Author Archives: pharoahmiles

Review: Permanent Alien Anthology

Once upon a time, what seems a long time ago now, the world looked at America, as a haven, a place where intolerance and hate were not only frowned upon but considered disgusting. In this magical and, every man and woman, had the same chances at the “American Dream.” This world as we know it is more fantasy than reality these days, as far as intolerance and hate goes as far as opportunity, it is more skewed by a variety of factors, that I can write a book about. As far as intolerance, it appears even before the recent rise of hate crimes, and as told by my own family, that these atrocities have always happened, but just never made the news.

The struggle of belonging and not belonging is the constant state of the immigrant, and their descendants, as one never feels like they really fit in. This is both hilariously and tragically told in Hasan Mihnaj’s Homecoming King, as he brilliantly illustrates just how no matter, how many times you feel as though you belong to “America,” there is someone who lets you know, you don’t. Within the realm of comics, the recent wave of comics, from DC and Marvel gives readers hope for a change, even the beautiful variant cover Bernard Chang did for New Super-Man #11, for AAPI month, is simply classic. So, when I heard about the recently indie published anthology of 20 different stories from several different Asian American comic book creators, Permanent Alien, other than Shattered Volumes 1, Secret Identities and Shards Volume 1, these collectives rarely happen, but nonetheless, happy to see them and to see them done as good.

In one of the opening stories, “Bus,” a common scene on a school bus, where the racial differences between children are discussed and stereotypes are dispelled. In “New year Cake,” a girl brings a traditional celebration cake for a school potluck, where she realizes she was the only own to eat from it. In “Don’t Tell Anyone,” a foreign student learns too fast the meaning of “loose lips sink ships” as an innocent friendship gets soiled by a careless mistake. In “Disconnect,” the falling out belief in the religion you grew up in, is beautifully told. In “Language parts 1, 2 and 3,” a scene which took place in my own house, is hilariously told, as the understanding of certain words from movies and TV shows of a native language is hilariously told in this comic. In “I mean, I guess,” a lifelong evasion by one individual ‘s family of an undiagnosed problem, highlights the problem of avoidance in the sort “I love Zach Galifianakis,” the problem of whitewashing is discussed with some light humor. “Where Are You From,” the ignorance of assuming you don’t belong is hilarious told in the narrator’s country where her parents come from and where she was born. In “Mestiza,” the struggle of Filipinos having to validate that we are Asians is beautifully told in this vignette. In the last standout, “Floating,” it tells of how it is to be an American student living in Korea, a stranger in the native land of your parents, a something barely gets told in any medium enough.

Overall, a beautiful book, that not only illustrates the need for diverse creators but how important to it is to understand one another. The stories within this book, are as different and familiar, as one might expect and more, as they are all vividly told. The art is luminously crafted, giving each story the perfect tones and colors. Altogether, an excellent book, which is beautifully illustrated and smartly told, that is a must read, not only in the canon of Asian-America but America, period.

Story: Hanna Cha, Mariel Rodriguez, Jean Wei, Michelle Zhuang, Angela Gao, Woong Ki Hong, Samrath Kaur, Jenn Lim, Li Bai, Sonja John, Tiffany Wei
Art: Hanna Cha, Mariel Rodriguez, Jean Wei, Michelle Zhuang
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy


Review: Windmaker: The History of Atala – The Art of the Book Series

The obsession with Game of Thrones cannot be understated, as the series, in books and on TV, has reinvigorated people’s interests in high fantasy. The melding of genres and the epic storytelling is what makes this more than a regular sword saga.  The more audiences get into each character and each book, the more interesting it gets. So, when certain events pertaining to the main plotline, are brought up, the audience is more than curious, they beckon for it.

The one event within that book series I can think of, as it has been heavily alluded to, is Robert’s Rebellion, and although George RR Martin, has given us details here and there, all the details have not been explained, just the body count. At the end of the day, past histories and prequel series are essential to worldbuilding. As they more than serve as a plot device, as they did in Sons of Anarchy, they are what make the characters who they are. Therefore, after reading the excellent Malika, Warrior Queen, I was interested in who the “Windmaker,” was.

In this prequel one-shot of sorts, Roye Okupe delves into the history Of Atala, the great nations the Windmaker, comes form. As he talks about the founding, it feels those “histories of the house of” extras on the Game of Thrones Blu-Ray. We find out about the founding, their mythology, their cartography every major figure, every major conflict, and the invasion from the Ming Dynasty, which set up the events of the Malika, Warrior Queen. By book’s end, the reader has indoctrinated into their world and will be well equipped to dive into this universe.

