Author Archives: pharoahmiles

Review: Frank N. Stein Private Eye

Frank N. Stein Private Eye

One of my favorite genre mashups is Who Framed Roger Rabbit? It’s a movie that still holds up despite its age. The movie revolved around a washed-up detective who now works as a private eye, played luminously by the late great Bob Hoskins. As a major figure of the cartoon town that borders the town where he works passes away, a cartoon idol, Roger Rabbit, gets framed for his murder.

The movie took everything everyone loved about the Crime Noir genre and mashed it up with the all ages cartoon feature. Essentially, taking the flair of Robert Towne’s Chinatown and the subversive humor of Monsters Inc. Frank N. Stein, Private Eye is another genre mashup in the spirit of that iconic film, but this time with monsters.

We are taken to Monstertown, where Frank N. Stein, the local private eye, whose ex-wife has been a nightmare at the very least to him, as she has been more than unfaithful when they were married. In “Alife in The Night,”, we the dissolution of his marriage and how his line of work can be dangerous for all the reasons no one can see. In “A Strange Visitor,” an alien toddler crash lands into Monstertown, where a human helps take custody. In “A Red-Hot Mess,” Little Red Riding Hood hires Frank to find out who chopped up her grandmother, only to find out who killed her, was not the person everyone thought it was in the first place. In “Riverdale Jumpstreet,” we see frank going undercover in Archie’s Riverdale, where he finds out that Reggie has been behind all the hijinks happening Archie’s friends. In the last story, we get “The Sailor Man,” where Frank finds a nasty love triangle between Popeye, Olive Oil and Pluto.

Overall, the comic is a fun if not cheeky set of stories that aims to both honor and poke fun at all these classic storybook legends. The stories by Keith Champagne are funny and engaging. The art by Dev Madan is diverse and vivid. Altogether, a great collection of stories that will entertain readers and remind them of how amusing mashups can be.

Story: Keith Champagne Art: Dev Madan
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy

Review: Blackjack #2

Blackjack #2

The world is filled with people not on the winning side of history. Howard Zinn’s books are filled with many of these histories of the unjust thriving and the beleaguered masses suffering. What happens when those downtrodden fight back and get that “sweet revenge”? In the second issue of Blackjack, our hero begins his trail of retribution but not without cost.

We find Arron as he stares death in the eyes with a Bengali Tiger looking to end his life, but he narrowly escapes, as his learned skills, has given him a few tricks and a few old friends come to help. As he ruminates on his next moves, he reminisces on his time in Cairo as a child and what brought his family there in the first place. While he and Maryam recuperate, he’s approached by a local entrepreneur about a warlord who is hurting his business and would like Arron’s helps in neutralizing this threat.

Overall, an exciting continuation of this mercenary’s tale. The story by Alex Simmons is well told and well characterized. The art by Joe Bennett is stunning. Altogether, a series that gets better with each issue.

Story: Alex Simmons Art: Joe Bennett
Story: 10 Art: 9.8 Overall: 9.9 Recommendation: Buy

Review: Sweet Lullaby Vol. 1

Sweet Lullaby Vol. 1

When it comes to stories about assassins, there’s more than a handful of them when it comes to movies, television shows, and comics. As with most genres, they can literally be hit or miss, pun intended. Take, for example, the John Wick series, which is steeped in mythology and dense with story.

Then there’s the adequate if not less than spectacular Proud Mary, which could have been better and didn’t serve Taraji P. Henson’s stellar talents. There’s the comic book based Deadly Class television series, which, though short-lived, gave that series the proper due it required. It gave the audience insight into exactly what it takes to be an assassin. In the first volume of Sweet Lullaby, we meet an assassin whose life is filled with pretending to be someone else, until that old betrayer of self enters her life, love.

We’re taken to Sante Fe, New Mexico, where an overly aggressive neighbor hits on a young woman, but this encounter doesn’t go the way he wants, leaving him with fatal consequences. We find out more about the young lady he was hitting on, Michelle, or as she is known by her adopted name, Lullaby, where we are taken to her mother’s funeral, as she becomes part of the family business, being an assassin, as her father made his mind, from that point on, he will train her in the trade. As the reader finds out that the neighbor Lullaby killed was a target, anyway, making the kill itself more than righteous.  As she keeps a secret from her father and the agency, that she has fallen in love with her father’s rival’s son, something that so far only her father suspects. When she finally reveals who she has been seeing, her father reminds him who was it that killed her mother. By book’s end, just when we thought Lullaby was ready to settle down, we find out that she has a completely separate agenda from everyone else involved.

