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Review: Twelve Reasons To Die TP

Twelve Reasons to Die

Twelve Reasons to Die acts as the source material for the 2013 concept album of the same title by Wu-Tang Clan member Ghostface Killah, and the record’s producer/composer Adrian Younge and executive producer RZA even get story and writer credits respectively on this comic, which is finally being released as a collected edition.A pre-4 Kids Walk Into A Bank/Marvel Matthew Rosenberg and Patrick Kindlon handle the brunt of the scripting though. The comic is a multi-generational crime saga in the mold of such classics like The Godfather Part II, Goodfellas, and Once Upon A Time in America with a horror spin. With the exception of the final one, each issue tells two parallel stories. The first is about the rise of African-American gangster Tony Starks (One of Ghostface Killah’s aliases.) from muscle for the DeLuca family to a kingpin in his own right, and it is drawn predominantly by artist Breno Tamura. Gus Storms handles the other story which features “crate digger” Michael Migdal looking for 9 rare records for Lucraze, the don of the DeLuca crime family, because he feels like they’re cursed and wants to destroy them.

The parallel structure of Twelve Reasons to Die allows Rosenberg, Kindlon, RZA, Tamura, Storm, colorist Jean-Paul Csuka, and the various guest artists to play with different genres, art styles, and palettes like Younge and Ghostface Killah play with different beats, instrumentation, samples, and deliveries on the album. Starks’ story is a crime saga while Migdal’s story is more horror, and both use elements from the blaxploitation genre. This really shows up in the artwork with Tamura’s work being looser with scratchy inks and Bronze Age era Ben-Day Dots while Storms’ art is softer and more grotesque with the mysterious “Ghostface Killer” lurking around the edges like something out of a bad dream waiting for the needle to drop and to bring vengeance.

The different guest artists, like Nate Powell, Joelle Jones, Edwin Huang, and Riley Rossmo, meld well with Storms and Tamura while bringing extra flair to key scenes like Starks torturing a racist DeLuca made man and framing him for having an affair with the boss’ wife, Logan (Who Starks is actually sleeping with.) or several night club and murder sequences. Csuka’s colors really tie everything together and control the mood of each sequence whether that’s the sleazy red and blue of the strip club where Starks gets his first assignment from the DeLuca (and later runs) to the pop art pink of a “masqua-rave” that Migdal goes to get one of the records from a DJ, who decides to play the record and gets devoured by ravers turned into insects. It’s a Kafka-esque acid trip that shows the decadence of the DeLuca “social club” (They’ve filed off the serial numbers of their criminal enterprises.), and of course, there’s a panel where Migdal vomits.

Twelve Reasons to Die doesn’t shy away from showing the racism that Tony Starks faces from his employers, the Delucas, who bar him from becoming a made man because of the color of his skin and hurl slurs and stereotypes at him throughout the entire comic. Starks gets passed over for the mob equivalent of a promotion even though he has killed, tortured, and general gone above and beyond the call of duty because of the color of his skin. Eventually, this causes him to band together with his colleagues from the Black community to take over the DeLucas’ turf and even have some DeLuca foot soldiers work for him. There’s a dark, cathartic glee to watching him topple an empire in twelve months that had been established 30+ years ago. (See the prologue featuring Mussolini, mainland Italy vs. Sicily, and double page map spreads.) Starks’ ruthlessness is magnetic, yet frightening as he goes from possibly negotiating with one of the DeLuca’s made men to pistol whipping him in an alley and then tying his neck to the back of a car and having him dragged. This comic definitely uses torture creatively a la “Method Man” from Wu-Tang Clan’s classic album, 36 Chambers.

Twelve Reasons to Die

However, Rosenberg, Kindlon, and RZA also take time to develop Tony Starks’ softer and more vulnerable side through his relationship with Logan, who he genuinely cares about and basically uses as a spy for the DeLucas (Although she betrays him because femme fatale trope.) and especially for his love of records. There’s a touching scene where Starks says that his only dream is to get his hands on the most “hype” records, and he uses his organized crime money to build a factory where he can press his own wax. This is why his demise in that same factory is so tragic, and his vengeance via the drop of a needle is so satisfying as the Ghostface Killer slays the men who betrayed him in new and fucked up ways, or just a single page beheading. (I guess that’s pretty messed up though.) The exception is the noble fencer Batiato, who gets an epic sword fight complete with Ghostface in samurai armor and some fun, blocky cartooning from Edwin Huang.

