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Review: Trista + Holt #8

TRISTA + HOLT_issue 8_COVER ART_IFAndrez Bergen’s neo-noir series Trista & Holt continues with issue 8, which contains still more twists and turns than the last. This time the focus is on Issy Holt’s father, Isidore “Anguish” Holt, and the story of his rise as an underworld boss. Discovering Anguish’s background, where he comes from, and where his loyalties lie, throws light on a corner of this universe that until now has been shrouded in shadow.

True to Bergen’s method of using photos of famous actors and celebrities past and present to represent his characters, Anguish Holt here is portrayed by a very sober-looking, no-nonsense Gary Oldman, perfect for the tenor and tone of this issue as his true feelings toward his late brother-in-law Moore, are revealed, along with Anguish’s difficult and winding path to his current identity.

Sample_4While an important character in the overall story of Trista & Holt, in previous issues Anguish has taken a back seat to his terrifyingly proactive wife, Alaina, who misses no opportunity to belittle Anguish for his emotional outbursts, especially following that of the death of loyal Holt wheel man, Lou Holden. Far from being simply an automaton carrying out orders for Anguish, Alaina and company, Lou was a close friend and confidante; he and Anguish knew each other from way back, and issue 8 explains their early connections and Lou’s influence on Anguish’s ascent to the upper echelons of the organized crime food chain. Lou’s funeral is also where Issy Holt and Trista Rivalen first meet, by the way—another fateful Hitchcockian crisscross in this saga.

Sample_5Issue 8 adds to the sweep of Trista & Holt as a complete, well-rounded, fully realized epic: a world of its own with roots in ancient romance (based on the legend of Tristan & Iseult) and the great gangster narratives that have endured through the years (Little Caesar, The Godfather). Anguish Holt’s backstory is as tragic as it is fascinating, adding another dimension to an already rich cast of characters. Anguish, formerly in the background, comes fully into focus now, and though he’s definitely no saint, he’s earned the right to push back against Alaina’s blithe insults. And he does, in ways she doesn’t even yet realize. The fall-out from all this is bound to be explosive—perhaps literally.

Sample_6One has to wonder just how much Issy Holt really knows about his father’s past and what he would think about Anguish’s painful journey to gangland crime boss, a position that allows Issy to live the lifestyle of minor royalty, but which also makes him a target of sorts for anyone who would want to get back at his father—which could someday include his mother. As seen in earlier issues, family ties do not make one exempt from acts of violence and vengeance, in fact they only reinforce the unpleasant responsibility of carrying them out.

Issue 8 shows that there’s much more going on with Anguish than we ever realized before. He’s earned his name and then some, and Alaina should definitely NOT underestimate him!

Story/Artwork: Andrez Bergen
Story: 10 Artwork: 10 Overall: 10 Recommend: Buy

The artist/creator provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review.

Review: Trista + Holt #5

SmCvrTH5Trista & Holt #5 by Andrez Bergen (Iffy Commix) begins with Issy Holt and his right-hand man Brangian leaving for Holt wheel-man Lou Holden‘s funeral. There Issy sees Trista for the first time and can’t get her image out of his mind. The magic generated by their very brief first encounter is seen in points of light surrounding Issy who is instantly captivated by her. Trista and Issy are represented by pictures of handsome and lovely individuals with movie-star looks a la Paul Newman, Faye Dunaway, et al. Again there’s the mood of a fateful star-crossed future for these two in this intoxicatingly stylish 1970’s noir universe.

Page_04 smallerIn the last issue Trista set out to perform her first hit on the bad-ass Holt family enforcer, Moore. She was ordered to do it by the slightly unbalanced (or is slightly an understatement?) matriarch of the Cornwall family, Marcella “Queenie” Cornwall. The ever-loyal Trista carries out the hit, but Moore’s head is so hard she doesn’t know if her small pistol actually finished the job because he crashed through a window before she could find out. What she does know all too well is that she’s been stabbed—it’s bad– and what happens next is anyone’s guess.

