice. Thus sparking a movement. We also meet Shih Te, Shan’s young protégé, whose undying loyalty leads to the two being coined “The Laughing Pair.” They leave their poetry on tree trunks and rocks. The graphic novel allows the reader to follow this duo and their many fabled tales and the poems they inspired. It gives readers a more concise view of these brilliant philosophers.

Overall, an excellent graphic novel about these almost mythical figures which may have very well birthed modern philosophy. The story by Wilson and Seaton is smart, funny, and engaging. The art by Shimojima is sophisticated and virtuous. Altogether, it’s an elegant tome which pays tribute to the godfathers of “dharmic bliss”.

Story: Sean Michael Wilson Translation: J.P. Seaton Art: Akiko Shimojima
Story: 10 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.7 Recommendation: Buy

Review: Buffalo Speedway

Buffalo Speedway coverIn the biosphere of popular culture, the current range of visual artists capturing the attention of fans is pretty diverse. As the current climate has shown, geeks and everything geek related presently occupies most people’s “Reddit feeds.” It was not always like this, as there was a time before the internet when such things would looked at with ridicule. There was not one thing, movie, television show, book that changed it, it was the amalgamation of these things and the influencers behind them.

One of those influencers is Kevin Smith, whose films would portray those people who were enduring their quarterlifer crisis in a variety of ways. His debut film, Clerks, is still one of those movies that connected with people from that age group regardless of race and circumstance. It offered a raw uncut look into what it meant to be at a place in your life where you did not see yourself. In Yehudi Mercado’s Buffalo Speedway, we meet a group of characters much like those in Smith’s iconic film.

We meet Figgs, a pizza boy, who has worked for the same pizzeria, Turbo Pizza, for the last eight years, and though it seems he doesn’t have any ambition. In this world, pizza boys can become pizza men, where simple delivery drivers can become legends. This seemingly typical tale of underpaid daily workers is more like Mortal Combat meets Gone In 60 Seconds, as each driver has their own set of skills which makes extraordinary. Turbo Pizza and Pizzaurus are in constant battle to be the top pizzeria in town. Eventually Figgs and the rest of his cohorts get involved in Top Driver Race to boost the store’s sales where whoever delivers the most pizza gets the prize, a percentage of the bets.

Buffalo Speedway is a fun comic that’s both adventurous and epic. It feels like a movie lover’s dream. The story by Mercado is funny, engaging, and action packed. The art by Mercado is so detailed and vivid that it feels as though it could jump of the page. Altogether, it’s a rollercoaster of a comic that easily hooks readers with its easily likable characters, intertwining plots, and gorgeous art.

Story: Yehudi Mercado Art: Yehudi Mercado
Story: 10 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.6 Recommendation: Buy

Review: Denver Moon #2

My favorite police procedural movies are when the undercover police officer is so deep in, they barely know who they are any longer. One of the prime examples, is a show I’m currently watching that comes on the BBC, called No Offence. One of the main storylines follows a detective who’s undercover in a Islamic hate group. She breaks off all contact with her superiors and becomes embroiled in the group to almost not knowing what her true purpose is.

The storyline and the way it plays out reminds me of my two favorite movies from the 1990s , Deep Cover and In Too Deep. It’s just pure coincidence that both movies features characters who gets lost in their undercover persona, to the point it is hard for them to disrupt their learned behavior. This obsessive behavior also extends to when characters walk the grey line in order to solve their cases. How far will you go if saving lives will cost you, your moral scruples? In the second issue of Denver Moon, our titular character looks within the tunnels of Mars for any breadcrumbs which may lead to our scythe wielding killer.

The key to cracking the case lies buried in the deepest tunnels of Mars. Denver Moon will stop at nothing to unearth the truth, even if it means digging up the demons of her past. As Denver walks the streets following a lead, she quickly lets the reader know that she’s like most private investigators where a majority of her cases involve infidelity. It’s a nice tip of the hat to a trope of the genre. But everything else is anything but. It involves religious cults and miners and leads to a very powerful climax.

