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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.

Advance Review: Santa Claus: Private Eye Book One – Santa Claus Is Coming to Town

One day each year, Santa Claus delivers presents to children. The other 364, he moonlights as a down-on-his luck private dick named Nick Santana, working dark streets filled with gangsters, guns, and femme fatales. After all, the nicer they look, the naughtier they can be.

Written by Jeremy Bernstein with art by Michael Dorman, Santa Claus: Private Eye makes the leap from digital comics to print courtesy of Darby Pop Publishing. If you missed the comic digitally, it blends noir and detective story tropes and cliches with Santa Claus as the Private Investigator. In this world, if feels like no one is nice, not even Saint Nick, as one would expect in this sort of story.

Bernstein has fun with the concept giving us winks and nods to things like Santa knowing who’s naught and nice and his Elf staff. While the main part of the story is his figuring out a murder, there’s an impressive amount of backstory added in that fleshes out Santana beyond a simple detective. This series could of easily just been Santa as a detective but there’s an effort to make it more than that which doesn’t play out well into the read. It’s an interesting choice to breaks up the straightforward possible murder case that feels by the numbers. It’s that extra that makes what could easily have been a simple goof into something more and adds heart to what is a rather grim tale.

The art by Dorman is good and has a sense of the style of comic it’s for. There’s lots of close ups of Santana’s weary eyes and some fun details with Jack Frost. None of it blows me away but the page layouts and designs are solid. The coloring is probably what throws me and it’s a coloring style I just am not a fan of but also not quite sure how to explain what it is or specifics. Just a personal preference more than anything. But, the art is good and gets the job done.

Holiday tales often deal with naughty and nice but throw in a murder story, Santa as a P.I., and you have a whole new entertaining take. Santa Claus: Private Eye Book One – Santa Claus Is Coming to Town is out November 29.

Jeremy Bernstein with art by Michael Dorman
Story: 7.5 Art: 7.0 Overall: 7.45 Recommendation: Read

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

Mark Bertolini Delivers an Entertaining Dance with Bastard’s Waltz

If you missed the series digital release, now you have no excuse to not get Bastard’s Waltz which is being collected in print for the first time. Written by Mark Bertolini with art by Guida Giovanni and published by Darby Pop Publishing, Bastard’s Waltz mixes a superhero story with witness protection and a bit of conspiracy thrown in.

John the Bastard is the world’s most dangerous supervillain; his name alone has struck fear into the hearts of most heroes for decades. Now John finds himself in the crosshairs of a talented upstart, and only Secret Service protection specialist Ezekiel Sweet can keep John safe from the swarm of psychopaths heading his way. With Sweet a reluctant guardian, a traitor in their midst, and John’s skills markedly slipping, who will survive the ultimate showdown?

Seriously, go get this new trade paperback. You can buy the paperback now or still buy it digitally.

We got a chance to talk to writer Mark Bertolini about it and hopefully you’ll get a sense of how awesome it is.

Graphic Policy: This feels like a series that’s a bit of a love letter to superhero comics. Where did the concept of Bastard’s Waltz come from and what are some of its influences?

Mark Bertolini: First things first: I absolutely love superhero comics. I grew up on superhero comics. Superheroes are what brought me to comics when I was very young. As I got older, into my late teens and early 20s, I sort of lost touch with superhero comics in favor of more adult, Vertigo-style books. But then when Warren Ellis and Mark Millar started to combine superheroes with adult themes, with books like The Authority and Wanted, I regained my love for superheroes, and have been making comics with superhuman characters ever since.

Bastard’s Waltz sprang from the idea of the world’s most dangerous man suddenly realizing he’s not so dangerous any more; how would he/you cope? When the world used to tremble at your feet, and now you’re being looked at as a joke, what would your response be? I wanted to explore those ideas, and I wanted to put a spin on the classic “buddy” story as well.

GP: The narrative is split in events as they transpire and a debriefing. Why’d you choose to go that route?