Overall what was billed as an art book, functions more as primer to the world of Azzaz, where Malika, Warrior Queen takes place. The history laid out by Okupe, simply shines. Th art by Godwin Akpan illuminates Okupe’s world and brings to life the world they have created. Altogether, a lushly illustrated prequel that gives a good background for any newcomer to the story,

Story: Roye Okupe Art: Godwin Akpan
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

Review: Vrica: Dawn of the Wolf OGN

Agents of SHIELD is one of those TV shows that either you love or you hate. The intrigue that was shown in Captain America: Winter Soldier, provided the fertile ground for the series to be a serious spy thriller. Instead, it is a show with more downs than ups, and seriously hampered its potential. It is currently going through a major storyline, dealing with timelines and alternate universes.

The comics have had a few storylines dealing with SHIELD, where it appears it could be a major player in the Marvel Universe. There have been some great ones, like the current Nick Fury solo series, which has all the whiz bangs of the bygone era of James Bond. I always felt that the organization as a character was seriously underserved, and acted more as window dressing than an organization making the world a better place, taking on missions of great importance. So, when I heard about VRICA, from Indian upstart, Chariot Comics, I was intrigued, as though I got my wish fulfillment for SHIELD by reading this book.

In the debut volume, we are introduced to a team that I would describe as the “team from Mission Impossible” but with superpowers. We are introduced to Dark Wolf (the Indian Winter Soldier) Longbeard (an Indian Hawkeye) Binary, Falcon, and White Fang (a male Indian Black Widow), a super team who has just saved New Delhi from a massive terrorist threat. As an old villain from Dark Wolf’s past comes back into the light, known as the Reaper the team springs into action before he can unleash havoc on the country. Before the end of the volume, a battle royale between Dark Wolf and The Reaper ensues, leaving no doubt who is the victor, and as a bonus the reader gets a to know each of the other members of the team as they go on their own solo missions.

Overall, a great introduction to a team of heroes, some super, some not, but together, can take on any adversary. The story by Aniruddho Chakraborty, is suspenseful and provides loads of intrigue that can satisfy the biggest spy fiction fan. The art by Tamal Saha and Tarun Kumar Sahu, is simply gorgeous. Altogether, a full tilt boogie hat this reviewer will be taking again soon.

Story: Aniruddho Chakraborty Art: Tamal Saha and Tarun Kumar Sahu
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

Review: Rendez-Vous in Phoenix

Just like the Bobby Caldwell song, “Do for Love,” people do the dumbest things when they are in love. Love is what my grandmother used to call having “stupid eyes”, which is a concept I did not get until I was older. When I first fell in love, and then when that same girl broke my heart, I finally knew what she was talking about. As you never really see the person’s flaws until you no longer have feelings.

Another reason, she called it that, is because people tend to stupid things when they catch feelings. This is not to say that love is not complicated and one should not try and find it, as the cycle of relationships and the ritual of courting has been around for centuries because that is what us human beings do, we fall in love. The long-distance relationships that exist in the world, are hard, almost impossible, but imagine a world where it can be even illegal. In Tony Sandoval’s impressive graphic memoir, Rendez-vous in Phoenix, he answers these questions somewhere between Mexico and the United States.

In the opening pages, we meet Tony, a young man, in Mexico, who is in love with his girlfriend Suzanne, an America student getting her master’s degree, in Oregon.  As the strains and the distance wear on their relationship and the length of the immigration process accelerates Tony’s loneliness, he makes the decision to cross the border into America illicitly. What follows is the many roads over the many attempts Tony takes to get to Suzanne despite being caught so many times. By the end of the book, when he does finally arrive in America, it is “not like on TV”, but his love endured the voyage and the sight of her, made him realize she more than worth it.

Overall, at times, funny, irreverent and heart-wrenching journey, which has the reader rooting for Tony to get to Suzanne. The story by Sandoval is every bit of an emotional rollercoaster, as his many attempts would have broken lesser men. The art by Sandoval reminds me of the finest satire cartoons from Esquire. Altogether, a timely tale of love and immigration, when the trials and tribulations of immigrants and refugees affect actual people that you get to know.