Page_12My guess is that Issy will find her at the bar where the hit took place, or else follow a trail of blood to the beautiful woman he met briefly at the funeral and now can’t get out of his mind. Will this jar Issy out of his world-weary ennui? Something tells me yes, but what that means remains to be seen. Will he switch sides in this war between the city’s crime families or will he and Trista try to run away together, leaving their dangerous, eccentric relatives behind?

Things will very likely be more complicated than either of those scenarios. This is noir, after all, in the truest sense of the word, so likely no happy endings here—just an ending. In the meantime, like royalty, these lead characters carry out their responsibilities with sober resolve. Speaking of royalty, this issue features a picture of Queen Elizabeth II representing Issy’s powerful mother, Alaina, and none other than Prince Phillip in tow as Issy’s father, Isidore “Anguish” Holt.

Page_13The images Bergen uses to weave this narrative are striking, witty and seductive and the writing mirrors the visual. It’s serious noir that doesn’t take itself too seriously just like the best scenarios and dialogue one might find in the office of Sam Spade late at night or riding out to Greystone Mansion with Philip Marlowe: danger laced with humor; death and deception might be around every corner, but in the meantime, hey—ya gotta live.

Page_20In any other 1970’s world Trista and Issy would be living the high life, gracing discos with their glittering presence and speeding from parking lots of stylish establishments in the finest of ‘70’s automobiles. In this world Trista dresses up to carry out a hit on a nasty brute and Issy escapes reality by watching CHiP’s on television. Trista’s latest misadventure will likely force him to face facts, to get outside his fabulous mid-century modern apartment and deal with the consequences of being who he is. In the meantime, Trista’s reality is a fight for survival, surrounded by cigarette ashes and shattered glass.

If you’re already a fan of noir, you’ll be swept away by this series and recognize the savvy neo-noir and pop-culture gems to be discovered in the imagery and narrative, and if you’re new to the genre/mood of noir but curious about its proud tradition in literature (up from its pulp-fiction roots) and film, check this out and you’ll learn something—like why guns don’t always beat knives, and ‘70’s muscle cars still rule.

Story: Andrez Bergen Art: Andrez Bergen
Art: 10 Story: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

The artist/creator provided Graphic Policy with a FREE cop for review.

Review: Revival #21

Revival21_Cover“This is no act of God. This is an act of man.”
– Don to Lester Majak

Just when you thought Revival couldn’t get any stranger, the creators go and up the creepiness factor by a magnitude of ten. Revival #21 has become my new favorite issue of the series (I know, I say that every time, but it’s hard not to). It has also become one of my favorite reads overall due to the creators consistently making imaginative and amazing stories with that rural noir feel.

Our main protagonist, Dana Cypress, is headed to Manhattan, at the behest of the FBI, to investigate a ‘reviver’ related murder. This is the first time Dana has ever left Wausau, Wisconsin and it opens up the storyline as we get deeper into the mythology surrounding the revivers. Currently in the middle of the fourth story-arc, Revival feels just as fresh now as it has ever been. Tim Seeley constantly dials up the creep factory with his eerie talking heads and outrageously awesome stories that Dana and the citizens of Wausau go through. Keeping the arcs new and daring in style is what readers enjoy most about this comic and it appears Seeley has done just that with every issue.

The element of the book that I notice immediately are the illustrations that bring you right into this world of the revived dead. Mike Norton‘s crisp lines are what make Wausau come alive, so to speak, adding that extra dimension every great comic book needs. Coupled with colors by Mark Englert and the art in Revival is worth your $2.99 all on its own. Each and every page is truly a masterpiece and it this kind of art and these illustrations that make people glad to be comic book fans.

I recently went to social media to express my enthusiasm for comic book related TV shows. Nothing against ABC’s Resurrection or A&E’s, soon to be aired, The Returned, but what audiences everywhere would certainly love is ten or thirteen episode seasons of Revival. All three shows have a similar premise (the dead returning to their original human, not zombie-like, state), but Revival does it in a way that makes each character relatable and each story something you can’t wait to find out what happens next. Plus, I already have an idea who would play each character.

Revival #21 has it all. Great art and an equally incredible story that makes you want more when you’re done. That is what a comic book should be. It should make you want more when you finish that last page. And I can’t wait for issue #22.