Overall, this issue serves as the turning point for the series and it more than serves the story. The story by Warren Hammond and Joshua Viola, is action packed and intelligent. The art by Aaron Lovett, Brandon Bendert, and Matt Von Scoyk is vivid and elegant. Altogether, it’s another excellent installment in the sci-fi crime noir series which looks to keep readers glued to their seats to the very end.

Story: Warren Hammond and Joshua Viola
Art: Aaron Lovett, Brandon Bendert, and Matt Von Scoyk
Story: 9.5 Art: 9.3 Overall: 9.4 Recommendation: Buy

Review: 30 Miles of Crazy #2

There’s nothing like walking through a major metropolis at night. You’ll never see the city the same way. I remember growing up in New York City with my cousins. We used to take the train at all times of the night. This was when you used to see things that would rattle most folks. But not us. It wasn’t because we were tough or knew exactly what was going on. We were just used to it. It was part of being a city dweller.

What made our trips so interesting were the people we met. Most of them were regular dayworkers just trying to get home. Others were homeless just trying to stay warm and fed. Needless to say, when I eventually traveled the world, I saw that most cities were like ours, just with different flavors. In the second issue of Karl Christian Krumpholz’s sensational series, 30 Miles Of Crazy, readers gets another peak into what looks like a wild night.

In “An Awkward Late-Night Conversation” a man takes a taxi only to find out he is about to hear one of the most gripping stories of his life. In “Just One Man’s Opinion,” one lush, as most of them do, pushes his opinion about Alice Cooper to everyone he sees. In “A Cajun Baptism,” a friend of the author tells an embarrassing story about the first time they met. In “Tequila Sunrise,” one bargoer becomes infuriated when he wrongly assumes how a strong a certain drink is. In “The Second Date,” we find how the author’s second date with his wife to have told him everything he needed to know about her. In “The Scottish Goodbye,” one bargoer explains what the term means leading to hilarious epiphany. By issue’s end, the reader gets a more personal comic from the writer. It’s one which makes you understand the man behind the pen.

Overall, the second issue gives you not only more about the city but the man behind the words. The story by Krumpholz is both fun and hilarious. The art by Krumpholz is beautiful and vivid. Altogether, it’s an excellent installment which should pull more readers into this world.

Story: Karl Christian Krumpholz Art: Karl Christian Krumpholz
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy

Review: DC Comics: Anatomy of a Metahuman

When most people who don’t read comics think of the genre and the culture they often think of iconic figures of Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. One of my favorite movies is Justice League: Doom which is based on the storyline “Justice League Of America: Tower Of Babel,” which I read first and then years later saw the animated movie. I had the same question, both times, how did Bruce Wayne collect all this intelligence on each of his friends? Thankfully, I wasn’t the only person thinking this, as the good people at Insight Editions have put together a behind the scenes look at what goes on in the mind of Bruce Wayne. We get a chance to discover his notes on every major metahuman, friend and foe, in Anatomy Of A Metahuman.

Concerned about the threat that so-called “metahumans” may pose to the world, Batman has begun compiling a detailed dossier on their incredible physiology and abilities. From villains like Killer Croc, Bane, and Brainiac, to Batman’s own comrades, including Superman and Cyborg, the file brings together the Dark Knight’s fascinating personal theories on the unique anatomical composition of these formidable individuals. This unique book delves into the incredible abilities of DC Comics characters like never before. Using beautifully illustrated anatomical cross sections depicting twelve different DC characters.