Mark Bertolini: The split narrative is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time in comics, to show current action but also have the main (or one of the main) characters giving the reader more information – it’s a bit of a trick to expand on the story without adding dozens of extra pages. I also like that you get to see a bit more of the personality of the character during the debriefing.

GP: When it came to all of the character designs, how much of that is you and how much was Giovanni Guida?

MB: The designs were pretty much all Giovanni – I gave him some brief thoughts, specifically John’s “Bastard” vest and the domino masks on the bad guys. But, other than that, the characters were brought to life by Giovanni. I gave him the broad strokes, and filled-in all the details.

GP: While the story is this conspiracy involving witness protection there’s also an aspect that feels a bit like levels in a video game where the bosses need to be defeated. Was that on purpose?

MB: You’re actually the first one to catch that! I did structure it like a video game, in that John the Bastard and Agent Sweet have to fight their way through levels of “lower bosses” in order to get to the “big boss” at the end – although that doesn’t go exactly as planned…

GP: Going with that style, the fights seem like they’d need to get tougher and tougher as the story progresses. How do you come up with the balance between villains that need to be fought and keeping it relatively grounded and realistic?

MB: A lot of the characters in Bastard’s Waltz are famous, or infamous, in their world. Just the reactions of the other characters can tell you a lot about whom the lead players really are. In the beginning, the police are talking about the reputation of John the Bastard, and as we go through the story, John himself even references the reputations of some of those who are gunning for him.

I think the fights between John and those coming after him do gradually get harder for John, and he also begins to display some “fatigue” which make things even more difficult for him. When John comes face- to-face with the final “boss,” it’s not whom he assumed had been pulling the strings, and it sets up a pretty definitive final confrontation.

GP: Nero’s relentlessness has a bit of a horror movie aspect to it with the unstoppable killer. Were there influences at all when it comes to that character’s pacing?

MB: We needed a villain that was so scary that the world’s scariest man would be afraid. Nero was designed to be unstoppable, relentless, and very single-minded in his pursuit of John the Bastard. I did think of him in terms of a Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees – a guy who, no matter what you do to him, no matter what damage is caused, never stops coming after you. I didn’t want to give John any breathing room.

GP: The series is digital and then print. Did it being digital impact your story at all?

MB: Not at all; I’m a fan of both digital and print, I have bookshelves stuffed with comics and graphic novels, but I also read a lot of books digitally. It’s nice to be able to pack a dozen comics onto my iPad and take them anywhere. So, I was thrilled when Darby Pop suggested making Bastard’s Waltz available digitally as single issues, and physically as a collection/trade paperback. Give the people what they want!

GP: The series winds around with lots with the characters’ history and their motives. When plotting out a story like this, what’s your method?

MB: One foot in front of the other. I like to plot things out very linearly, even when incorporating flashbacks or multiple narratives. I usually have a pretty good sense of where I need to get to by the end of each issue, and I build each page with that goal in mind. Having additional sets of eyes on my scripts also helps, so I don’t forget anything or build towards something with no payoff. Darby Pop’s Jeff Kline and Renae Geerlings were invaluable with their input.

GP: This series feels like it’s one that could have tons of spin-offs. Any chance we’ll see more of this world?

MB: I’d love to do more stories set in this world. We’ve hardly scratched the surface on some of the secondary characters. I have ideas rattling around right now about what else they’ve been up to, either leading up to the beginning of Bastard’s Waltz, or after the final page. Plus, I’d love to write more of John and Zeke; they were a lot of fun.

GP: What else is on tap for you that folks should check out?

MB: My next big thing is a 4-issue sci-fi miniseries coming out Summer 2018 from Action Lab comics. I also have a few anthology pieces coming together, as well as half-a-dozen pitches ready or nearly ready to show to publishers. And Giovanni and I have already talked about our next project together, so lots to look forward to in the next year!

GP: Thanks so much for chatting!

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