Spoilers below for Revival #21

Thoughts and Discussion

– The translation for what the man in the green hat on page one is -“It is as they say ‘the gods hear only one wish at a time, and nothing more’ ”

– Why did the talking head spontaneously go up in flames?

– The translation for what the talking head says is – “Not for me! I never steal! Please!” then “This is all…”. I’m not sure what “Oh Dollar Oh” means that it kept repeating.

– What is the meaning behind Martha’s dream sequence with the dear?

– What is the identity of the burned man Dr. Ramin goes to visit in the beginning of the issue? And what was with the story and business card Tom gives to Dr. Ramin at the Medical Examiner’s Office? Very strange stuff.

– What does Dana think she saw at the end of the issue?

 

Thank you for checking out my Review! Please comment below so we can discuss the issue more!

Story: Tim Seeley Art: Mike Norton Colors: Mark Englert Cover: Jenny Frison
Story: 9 Art: 9 Overall: 9 Recommendation: Buy

Review: Black Science #6

BlackScience06-Cover“It’s not what I’ve done that flashes before my eyes, It’s what I’m going to miss.
– Grant McKay

Black Science #6 wraps up its incredible first arc titled ‘How To Fall Forever’. Six issues of arguably the best new comic of 2013 filled with amazing art and an equally unbelievable plot. Rick Remender and Matteo Scalera have really created something special with Black Science, mixing dimension-bending physics with top-notch art. You really feel for each of the characters and want them all to survive, even the bad guys; that’s one way to know that you’re holding a really great comic in your hands. Issue number six of Black Science, on the Wednesday when it gets released, is the first comic I read from the huge pile I get from my local comic shop. Yes, I do have access to pretty much any comic for review purposes, weeks and sometimes months before they are released, but I am one those people that love the feel and look of a physical book in his hands. That goes double for books with art that appears to jump out at you. Art that truly magnifies the amazing plot it’s meant to capture. The Walking Dead and Saga come to find to name just a few. We can definitely add Remender’s and Scalera’s Black Science to this list as well.

The current issue’s story line continues immediately where number five left off, with Grant and Kadir falling helplessly into the frozen volcano we saw at the end of the last issue. Grant had just discovered that Kadir was the one responsible for sabotaging the Pillar, the device used by the team to jump from one dimension to another. As a result, their “jumps” are erratic and unpredictable at best. Two members have already perished in previous issues and Grant places the blame solely on Kadir, who funded the project in the first place.

This new dimension is difficult to explain and must be seen to be believed, but I will try my best. Entwined with each other during their struggle and free-fall, Grant and Kadir fall through a glass ceiling and ultimately into a pool of water. The building appears to be some sort of nursery for the ape/gorilla-like residents. They have less than five minutes to return to the Pillar if they want to “jump” with it and the rest of their team. You can’t help but feel immersed in the mesmerizing scenery and Dean White’s painted art is like nothing else. Everyone involved in making this book really did a great job at bringing Grant’s and Kadir’s struggle to life. Without spoiling too much, Grant finds himself in what appears to be an impossible situation to overcome, but we love these characters and have to believe he will triumph. Chandra comes for Kadir, but not before the “sentient gas-life” (I really have no idea what to call the fire-stream thing, but this is what Kadir called it) attaches itself to her. I know this sounds strange, but trust me, it works within the context of the comic and it’s super-awesome. Even the Shaman from the previous arc steps up and helps the team out when needed. It’s a great issue. Needless to say, the next arc cannot get here soon enough.

What Remender and Scalera do extremely well is create these worlds, or dimensions I should say, that are original, imaginative and inventive. They do this every few issues which is as unbelievable as the worlds they create. Unfortunately, we will have to wait until July 30th to experience the next world our favorite dimension-jumping scientists travel to and what awaits them there. Although Black Science #6 answered many lingering questions we had from previous issues, it also created more. It was a perfect close to the arc and great set-up for what’s to come.

Thoughts and Discussion

– How will the team be able to communicate with the Shaman?

– Kadir kills two ape/gorilla-like beings of this dimension…where did the second “sentient gas-life entity” go? Which body did it attach itself to? We know the first one went into Chandra.