Overall, a story that gives readers, shades of Columbiana and The Professional, while blazing a path of its own. The story by A.J. Scherkenbach is layered, clever and well characterized. The art by J. Briscoe Allison is beautiful and enchanting. Altogether, a story that deserves more than its time in the sun, it should be celebrated for its bold strides in storytelling.

Story: A.J. Scherkenbach Art: J. Briscoe Allison
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

Review: Gun Vol. 1 Fighting is My Monday

Gun Vol. 1 Fighting is My Monday

As a fan of alternate worlds and alternate history, it’s always refreshing to come across something brand new. I remember the first time I read Man In The High Castle, Philip K. Dick’s magnum opus and ultimately a masterclass in an alternate history. The television show revealed to the world just how well he developed characters and how exquisite his worldbuilding was.

Which is why when I heard Amazon was adapting Garth Ennis’s The Boys, I knew that their deft hand at adapting work would be greatly utilized. It took the humor of The Incredibles, with the dark heart of Watchmen, and fused it with the evils of corporate America to craft a sharp and twisted story. In the first collected volume of Gun, we find a world where there are superheroes and the villains who look to make the world theirs.

Welcome to the world of Gun, where superheroes are called capes and villains are called guns like our protagonist, Trevor Werner. We find out that his boss, and the man who thought him everything about this world, Captain Bedlam, is the man responsible for making him ruthless. We’re taken to present day where Trevor, aka Captain Vertigo, is looking to get out of the life by attending Villainon meetings. He eventually becomes part of a heist to steal from a local pawn shop, but when a “cape” gets knocked unconscious, Trevor and his crew plot to exploit the situation. They put the hero up for bid to the wealthiest of supervillains, to be bought and tortured. Trevor and his crew are double-crossed and a call goes out to the superheroes about what they’ve done which forces them to go on the run.

Overall, a suspenseful mile a minute comic that’ll draw readers in with its grit and style but will get them to appreciate the execution. The story by Jack Foster is engaging, smart and well characterized. The art by Foster is captivating. Altogether, a story, a world, and characters, that pierces the reader’s minds in such a satisfying way.

Story: Jack Foster Art: Jack Foster
Story: 9.7 Art: 9. 5 Overall: 9.6 Recommendation: Buy

Review: The Watcher #1

The Watcher #1

As a fan of horror movies, it can be difficult to find a film that is both good narrative-wise and in relation to entertainment value. The movies that usually stay with you re the ones that are completely plausible. Take, for instance, the plot of The Purge. A film series and television show which answers a very real question concerning overpopulation. Then there’s Hostel, a story based on actual acts that take place in Thailand.

Then there’s entertainment that “feels real,” but is less so because it deals with the supernatural.  Take, for instance, the 2004 movie Sightings-Heartland Ghost starring Nia Long and Beau Bridges. The film crew on the show Sightings filmed a demon possession. It was an event that would forever change the film crew and the family that was being haunted. The debut issue of The Watcher features a story much like that film unspools and is one of the best “jump scares” I have ever read.

We open on a young woman who’s seemingly asleep having nightmares. The dream becomes too much, as every night it feels even more real. We’re taken to Saint Michael’s High School, in East Point, Massachusetts, where we find our protagonist, Erica, beginning at her fifth school in so many years. Her acclimation to her new surroundings has its own bumps in the roads. Finding friends is easy but someone she can trust is more difficult. The series spirals into the introduction of a brutal killer whose targets seem more than coincidental.

Overall, The Watcher #1 is a story that mixes coming of age tropes with supernatural and horror elements. That changes the paradigm on the genre. The story by Ralph Tedesco and Victoria Rau is horrifying, smart, and exciting. The art by the creative team is stunning. Altogether, a story that looks to make the reader jumps out of their socks and does it exceedingly well.

Story: Ralph Tedesco and Victoria Rau
Art: Carlos M. Mangual, Julius Abrera, Fran Gamboa,
and J.C.Ruiz
Story: 10 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.4 Recommendation: Buy

Review: Vigilance #1

Vigilance #1

When the news broke that Marvel Studios was going to make Captain Marvel, it was a progressive foot forward. One that will take years before anyone can really understand the impact. It’s true that Wonder Woman, had come out the year before and was directed by a female director. That movie was great but did not erase the years of the character being maligned by the very company that birthed her.