In “Introduction,” the reader gets a handwritten note form Bruce Wayne himself, as he lays out the very reason he has put these files together in the first place and how they can help when all the good has gone. In “Superman,” Bruce breaks down his friend and sometimes adversary, as he dives into how Kryptonian anatomy differs from human, though they look humanoid on the surface, as the most fascinating section focuses on his brain and how it is both superior and similar to humans. In “The Cheetah,” the reader get insight into her and Wonder Woman’s relationship and what Steve Trevor initially thought of the subjects. In “Aquaman,” the reader learns about Atlantis and how Atlanteans function almost like most sea creatures except with some rather unique abilities. In “Cyborg,” we learn about Victor Stone’s connection to the Mother Box, and though he may be human he is equally robot. In “Martian Manhunter,” we learn how Jonzz and Martian morphology, and how his need to fit in as human is both fascinating and mystifying. In “Swamp Thing,” we get a deep dive into how chlorokinesis works in his case and how it affects both his powers and his ability to rejuvenate himself. In “Darkseid,” we find out about the New Gods and though they are aliens, they also have deity-like qualities. In “Bane,” we learn how Bane became so strong and how this same elixir has made some foes unusually invincible including one former protege. In “Doomsday,” we find just how dangerous this creature is and why Superman and most Kryptonians both fear and revile him. In “Killer Croc,” we find out how a skin disorder made him into who he would become.  In “Bizarro,” we find the only true irregularity amongst the file,s as his whole physiology was due to defects that could only happen to Kryptonians. In “Killer Frost,” we get an in-depth look at cryokinesis, and just how it works with heat absorption. In “Conclusion,” Wayne laments the attention to detail he wished he gave each subject but wishes to go more in depth, with a promise to release more files.

The book is a deep dive into the characters as the Bruce Wayne gives the readers and painstaking look at each character and also into the mind of Bruce Wayne AKA Batman. The narration and notes by writers S.D. Perry and Matthew K. Manning are very entertaining and capture the character’s voice perfectly. The art by Ming Doyle can easily be in a sketchbook as well as an art museum. Altogether, an entertaining coffee book that can satisfy both comic book fans and pop culture fans equally.

The book is outnow.

Story: S.D. Perry and Matthew K. Manning Art: Ming Doyle
Story: 9.4 Art: 9.0 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

Review: Hope

In the battle between good and evil, things are never really black and white as many people would like to believe. As there is no physical markers that one sees that would automatically tell you what intentions that person possesses. As an avid Star Trek fan, I always marveled at how the franchise, no matter which series you talked about dealt with social issues. The one episode from the original series, that has stuck with me to today, and really doesn’t feel dated at all, is “Let That Be Your Battlefield.

The story revolved around a centuries old war between two alien races, where they simply hated each other because of the side of the face where they have certain colors. The magnitude of what Gene Roddenberry was telling with one particular story cannot be underscored, as it still rings true today, that race is a construct and racism itself is an idea which is thought not inherited. It is always interesting when fiction creeps these ideas in to the reader’s subconscious, and it is always interesting to get into fiction, where these things are more obvious. In Lovern Kindzierski and John Bolton’s Hope, the world of Shame is continued on with this installment, as Hope looks to be reincarnated into a human body.

We are brought to Shame’s castle, where most of her demons have been vanquished, as Merritt looks for anyone looking to do harm to Grace and Hope.  As they leave the castle, they make their way down the rod to safer pastures, as though the demon hoard seems t be gone for good, one can never be sure. As we soon find out that Shame and her evil witch, Mother Virtue are hunting for Hope. By book’s end,a new enemy has emerged, as our heroes race to stop them before they can fulfill their promise.

Overall, the book is if HR Giger and Alejandro Jodorowsky worked in the medieval world in a battle between good and evil. The story by Kindzierski is exciting, action packed and unfolds likes well won action adventure. The art by Bolton feels visceral and can be in any museum. Altogether, a graphic novel which engulfs the reader into this magical world and gives fantasy fiction fans a grand tale.