Story and Art: Tony Sandoval 
Translation: Jeremy Melloul and Mike Kennedy
Lettering and Design: Neurobellum Productions
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

Review: Legend OGN

I remember watching Lord of The Rings: Fellowship of the Rings, for the first time and the effect it had on me. I did read the book, and I found it entertaining but had no desire to re-read it, as Tolkien’s writing can prove to be exhausting. I also watched the movie by Ralph Bakshi, and found that he tried to put too much in such a little time. That is why Peter Jackson’s adaptation felt not only true to Tolkien’s books but appropriate in time to what the books were trying to say.

Jackson, brought back what everyone in my age group, loved about reading high fantasy books like Shannara Chronicles, what attracted some to playing a great book, that is a must have for any fan of action adventuresDungeons & Dragons and watching movies like Conan, the adventure.  I did not realize until years later, that the books my mom and my aunts held in such high esteem, Carlos Bulosan’s America Is in the Heart, was also an action adventure. My personal favorite action adventures were the ones that were interwoven into Kung Fu movies, the type you could spend a whole afternoon looking through a rack of movies at Suncoast Video through, for movies like Storm Riders. I had not seen anything resembling those movies in years, and don’t fancy myself a reader of manga, where most of those swordplay type stories resided. So, when I heard the storyline of Jerry Ma’s Legend, it sounded right up my alley, as I had not seen anything like this in years.

In the opening pages, we are introduced to brothers, Poc and Troy, who are thicker than thieves, just regular men living in a quiet village, who hunt and fish for sustenance and for wages. When one of the brothers hear about an old legend, the mystical waterfall known as Dragon’s Tears, which whoever drink from it, supposedly gains powers, this propels the brothers, joined by Troy’s girlfriend, Mei-Ling, to set out an adventure to find out if it is merely a children’s story or if it’s true. What follows is a treacherous road, filled with orc-like goons, natural disasters, demons, and a dragon. By the end of the book, it appears our team is separated and defeated, and only time will tell if they find each other.

Overall, a great book, that is a must have for any fan of action adventures as it meets those needs and then some. The story by Jerry Ma, has modern sensibilities within a medieval setting, a la Knight’s Tale. The art by Ma, is always excellent, as his style captures characters, settings, and actions sequences, in a stunning way, and in a unique fashion that only he can bring it. Altogether, a fun ride that will keep the reader wanting more.

Story: Jerry Ma Art: Jerry Ma
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

Book Review: Humans and Paragons: Essays on Super-Hero Justice

Justice in this world is never as simple as good guy gets bad guy. That would make life so easy, instead, it is a complex concept that no one rarely ever truly realizes, at least not in our lifetime. That is why comic books tend to provide so many different interpretations on how justice can be served, the interpretation initially in comics was as simple as I just explained but it became even more complex. In Ian Boucher and Sequart’s book, Humans and Paragons: Essays on Super-Hero Justice, he looks to explores what these concepts mean and how are enacted in comic books through superheroes.

In the first essay, “Four Color Mortality”, Paul Jaissle tackles what exactly shaped “good guys versus bad guys” trope and how it has affected the canon of the superhero overall and as he called brought “the simplistic moral framework of comics”. In “Keeping the Wolves at Bay”, Colby Pryor delves into the power of the uniform, and how government derives its power form the same concepts as it never fully realizes utopia while falling into dystopia, while referencing Alan Moore’s epic cautionary tale, Watchmen. In “Turtles on Trial”, John Loyd, goes about putting the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on trial for murder, exposing the double standards comic book fans have for heroes vice villains, for committing the same acts. In “Those Blessed and Those Not Blessed”, Jaime Infante Ramirez, gets into the six positions of lawful behavior that all the characters within his books surrounding Batman.

In “Defenders of the Status Quo”, Paul Jaissle tackles “notion of super-heroes representing a “deeper” conception of justice is an intrinsic part of their appeal”, whereby examining how we got to high moral pedestal we hold these heroes to. In “Super-Heroes: Threat or Menace? Why Super-Hero Justice Only Exists in Fiction”, Ross May gets into the practical reality of heroes like Batman and the Punisher., and how we would perceive them in real life. In “Four Things You Always Wanted to Know about the Joker (but were too Afraid to Ask),” Michal Siromski, he does a deep dive in to the Joker, and actually does as one of the most thorough examinations ever written on the character. In “Is the Truth Good Enough? Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy and the Noble Lie in Justice and Politics,” Daniel N. Gullotta gets into the many themes that have been looming over Batman’s canon and which have been brought more light by Christopher Nolan’s movies on the Dark Knight.

