When it comes to action stars, not many do it as good as Sammo Hung. Many people have never heard of him but if you’re a fan of Kung Fu films you would most certainly know who he is. He’s a very good friend of Jackie Chan and has starred in many films with the international action star. In fact, they can be considered Simon Pegg and Nick Frost before there was Simon Pegg and Nick Frost but instead of the comedy genre, the whole Hong Kong film industry.
One of my favorite movies by the duo is Mr. Nice Guy where the two were at the top of their form,. They often infusing comedy in this otherwise action-packed film. The movie showcased the two best friends’ chemistry in a way that most film fans wished they collaborated more. In Noir Ceasar’s second chapter of Arms of the Dragon, much like Chan and Hung, best friends must come together to move forward.
We find Tosh’s gang shortly after killing Shou’s big brother, thankfully the police arrive, but unbeknownst to Shou, they are being paid by Tosh, leaving the family vulnerable to these predators. This forces Shou’s dad, Benji, to sign this restaurant over, but right when they thought it was over, Tosh executes Benji for what he feels is a slight. Right when Shou, thought it could not get worse, Tosh’s gang kills the rest of his family and burns their family restaurant down. By the issue’s end, Shou inherits something he would never imagine.
Overall, Arms of the Dragon #2 is a heart-wrenching chapter that will have the reader gasping. The story by Marcus Johnson and John Lawrence is powerful. The art by Chris Krady is stunning. Altogether, a story that feels as raw as any crime story.
Story: Marcus Johnson and John Lawrence Art: Chris Krady Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy
If I can think of a time when black films had its heyday, it definitely was the 1990s. This was a time where black filmmakers found a voice and became behemoths in their own right. Take, for instance, Spike Lee who found some success in the 1980s, but it’s not until the 1990s, that his films became a part of the narrative. John Singleton also made his first film during this time and spoke for a generation who felt largely unseen.
Another auteur who found their voice during this era is Reginald Hudlin. He’s primarily known as a producer now and being a producer for the short-lived but well done Black Panther cartoon and comic. He and his brother initially made their mark onscreen with the iconic House Party movie. In the seventh issue of The Dog Years, Trey’s origin story resembles one of the characters in that film.
We catch up with Trey soon after his wild night at, the Donkey Club, where Rasheed sees he went home with a stripper. Rasheed blows up at Trey for sleeping with the stripper he was interested in and the day only gets worse as he has trouble at work as well. We find out about his best friend throughout high school and how he met Rasheed. By the issue’s end, Trey’s job is in jeopardy by taking one fun dalliance at work.
Overall, a humorous issue about friends and passive-aggressive behavior. The story by Andre Roberts is very funny. The art by Roberts is astonishing. Altogether, The Dog Years #7 shows the difficulties of friendships.
Story: Andre Roberts Art: Andre Roberts Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy
One of my all-time favorite movies is Menace II Society. It’s a film which showed quite a different take on how it is to grow up Black and poor. Right before that movie came out, only a few short months before, Boyz N Da Hood and South Central told different narratives. What set Menace II Society apart from the previous two was not the optimistic conclusion but the redeeming qualities of its antagonist characters. It showed the world that Black people are not monolithic in appearance or narrative.
Life is that much messier and people are even more complicated. When you grow up in poor communities your world is a bit more skewed and grounded in reality than those with advantages. Rarely has this narrative been told in the dystopian genre. In the debut issue of Xogenasys, we find a protagonist whose circumstance is so disparate, life becomes one fight at a time.
We meet Darius Smith. Young men who live in areas like his literally fight for their lives in an online streamed fight. Raised by a single mother he looks to transfer to a different school so that he can be eligible to fight as well. His new school comes with its own set of troubles in the form of an old acquaintance who tries to rope him in illicit activities. By the issue’s end, those activities catch up to Darius but not before an unexpected opportunity shows up and changes his life.
Overall, an excellent debut issue that gives a unique take on a well-traveled genre. The story by by Tre McIntosh and Nickolas Draper-Ivey is excellent. The art by Draper-Ivey is gorgeous. Altogether, a story you will not soon forget.
Creator: Johnny O’Bryant Story: Tre McIntosh, Nikolas Draper-Ivey Art: Nikolas Draper-Ivey Story: 8.8 Art: 9.1 Overall: 9.3 Recommendation: Buy
When it comes to hired guns, one of the most explored archetypes just so happens to be assassins. The genre has taken on an even mythical status, with the Assassins Creed franchise. You can see the archetypes’ influence in everything from ninja movies, Westerns, to even Ray Donovan. Most of these stories go, you have a lone operator whose personal life is in shambles while their professional life is what gives them satisfaction.