Story: Lovern Kindzierski Art: John Bolton
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy

Review: Denver Moon #1

As a voracious reader of books, I have always loved private detective novels. There’s something so appealing in that world. You have people with complicated histories, who usually operate in the shadows, and though they live in the moral gray they eventually do the right thing. One of my favorite book series growing up was Robert Parker’s Spenser For Hire books, who lived in Boston and usually had his best friend Hawk watching his back. The television show was just as legendary in my mind. It starred the iconic Robert Urich in the titular role and ran for a few seasons. He exuded grit and coolness in the same breath. One of my other favorite private detectives in fiction was Bob Hoskins’ Eddie Valiant in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?. His portrayal reminded me of the cool investigators of Dashiel Hammett’s books.

In science fiction we rarely get to see a successful blending with the detective genre. I don’t remember seeing too many times a private eye has been in this genre, with the exception of Takeshi Kovacs in Altered Carbon orRick Dekkard in Blade Runner. It’s a great idea because who would not like to see a private investigator like a Mickey Spillane using futuristic technology to catch an android? In Warren Hammond, Aaron Lovett, and Joshua Viola’s Denver Moon, we meet a smooth private investigator on Mars hot on a case where someone is dismembering prostitutes.

Denver Moon is Mars’ top private eye. She works the tunnels of Mars City, a struggling colony ravaged by the mysterious red fever. Her latest client, Jard Calder, is demanding results. Someone is dismembering the pimp’s prostitutes and salvaging their body parts. But since the victims are robots instead of humans, is it really murder?

The opening panel follows the detective trope as we find an android prostitute, laid out on a bed, not functioning, where a man with a scythe stands over her, and bashes her skull in. A few hours later, Denver Moon, Mars City’s top private detective is on the scene. A client lets her know that this is the fourth robocide, killing of a robot, in so many days, a fact that the police is pressed to close, but the client is even more pressured to fearing bad publicity. There’s also an infection called Red Fever brewing on Mars which makes residents bloodthirsty with rage, enough to kill everyone on site.

Denver Moon #1 is one of the better science fiction comic books I have read in a while. It masterfully blends crime noir with science fiction. The story by Hammond and Viola is tempered, smart, and well developed. The art by Lovett, Bendert, and Von Scoyk is gorgeous. Altogether, if you like your science fiction with some mystery, this book is perfect choice.

Story: Warren Hammond and Joshua Viola
Art: Aaron Lovett, Brandon Bendert, and Matt Von Scoyk
Story: 9.4 Art: 9.5 Overall: 9.6 Recommendation: Buy

Review: Djinn Volume 9 The Gorilla King

People often speak about what is done for the greater good, as what guides one ‘s moral ultimately leads people to do these things for “the greater good”. This epitaph is usually espoused by politicians and military leaders to inspire their constituents and their troops. As leaders on both sides of a conflict usually lead by fear or by inspiration.  The ones who motivate their people, often tell themselves if they dictate something inspiring, their people should follow naturally.

As with all leaders, most often people will only follow those without question, those leaders who show they can stand by their people, even in the battlefield. One of the most memorable leaders in fiction that can be remembered by most pop culture fans, is Daenerys Targaryen of Game Of Thrones lore. As her character has inspired her people and everyone who comes in contract with her, falls in love with her unconsciously. In the ninth volume of Djinn, and the last book in the Africa saga, Jade fulfill her destiny and unite the tribes.

In a rare moment for fans of the book, Kim finally sees a vision of Jade as she walks alone in the savannah, something that be attributed to their connection as both being Djinn and their familial bonds. We find Jade in negotiations with the military, as they try to implore her to end the revolt, but she remains un-wavered. She soon moves her people in search of the Gorilla King, an arduous journey in which her purpose becomes emboldened, as she accepts his hand in marriage and becomes the Queen of Africa and immortal in the same breath. By book’s end, because of the Black Pearl, betrayals around Kim spring abound, but those loyal to her ensure her survival and triumph.