In “Must There Be Superman Movies?” Paul Jaissle does an interesting look on Superman’s unflappable moral code. In “Shadows Prove the Sunshine,” Rebecca Johnson gets into the moral core what makes a “dark hero”. In “Honing Our Senses: Remembering the Vibrancy of Super-Hero Justice,” Ian Boucher dives into the complex paradox of the character’s internal struggle, as they not fight cunning villains, they also must fight their inner selves, as in the example he used of Watchmen’s Rorschach. The last pieces of the book, is Boucher’s interview with Mark Waid and Gerard Jones, and where they discuss the concept of justice and its moral power over superheroes.

Overall, a commanding collection of essays that explores the human dichotomy of morals and justice, and how we expect superheroes to be better than us.

Essayists: Ian Boucher, Paul Jaissle, Colby Pryor, John Loyd, Jaime Infante Ramírez, Ross May, Michal Siromski, Daniel N. Gullotta, Rebecca Johnson
Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

Review: Chunri, The Dancing Death

A recent hashtag that has been making the rounds not only on Twitter and Instagram, but even one the news, is #FirstWorldProblems. These things that we complain about within our comforts here, where our roads are paved, and for the most part, everyone has access to water. For the longest time, America, never had as much as security at airports and bus terminals, as we do now, but the rest of the world always had. I even have enjoyed some of these same conveniences to where I remembered catching a plane, when I was in the military, leaving from England, and experiencing their security measures at Heathrow, feeling at the time, it was extreme.

What the world and America knows now, is that things like that were not extreme, they were necessary and needed for a long time. Not only our security was a first world problem but our way of life, as many immigrants and especially refugees will tell you that we are “lucky” to be in America. One of the most pervading issues still ongoing in the Third World, is slavery, and not just human trafficking but sex slavery to be more precise. This problem and its extenuating circumstances are explored in Chunri, The Dancing Death.

In this single comic, the reader is introduced to the streets of Mumbai, and to the world of Bar-Ballas, women who entertain men at bars, and the abuse most of them suffer at the hands of these drunk patrons. We are introduced to Priya, an older bar-balla and Chunri, the young girl whom she mentors and looks out for. Priya works a job where her patron tried to rape her but when she refused, he beat her to death. This not only tears up Chunri but inspires her, as what follows is a training montage, inspired by Kung Fu movies, where she imitates moves by Bruce Lee. As we watch Chunri grow up, she becomes a fighting machine, and kills the first man who tries to rape her, having to flee, she runs up on a woman being raped by a gang of men, putting her into action and eventually starting a movement which livens the city and its people.

Overall, a powerful story which not only touches on a rarely talked about issue here in the first world, but gets the reader invested. The story by Baber Khan is intimate and universal, at the same time, something rare for a reader to do. The art by M. Basit Ansari evens the playing field, as strong a story it is, the art punches it a more than few decibels. Altogether, an issue that is not only a third world problem but a first world problem, as but as can be seen in this book, it definitely is worse elsewhere.

Story: Baber Khan Art: M. Basit Ansari
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

Review: Saints OGN

There is always two sides to a story, which is what makes every conflict so interesting. That is why when people talk about fights between groups, they usually use the comparison of the Hatfields and the McCoys as far as how bad it can get. When it comes to how these sides are told, it usually is lopsided. As within the research of these events, most authors tend to become more sympathetic to one group than the other. This is also what drives so many people to do reenactments of the Civil war and the Revolutionary War, as their lineage goes back to a participant, or they feel a kinship to that era/motivation.

As the biggest thing about the civil war, that took a lot of people by surprise, is the fact that actually brother against brother. As one thing that every teacher could not completely satisfactorily answer, is why did the Civil war, have more casualties than two wars combined? I felt that what was different is people’s belief in the reason for the fight and that very much is true for the motivation on both sides of the Boxer Rebellion. As with the Boxers graphic novel, Gene Luen Yang weaves a similar tale with a character, who has two interactions with Bao from The Boxers OGN. This person is, who we find out in this book, is called Four Girl.

In this second and final installment of this book series, we see the positive effect that these “foreign devils” have on the people they bring Christianity to. Four Girl, who is an outcast by her family and who her grandfather blames for her father’s death, soon discovers this new religion through an acupuncturist her mother takes to, to get rid of her “devil face” and who reads her bible stories. Her spiritual guide, throughout the book, is Joan of Arc, much like many of Bao’s folk heroes were his. By the end of the book, she is now, Vibiana, who the reader find someone who was deeply misunderstood and whose faith was true to the end.