– What will happen to Grant? How will he get out of his “situation”?

– Did you notice…one of the ape-gorilla-like beings that Grant and Kadir come across seemed to notice Grant? How did he recognize him? Was it possibly from a different Grant, from a different dimension that happened upon this same dimension?

Thank you for checking out my Review! Please comment below so we can discuss the issue and Black Science further!

Story: Rick Remender Art: Matteo Scalera – Painted Art: Dean White – Lettering: Rus Wooton
Story: 9.5 Art: 9.5 Overall: 9.5 Recommendation: Buy

Review: The Owl #1

Owl01-Cov-RossClearly, pulps are back in a big way. Month in and month out, Dynamite and Dark Horse keep churning out book after book of pulp heroes, new and old. Some are good, some are great, and some are pretty awful. The Owl, written by JT Krul, drawn by Heubert Khan Michael, is Dynamite’s most recent, and thankfully it starts off on solid ground.

Firstly, a short plot summary. (And from here on, minor SPOILERS.) The Owl #1 follows Nick Terry, a cop in Yorktown moonlighting as a masked vigilante known, shockingly, as the Owl. He and his girl Belle, a reporter by day and Owl Girl by night, dressed up and took down the bad guys. Suddenly, Terry found himself trapped (along with all of the other heroes) in a mystical urn and transported fifty into the future, finding himself in our modern day. He comes out to find the world changed; the world he knew is gone, and Belle with it. This first issue follows Terry as he flies back into action as the Owl, getting used to new kinds of crime and new kinds of criminals. This is all presented clearly and gradually over the course of the comic, which means that we don’t have to deal with an extended flashback sequence so early, giving the book an easy flow. The only issue I take with the actual plot of this issue is that it’s rather jumpy. Transitions are a little rough, and Terry just kind of appears places. But that’s a minor quibble, and most likely as the story develops the transitions will become a little smoother.

So that’s the basic plot, and it works fine. The only problem is that Nick Terry is a bit of a cliché character. He protects the weak because he’s just such a nice person. He offers to find a missing man just because an unhappy middle age woman looks at him. He’s not too fazed at losing fifty years of his life because he can still dress up and protect the innocent: “Comes with the job,” he says. Part of the fun of pulp is to have protagonists that have a little bit of an edge, a little bit of bite. Some of the most classic pulp characters even used guns, but in the violent world of The Owl, Terry seems a little soft. The Owl is a fierce hand to hand combatant, but Terry himself is a big Boy Scout. Fortunately, JT Krul has a good handle on Terry’s voice, and the mystery laid out in the last scene leads me to believe that Terry’s going to be dealing with some big, emotional stuff; hopefully he will become a more relatable character because of it.

Michael’s art follows the story step for step. It’s moody and occasionally dark, giving flavor to Krul’s script. This book contains a lot of action, and in those instances the art is clear and acrobatic. The characters are given grace and strength and life, and I was never unsure of what was happening or where the characters were. Furthermore, there are several sections of the book drawn in a different style, either similar to classic comic strips or in sepia tone set in the around the middle of the 20th Century. This helps to differentiate the time periods as well as mark the contrast between what Nick Terry is used to, and what he has to deal with in the present day. It’s a gimmick that works, and it also makes the issue stand out in a good way.

While the action sequences are impressive, the art falters a bit when we move indoors. There’s a middle scene set in a police station that devolves into a lot of talking heads and mid shots of the waist up, taking some of the fluidity away from the characters. Furthermore, the close ups and mid shots are well detailed, but some of the panels containing long shots have less detail than I would like. I know that every piece of art loses detail at distance, but there are some panels that seem like they could use a touching up.

The Owl #1 is an effective, exciting book that sets up an engaging central mystery, and only suffers slightly from cliché character and story. If the rest of the mini is at least as entertaining as this debut issue has been, I wouldn’t be surprised if we find The Owl has turned into an ongoing series.

Story: JT Krul Art: Heubert Khan Michael

Story: 7 Art: 8.5 Overall: 7.5 Recommendation: Read

Dynamite Publishing provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review.