My favorite “lone gunmen” were the ones who didn’t say much of anything, like Boba Fett or Duke Togo. In their worlds, both protagonists’ most redeeming quality is their steadfast obedience to the job and their lack of need for distractions. In other stories, they would be boring, but in these stories, they are intriguing. In Noir Ceasar’s take on the genre, Try Again, we meet another character whose world is more complicated than they would like to admit, as we find out in the debut issue.
We meet Danielle Burroughs, an assassin, who has just been given a job, which she has some doubts about. As she catches up with her spotter, Damien, she espouses her guilt over killing a family man, but also one of the city’s biggest crime bosses. Just when she takes out her target, there seems to be an unintended casualty from the job. By the issue’s end, Danielle finds out her guilt is not easily escaped, as a far worst fate is waiting.
Overall, a strong debut that’s a fine entry to the hitman genre. The story by the creative team is pulse-pounding. The art by Win Dolores is beautiful. Altogether a story that will grab you and won’t let you go.
Story: Will Brown, Marcus Johnson, and John Lawrence Art: Win Dolores Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy
Mathew McConaughey is one of those actors whose presence on screen is both captivating and powerful. People get caught up in how striking he is but that is not what has made him who he is. He’s a true actor, whose ability to become the character is something to watch.
One of my favorite movies of his is Reign Of Fire. In the movie, he plays a dragon hunter, whose job is to kill these very creatures that have ravaged the world to the point of an apocalypse. In the debut issue of a dystopian future where monsters rule, we get Yeehaw Blue, and only a specific set of people can save the world.
We meet Reya Moonstone, who lives in Coralle, and is plagued by creatures known as Teras, whose only goal was bloodshed. As the world turned to ashes because of these beings, a sect rose, known as Rangers, who are trained to defend humankind and kill these beings every chance they get. As Reya gets reprimanded for her performance at the Valant Academy, where the Rangers get trained, her headmaster appeals to her, as he knows she misses her grandfather, a legendary Ranger. By the issue’s end, she gets kicked out of the academy, but not before a Teras attacks her outside of the school, leaving her future truly uncertain.
Overall, an interesting character that you will be more than happy to dig into, as Danielle’s life is little bit more than complicated. The story by the creative team is out of the ordinary. The art by Shay Jones is gorgeous. Altogether, a story that is more than your typical.
Story: Shay Jones, Johnny O’Bryant, Marcus Johnson and Corey Mikkell Art: Shay Jones Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy
Grind Like A Girlis an autobiographical webcomic (Available on Gumroad) from cartoonist Veronica Casson about growing up as a transgender girl in the 1990s. I saw some pages from the most recent chapter on Casson’s Instagram, immediately saw that she had an eye-catching art style and an incredibly personal narrative and decided to go back and read the story from the beginning. This review covers the first four chapters of Grind Like A Girl available on Gumroad. However, chapter five and parts of chapter six are available on Sasson’s Instagram.
Nearly every page of Grind Like A Girl tells a complete story and illustrates a pivotal step of Veronica Casson’s coming of age. From the first page where the protagonist tries on dresses in an elementary school class and is scolded for it by her teacher, Casson plays with different styles to get her point across. In this case, Chapter 1/Page 1 is almost an homage to Charles Schulz’s Peanuts in the way that Casson draws eyes and also how the teacher immediately doesn’t consider the protagonist’s point of view and drones on like the teacher in Peanuts. However, as the story progresses, Casson goes from the dot eyes to more expressive ones to mirror the protagonist growing up and coming into her identity as a woman.
Veronica Casson also varies her color palettes to give each page and chapter a distinct mood. There’s the dark lighting and flat pinks and blues of the punk rock show that our now high schoole age protagonist goes to escape her life, the baby blue freedom of the K-Mart dressing room, and finally a muted palette when she shows up to a family dinner with makeup smudged on her face. Color is a weapon in Casson’s storytelling arsenal and can create raw energy like during the punk shows, when the protagonist is talking with a cute alternative boy about the new Elastica album, or is going out with her female friends.
Color can also be used for tension like deep blues when the protagonist comes out as trans to her friend Jason and speaks openly about how she feels and her gender identity when in previous issues they would just drink booze and shoot the shit about Dungeons and Dragons and X-Men comics. To expand on this, the protagonist’s appreciation of and the escape she finds through comics and manga is great recurring detail and connects to Veronica Casson’s virtuosic storytelling in Grind Like A Girl. When she was bullied or feeling dysphoric, she would escape to the world of fantasy novels, video games, indie music, and yes, comics. Having these and her friends’ interests pop up in the story add texture to its world and ground it very much in a time and place.