Overall, a moving installment of this series, as we find a protagonist, who is more universal than one would ever imagine. The story by Gene Luen Yang is as moving as the first installment, providing the reader with a complete picture. The art by Yang is beautiful and keeps the reader engaged. Altogether, if Yang could explain all conflicts the way he did here, there is no other creator I would follow than him.

Story: Gene Luen Yang Art: Gene Luen Yang
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

Review: Boxers OGN

World history is often under told in American history textbooks. As the only events that usually (forgive the pun) governs History and Civics classes are the events in our country’s young life.

I bring this point up because much can be learned from the history of other countries.

As Edmund Burke once said:

In history, a great volume, is unrolled for our instruction, drawing the materials of future wisdom from the past errors and infirmities of mankind.

This nugget of wisdom from Burke, pushes man’s intellect to think outside what he knows and learn from those different from him.

The most popular example of this in movies, as this particular example, has been explored multiples times in movies, but only two stand out in my mind. In the Last Samurai, Tom Cruise’s character talks about the Battle of Thermopylae, which was explored years later in Frank Miller’s graphic novel and eventual movie, 300. I must admit that the only time remembers hearing about the Boxer Rebellion taking place, is during my youth, where I remember watching “Kung Fu Theater”, and a Shaw Brother movie entitled the name of the historical event came one, which was otherwise forgettable, except for the fight scenes. This is something that Gene Luen Yang’s book, is not, as this book stays with you long after reading it.

In the first of a two-part series, this volume explores the side of the Boxers, as we are transported to 1864, in Chinese Province of Northern Shan-Tung, where we meet as his family calls him, Little Bao, a young man who loves his life. What follows next is a foreign invasion of religion, that of Christianity, Bao’s father had defeated a drunk, who, a week late brings a monk and chastises anything not resembling God as false idolatry. Thirty years forward, Bao is older and his province has changed a well, enter a stranger by the name of Red Lantern Chu, a medicine man and someone who ends up training the village in Kung Fu. Some tragedies befall his village and Bao must spring into action, as the atrocities by these” foreign devils” are too much. S the book ends, Bao not only becomes a man but a leader of the people, and the reader finds out just how bloody and complicated this conflict was.

Overall, a robust book that gives a better understanding to exactly what happened in this conflict through the eyes of a normal person whose love of heroic operas gave him courage. The story by Yang, is eloquent, touching and engrossing in the best way. The art by Yang, shines as well, as his style I have always been enamored with and glad to see it in an even grimmer setting. Altogether, a harrowing tale, that is lovingly researched both in historical fact and mythology, giving this book’s heroes their proper light.

Story: Gene Luen yang Art: Gene Luen Yang
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

Review: Dreadlocks: The Origins OGN

In the world of superheroes, it is truly amazing how we tend to project ourselves onto the heroes we read about.  For the comic book writer, there is a lot to say about how they write a superhero, the genesis of their idea. Most people believe Jerry Siegel and Joel Shuster, dreamt up Superman, to attract girls, because they were some awkward 17-year-old kids. Little do most people know even now, that he dreamt it up because Jerry Siegel’s dad had been killed during an armed raid at their second-hand clothing store in Cleveland, as the newspapers the next day talked about the need for a vigilante force to deal with the crime.

This was how Superman was born and more than 75 years later, the character stands for all that is good in the world. With much of the qualities and morals that Shuster and Siegel grew up with, were transposed on the character of Superman. The same can be said of the titular character of Dreadlocks, which has been thoroughly researched as far as Egyptology and possesses the morals of his creator. I found out about this character a few years back, what I found disconcerting, is that I never saw his comics at my local comics store or even the bigger ones like Midtown Comics in New York City.

In this debut issue, we are transported to ancient Egypt, where the ancient Gods have assembled to bring a new soul into the Underworld. What follows is taken right out of Egyptian mythology, as the ritual itself is almost word for word. We are introduced to the character of Samiu, known as the God with The Sacred Hair, a demigod sworn to protect all the elements within the fertile universe. By issue’s end, we meet a woman whose child has died, and whose life has been brought to a halt, as her faith and her life are about to undergo a life changing experience.

Overall, an “edutaining” experience, as I received an affirmation about “knowledge of self” while finding a hero that looks like a few members of my family. The story by Andre Batts, was much like most superhero origins, with a few twists. The art by Batts, is truly the shining gem of this book, as his art is a revelation. Altogether, another hero in the pantheon of superheroes that more than belongs, he leads.

Story: Andree Batts Art: Andre Batts
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

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