Captain Marvel was different in this aspect, as the character had been rebooted and brought up to date by the great Kelly Sue DeConnick. She painted a different hero than anything else in the Marvel Universe. She’s one that constantly topples tropes and subverts gender stereotypes. As great as this is, most of us wanted to see Monica Rambeau, something we may still get. In the very first issue of Vigilance, we get a superhero like Carol Danvers but looks like Monica Rambeau, and in some ways a fiercer titan.

We find Vigilance hurt, as the Extra Human Division has found her, and just her luck, Justice shows up to her rescue. As she recovers, Justice approaches her about being part of the organization using her powers for the greater good, as his honesty was enough for her to follow. As she learned how to be a hero, at first reluctant, as the challenges were too easy for her, but soon she felt a sense of purpose, as the dangers she prevented and the life she saved, became a welcome feeling. She soon finds out that her fame comes with detractors, both human and extra-human.  By issue’s end, a skirmish with a new villain leads her to meet with a greater threat.

Overall, a debut issue that struggles to be interesting. The story by Micah Cox is layered and introspective. The art by the creative team is standard. Altogether, a story that I hope will get better as the story unfolds.

Story: Micah Cox
Art: Valdeci Nogueira, Veronica Smith, Danny Cooper,
and Michael Watson
Story: 6.0 Art: 5.0 Overall: 5.7 Recommendation: Read

Review: Blackjack: Second Bite Of The Cobra

Blackjack: Second Bite Of The Cobra

When it comes to “swashbuckler” adventures, so there are not too many names as synonymous with that genre than Edgar Rice Burroughs. His stories are what George Lucas and Stephen Speilberg had in mind when they brought Indiana Jones to the big screen. His imprint is all over the genre and has endured despite the many anachronistic tropes that has plagued including the “foreign trickster” stereotype. Thankfully, many of those fans who have continued the tradition do not entertain such outdated and at times racist landmines.

Many of those stories featured people of color in a few categories. They were the villains or the minions of the villain or an ally/sidekick of the protagonist. Or worse, the victim of the villain. The roles furthered the narrative of the “untamed savage” as many of Burroughs’ stories, as well as his contemporaries, never had a person of color as a protagonist. It wasn’t until Rick Riordan, that some of that void was filled in mainstream media.  In the debut issue of Blackjack: Second Bite Of The Cobra, we find Arron Day AKA Blackjack, seeking revenge in the only place he called home.

We are taken to 1918 Cairo, where Arron’s father, Mad Dog, a veteran of countless wars, finds himself toe to toe with a warlord, known only as The Cobra as he and his friend, Silas Lincoln, were able to beat back his men, but was not able to defeat him completely, as he vanished from existence . Unfortunately for Mad Dog his days were numbered as a mysterious force killed him in cold blood years later in Spain. As the Cobra’s wraths strikes again, reaching a grown-up Arron in Harlem, New York, where is he a wealthy estate holder, and is given word by his father’s old friend, Silas. By issue’s end, Cobra unleashes his men on Blackjack ad his cohorts, leading to an all-out fight.

Overall, an exciting first chapter in a hero that seems out of time but more than likely true to life than most would admit. The story by Alex Simmons is smart, intense and well developed. The art by Joe Bennett is gorgeous. Altogether, a great story that should gain this series more readers.

Story: Alex Simmons Art: Joe Bennett
Story: 10 Art: 9.8 Overall: 9.9 Recommendation: Buy

Review: Afterburn: Crossfire #3

Afterburn: Crossfire #3

What would you do if you knew your friends were walking into a trap? This is where friendships are tested, as most real-world traps are not life-threatening. People who you think are your friends might be more self-interested to see what would happen. It seems people are rarely genuinely interested in helping people.

People who truly want to help tend to be rare breed these days. In the third issue of Afterburn: Crossfire, we find Jake looking to correct a mistake which can cost his friends their lives.

We’re taken to Rome, where we find Mathias and Andrea with a military battalion, trying to find a way out of the city and away from the mutant invasion. We also find Jake on a train heading to Rome, where he has not only to fight off some mutants but also his Hidinger’s men. Mathias and Andrea come face to face with the Pope who has also been infected and who controls all of Rome. As Jake’s plan goes awry, he finds himself imprisoned with an unlikely foe. By issue’s end, a fight to the death leaves no loose ends.

Overall, another action-packed issue in this spectacular series, that more than lives up its name. The story by Scott Chitwood is exciting smart and well characterized. The art by Rod Thornton and Sean Lee is gorgeous. Altogether, an issue plays out like a penultimate episode of a series which will end the series in spectacular fashion.