I haven’t really touched much about Migdal in this review, and initially he seems quite distant from sex, violence, and racism-tinged world of Tony Starks and the DeLucas. He’s just a guy with a sarcastic sense of humor, who you’d see digging through the crates at your local record store, probably every day. However, as he continues to be treated like shit by the aging DeLuca crime bosses and see more horrific things, Migdal seems more attuned to this grindhouse movie of a world even though he doesn’t lose his innocence making the high energy Chris Hunt-drawn finale have a tinge of sadness. He really just wants to get paid so he can buy more records.

Even though it has an entire restaurant of chefs in its proverbial kitchen, Twelve Reasons to Die is a damn good fusion of the crime and horror genre with a charismatic protagonist and a social conscience in the midst of all the schlock. However, it never gets preachy. For three decades, Ghostface Killah has been one of hip hop’s best storytellers, and his vision translates really well to the comic book page thanks to Matthew Rosenberg, Patrick Kindlon, RZA, Breno Tamura, Gus Storms, Chris Hunt, Jean-Paul Csuka, and the guest artists that are the visual equivalent of that perfect drum sound or soul sample that raises a track from skippable to total earworm. Finally, and it goes without saying, but this comic pairs really well with the 12 Reasons to Die album.

Story: Ghostface Killah, Adrian Younge, C.E. Garcia
Story/Script: Matthew Rosenberg, Patrick Kindlon with RZA

Art: Breno Tamura, Gus Storms, Chris Hunt
Guest Art: Kyle Strahm, Joe Infurnari, Tim Seeley, Nate Powell,
Tyler Crook, Toby Cypress, Joelle Jones, Edwin Huang, Russell Roehling,
Ryan Kelly, Riley Rossmo Colors: Jean-Paul Csuka
Letters: Jim Campbell and Nic J. Shaw
Story: 8.0 Art: 8.7 Overall: 8.4 Recommendation: Buy

Black Mask Studios provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review


Purchase: AmazoncomiXology

Comics Deserve Better Episode 16: 4 Kids Walk Into A Bank by Matthew Rosenberg, Tyler Boss, and Thomas Mauer

On this episode of Comics Deserve Better, Brian and Logan geek out about the darkly comedic, crime comic 4 Kids Walk Into A Bank by Matthew Rosenberg, Tyler Boss, and Thomas Mauer.

They break down the cast of annoying, yet endearing middle-school-aged characters, their favorite sequences, and the connections that this Black Mask Studios masterpiece has to other works of pop culture. Brian and Logan also discuss the latest indie comics news, including Graham Coxon‘s comic Superstate from Z2, the announcement of Vault‘s queer monster love story Hollow Heart and Geoff Johns and Gary Frank‘s creator-owned series Geiger, and a new ordering format from Scout Comics. They also talk about the upcoming Black Hammer: Visions and their dream creators on the miniseries. Other comics mentioned on the show are We Only Find Them When They’re Dead, Getting It Together, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, and 12 Reasons to Die. (Episode art by Tyler Boss)

Preview: Pirouette

Pirouette

Writer: M.L. Miller / Artist: Carlos Granda / Colorist: Champe Ramirez / Letterer: Jim Campbell
Mature / $16.99 / 124 pages

Raised from infancy by duplicitous clowns who entertain by day and menace by night, Pirouette dreams of washing the paint from her face and escaping to a better life far away from her cruel adoptive circus family… because when the spotlights dim and the crowd disperses, the clown princess’ big-top dreams give way to a nightmarish world of monsters with painted smiles.

M.L. Miller spins Pirouette with authentic darkness and depth of character, while Carlos Granda’s sweeping, exuberant line art evokes all the exotic charm and mysterious gloom of Pirouette’s shadowy big top.

Pirouette

Preview: 12 Reasons to Die

12 Reasons to Die

Created by: Ghostface Killah / Executive Produced by: RZA
Written by: Matthew Rosenberg & Patrick Kindlon
Illustrated by: Ronald Wimberly, Breno Tamura, Gus Storms, Kyle Strahm, Joe Infurnari, Christopher Mitten, Jim Mahfood, Tim Seeley, Nate Powell, Ben Templesmith, Tyler Crook, Toby Cypress, Juan Doe, Joelle Jones, Edwin Huang, Johnnie Christmas, Russel Roehling, Ryan Kelly, Michael Walsh, Chris Hunt, Riley Rossmo, David Murdoch, Garry Brown, Johnny Ryan, Shaky Kane, Benjamin Marra, and Brian Level
Colored by: Jean-Paul Csuka
Lettered by: Jim Campbell, Nic J. Shaw
Mature / $24.99 / 180 pages

Guns. Sex. Vinyl. Revenge. Wu-Tang Clan’s Ghostface Killah and RZA teamed with then young-gun writers Matthew Rosenberg (Uncanny X-Men, 4 Kids Walk Into A Bank) & Patrick Kindlon (Survival Fetish, Nobody Is In Control) for this brutal tale of a dangerous crime lord’s rise and fall.