Grind Like A Girl definitely has its share of empowering and even adorable moments like any time the protagonist articulates to her friends that she’s a woman and wants to live her truth. However, Veronica Casson also shows the terrible transphobia she had to deal with, especially going to a Catholic high school. For example, in chapter one, one of the protagonists’s “friends” in grade school says that she “grinds like a girl”, which leads to her saying that she is, in fact, a girl complete with a powerful facial expression and bright lighting. But this is undercut by the boy using slurs and beating her up that leads to a montage of bullying to wrap up the chapter while she just counts down the days to high school in a new district.
However, high school leads to new complications as the protagonist must present as male to her parents and at school while she can be her true self around her friends. Veronica Casson shows this visually in chapter four through a double page spread/cut out diagram of the protagonist’s car where she stashes clothes and makeup showing the lengths she has to go to be herself. It’s great that the protagonist gets to be femme before graduating high school, but this leads to some issues like the aforementioned incident with her family. Also, some romantic elements start to show up in this chapter All of this shows that Casson isn’t just doing a blow by blow autobiography, but can also create stakes and tension too.
Veronica Casson’s Grind Like A Girl is a stylish and poignant look at growing up as a trans teenager in New Jersey in the 1990s. I admire its storytelling techniques, layouts, and color palettes as well as feel empathy for our protagonist and look forward to following the rest of the series on Instagram and Gumroad.
If you are somewhat on the Internet, you’ve probably seen the work of cartoonist Sarah Andersen, who is best known for her self-deprecating, autobiographical comics Sarah’s Scribbles. However, in late 2019, Andersen branched out into the world of paranormal romance with a new webcomic, Fangsthat is hosted on Tapas at this link and is published twice weekly. I stumbled on out of context panels of this comic on an anime Facebook page one night, and I know to read the comic in proper order.
Fangs is a romance comic about the relationship between a vampire named Elsie and a werewolf named Jimmy, who meet at a dive bar in Asheville, NC, have instant chemistry, and become a couple. What follows are little vignettes from their life together and the idiosyncrasies that make each other perfect for one another. Fangs works as both a romance and a comedy with sweet sequences like Elsie scratching Jimmy’s ears on the couch while they watch Twilight Zone book followed by comics where he immediately jumps at the door like a pet dog when she says the word ” walk”. Fangs is funny, sweet, and sometimes sexy, especially when Elsie calls Jimmy “boy” and asks about his blood type during their meet cute.
Sarah Andersen uses a simple, easy to follow art style in Fangs with lots of deep blacks, especially when Elsie is involved. However, Andersen switches up the format and layout of Fangs throughout its run from five panel gag type comics like when Jimmy demonstrates he can talk to dogs to powerful splash pages like Jimmy and Elsie sharing their first morning together. Jimmy has the light on his side while Elsie is in the grey scale shadows so she doesn’t spontaneously burst into flames. In a single image, Andersen shows that Jimmy and Elsie work well together, but might have to make some compromises. This is all without dialogue as she uses lighting, body language, and composition to tell the story.
Fangs hits peak adorable when Jimmy is in his wolf form, which happens in scattered Sarah Andersen doesn’t pull a Buffy the Vampire Slayer and make some epic arc out of his lycanthropy. No, it’s just some shit that happens and gives Andersen a chance to draw some really cute wolves and moments like Elsie and Jimmy cuddling up in her coffin, or Ellie making her “pet” an excuse of why she can’t go out that night. It also shows that Jimmy and Ellie work well together because of their monstrous natures, and not in spite of it. For example, she can drink the blood, he can eat the meat, and that’s dinner sorted. This isn’t something they could do if they were dating humans even though it’s kind of sad that Elsie doesn’t show up in Jimmy’s selfies in a modernization of the whole vampires don’t appear in mirrors thing.
Sarah Andersen’s Fangs is low stakes, slice of life romantic goodness with a dash of humor and Gothic/paranormal fiction. Its lead characters are honestly relationship goals, but Andersen does introduces little dashes of tension in the book like Elsie talking about how many people she’s killed and a random jogger hitting on Jimmy while he’s sitting on a bench. But, for the most part, this is Young Romance for the Tales of the Crypt crowd, and it’s nice to see a monster-on-monster love story without townspeople in pitchforks raising the hue and cry.