Story: Scott Chitwood Art: Rod Thornton and Sean Lee
Story: 10 Art: 9.8 Overall: 9.8 Recommendation: Buy

Review: Shikari Force: Hunters #1

Shikari Force: Hunters #1

As a child of 1980s, I grew up watching a ton of television shows. Some that my parents liked and others only me and my cousins liked. Many of the shows sought to tell stories that aren’t often seen on television now. An example is the cool exteriors, complex storylines and suspense of Sting Ray, a television show which only lasted two seasons, but showed many writers that you can blend genres without sacrificing what makes each type so interesting.

Another show that captivated audiences was V, a story that would be remade in 2011, and circled around an alien race who visits Earth, as harmless visitors but ends up revealing to the audience that they are ruthless conquerors. The show painted a world where we should be cautious of strangers, and though it seemed as though the good guys were seeing daylight in their battles with the aliens, you never felt that they were quite a match. As I had pondered a few times in my childhood flights of fancy, only if the humans were as powerful as the aliens. In the first issue of Shikari Force: Hunters, we find a motley crew whose abilities make them perfect to stop a new alien threat.

We meet Nil, an assassin and demon hunter, whose work finds him on a spaceship flying right above the Indian Ocean, where he finds a beautiful woman asleep in a capsule. Meanwhile, on Earth, we also meet Jimi, a brilliant scientist, whose company’s work is on the forefront and Meena, his girlfriend, who just so happens to be a daughter of a demon, who senses something is not quite right. We are also taken to the Himalayas, where an army of aliens, are amassing weapons and soldiers to take over the world, as they quietly set a trap for our heroes. Jimi’s obsession with work gives Meena concern, a distraction that Nil would love to give her an escape from. By issue’s end, Jimi wakes up to nightmares one that draws him back to the capsule, where the woman in the capsule has risen, who just so happens to be a renegade goddess.

Overall, an excellent first issue that introduces us to team much like the Watchmen. It’s just as complex and even more intriguing. The story by Sarwat Chadda is smart, even-paced, and exciting. The art by the creative team complements the story well. Altogether, an action-packed debut that does more than impress.

Story: Sarwat Chadda
Art: Arjuna Susini
and Aditya Bidkar
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy

Review: No’madd the Unconquerable: The City of Empty Towers #2

No’madd the Unconquerable: The City of Empty Towers #2

Stephen King is one of those storytellers whose mastery of characterization and plot puts him in rare space. He knows how to peer into the frailties of humanity while uncovering the ugliness in all of us makes his work memorable. Each story of his leaves remnants in his reader’s minds and even makes many of his adaptations, more than standard horror fare.  I remembered the first time, I read Tommyknockers as I could not sleep for days after finishing the last chapter.

I also have read his regular fiction books like The Green Mile, as though the movie is interesting, the book is even better. As one of the recent adaptations of his work that I love is Gerald’s Game, a movie about a woman while handcuffed to a bed, the husband dies while they were getting intimate. What is powerful about the story is how she survives the ordeal and really how her past experiences made her strong enough for what she went through. In the second issue of NoMadd: City Of Empty Towers, our hero must a perilous shadowy path while confronting his past demons.

We find NoMadd, months after his fall, as he must adapt and overcome to reach back to the surface, as his first major obstacle is the Unconquerable Wall Of Storms, as it is deadly to anyone who attempts to pass it. As he ponders on his wife’s betrayal, he must also cross Platu, and survive the numerous creatures that wander the land, as his next step can be his last.  As he finds way out, by way of a hidden sea craft, his escape is short-lived, as the ship hits a wave, he loses consciousness, where he flashes back through his life, as we find out about his parents, his upbringing, and how he met Ka’Sell. He eventually wakens to him being ejected from the ship into a pod, which is leaking very quickly and gives him only moments to break free. As he brought to safety by a herd of sea creatures where is taken to Tyon. As he wanders the city, he doesn’t find any trace of any living creature, eventually realizing he is all alone, where he stays for three cycles. By issue’s end, he finds out where all the inhabitants are, and what evil is awaiting him.

Overall, an epic odyssey almost as grand as Homer. The story by Andrew Kafoury is smart, action-packed and well developed. The art by the creative team is gorgeous. Altogether, a story that shows how powerful the journey can be, even when one is looking for the destination.

Story: Andrew Kafoury
Art: Aaron McConnell, Lee Moyer,
and Tom Orzechowski
Story: 10 Art: 9.7 Overall: 9.8 Recommendation: Buy

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