Overall, a satisfying end to a powerful story which shows that Jean Dufaux and Ana Miralles have created something enduring. The story by Dufaux is smart, engaging, and exciting. The art by Miralles is elegant and luminous. Altogether, a great story that only gets better with this volume.

Story: Jean Dufaux Art: Ana Miralles
Story: 10 Art: 9.6 Overall: 9.5 Recommendation: Buy

Review: Zindan #3

As a fan of high fantasy, there is nothing like these experts in fiction and the world they usually let the readers become part of. As the fine art of worldbuilding, is central to the believability of every story set in this genre. One of the most memorable and will be rejuvenated with a new take very soon, is the very much celebrated Lord Of The Rings. As that world is very much like ours in certain aspects as everything is not always as it seems.

The trilogy of films made by Peter Jackson, made the books more inclusive and even made the use of Olde English even more understandable to the common ear. One of my favorite parts of the movies, is when Aragorn ask the Army Of The Dead for help, as compared to their other allies, one can automatically see their alliances are only to themselves, but they help so that their debt is forgiven. Sometimes in life, you never know when you need help and from whom, and how it will show up. In the third issue of Zindan, our protagonists find themselves either walking into a haven or a wolf’s trap, only time will tell.

The brothers enter a part of the city only known as the Herat, a place neither Zain Or Timur has ever seen anyone affected with the affliction these women have. Meanwhile, the Mughals ponder on the information an informant has given them, even though it has given them Zindan, based on their information, Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb is starting to become skeptical nonetheless. Also, the last of the Ansaars, are headed to Zar Pahaarh, to inform the keepers of the book that Zindan has fallen and evil has been unleashed. By issue’s end, not everyone makes it to Zar Pahaarh.

Overall, it’s an action-packed entry in this ever expanding story. The story by Omar Mirza and Khurram Mehtabdin, is fun, relatable, and exciting. The art by the creative team is gorgeous. Altogether, a fun issue that gives the reader more insight into how and who was responsible for the fall of Zindan.

Story: Omar Mirza and Khurram Mehtabdin
Art: Sajad Shah, Adelso Corona, Alonso Espinosa, and Jessica Jimerson
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy

Review: MWD: Hell is Coming Home

As the world becomes more mired in politics, it is always interesting to hear a viewpoint about war from someone who has never served. It’s true that every citizen is entitled to their opinion but the thing about intelligent discourse is that one requires real world experience beyond one’s limited view.

There can be an indifference for many war veterans when they come home and have to listen to people who have never served talk about things only service members have had “skin in the game” in. This becomes true of veterans who have served in a war zone. We experience life different from those family and friends. That gap becomes even wider when we come home. In the honestly told and beautifully illustrated MWD: Hell Is Coming Home this experience is eloquently articulated.

We meet Liz, a war veteran who had just come home, as she gets a tattoo of her military working dog, Ender. She looks forward to returning back to Iraq. We flashback to 2004 in Iraq, where during a patrol, her and Ender stop a suicide bomber before he could detonate his bomb. The graphic novel explores how it is for female military members and the many unnecessary situations they have to deal with including having to prove themselves as soldiers. On one patrol with her friend, Simms, her vehicle gets hit with an IED, leaving Liz, the sole survivor. As she returns home to her family, her mood is somber, as the way she sees her friends and family is different. Liz feels entirely alone after the situation and finds herself in a downward spiral of flashbacks and blackout drinking. Things are destined for a horrific ending when she befriends a dog reminding her of her partner she left behind.

The graphic novel is a powerful portrayal of PTSD and the difficulties of coming home after being deployed. The story by Brian David Johnson and Jan Egleson is raw, heartfelt, and sincere. The art by Laila Miskevski and Karl Stevens is precise, lifelike and stunning. Altogether, an important book that shows military veterans who have PTSD not as victims but as humans.

Story: Brian David Johnson and Jan Egleson Art: Laila Miskevski and Karl Stevens
Story: 10 Art: 9.7 Overall: 9.8 Recommendation: Buy

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