Collects issues 1-6.

12 Reasons to Die

Preview: Black [AF]: Widows and Orphans

Black [AF]: Widows and Orphans

Writer: Kwanza Osajyefo
Artist: Tim Smith 3
Colorist: Derwin Roberson
Letterer: David Sharpe
Mature / $16.99 / 116 pages

In a world where only black people have superpowers, what price do they fetch on the black market? From the pages of BLACK, this new story features Anansi and Hoodrat investigating a human trafficking ring that will take them across the globe and bring them face-to-face with dark pasts of abuse, child soldiers, and families torn apart.

Collects issues 1-4.

Black [AF]: Widows and Orphans

Preview: Nobody is in Control

NOBODY IS IN CONTROL

Writer: Patrick Kindlon / Artist: Paul Tucker / Letterer: Wallace Ryan
Mature / $16.99 / 132 pages

When Richard sees a man run through his yard, he follows him out of concern. This deep in the woods, he must be lost… must be in trouble. Bust soon it’s Richard in peril, as this stranger drags him into a deep, twisted web of conspiracy going back hundreds of years. By writer Patrick Kindlon (Survival Fetish, There’s Nothing There, We Can Never Go Home), artist Paul Tucker (Tet), and hand-lettered by Wallace Ryan. Collects issues 1-4.

NOBODY IS IN CONTROL

Picturestart Nabs 4 Kids Walk Into a Bank

4 Kids Walk Into a Bank

Picturestart has won the rights to 4 Kids Walk Into a Bank, the comic series by Matthew Rosenberg and Tyler Boss. The series was published starting in 2016 by Black Mask Studios. Matt Pizzolo of Black Mask is attached to produce the film along with Rosenberg and Boss.

Picturestart will develop, produce, and co-finance the film. Matthew Robinson has been tapped to pen the adaptation.

When a group of bumbling criminals shows up in her father’s life looking to pull one last job, young Paige has two choices – let her father get caught up in their criminal hijinks or enlist her three best friends to do the job first. Paige picks the bad one.

The series was praised by both fans and critics alike. Rosenberg and Boss are re-teaming for a new comic series, What’s The Furthest Place From Here?, which will be published by Image Comics.

Check Out Today’s New Digital Comic releases of Nearly 150 New Comics

Empyre #6

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Preview: Gravetrancers

Gravetrancers

Writer: M.L. Miller / Artist: James Whynot / Colorist: Dee Cunniffe / Letterer: Jim Campbell
Mature / $16.99 / 116 pages

On a journey to track down the grave of their estranged father, Maribel and Anthony find their way to the Malort Cemetery, a strange, seemingly abandoned field of mostly unmarked tombs. There they encounter an eccentric clan of grave-robbers who’ve devised a highly-addictive drug made from human remains–and the fresher the corpse, the stronger the dose.

What started out as an attempt to reconnect with the past becomes a descent into a psychedelic, neon-colored nightmare.

Will Maribel and Anthony find their way through the hallucinogens or will they become the next hit?

Written by M.L. Miller (Pirouette) and featuring mind-shredding artwork by artist James Michael Whynot, Gravetrancers delivers a grisly grindhouse tale of taboo and terror. Collects issues 1-4.

Gravetrancers

Preview: Breathless

Breathless

Writer: Pat Shand / Artist: Renzo Rodriguez / Colorist: Mara Jayne Carpenter / Letterer: Jim Campbell
Mature / $16.99 / 116 pages

It’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer if the villains were big pharma.

Scout Turner works as a cryptozoologist, examining and cataloguing supernatural creatures for scientific purposes. When she discovers the cure for asthma in the venom of a new breed of monster, she quickly finds herself on the run from Kenilworth Pharmaceuticals and the monsters that they’ve hired to kill her. With no one by her side but her clueless assistant, a morally ambiguous succubus, and her geriatric dog, Scout goes on the run… but in a world controlled by money and drugs, can she escape the reaching claws of a medical monopoly? From Pat Shand (Snap Flash Hustle) and Renzo Rodriguez (Hellchild) comes this healthcare horror story about the monsters creeping in the dark… human or otherwise. Collects issues 1-4.

Breathless
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