As a child of the 1980s, the decade has a clear resonance to today’s creators. Everything that has been created since has some string that leads back to some pop culture reference to that time. Take for instance, the Star Wars franchise, which has expanded since Disney’s purchase. The franchise started in the late 1970s, leading to its resonance in the 1980s and beyond. Which brings me to Steven Speilberg and his influence on creators since his entry in Hollywood.
You can look back at Close Encounters Of The Third Kind and see how he has influenced a generation of filmmakers who embrace science fiction and treat it as many book readers do, escapism. His influence can be seen in JJ Abrams’ Super 8, which had echoes of ET and that seminal film. The story of alien invasion and the power of the human spirit to fight was, and still is, timeless. Noir Ceasar has brought their own unique take on this storied canon in their debut issue of Ordinal Tempest.
We meet Fiora, an Intrepid pilot, who is carrying the body of her comrade, Drake, and soon finds herself caught in a fight with an alien. As she turns her blaster on it, she has no choice but to leave her friend, who is dealt a fatal blow, by the invader. Fast forward, Fiora gets a new assignment in the Frontlines, where she is expected to see more action and where we meet her new unit, which includes Lance, a brash young pilot, and Wende, an old friend. By the issue’s end, Fiora sees the Intrepid symbiote she will pilot, giving her high hopes of what’s to come.
Overall, an interesting story that reminds me of Robotech and blazes a trail all its own. The story by the creative team of Lawrence, Marcus Johnson,and Chris Krady is intriguing. The art by Krady is gorgeous. Altogether, a story that will have you pulling out old VHS tapes of Mecha Anime.
Story: John Lawrence, Marcus Johnson, and Chris Krady Art: Chris Krady Story: 9.0Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0Recommendation: Buy
Netflix has announced that it will team up with director Lee JQ to produce a new Netflix original series All of Us Are Dead.
All of Us Are Dead is about a group of high school students who are faced with an extreme crisis situation when they become trapped in their school, while a zombie virus spreads like a wildfire. It’s based on the chart-topping Korean webtoon called Now at Our School(literal translation of its Korean title, 지금 우리 학교는), which has been also well received in Indonesia, Thailand, and Taiwan.
Following in the footsteps of the popular Netflix original series Kingdom, All of Us Are Dead is poised to write an exciting new chapter in the Korean zombie genre, as director Lee brings fresh energy through the solid narrative and the attention-grabbing cinematography he is well known for.
All of Us Are Dead is written by Chun Sung-il, and directed by Lee JQ and Kim Nam-su. It will be produced by JTBC Studios in association with Film Monster and will premiere worldwide, only on Netflix.
Basketball movies are a dime a dozen. One of the most recent movies which has been getting a buzz is The Wayback. It’s a movie about an alcoholic coach and his struggle to balance life and basketball, without losing at both. The movie has less do with basketball, and more to do with Ben Affleck’s character, which is also why so many people love it. The one movie before that was the basketball comedy, Uncle Drew. It was not really funny and not really fun but a valiant effort nonetheless.
One of my favorite movies period, and yes it is a movie about basketball, was Above The Rim. The movie starred the late Tupac Shakur, the late Bernie Mac, Duane Martin, and Leon. I can for sure say it was definitely a 90s movie but it also spoke volumes to those of us who loved the sport. It showed the promise of tomorrow and the shadows of that promise when your day has come and gone. In the debut chapter of Degeneratez, we get one such protagonist whose love for the game not only lifts the young men he coaches but also a city.
We’re taken to the city of New Angeles where one young man’s friend gets caught up as a drug dealer whose future is uncertain if he falls trap to what his city offers. Enter Luther O’Nealle, a once-popular basketball player, who is semi-retired and has returned home in hopes of becoming ordinary and who just has been hired as the basketball coach for the local high school St.James High. As he sits down with the principal before his first day on the job he soon finds out the school is filled with delinquent children, some who may be his players. He also senses there’s something that is not being told about the position. By issue’s end, Luther gets more than he bargains for and a fatal end may have come for one of his players.
Overall, an excellent debut chapter of this intriguing story which is about as second chances as it is about the promise of tomorrow. The story by Johnny O’Bryant and Abraham Cuzner is well characterized and absorbing. The art by Sebas Riera is gorgeous. Altogether, a story that is relevant and is a throwback to those excellent basketball movies.
Story: Johnny O’Bryant and Abraham Cuzner Art: Sebas Riera Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy