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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: 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: Doberman Vol. 1

Doberman Vol. 1

As a kid growing up in the 1980s, I was a witness to some of the most iconic television shows of all time. This was a time that featured some of the best action shows to be on television. I grew up watching Knight Rider and A-Team, which definitely made for must watch television every week in my household. Then there was Sledge Hammer which was an excellent riff on all those cop shows I grew up watching. It balanced comedy and action in equal breath with a little more panache than the Naked Gun movies. In much the same spirit, we find another police detective who will find justice by whatever means in the comic series Doberman.

We meet Frank Doberano AKA Doberman, one of the best cops in Los Angeles, until one night during a stakeout, one mistake leads to his partner being killed, and him quitting the force.  Years later, we find that he retired to the woods in Canada, where he gets back in the spotlight, when he breaks up a prostitute ring and catches the eye of his old boss, who lets him know that the man who killed his partner, is now free. As he start over as a patrol officer, he is partnered up with a guy fresh out of the academy, while wreaking havoc across the city and finding evidence to put the man who killed his partner away for good.

Overall, a comic that is nothing but dumb fun in the same vein of all those 80s action movies. The story by Jack Lambert, Scott Marder, and Rob Rosell is funny, action packed and dripping with machismo. The art by Brandon McKinney, Zac Atkinson, and Bernard Chang is breathtaking. Altogether, a excellent book that gives fans all that imbecilic dialogue with guns a blazing, making for a fun read.

Story: Jack Lambert, Scott Marder, and Rob Rosell
Art: Brandon McKinney, Zac Atkinson,
and Bernard Chang
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy

Review: Fake Empire Vol. 1

When growing up I believed in fairytales, much like every other kid. I remember watching Peter Pan and seeing Tinker Bell come across the screen. I had my first idea of how such a magical creature is supposed to look. Her fair image gave most kids including me that all faeries must be good. This changed when I saw True Blood, which gave readers first, and then viewers, a wholly different view of the mythical creatures. It also featured the idea of them not being so good. Charlaine Harris changed how these creatures were looked at creating a mythology that would only make them endure by becoming as fallible as humans. This very idea would continue in different books, tv shows and movies. One of my favorite examples is the TV show Lost Girl which used this same lore and made it very modern.

In Eric Palicki and Vinnie Rico’s brilliant Fake Empire, we get introduced to another world full of these magical beings where things like murder creep up ever so often.

We first meet a fairy, Jill, who has lost one of her wings and much of her way, as she contemplates her life, she is looking to end it all, but before she does, someone shoots her. We also meet Charli, a newly minted NYPD detective, who just so happens to be the dead fairy’s sister, and who gets a call in the middle of the night, from their father advising of her death. We also meet one of their other sisters, the black sheep of the family, Lucy, who lost her wings and is passing for human. As the reader gets introduced to the history of fairies and why they went into hiding in the first place and that Jill, was the chosen Tooth Fairy, an important position. We also find out that their father Oberlin, is King of all fairies, as there may be more to the murder than meets the eye. The two sisters decide to join forces and find out who killed their sister and why. Charli starts working the case like a detective, trying to establish a timeline, and wondering where Jill’s bodyguards were when she got slain. We also find out that Lucy, has a secret life, as a vigilante who goes after criminals and uncovers the last picture Jill took on social media. Meanwhile, King Oberlin, makes a fatal move and a key betrayal which may kill one of his daughters, as he sends his hitman, Puck after Lucy. As the sisters begin to bond, Lucy lets Charli in on the real reason she left the kingdom, one that gives Charlie even more insight to who their father really is. By story’s ed, we find out who really killed their sister, leaving the reign of the kingdom in new hands and forging a new path forward for all fairies.

It’s an interesting take on urban fantasy that both reinvigorates the genre and treats fans to what they like about it the most. The story by Palicki is brash, brilliant and action packed. The art by Rico, is lucid and elegant. Altogether, a fun story that effectively uses detective noir and urban fantasy, with a dash of palace intrigue that will has made this reviewer, a fan of Eric Palicki.

Story: Eric Palicki Art: Vinnie Rico
Story: 9.8 Art: 9.5 Overall: 9.7 Recommendation: Buy

Review: Bruce Lee: The Dragon Rises

As a longtime cinephile, I have been enamored with Kung Fu movies. I remember as a kid watching Kung Fu Theatre, every Saturday afternoon, with my cousins in our house in New York. These stories with their badly paced English dubbing, usually had everything else going for it. The action, the stars, the special effects, and the story. I never really knew who any of the actors were until one of my uncles introduced us to Bruce Lee.

The very first movie, we saw of this venerable legend, was the impressive Way Of The Dragon, a slow burner at first, but as soon as Lee enters the film, his presence was magnetic. The man commanded every scene he was in and the way he beat a then unknown Chuck Norris, was a scene all of us cheered on. Of course, we went on to see the rest of his movies, and to this day, in some form or another, have some piece of his memorabilia in our houses. As much as those movies still stand up, one can only imagine what else he could have created, if he only lived a little bit longer. In Shannon Lee’s Bruce Lee: The Dragon Rises, fans get to live a fantasy where he still lives.

We find Lee in a government facility where he has been asleep for forty years, as he wakes up to a world, much different than what he knew as he teaches an abusive Sensei, who favors Chuck Norris the correct way to treat his students. Soon the same shadowy organization lead by a mysterious woman known as Katya, is looking for him and a friend from the past and two kids just so happens to find hm as well, who helps him get acclimated to present day.  This leads to Lee finding out what the organization is up to and to find the father of the two kids. By book’s end, they find the kids’ father but leaves Katya even more powerful than ever.

Overall, an entertaining story that gets the reader to know who Bruce Lee the person is, in this rather fun plot. The story is relatable, funny, and fantastical. The art is striking and vivid. Altogether, a great story which will have readers looking for their old VHS copy of The Chinese Connection.

Story: Shannon Lee, Jeff Kline and Adam Beechen
Art: Brandon McKinney, Michael Montenat, Zac Atkinson, Troy Peteri, Steve Blackwell and Bernard Chang
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy

Review: Bastard’s Waltz

When you hear the names Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L Jackson in a movie, you know you will be entertained.  I have been a fan of Samuel L Jackson, since he acted in those Spike Lee movies going back to School Daze. Since then, many of his movies have been hit or miss, but I can definitely say his turn a Mace Windu In Star Wars Episodes I-III, is probably one of the better acted roles in the series, one that still resonates with fans.  My favorite tur by the veteran actor, is his portrayal of Stephen in Django Unchained, a sinister slave who will do whatever it takes to stay on the good side of his Master.

Ryan Reynolds also is an actor most people underestimate as he usually plays some kind of “Smart Alec” mainly from roles like Van Wilder, and from playing the ultimate wisecracker, Deadpool. His role in The Voices proves he is more than a barrel of laughs, as his range in the movie, proves that he is one of our preeminent actors.  That is why when I saw both in The Hitman’s Bodyguard, the movie was nothing but both actors in their element. In the Bastard’s Waltz, we get similar setup but with a supervillain and a Secret Service agent.

We meet John the Bastard, a notorious supervillain, who looks to be holding up a bank, until he asks the police on the scene for the protection of a Secret Service agent, Ezekiel Sweet. John finds himself being hunted, as a new player who goes by the name of Nero, comes into the picture, and looks to take him out no matter the cost, as Nero’s bloodlust leaves a trial of bodies in his wake. John and Ezekiel go on the run, as the two looks for sanctuary with various associates, as they get to know each other even better as they fight off every single villain who comes for John’s head. By book’s end, a surprise twist about how John is connected to Zeke, as everything comes full circle leaving our protagonists forever changed.

Overall, a compelling action-packed barn burner that will forever change how you look at odd couple stories. The story by Mark Bertolini is layered, compelling and exhilarating. The art by Giovanni Guida is engaging. Altogether, a story you will not soon forget and will have you flipping through it again to see what you may have missed reading the first time.

Story: Mark Bertolini Art: Giovanni Guida
Story: 9.6 Art: 9.4 Overall: 9.59 Recommendation: Buy

Review: Dead Man’s Party

As a fan of movies, some of the most interesting movies I have ever watched, are movies about assassins. There is something cool, about a hired gun, and their focus on completing a job, a concentration that most of us wished we had. Some of my favorite movies including assassins include the Smokin Aces series, which both celebrated the genre’s awesomeness and absurdity. Then there is the is underrated Sylvester Stallone boiler, The Specialist, which gave film fans a different view of him as an actor and in a character, which exuded cool.

One of the more interesting entries in the genre, has been on television, which includes Bill Hader’s Barry and Chloe Sevigne’s transgender contract killer in Hit & Miss. Then there is the hilarious and off kilter parody on the genre starring Arnold Schwarzenegger in Killing Gunther, a movie that showed how many of the archetypes in the genre can be ludicrous. I wondered if that same premise, was taken seriously what type of movie it would have been? One such scenario is played out in the full tilt parade of assassins’ story, Dead Man’s Party.

In the first few pages, we meet our antagonist, known simply, as “Ghost”, an assassin on top of his game, and finishing a job, whose odds were impossible, but that what makes him the best. At the most inopportune time, Ghost hears some life changing news and acts erratically, something that would end up hurting him sooner rather than later. What unravels is a “Dead Man’s party”, which is a hitman’s farewell game, one where they can be only one left at the end. As he finds trouble at every corner, every assassin he may have worked with or against, has come for his head, and no one is quite ready, especially Ghost, as he can trust no one. By book’s end, Ghost finds out who has set him up but just when he thinks its done, nothing is ever what it seems.

Overall, an excellent book which feels like a much bloodier John Wick, one which lifts the genre to new heights. The story by Jeff Marsick is fun, twisted and pulse pounding. The art by the creative team makes the story even better. Altogether, a great story that will make new fans of the crime noir genre.

Story: Jeff Marsick Art: Scott Barnett, Sandra Hogue & Katelyn Amacker, Erica Schultz
Story: 9.0 Art: 7.7 Overall: 9.3 Recommendation: Buy

Review: Bruce Lee: The Walk of the Dragon

Philosopher/teacher/real-life superhero Bruce Lee is back. And, let’s be honest, the world needs him now more than ever. Taking a brief respite from battling an otherworldly evil, Bruce Lee attempts to navigate modern-day Southern California despite still suffering from amnesia and having been “out of the loop” for over 45 years. Unfortunately, what was supposed to be a simple “lunch run” soon turns into a comedy of errors involving mistaken identity, a Film Festival,” and the pokey.  And despite never being one to initiate fisticuffs, Bruce continues to find it difficult to both hide his martial arts skills – and keep his shirt on.

I’ll admit, I have not read Darby Pop Publishing‘s previous Bruce Lee comics so came into this one-shot cold. Written by Nicole DubucBruce Lee: The Walk of the Dragon is an interesting comic. Partially because, I’m not sure what the point of it all is. Part follow up to the previous comic and maybe the lead in to what’s next the comic really is Bruce Lee back from being capture for all this time trying to get a sandwich and then a series of errors.

While the comic has its moments it also feels like it’s a chapter in something more. It doesn’t do a good job explaining the situation for new readers well into it. It also doesn’t answer any questions about Lee’s amnesia about his life. So, as a one-shot, it’s an odd duck. As an issue for an ongoing series, it’d make complete sense. Which is part of what’s frustrating and fascinating about the comic. As issue #5 or #6, it’d work as a solid transition to the next arc. But it’s not that. It’s a one-shot and with that I expect a story with a beginning, middle, and end. It has those things but none of it is really satisfying. A lot is left open. Again, it’s rather odd.

The art by Brandon McKinney and color by Zak Atkinson looks solid. There’s nothing bad about it all and at times there’s some great panels that attempt to catch the speed of Lee and actually does so in some ways. When Lee disarms a mugger particularly stands out in how it’s handled. But at other times the action is missing something like when he jumps into a moving bus. The comic too could benefit from some more dynamic panel use. It’s broken here and there but mainly sticks to boxes and rectangles. The lettering by Troy Peteri is generally good. There’s a few moments where situations called for different choices for example a mugging that’s just normal text for the victim.

There’s nothing truly bad about the comic and if you read the previous volume published by Darby Pop your opinion will vary greatly. But, as a one-shot it doesn’t do what’s expected and that’s tell a complete story. It’s a chapter of a longer story marketed as something different.

Created by: Shannon Lee, Jeff Kline Story: Nicole Dubuc
Art: Brandon McKinney Color: Zak Atkinson
Letterer: A Larger World Studios’ Troy Peteri Design: Steve Blackwell
Story: 6.5 Art: 6.75 Overall: 6.65 Recommendation: Pass

Darby Pop Publishing provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Bruce Lee Returns in Darby Pop Publishing’s all-new Bruce Lee: The Walk of the Dragon

Bruce Lee: The Walk of the Dragon, an all-new, all-ages, full-color comic adventure, releases as a “one shot” on March 28, 2018 courtesy of Darby Pop Publishing. The self-contained story lives in the same continuity as the hugely successful Bruce Lee: The Dragon Rises, but shines even more of a spotlight on one of history’s few real-life superheroes. This special issue is written by animation superstar Nicole Dubuc. Interior art is once again courtesy of Brandon McKinney with a cover from John Haun.

 

Philosopher/teacher/real-life superhero Bruce Lee is back. And, let’s be honest, the world needs him now more than ever. Taking a brief respite from battling an otherworldly evil, Bruce attempts to navigate modern-day Southern California despite still suffering from amnesia and having been “out of the loop” for over 45 years. Unfortunately, what was supposed to be a simple “lunch run” soon turns into a comedy of errors involving mistaken identity, a Film Festival, and the pokey. And despite never being one to initiate fisticuffs, Bruce continues to find it difficult to both hide his martial arts skills… and keep his shirt on.

All told in a single-issue format that requires no prior knowledge, and reaches its own satisfying conclusion.

Santa Claus: Private Eye Trade Paperback is Out this November

Santa Claus: Private Eye, an all-new, full-length crime fantasy releases as a trade paperback on November 29, 2017, courtesy of Darby Pop Publishing. This not-so-merry tale was written by Jeremy Bernstein with interior and cover art by Michael Dorman and Rob Schwager.

One day each year, Santa Claus brings presents to children all over the world. The other 364, he moonlights as Nick Santana, a down-on-his-luck detective, trying to make his way in the lonely city. Instead of his red and white suit, Nick sports a trenchcoat and fedora. Instead of the North Pole, Nick works dark corners and rain-slicked streets filled with gangster, guns, and – of course – femme fatales. ‘Cuz no one knows better than Santa Claus that the nicer they look, the naughtier they can be.

The Santa Claus: Private Eye trade paperback hits comic book stores, bookstores, and select online retailers on November 29, 2017 – in plenty of time for Christmas – and will be available for the suggested list price of $14.99. It can be ordered by retailers from Diamond Book Distributors with Diamond Code SEP171446.

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